Sermon for Trinity Sunday 2020
“Brothers and sisters, put things in order…agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you…The grace of the lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” (2 Corinthians 13: 11-13)
I remember Rabbi Lionel Blue telling a story, more than once, of a Jew who was hit by a bus and seemed badly injured. A priest saw what happened, rushed over to him, bent down and asked: “Do you believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Trinity?” The Jewish man opened his eyes and said: “I could be dying… and you’re asking me riddles?”
But despite the bemusement of the injured man in that story, the priest’s question, baldly asked as it is, refers to words we read and hear every Sunday of the year. Do we understand by them the joy and encouragement that Paul intended the bickering, disorderly Corinthian Christians to feel when they read these final words following his exhortation to live more Christian lives?
What Paul wishes for the Christians in Corinth has far-reaching consequences. Jesus’s grace allowed him to accept the will of the Father, even to death on the cross. God’s love led him to bring forth a wonderful creation, and to send his Son to offer redemption for that creation. And the Holy Spirit offers to us a place in the communion shared by Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the joy and love of the life of God.
So God exists in community, we believe, and, if we are made in his image and likeness, we are created to exist in community with each other. We were not created to live isolated lives thinking only of our own well-being. We exist for each other, giving of ourselves to each other as God gave, and gives, of himself.
Sadly, as we are currently being reminded, we are divided in so many ways: by race, sex, religion, culture, language, class, economics and politics. Will the coronavirus accentuate those divisions or, as many of us pray, serve to help bind us together? As I write, it is being reported that 1371 people have died of that disease here in Wales. In a small country like ours, a figure like that means that most of us will know a sufferer and too many of us will know someone who has died. And yet it is possible to see the virus as highlighting the fundamental unity of God’s children. Much like the Trinity, we are linked and related – summoned to support and to love each other. We pray, then, to be made inescapably part of God’s great family, giving and getting significance only in each other.
So, what does Paul want for those quarrelsome Christians in Corinth? As Jane Williams wrote in Church Times, “They are to love the world as God its creator loves it; they are to give themselves wholly to God’s will for the world, as God the Son did; and they are to find their true selves in belonging together and together serving God, in the communion of the Holy Spirit.”
We, too, part of a disordered church like Corinth or not, are expected to live in peace with each other as people who trust the God we confess. That Trinity “grace” of Paul’s has consequences for our daily living. Trinity is God’s nature: life-enhancing, creative,
imaginative, glorious, and holy; never stationary nor solitary. The Eastern Orthodox tradition often describes the Trinity as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit dancing; the three holding hands in joyful freedom, inviting us to join in.
No wonder Trinity Sunday has been described as “the most exciting day of the year, because it celebrates the simple heart of Christian faith, and wraps all the excitement of the other great festivals of the Church’s year into one sunburst of celebration” (Canon Professor Dan Hardy). Some grumble about “all those interminable Sundays after Trinity”. Hardy concluded his remarks on Trinity: “We make a big mistake not connecting Trinity Season with Advent, as far off as it is. Trinity looks forward to Advent…and so it should. There is hardly enough time between now and Advent to complete the movement of God which has begun in us.”
Trinity may be a doctrine but to Paul, in these verses that conclude his letter to the immature, wilful but ultimately penitent church in Corinth, it is clearly something to be lived out daily in our Christian lives.