The Preacher’s Nightmare

One bishop said that the doctrine of the Trinity has been described variously as “the preacher’s nightmare” and “the ultimate rubric cube of theology”. The Trinity has been characterised in a number of ways, some good some bad, with varying degrees of reverence. The bishop went on to say that it is part of our daily prayer but we live our lives as if the Trinity doesn’t matter at all.

The Trinity helps us to understand who God is. When I worked in the diocese on Catechesis in the parishes, one of our key goals was to help Catechists in formation to discover what was their image of God. This is fundamental in our sharing faith with adults and children.

We might joke at the images of God that people have, such as God as a policeman ready to catch us out, God as a puppet master controlling our every move, God as in Heaven leaving us to our own devices, God as a judge making a list of all our misdemeanours, transgressions and sins and ready to send us to the other place if we don’t have sufficient good deeds to our name. But if we scratch the surface, it is surprising how many of us live with a distorted and inadequate image of God which means that is affected our live of prayer and the way we live our life.

The scripture readings for this feast day give us a deeper understanding of God.

In the reading from Exodus, God descends as a cloud and the Lord proclaimed himself as a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness.

As Bishop Pilarczvk says, “He presents himself to Moses as Lord yet not distant and cold but near and loving, in spite of the sinfulness of the people with whom he had involved himself. He was a God who would continue to travel with the people he had chosen as his own”. God is not solitary. God is community. And we are very familiar with the final words of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”. This is the clearest expression of the Trinity in the New Testament. It was written within 20 years of the Resurrection. Paul already could see God as Three in One, expressing grace, love and fellowship. It would be a long time before the Church was able to enunciate it’s belief about the Trinity in a clear and unequivocal way.

In the meeting between Jesus and Nicodemus, “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.”

What is asked of us is to believe in Jesus. What does it mean to believe? To believe is to recognise, to decide, to accept the love he offers us-and to offer it to one another.

In the end what really matters is not our theological understanding of God and our ability to explain the Trinity which is beyond explanation but what is essential for us is to have a real relationship of love with God who is Father, for he is the one whose love planned me, created me and upholds me. A relationship with the Son, whose love did not desert me in my sinfulness but who came to feed me, heal me and lead me. A relationship with the Spirit, who is my Sanctifier, who has raised me up to share in divine life, breathing in me, living in me and loving in me.

Canon Father Anthony Charlton
Canon Father Anthony CharltonParish Priest