Trinity Sunday 2021
When looking at the church calendar, Trinity Sunday is one of those Sundays that most priests contemplate with some apprehension.
The Trinity you see is the distinctive foundation of our Christian Faith but its not straight forward….and it's therefore something that can hardly be adequately explained in a 10 minute homily.
But here we are...again!
The Church of England’s doctrine commission during the 1980s and 1990s reflected that whilst one can explain the doctrine of the Trinity - as described in the church’s catholic creeds - the Trinity is in many ways beyond words. In one of its papers it suggests the Trinity is best verifiable through religious experience, contemplation and prayer.
The Commission goes on to point out that most modern christians, as heirs of the enlightenment, are therefore not afraid of a critical approach to better understanding their beliefs.
People are therefore simply not prepared to accept a doctrine simply because the church teaches it and because it's part of our historic and agreed tradition.
So what do you think?
How do you explain it to people who are new in faith?
How does this mystery of the Trinity define and inspire your faith?
I could come amongst you and question your theological understanding of the Trinity....but I won't... this time….
I’m not a party person …..
One of the things I try to do when I first meet people in secular social situations is to avoid saying I’m a Priest...it either scares people off, or they get grumpy with me because of past wrong or disappointment ...or they try to challenge me on my beliefs. It's a very tiring and sometimes unpleasant experience.
There are of course opportunities for evangelism and healing in these encounters which I of course take whenever possible.
Perhaps a top ten question is the Trinity and I’m often derisively asked…. If we accept there is a God….that acquiescence is quite a step trust me….. They then go on to say how can there be one God that exists in three persons? It is impossible.
They go to ask...how can God be in Heaven and also with us through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. How can something be one and be located in different places at the same time? It defies logic.
Explaining that we have been shown the nature of God through his actions, described in scripture and discovered in contemplation, isn't enough and doesn't cut the mustard. Trust me.
Their response is that it's an impossibility - it's absurd….. It's therefore not true…...And de facto my belief and indeed who I am is absurd. Indeed I’m immoral in perpetuating such untruths especially in schools.
And people wonder why I’m always hesitant in accepting a party invitation??
If you haven't had the same experience I promise you that those people you know who aren't Christians may well be thinking along the same lines - even if they don't say it.
This morning I want to explore how science is supporting the theology of the Trinity and how that can support our faith and our evangelism with others.
One of the biggest fallacies of the modern period is the alleged tension between the christian faith and the sciences. In these discussions Galileo is always wheeled out as an example.
Modern historians are however at pains to say this alleged suppression of scientific truth by the church simply isn't factual.
We don't have much time to discuss the ins and outs of this but the basics are that Galilelo’s disagreement with the church was a disagreement between two scientific ideas - one established and one radical and emergent - and definitely not an argument between theology and science.
Of course there have been tensions over time but generally the church and science have gone hand in hand.
Remember the major universities throughout this land and across the western world were established by the church because the church has sought to understand the creator through knowledge. Many fields of modern science, including metaphysics and quantum physics are being led by people of faith. The Big Bang theory of course was developed by a Roman Catholic priest in 1927 and the Pope in 1951 stated this theory was not in conflict with the Christian faith.
So where is Father Richard going with this I hear you ask!
Well the work on quantum physics is proving very interesting and I think helpful in understanding and explaining our faith.
It has found that what people say is impossible or illogical in our Trinitarian theology is in fact the very fabric of the universe.
That the belief discerned thousands of year ago...is the very blueprint ...the very nature of creation…. Pointing I believe the way to the creator.
What quantum physics has postulated and then found through a 100 years of study is exactly what the early church Fathers and Mothers understood as possible.
Something can indeed be one and a number of other things at the same time. Something can be one and three in its very essence.
It's not something ridiculous or impossible...
What the scientists have found is complex.
Now for the science bit….
In quantum mechanics scientists can see that particles - the stuff of the universe - contain many contradictory observations in one observable particle.
Ok what this means in English is that when you look at the spin of say an electron they have found that it can have a spin in the x, y, or z axes. Now all of these can be true simultaneously until you measure the electron spin and you find that it has only one of those.
The electron is three contradictory things - but is still one thing, which defies the bounds of traditional logic and our understanding of the world, but there it is with over 100 years of experimental evidence to back it up. It's mind bending, I know.
In the same way quantum entanglement theory is showing that elements that have been separated are somehow linked and exhibit the same qualities through both time and space…..
So not only can one thing - be three things - should parts of it become separated through space and time they are still unified as one thing.
If the creation can be one thing and many others - and if it can be in one place and another ...then God can surely be both one and three...and can be both in Heaven and simultaneously with us through the incarnation of Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Quantum physics has found this isn't in fact a leap of faith.
What was once thought as fantastical and impossible by scientists is now being understood as factual and scientific.
You see the Trinity stops being difficult to explain when we know this connectedness and mystery of oneness and many…
The mark of the creator is everywhere you see, pointing to and seeking to explain his very essence and being.
The whole of creation reflects this white hot intensity of God’s very being.
The Trinity is therefore not an abstraction simply of interest to theologians ….the Trinity names and shapes the ground of our reality ...
I’m actually looking forward to discussing these ideas at the next party I attend. I almost feel sorry for the person that asks how can you believe in the Trinity...
I’d like to finish where I started with the Church of England’s commission on the doctrine of the Trinity and it’s encounter and understanding through prayer.
The commission comments that too often when the doctrine of the Trinity is discussed it's just put down as the way the historic church resolved its disagreements.
It goes on to say that as a result there hasn't been enough emphasis on remembering and giving thanks for the divine revelation of the Trinity to the church through spiritual encounter and prayer.
Drawing on the teaching of St Paul ...Basil the Great finds a way through all of this for us…..he explains that in prayer, through the direct encounter of the soul with the Holy Spirit we are enabled to see and know Jesus Christ….and through his perfect image we are able to behold and know the Father.
The entire spiritual movement is Trinitarian in experience, action and revelation.
Eugene Peterson the famous Presbyterian writer - who created the Message Bible says …
It is commonly said that the Trinity is a mystery. And it certainly is … . But it is not a mystery veiled in darkness in which we can only grope and guess. It is a mystery in which we are given to understand that we will never know all there is of God … . It is not a mystery that keeps us in the dark, but a mystery in which we are taken by the hand and gradually led into the light … .