Trinity Sunday

Sermon preached by
The Reverend Professor Leslie Houlden
30 May 2010

The Chrisitan parsonages of our land, indeed of the world, have had their most nerve-racking week of the year: the week before Trinity Sunday. A sermon must be prepared on the doctrine of the Trinity - and what on earth shall be said? The priest is not feeling quite himself.
The discussions and upsets that led to the doctrine's formulation go back to the third and fourth centuries; the idea of dedicating a Sunday to it only comes in the 14th century. But only in England did it catch on so well that, here, all the following Sundays were labelled Sundays 'after Trinity' -- lasting a great expanse of months until Advent, in December. Everywhere else they called them 'Sundays after Pentecost'. So numbering was always one higher than ours. Now, the Roman Catholics call all those Sundays: 'Sundays in ordinary time' - a quite different way of doing the job and rather plodding. None of which matters very much to you and will not do in a sermon, for it leaves our souls unfed and our heads stuffed with unusable information or perhaps going in the category labelled 'may come in handy one day’ - perhaps in a puzzle of some kind. (I do not recommend dragging it into ordinary conversation.)

What does matter is that God is to be loved, valued, attended to for his own sake and for no other reason whatsoever. That is, God is not the end-term of a discussion with friends, or people in the TV programme; and he is not just a likely answer to a puzzle about the origin of everything, or the last resort when we are in trouble. He is the proper object of our adoration and our deepest love, on which all other loves depend.

For what would be the real point in anything we do or seek to achieve, if IN THE END there is no ground for our being, and if that ground could not be related to, could not be given a face, a personality, in Jesus of Nazareth? And if such a one could not have shared our joys and our sufferings, even to the point of death? And if he had given us no powers to act and think and create goodness and love in the world? And if we alone could claim credit for our achievements, would we not be justified in the most terrible conceit, making ourselves unbearable to all around? No doubt many of us would be modest and even truly humble - it can be one of the most beautiful qualities; but why not be conceited if we were the sole source of our virtues and our useful acts?

So: God as Father, God as Son, and God as Holy Spirit; one God, our God.

On the other hand, we are the part-source of the good that we do and the wisdom that we think. And that is precisely our God-likeness - which is the great glory for which we are made; not to be 'important', not the make money, not even to have a happy time of it; but to share in God's central qualities; to create love, to stand for truth and to make it our own for the sake of those around us; to foster success in the young and valued patience in the old. Love breeds love and the more there is, the more God is glorified and known among us.

Long before the formal doctrine of the Trinity was formulated, St Paul ended one of his great letters with words that have stood the test of time: 'Brothers and sisters, the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all'.

As for the panic in the parsonage: they really shouldn't let it get to them. But may that wonderful passage from the Book of Proverbs (8.22 etc) which we heard as our first reading settle into our souls: God, it says, made the world to be rational and sensible and beautiful. His wisdom runs through it all and through all of us, and that wisdom is God's delight: a fine note on which to finish, don't you think? I should even prefer to being delighted in than in being loved - if I had to choose (which I do not!).

The Reverend Professor Leslie Houlden

Arms of Lady Katherine Leveson

The Foundation of Lady Katherine Leveson
Registered Charity no. 213618
Temple Balsall, Knowle, Solihull, West Midlands B93 0AN

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