Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.
When I was at uni, I went on an Evangelical Union conference for a week in the midyear break. I think I was in first or second year and the theme of the conference was the Trinity. Every day these young people would gather in small groups to discuss passages from the Bible and every night there would be a lecture about the way in which the Trinity had been written about, thought about and interpreted over time. It was eye-
So, how did these wise undergraduates interpret the Trinity, the most confounding of all theology’s mysteries?
What is the Trinity like?
When the vital moment came, one guy put up his hand and proposed the old metaphor of ice, water and steam. Someone else said that that wouldn’t work because those things never really existed together except in scientifically engineered environments and the Trinity exists around us all the time. (Except, not really.)
Another girl put up her hand and said, “Neapolitan ice cream”. The speaker nodded sagely and said that would work because the three flavours of ice-
Peace (and ice-
In the centuries since Jesus lived among us, there have been countless theologians who have debated who he was and what his life, death and resurrection mean for those who lived before him, with him and people like us, who have only heard the stories about him. The earliest theologians, saints Augustine and Athanasius, wrote about the nature of Jesus about 300 years after he died, which became the basis of the Nicene Creed (381CE), our statement of what we believe about the Trinity:
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in the Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten not made,
of one being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and became truly human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father,
who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.
At that time, ideas about Jesus’ divinity and the role of the Holy Spirit were far from established. Over the centuries, people have been prepared to kill and die to have their ideas about the reality of God accepted. I’m not one of those people and I’m not going to plumb the depths of Trinitarian theology. I’m just going to raise a few questions.
What does the Trinity mean for us today?
Firstly, God’s attention to humanity gives us inherent worthiness. God has existed since the beginning and created us, redeemed us and related to us. God shows us so much love in taking on human form. God allows us to begin to understand, even with our human limitations. God gives us what we need.
Secondly, the incarnation of God in Jesus is one of the central ideas of the Trinity. Why would God want to be a human? If you are God, why submit to the limitations of a human body? A human life? A humiliating, public and terrifying human death? Why would anyone want to die in such a way? Jesus’ life made being a human a divine thing. The stories that survive of Jesus’ life tell us that he loved his life, loved his friends and loved being human. He feared death, as we all would, and asked for his suffering to be taken from him. He resisted corruption, welcomed the outcast and broke down barriers between people. Jesus gave humanity divinity.
Thirdly, the coming of the Holy Spirit, celebrated at Pentecost, tells us that God will always be with us. Jesus’ death and resurrection saved us, his ministry was “complete” but we will never be alone. God continues to speak to us and work in us. The world that we live in today is infinitely more varied than the world Jesus knew, but the Spirit that he left us continues to do God’s work, bringing about “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-
There has only been one human who truly embodied these spiritual gifts. May we all grow to be more like him. Amen.