SUNDAY 12 JUNE 2022
When it comes to explaining the trinity, you generally get people trying to explain it with analogies. The problem is the analogies are never quite true and slip into dreaded heresy because the mystery of the Trinity is that 1+1+1=1, mathematical nonsense.
You may remember my sermon from last year, if not do watch it on catch-up as I believe it may still be there in the bowels of our Facebook page somewhere. Here is the summary though for those that missed it, strap in, here we go…
• There is exactly one God
• The Father is God
• The Son is God
• The Holy Spirit is Godedd
• The Father is not the Son
• The Son is not the Holy Spirit
• The Father is not the Holy Spirit
• The Father, Son and Holy Spirit is God
• But, despite three persons there is exactly one God
You know, whenever people say to me that they believe God is just something made up by humans I point out the doctrine of the Trinity. Who in their right mind would come up with such a crazy notion? 1+1+1=1.
This leads to a good question though: where does the concept of the trinity come from? Well, it comes from the same place all our theology does… Scripture. Scripture talks of the Father, Son, and Spirit.
Its not just the New Testament. We get glimpses of the trinity in the Hebrew scriptures (so called Old Testament),
I could keep going and bring out may other examples from scripture, but these will suffice for the purpose of this sermon, and I wouldn’t want to bore you too much. Perhaps you can think of other examples though?
One important thing to note when exploring scripture is that the New Testament and Hebrew Scriptures do not explicitly mention the doctrine of the trinity. Yes, we have clues from these and other passages that I just read but no specific mention of the doctrine. So how did we end up with the doctrine of the trinity? By using reason. Remember 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” Not some of it, not just the bits we like, but all scripture.
As we read scripture, we use our reason to draw out information about the nature of God. So, reason tells us that scripture says God is one, not many Gods, one God. Reason also tells us that God is three distinct persons though: Father, Son, and Spirit. These three persons can’t be three Gods though because there is one God. Yet this one God is three persons. So, 1+1+1=1. From this kind of reasoning we begin to develop the tradition that is the doctrine of the Trinity.
Something the very early Christians thought about, taught, subjected to the church for reproof or correction and by 325AD at the council of Nicaea it was formally adopted (with some work still needed on the relationship of the Holy Spirit but that’s another sermon). It is from this council that we get the Nicene Creed that we will soon say out loud. “We believe in one God…”
Richard Hooker an English priest in the Church of England and an influential theologian who died in the year 1600 said that the source of theology, to which obedience is owed, is scripture. Whatever can be concluded from scripture by force of reason and what the church discerns as good and true from reason becomes tradition, whilst any false reasoning can be discarded.
So, my sneaky sermon on Trinity Sunday is not actually about the trinity but how to engage in theology. Studying God. We start, as always, with Scripture, then reason, then when your reason is subjected to the church for challenge it can be accepted into tradition if the church discerns it to be good and true. If you wanted further proof, I direct you to the articles of religion of the church of England. What we believe as Anglicans. Article 6 says “Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor proved thereby, is not to be required of any person. It then should not be believed as an article of the Faith or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.” (In what seems to be a repeat of 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
For this reason, First I would say that if you want to know the trinity, what its all about, or in fact anything else about the nature of God. Have a read. Not just on Sundays as the basis of all Theology is scripture. Don’t feel pressured to rush through it. Take your time. I committed when I arrived at All Saints to within my three years, not a few months, not a year, but rather three years, to reread the whole of scripture. Why am I doing this? Because reading the bible on a regular and consistent basis shows us God’s character and provides us Gods revelation of himself to his people. We see Gods holy, unchanging, faithful, gracious, and loving character.
Second, to continue the passage from 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” For this reason, I cannot commend highly enough All Saints Plus led by Derek, a wonderful group that is reading through scripture together weekly. As regular reading of scripture, getting to know God, means our relationship with God grows stronger. We spend time getting to know the people we love and the best way to do that is to read our bibles on a regular basis
Third, regular reading of scripture reorientates our thinking so that we can grow in maturity which is the calling of a Christian. To grow in Christlikeness (see Ephesians 4:14-16; Romans 12:1-2). What is Christlikeness? well we get the knowledge of what that is from, you can guess the answer by now, scripture.
I could keep going with encouragement for why to read scripture and wrestle with some of the passages, particularly the difficult passages as it is in reading these that we grow as disciples, but I think I‘m close to over-egging it. I will say though that in doing so we get to know God and, bringing it back to the Trinity, for this Trinity Sunday, get to know that 1+1+1 does indeed equal 1.
Let us pray,
We give praise and glorify you, most blessed Trinity, for inspiring all scripture as a gift to us which reveals your nature, makes us wise to salvation and therefore reveals to us the way. For all this and many other blessings we have received, we praise you. Amen.
The Revd. Gareth Morley
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