The Mystery of God
Sunday 7th June 2020: Trinity Sunday
Today is Trinity Sunday, when we are encouraged to contemplate the mystery of a God who
is three in one, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in a community of self-giving love.
People try to understand the trinity using various metaphors: think of water which can
manifest as solid, liquid, or vapour. Or the Celtic trinity knot, tied from one length of cord
but appears to be three distinct loops within a single circle. And then there’s Rublev’s
famous icon depicting three persons, similar yet each distinct from the others, sitting
together in harmony, each intent on the others and with space for somebody else to join in.
No metaphor really captures the mystery of the Trinity. That’s part of the point. The fullness
of God is beyond our understanding. It’s a mystery. But this mysterious God is love, self-
giving love, which is always inviting others to join in. Knowing God is a community of love
underlines that, as human beings made in the image of God, we are designed to live in
community, we need to make the effort to stay connected, and reconciliation is at the heart
of the gospel.
Another mystery is how God chooses to work through ordinary people! Through June and July, we will explore some of the characters and events in the book of Genesis: Abraham and
Sarah, Hagar and Ishmael, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Esau. We’ll be asking the question
what does it mean to follow God? How does God fulfil his promises through these flawed
people? And what can we learn from them?
In what follows, I’m going to introduce Abraham and then reflect on some of the bible
readings from a couple of today’s lectionary readings: Psalm 8 and Matthew 28:16-20. You
may wish to look these up in a bible.
God chooses to work with ordinary people
Probably around 4000 years ago, Abram and his wife Sarai lived in Haran, in the north of
what is now Syria. It is likely that his family originally worshipped a number of “gods“,
common in the Babylonian civilisation. But in some way, the Creator God chose Abram and
Sarai, and called them out of that place and way of life, into a new place, into a more
nomadic way of life, and into a new relationship with God. So, we read in Genesis 12:1-3:
The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Abram’s faith and life was not perfect, sometimes trusting God and living well (e.g. Genesis
13-14) and other times giving way to fear and losing faith in God (see Genesis 12:10-20,
Genesis 16 ). But God did not give up on Abram and Sarai. To underline his promise to bless
them and make them into a great nation, God even gave them new names: Abraham and Sarah (see Genesis 17). As you seek to trust in God and follow Jesus during the Coronavirus
pandemic, I wonder if God has been calling you to leave something behind, and if God is
calling you into something new?
God has given us responsibility for creation
Psalm 8 is a short psalm, which celebrates the majesty and glory of God as the psalmist
reflects on the view of the night sky. I encourage you to read it for yourself. It includes the
question: “what are human beings that you are mindful of them?” (verse 4) God, why do
you care about us? We’re so small and weak beneath the stars of the night sky.
And the psalmist answers his own question. God chooses to share his glory and his power
with human beings. God chooses to entrust his creation to us and to give us responsibility
for its care. Humanity hasn’t always fulfilled this role well. But as we were reminded during
Lent, we are still called to do our bit to care for the earth in which we live. That’s why St. Andrews is working towards the Eco-church award. It’s a way of doing our bit together as a
church to care for creation. I wonder what one thing you could start doing this week to care
a little bit more for God’s creation?
This psalm also resonates with Abraham’s experience. As we read in Genesis 12:1-3, God
called Abraham to be instrumental in his plan to restore his creation which had become
broken and divided by sin. Interestingly, while Abraham and Sarah were still childless and
doubting that God would fulfil his promise, God spoke to Abraham and directed him to look
at the stars in the night sky and God reiterated his promise that Abraham would have many
descendants. This encounter with God under the night sky inspired Abraham to believe in
God’s promise that his wife Sarah would give birth despite their age and apparent infertility.
Jesus sends us to carry on what he started
Our gospel reading today is Matthew 28:16-20.
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew chapter 1 begins with a genealogy, starting with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and
ending with Jesus the Messiah. The beginning of Matthews gospel is saying that God’s
promise to Abraham is being fulfilled in Jesus. And in today's bible reading from the end of
Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is saying that the promise will be fulfilled even further by those
who continue his mission to make disciples of all nations.
Jesus makes the bold claim that “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me”
(verse 18). In other words, he has the same status as God. And then he sends his disciples to
every nation on earth, to reflect the light of God to others, to invite others to follow Jesus,
to teach them what that means, and to baptise them in the name of the Father, and of the
Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Three persons, one God. One God, three persons.
And just as God promised to be with Abraham and his descendants, and God promised to be with Moses and the Israelites, so Jesus promises to always be with those who follow him.
How can he be with us always? Through the gift of the Holy Spirit! You see, God the Father,
Son and Spirit are one! If the Spirit is with us, Jesus is with us, the Father is with us. The
fullness of God is with us.
When it comes down to it, the love of God the Trinity needs to be experienced more than
understood. As the apostle Paul put it: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” (2 Corinthians 13:13)
A prayer on Trinity Sunday
Holy God, faithful and unchanging:
enlarge our minds with the knowledge of your truth,
and draw us more deeply into the mystery of your love,
that we may truly worship you,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Questions to wonder about or discuss with others
What do you find the most helpful way of understanding God as trinity?
Which of the three short bible readings spoke most to you and why? (Genesis 12:1-3, Pslam 8 or Matthew 28:16-20)
Has God been calling you to leave something behind and / or do something new? How will you respond?
You can also listen to this Blog as a reflection via our Podcast channel, click here.