The strong name of the Trinity.
A Sermon for Trinity Sunday
June 4, 2023 at Holy Communion
“I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity.” In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. ☩ Amen.
This has been a hard week. There has been loss, and there has been confusion. There has been anxiety. Many of us have been forced from our homes; many have lived moment-by-moment not knowing whether we also would have to leave. On Wednesday evening I packed up that cross, the one resting on the tabernacle, so that if the worst happened at least one artifact from the church would be safe: a surreal experience.
But Friday evening we prayed for rain—as many throughout this diocese have been praying—and rain has come. There are many reasons to mourn, but there are also many reasons to be thankful. I have been receiving telephone calls and e-mails from priests around the province and around the country asking how you, the congregation here at Christ Church, are doing, and what support they can offer. We have seen our neighbours leap into action, turning the church hall into a emergency donation centre overnight. We thank God for the spirit of generosity he has poured out on this community as it has faced its largest crisis in many years.
I consider it providential that today is Trinity Sunday, when we celebrate our faith that God is three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When I first began preparing my sermon, I was concerned that it would be disrespectful to you, in this time of anxiety, to devote my sermon to what many would assume is a “dry theological topic” like the doctrine of the Trinity. But then I realized that I had it exactly wrong. We have not understood the Trinity until we realize that it is a teaching which grounds us deep in the truth of God, giving us a stable place to stand as we face the hour of trial.
In the Collect, our prayer for the week, “we pray that this holy faith [in the Trinity] will be our defence against all adversities.” Our defence. We confess that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God, and yet each of these persons is distinct from the others. Excellent. But does that faith stop wild fires? No. So how is that faith our “defence against all adversities?”
Well, let’s step back and consider what we need to be defended against. When we suffer, it is appropriate to mourn. When our family, friends, and neighbours suffer loss, it is appropriate to cry with them. A tender heart beats for every creature that perishes. But tears are healing. Sorrow is not our enemy. Sorrow is our friend—tears express our longing for the ultimate redemption of creation in “groanings to deep for words” (Romans 8:26). We do not need to be defended against sorrow.
But we do need to be defended against despair. On the Second Sunday in Lent we pray that “we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul.” The adversities which happen to the body hurt, but they can be healed. The adversities which wound the soul are evil thoughts, distorted ways of thinking which can permanently rob us of our peace. Despair is an evil thought. Bitterness is an evil thought. These thoughts are our real enemies.
Faith in the Trinity is our defence against these very enemies. Evil thoughts trade in lies. They tell us that it is only reasonable to give up hope, that it is only reasonable to forget our neighbours and look out for number one. Lies! All lies. But we confess a “true faith.“ Because it is true, and no lie, our faith is a firm place to stand when we are assaulted by the lie of despair.
The doctrine of the Trinity is that, at the centre of all things, the fundamental reality is relationship. Creation doesn’t emerge from a cold, impersonal principle which is indifferent to our fulfillment, but from the generosity of a God who wants creation to share in the bond of love he has shared within himself from all eternity. God the Father made the world through his eternal Son, and breathed his Spirit over it, so that we, his creation, could also become children of God through the Son and the Spirit. By confessing faith in the Trinity—and by enacting our faith in the Trinity by living in the Word and the Spirit—we are tapped into the beating heart of existence. We are grounded in the goodness of God expressed in the everlasting communion between three people.
So when fire threatens, when smoke blocks out the sun, that old demon Despair starts whispering and says, “Life is suffering. There’s no hope for you. Your community is finished. Why keep on fighting?” What do we say? We say, “I believe in God the Holy Trinity. I may be mourning now, but God created me to share in the joy of eternal relationship. Burn my house, burn by body, but my hope is grounded in Almighty God.”
In our Epistle, we hear a voice speaking like a trumpet: “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this” (Revelation 4:1). We are ushered into the throne room of heaven, where a countless throng join angelic creatures to ceaselessly sing: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come” (Revelation 4:8). Though the whole world return to the dust and ashes from which God made it, we will continue to sing praises before the throne of the one who was and is and is to come.
In this present full of anxiety and sadness, we find shelter through our faith in the Holy Trinity. In a few moments we will sing the words of Saint Patrick, who perhaps more than any other knew what it meant to confront adversity with a declaration of faith in the Holy Trinity. We will sing,
I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity, by invocation of the same, the Three-in-One, and One-in-Three.
I bind unto myself today the power of God to hold and lead, his eye to watch, his might to stay, his ear to hearken to my need, the wisdom of my God to teach, his hand to guide, his shield to ward; the word of God to give me speech, his heavenly host to be my guard.
I bind unto myself the name, the strong name of the Trinity, by invocation of the same, the Three-in-One, and One-in-Three. of whom all nature hath creation, eternal Father, Spirit, Word. Praise to the Lord of my salvation, salvation is of Christ the Lord.