Trinity Sunday sermon - Bishop Cherry
Trinity Sunday: 7th June 2020
The pandemic that we remain in the midst of has forced us all into a way of being that we couldn’t have begun to imagine only 6 months ago. Locked down in our homes, unable to do most of the things we took for granted, we’ve had to rethink how we spend our days, how we remain connected with family and friends, our work colleagues and church family. Many of us have surprised ourselves as to how we’ve adapted to life on screen. Things we wouldn’t have dreamt of doing at the start of this year have become normal. We can do things differently.
Alongside all the horrors that COVID 19 has inflicted, there have been many good and creative things come out of our enforced lockdown. Streets and communities have come together, sometimes virtually, sometimes in their streets, to clap the NHS, to celebrate VE Day, to make music together as a choir, band or orchestra. Many, like Captain Tom, have taken on challenges, encouraging others to join them or sponsor them to raise money for the NHS or some other good cause.
And we’ve had time, time to think about what we might continue to do differently as a result of our experience; time to reflect on what kind of world we want our new normal to look like. We’ve learnt and are learning a lot through this pandemic, about ourselves, about our society and our world and about our church. As the lockdown begins to be eased, how do we build on the good things that have come out of this? How do we hold on to those things that we’ve discovered matter, perhaps more than we thought? How do we continue to give space and opportunity for the astonishing creativity that we’ve seen being expressed? What kind of world do we want to create? For we do have choices.
Today is Trinity Sunday in the Christian calendar: the culmination, we might say, of the first part of the Christian year. God is revealed as God is, in all his glory. A trinity of persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Three in one and one in three as one of the ancient hymns begins. It’s a mystery that’s beyond our understanding and, like all mysteries, not one to try and unravel intellectually. God doesn’t invite us to try and understand. God invites us to embrace the life he’s created for us to enjoy and to join him in what’s been described as the divine dance. Some of you will know of the famous icon of the Trinity by the Russian iconographer, Rublev (the picture was displayed at the beginning of this live-stream), who depicts the Godhead as three persons sitting around a table, each united in their gaze of one another. Tradition has it that at the bottom of the icon, there was a small mirror, so that as a worshipper came to pray at the icon not only would they be drawn by the picture into the heart of the Trinity, they would see themselves there too, caught up and intrinsically part of the trinity of persons that is God.
At the heart of our understanding of God, is relationship and not only relationship but community. God is a community of persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit that are held together in a love that binds them in one. Three in one and one in three. Or, as the poet Malcolm Guite beautifully puts it, ‘three notes sounding from a single tone.’ It’s out of that love and because of that love, held at the heart of God’s very being, that God created the world and the universe and all that is, including you and I. And it’s that love that we’re invited to embrace and live and share. In other words, God is, within God’s very self, the kind of world, the kind of community he’s created for us to enjoy. A world of people, distinct and diverse, equally loved and equally valued and held together in the love of God. What better world could we imagine?
But we are a long way from that because of what Christians call sin. That is, our tendency to put ourselves and our own self-interests first; placing ourselves and our own needs, desires and wants at the centre of the universe rather than God. We do it as individuals. But we also do it as a society and the way we construct our communities and way of life.
The storm of anger and protest at the death of George Floyd in the States continues to ripple out across the world with marches taking place across the UK including one here in Newport on Thursday. That black lives matter is being declared in posters, on banners, in chants and via hashtags. On one level, of course, no one could argue. Black lives do matter, except that the countless stories being told across all the current media platforms tell a different story. Stories of discrimination, disregard and prejudice, just because of the colour a person’s skin. We’re being confronted once again with the fact that the very ways in which our society and our church are structured discriminate against people of colour.
Sadly, it’s not just people of colour that experience discrimination and who don’t feel equally loved and valued in our world, It’s any group that doesn’t fit the dominant culture or who threaten the culture of those in charge and with the power; be that on an individual, community, national or international level. So we get incidents of low level verbal and physical abuse of the orthodox Jewish community on a daily basis; stories of Muslim children being called terrorists at school with no sanctions being imposed from the teachers; people across the world who are gay and lesbian living in fear of rejection, of being disowned, of losing their jobs; women, those living with a disability, those having a mental illness...The list goes on of people being abused, discriminated against, prevented from getting on and having the same opportunities, just because they are different or don’t fit the dominant norm.
What kind of world, what kind of church do we want to create as we move out of this lockdown? What do we want our new normal to look like post COVID 19?
As is clear, there is no dominance within the Trinity. No one person lords it over the others, or sees herself superior to the others, or seeks the best for himself at the expense of the others. They are equal and integral, bound as one in the love that not only they share between themselves but which they pour out on a world created out of that love. Malcolm Guite again:
That, surely, must be our goal and our desire: to learn from the past and to take this opportunity to create a world and a church where everyone is valued for who they are and what they bring to our common life. It will, undoubtedly mean that some of us at least will have to let go of our own power and our own privileges in order for others to take their proper place. And that’s often the rub. We don’t want to have to change or allow ourselves to be changed in order to let others thrive and shine. But that’s what is required if we’re to work with God in creating the world as God intended - the best for everyone, not just for us. It’s the ultimate in selflessness and generosity, and it is our spiritual goal - the one espoused and modelled by our Saviour Jesus Christ. A world where we can be ‘each other’s inspiration’ Let’s pray that it may be so.
Trinity Sunday by Malcolm Guite (Sounding the Seasons)
In the Beginning, not in time or space,
But in the quick before both space and time,
In Life, in Love, in co-inherent Grace
In three in one and one in Three, in rhyme
In music, in the whole creation story
In his own image, his imagination,
The Triune Poet makes us for his glory,
And makes us each he other’s inspiration.
He calls us out of darkness, chaos, chance,
To improvise a music of our own,
To sing the chord that calls us to the dance,
Three notes resounding from a single tone,
To sing the End in whom we all begin;
Our God beyond, beside us and within.