30 May 2021
Trinity Sunday is the only week in the year when the focus of our worship is a doctrine. This year, though, the readings move the Trinitarian theme beyond the realm of purely intellectual fascination, into a very practical response to the radical transformation that comes from an encounter with this Triune God.
May the mystery of the Trinity challenge and change us as we worship this week.
Isaiah 6:1-8: Isaiah receives a vision of God in God’s glory in the Temple, and he hears the seraphim singing “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Then, after he has confessed and been cleansed, he hears God asking for someone whom God can send, and he volunteers.
Psalm 29: A psalm in praise of God’s glory, the power and majesty of God’s voice, and acknowledging God as the eternal ruler over creation, the heavenly beings and all people.
Romans 8:12-17: By the power of God’s Spirit, we are heirs with Christ of God’s glory, we are adopted as children of God, and we are able to live according to the Spirit’s leading, not following our sinful nature.
John 3:1-17: Jesus teaches Nicodemus that, in order to see God’s Reign, he must be born of the Spirit. For whoever believes in Jesus, sent by God into the world to save the world, receives God’s eternal life.
REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
The obvious focus of the readings this week is the celebration of the Trinity. The uniquely doctrinal nature of this theme can make it a tough week to prepare for, but the specific focus of the readings for Year B offers some helpful practical possibilities. Isaiah’s vision, with the triple “holy” of the seraphs, reveals how powerfully transforming a true encounter with the triune God can be. The psalm supports this with its celebration of God as king over all, including the heavenly beings. In the letter to the Romans, Paul reveals how the triune God works in our hearts and lives to make us, both in identity and action, true Spirit-led children of God. Finally, in John’s Gospel, Jesus makes the same point in his call for seekers of God to be born again – transformed, by God’s Spirit, into believers in, and practitioners, of the values and purposes of God’s Reign, that was revealed, taught and demonstrated by Jesus. God is revealed, then, as the King and Creator, who seeks an intimate relationship, as of parent and child, with human beings, and all of creation. Then, God is also revealed in Christ as the one who shows the true nature of God’s kingship, and who invites us to be participants in God’s work in the world, by giving us an example, and by opening doors to God’s life through his death and resurrection. Finally, the empowerment we need to enter this relationship with God, and live as kingdom people, is God’s Spirit who is given to us and through whom we are born from above. The key for this week, then, is how God encounters us, in God’s Triune nature, and transforms us into Christ-like, kingdom living, children of God. The Trinitarian celebration is not just a fascinating theological exercise, but a moment of opening ourselves, in worship, to this transforming encounter with our majestic and mysterious God.
CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
It can be tough to connect our very Christian belief in the Trinity with the very real struggle for justice in our world, but, if we manage to do this successfully, it can be a wonderful opportunity to reveal the power of the foundational beliefs of our faith. This year the readings are biased toward action. On the one hand, the emphasis is on God’s action in us. What the Trinitarian focus reveals is how God works in us, and in our world, in so many different ways – as transcendent Monarch over creation, as friend and co-worker for justice in human affairs, and as personal and corporate empowerer and transformer. God is at work throughout the universe, and in the smallest details of our lives. God is at work in us as individuals and as communities. God is at work in us to transform everything, from how we live to the systems within which we live. On the other hand, there is the challenge for us to encounter this Triune God and be moved into action as a result. We are called to be personally changed – convicted, confessing and cleansed, like Isaiah, so that we are born from above – and to become those who bring the transforming influence of God’s Reign into the world, not just living ourselves for justice, peace and love, but, like Isaiah, being sent to bring those qualities into the world. The challenge, then, of this week’s celebration is to recognise that changing our world requires a recognition of God’s activity at every level of our world, but also a commitment to being changed both personally and socially. As such, whatever work we may do to change our world for the better – be it poverty alleviation, creation care, advocacy for the marginalised, seeking an end to human trafficking – we need to begin by allowing the Triune God to work in us, and we need to value the small, individual contribution that we can make. Then, to this we can add prayer for God’s work in the structures and systems of our world, and organised initiatives to bring about the change that God’s Reign calls us to. The vision of God as Trinity opens our hearts and minds to all of these creative possibilities and more.
On a local level the challenge of this week’s theme is much the same as on the global level, but the specific implications are more personal and immediate. Again, the recognition of God’s activity in every aspect of our lives, personally and communally, is the basis from which we can hope to change, and make any kind of contribution to our neighbourhoods, communities and even countries. And the challenge for us to recognise God’s call for us to change while also contributing to bringing God’s Reign into visibility also remains. What it means, though, is that we need to learn to see God’s Spirit at work in our relationships, our homes and places of work, our churches and schools. The God who is king of creation, incarnate embodiment of love and indwelling Spirit moves within us and through us, and is active in every moment, every interaction and every place. When we can begin to recognise God’s Presence and activity, everything changes for us. Then, as we embrace God’s call and power to be changed, we automatically become more like Christ and find ourselves bringing Christ’s love and grace into every part of our world which can only have an impact for the good. It is impossible, therefore, to believe in God as Trinity, without also believing in God’s constant, gracious, saving presence in our world and in our lives. It is also impossible to believe in the Trinity without seeking to be changed into more loving and gracious people who bring life and love into our families, our churches and our neighbourhoods in practical ways. This may mean learning to forgive a family member, or serving at a soup kitchen. It may mean volunteering in our churches, or taking care of a sick child. Whatever the details, the more we learn to see and open to the Triune God, the more we will reflect that God’s presence and power in our own lives. May this week be more than an interesting doctrinal exercise, but be a truly transforming encounter with God.
RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
A Desperate World
A Love So Strong
Life Giving, Restoring, Fulfilling God
Holy, Holy, Holy
Father, We Praise Thee
Holy God, We Praise Thy Name
Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow
Father, Spirit, Jesus (Link to YouTube video)
Praise The Father, Praise The Son (Link to YouTube video)
Glorify Your Name (Link to YouTube video)
Father, I Adore You (Link to YouTube video)
A Liturgy for the Foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet
Encounters – Nicodemus
Science Guy: Trinity
“Isaiah’s vision, with the triple “holy” of the seraphs, reveals how powerfully transforming a true encounter with the triune God can be.” Thank you for this statement, it helped me to bring the readings in line with the Trinity Sunday theme.
Thank you, David!