This is Trinity Sunday; when we focus on our Triune God, three in one, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
So let’s first look at the Father. The Psalm for today is Psalm 40; it is so descriptive of our mighty, powerful God, and hugely reassuring too as he is our Father. Who would not want to be the child of a father, who ‘measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?’
You may remember being proud of something your parents did or had when you were a child. I recall being rather keen on my dad’s car. You see, it was a 1947 Austin, a big, heavy black vehicle with a windscreen that one could wind open, and footplates for riding on up the driveway. (I feel compelled to tell you here that it was an old car when I was little). With its high horse-hair seats we sat upright and could see the other kids pointing as we drove around. That Austin was so distinctive among the white VW Beetles and the pale coloured Peugeots and the little Minis. It gave us a certain status, and those children would never know how my dad would toil with the crank handle to get it started, or battle to keep the spark plugs dry.
Further on in the Psalm we read ‘Have you not known, have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.’ Unlike my earthly dad, ‘He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strength to the powerless.’ He is the Almighty; can you visualise God?
The Son we see as the person of Jesus, but he is also described as the Word. He was there at the beginning of time; the Word brought everything into being. ‘In the beginning was the Word,’ says John, at the start of his Gospel, ‘and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.’
John, who walked this earth with Jesus testifies that ‘no one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.’ Further on in the chapter, he states, ‘And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.’ We have John’s remarkable eye-witness account of being with God, and getting to know him in the person of Jesus Christ. How incredible it must have been for the disciples to realise that Jesus is God, to see him suffer and die for us, conquering death for us all. What picture comes to mind when I ask if you can visualise Jesus?
The Holy Spirit is more difficult to understand. We have just celebrated Pentecost, when the Spirit of God came to be with the disciples, in a rushing wind and tongues of fire. The wind is a good analogy; we can only see wind in the way it gusts, moving among the trees, or over a field of long grass, or the way it catches huge waves, lifting spray meters into the air. For as with wind, we can only see the Spirit in the way it touches and transforms God’s people, in the works of his Church, in the miracles we experience. Jesus described the Spirit of God as our helper, our comforter. What picture comes to mind when we talk about the Holy Spirit?
To help us in our understanding, we have this most marvellous book, this Bible. It is the story of God and his people and is chock-full of stories to give us confidence in him. Knowing what we do about God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit is not just a cerebral exercise, so what is its impact? God in his love is immeasurable. Lets try not to think small, because he graciously gives us much, much more than we could ever hope.
Just think of baby Moses, being put into a basket in the waters of the Nile; discovery could have led to his death. Instead, he is given back into his mother’s loving care, and when weaned goes to live in Pharoah’s palace.
Who can forget that shepherd boy, David, standing against Goliath, afraid despite the fact that he had mocked the soldiers: ‘Don’t you know who you are? You are the army of the living God!’ He slayed Goliath, and the house of David, the royal line was foundered there.
And Gideon, starting out with a small army, had to twice reduce its size; the man must have been in a bit of a quake! Yet he went into battle against the overwhelming odds of 400:1, and won, and established peace in the region.
Much later, we meet Peter. We all love Peter, because he is so much like us. He had all the failures and fears we all have. In his faith in his friend Jesus, he overestimated what he could achieve and underestimated his own weaknesses. By denying Jesus three times, he realised that actually he was much weaker than he thought. It was a crucial realisation, and I wonder how it made him feel on that mountainside of Galilee, when Jesus said: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ All nations! What, just us?
All of these men played their part in doing God’s will on earth, against unimaginable probabilities. Yes, they messed up too, but God has an incredible understanding of the people he knows and loves, and it doesn’t stop him from giving us the distinction of serving him. And he doesn’t put us in situations of a sure card win, either. That is not, I think, just to show us that we are able to do great things when the Spirit of God is with us, but also to show us that God values us as the partners by his side, ‘you are worthy, so you and I do this together’.
There are more recent stories too, of God working with his people ‘against the odds’. In the book ‘God’s Smuggler’, Brother Andrew described how time after time he crossed into countries behind the Iron Curtain. He had a VW Beetle, and he would pack Bibles into the boot without any attempt at concealing them. Into Yugoslavia, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Soviet Russia itself. He had no defence and always prayed urgently ‘Lord, you made blind eyes see, please make these seeing eyes blind.’ He was stopped at every border post, his car searched, yet the guards did not see those Bibles. He was never caught, and never arrested. You might have heard of the organisation he founded in 1955 called Open Doors. In June 1981, they delivered one million contraband Chinese Bibles in one night to a beach near the city of Shantou in southern China and today, this non-denominational mission continues supporting persecuted Christians in over 70 countries. I am sure that was not in his mind when he smuggled his first 100 Bibles. Isn’t God glorious?
Knowing all this, we should still not expect to fully understand the Trinity; God is God, and there is mystery there, and so it should be. But while we ponder, our hearts are touched, and we are emboldened to continue God’s story.
In closing I would like to share a story of Leonardo Da Vinci. He had started working on a large painting in his studio. He worked on the picture for a while, outlining its composition, colours and details. One day, he stopped working on the painting and asked one of his students to finish the work. The anxious student protested that he was both unworthy and unable to complete the great painting which Leonardo, his master, had begun. Da Vinci silenced him: ‘Will not what I have done inspire you to do your best?’
God is asking us to help Him finish His picture… and He will be with us… always. He who measures the waters in his hands, and marked off the heavens with a span.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.