'‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.’’ Deuteronomy 6:4
Brothers and sisters, there are things in life which are complicated but absolutely essential. Complicated, in that we don’t fully understand them. And essential, in that if we ignore them it will have negative consequences on our life. Think for a second about gravity. I don’t really understand how it works—it’s complicated—but if I pretend it’s not true, well then it’s going to hurt a lot, when I step off a tall building. Gravity is complicated, and it’s essential that we believe in it, even if we don’t fully understand it. Our topic today—on this Trinity Sunday—works in a similar way. The Trinity is complicated and absolutely essential. In fact so complicated, that we never fully grasp it, and so essential, that get it wrong and your Christian life may well fall apart. Simply put: God is One, and God is Three. We’re going to take those statements one at a time.
First, God is One. Here is the centre point of all Christian and Jewish theology. God is One. This is so important, so critical that God’s people understand this, that one verse from Deuteronomy 6 was said every morning and evening by the Jewish people, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.’ The Jewish people were surrounded by people who believed in a whole bus-load of gods. However, this was not to be true for God’s people. From the first moment, God introduced Himself, He made it clear that there was only one God, and that He was it. As a result, God’s people were forbidden from worshipping other gods alongside the God of Israel. It wasn’t enough that the God of Israel was worshipped, He had to be worshipped alone, for all other gods were fake. More than that: worship the God of Israel, alongside, say, the Roman gods, and, well, your heart was divided. You didn’t love the true God properly because some of your love and loyalty was given to another a god, and this other one was fake. That’s why the statement in Deuteronomy 6, about there being only one God, is immediately followed by a statement about love: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one’. Therefore: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might’. God is One and this God deserves all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength. Perhaps, you think—and you may be right—that you’re not likely to go off and worship the Muslim god, or practice Buddhist meditation, anytime soon. However, Christians can easily make the same mistake in a different way. We Christians can still end up splitting our love for God between different claimants. We might allow God some part of our lives. We might allow God Sundays but not Saturdays; our church life but not our social life; our work but not our wallet. However, God is One, and He deserves every part of us.
So far, so good. But things are about to get a little more complicated… so take a deep breath, because Christians also believe that God is three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Imagine for a second you are walking through an art gallery. You see a large picture on the wall of a famous person. You go over for a closer look, and as you draw closer, you see there is something strange about the picture. You get right up close, and then you see it. The picture is a mosaic. The picture is made up of tiny tiles, each with its own picture or colour on. It’s one picture, but it’s made up of separate tiles. Something like that is happening as we move from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The Trinity—the three persons of the one God—is not a new idea—one that pops up in the New Testament only—it’s been there all along. In the Old Testament, we may have been standing back, and with readings like the one we just looked at from Deuteronomy, have had our focus pointed towards the unity of God, but the Trinity was there all along. Let me read from our Old Testament reading, Isaiah 6. God is seated on His throne and looking to send someone out on mission, and Isaiah records this in verse 8: ‘I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’’ Here we get God as one: ‘Whom shall I send’, and in the same sentence God as plural: ‘And who will go for us’. The clues are there in the Old Testament, even though our focus is on God as One. However, in the New Testament—with the coming of God into the world—we are brought closer to Him. And as with the mosaic made up of tiles, as we draw closer, we see the detail more clearly. One God, three persons… Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Not three gods! Jesus continues affirming the teaching we had in Deuteronomy. Remember how we start the service: ‘In in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. ‘In the name’, singular! Not ‘in the names of’—as if there were three gods—but ‘in the name’, reminding us that there is only one God, who is three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Three different persons all at once. Sometimes people have described the Trinity, as if God becomes the Father sometimes, transitions to be the Son at others, and finally becomes the Spirit at other times. However, this is clearly wrong. God is one, and all three persons are distinct, existing all at the same time.
You may well be wondering: Why is this important? Well first, because it is what scripture says this is how God has revealed Himself. However, second, this teaching is crucial, because it reveals to us how God can be love, and therefore how much we are loved. If God was one person, that God couldn’t always have been a God of love. Before He created anything that god would have had no one to love, he wouldn’t have loved, or have been loved. However, because God is three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—then there has always been love at the centre of God. Each person, loving the other persons. God being Love, then, only makes sense if God is more than one person. Consequently, the Trinity reveals how much we are loved. From eternity, God was happy, God was loving, and out of that shared love decided to create a wider community of people made in His image, to share in that perfect love. Not because He had to, but simply because He wanted to. God loved us out of free choice, and He will never give that up.
Well we’ve made it to the end. We’ve tackled easily the most complex topic in the world. However, if God were easy to understand, the one thing we could be sure of was that it was all made up. Like gravity, the Trinity is complicated, and absolutely essential. God is One…And God is Three. It is as simple, and as complex as that. The Trinity is complicated… but absolutely essential. Amen. (from Fr Mike)