A TRINITY IN LOVE
SERMON PREACHED BY FR. TONY NOBLE ON May 30th, 2010
Isaiah 6:1 & 4 “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up
……..and the house was filled with smoke.”
I don’t want to steal the choir’s thunder – but this passage of scripture is a marvellous description of worship in heaven, and it deserves to be set to grand music. The prophet Isaiah has a vision of the glory of God surrounded by angels, and the place is filled by smoke.
“Woe is me,” he says! Then there is the image of a burning coal taken from the altar and placed on his tongue.
Is this really heaven? Isaiah sees the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and smoke is everywhere. Perhaps not heaven, but High Mass at All Saints’ – with one of our enthusiastic thurifers filling the sanctuary with incense! I find it interesting that Isaiah’s vision of heaven is about worship. And it is Eucharistic worship. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts”, the angels sing. This is the same song we sing in the Eucharistic Prayer. In Isaiah’s mind, heaven seemed to be one unending High Mass, complete with the smoke.
It is the same in Revelation 4:1-11. Here St. John the Divine also describes heaven, and it is the same. There is the Lord seated on a throne being worshiped. The heavenly throng sings those same words: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”
This worship is exactly what Trinity Sunday is about – the worship of Almighty God.
In our Episcopal Prayer Book, we have three creeds. The longest and the most difficult to understand is the Athanasian Creed. The Athanasian Creed attempts to explain the doctrine of the Trinity – or at least proclaim it. At the heart of its declaration is this line, “And the Catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and in Trinity in unity”. The Catholic faith is this…..we worship one God. Thus the Catholic faith, which this Parish is based on and proclaims, is about worshiping the Trinity.
We do worship the Trinity rather well here, don’t we? I think that Isaiah, St. John the Divine and St Athanasias would all feel very much at home here at All Saints’.
But there is another question, isn’t there….how do you worship something that you don’t quite understand? Well, if we know the Trinity, we can easily worship the Trinity. For we can certainly worship what we know. Surely Trinity Sunday is about knowing the Holy Trinity. And surely the Holy Trinity is all about knowing God.
It does seem strange that at the end of Eastertide we have a Sunday that seems to celebrate a doctrine. Since last Advent Sunday, we’ve had six months of celebrating the life of Christ and his teachings, as revealed to us through Holy Scripture. Surely, it cannot conclude with a doctrine based on 4th century philosophy? In fact Trinity Sunday is a natural conclusion to the revelation of the life of Christ. For the Trinity is God’s revelation of his life to us.
All through the ages people have wanted to find God and have him reveal himself. Remember the story of Moses and the burning bush? God spoke to Moses through the bush. Moses asked him, “What is your name?” He had to have a name for God so he could relate to God. God replied, “I am who I am.” I AM became God’s name – variously translated as Jehovah and Yahweh. Now, through the sending of his Son, this same God is revealed as Three Persons. We know their names: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. How important names are to us. When we speak to people by name there is a relationship between us. God wants to have a relationship with us, and so he has revealed himself to us by name as well as by person.
We not only know their names, we know something about them – a quality which had been hidden before. It was a quality of relationship. “God is love,” said St. John. In the Trinity, God is revealed as love. The only way that could be three persons a yet one God is because they are bound together by love.
It is the same with the sacrament of marriage. When a couple make their vows to live together in love they actually become one, but they are still two persons. So they are two persons, but one unity. When they process out of the church after the celebration of that sacrament, they are more like God than when they came in – because there is a unity of the persons.
Similarly, God is three persons – three persons so much in love that they are also one God. And, just as in marriage the love is to be shared, especially with the children – so God’s love is so great that he wants to share his love with all his children.
So on this Trinity Sunday rejoice that God has revealed himself as three Persons so much in love that they are one.
And may our worship of the Trinity reflect that love – and make us more loving.