What is the Trinity and how can it help me in life?’

‘I have much more to say to you, more than you can bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. In a little while you will see me no more and then after a little while you will see me.’ (John 16:12-15)

‘The Father and I are one (John 10:30)

What a question this is. I remember once going into a church in Yorkshire on a boiling hot sunny evening in June. It was one of those really hot oppressive days with little or no breeze and the church felt like it had been shut all day trapping the heat inside. It was Trinity Sunday and when it came to the homily, the priest got straight to the point, ‘I spent six months studying the Trinity at seminary. I didn’t understand it then and I don’t understand it now! What’s more it’s too hot to preach!’ and with that he stopped and simply moved on to the next part of the mass.

Now in one sense the priest was completely right, in so far as, the Trinity is a mystery. So let us at this moment pause and briefly summarise what Trinity means. Most Christians believe that the one God, reveals himself in three different ways that is to say as God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the Holy Spirit. They are often referred to as the three persons of the Trinity. Once this has been established we can then go on to say that they are equal to each other, can never be parted or separated from one another and are bound together by love. However, this in itself raises a whole load of different other questions starting with, ‘What does this actually mean? ’ Well the simple truth is that theologians have for millennia tried to explain the meaning of the Trinity. ‘Why?’ you might ask. Well the simple and at the same time complex answer is so that we may know and experience the mystery of God more intimately. For this reason, formulas, concepts, images, diagrams, pictures, paintings, models and explanations have all been put forward to explain to what amounts to God’s relationship with himself. There is nothing wrong with that because it reflects a deep desire within humanity to know God better. However, does it help answer our question and the answer has to be, no! So we need some help if we are ever to get to grips with the question, ‘How can the Trinity help me in life?’

Thankfully we can turn, once again, to Jesus, for help. Jesus can, of course, reflect on his own relationship with His Father to shed light on whom and what God actually is. First and foremost Jesus invites us to refer to God as Father, ‘So you should pray like this: ‘Our Father in Heaven,’ (Matthew 6:9) At the same time Jesus also invites us to be led by him, as the Son of God, whilst at the same time being inspired by the Holy Spirit. In other words Jesus encourages an openness to God, who though mystery, can be understood if we allow ourselves to be guided by grace.

If we are to relate to God as Father then Jesus also encourages us to see ourselves as His children. Here we note the words of Jesus to his disciples when he says, ‘My little children, I shall not be with you much longer.’ (John 13:33) In this way, it would seem, Jesus is telling us to see God the Father not as being distant and unknown but as close and accessible. This image also portrays God the Father not in terms of power, might and control but instead as being about mercy, compassion, forgiveness and above all love. As a result, no one is ever truly alone but rather Jesus reveals a loving Father who is closer to us than we could ever imagine; one who understands everything about us because he loves us and forgives us and desires us to know that he cares for us in a way that no one else ever could. This is the Trinity alive and active in our lives drawing us deeper and deeper into God himself. This is what Jesus wants us to know, understand and experience and it is this that will help us see just how the Trinity can help us every single day of our lives.

Jesus also reveals something that flows out of the Father’s heart, a desire to establish his Kingdom. Hence returning to the Lord’s Prayer we find, ‘Your kingdom come.’ (Matthew 6:9) But what exactly does this mean? First and foremost this kingdom is born out of nothing apart from his love and we, as his children, are invited to build it with him. This, however, is unlike any kingdom that has ever existed before because fundamentally it is inclusive, no one is excluded from the Kingdom of God. This is about building a more just world for everyone, guaranteeing dignity to all but beginning with those who are most weak, most vulnerable and those who are most powerless. Jesus invites all of us to be part of building up this kingdom, which belongs to the Father; we are led there by the Son and inspired by the Holy Spirit. Once again, if we do this we, are in fact, living the Trinity by reaching out to everyone and excluding no one.

However, if we are ever going to achieve this there is one thing that Jesus insists on and that is, that we must place all our hope and all our trust in him, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still and trust in me.’ (John 14:1) Fundamental to an understanding of the Trinity is that Jesus is nothing less than the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity and that he shares directly and equally in the life of the one God. Now the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John make complete sense, ‘The Father and I are one.’ (John 10: 30) Therefore through the words and the actions of Jesus we see God and most importantly of all know, believe and understand that he unconditionally loves each and every single one of us, no one is excluded. So, and as a result of this, Jesus invites us to follow him and by him and through him learn how to place all our trust and all our hope in the Father, just like he did. We are invited therefore to be servants of the Kingdom of God following Jesus’s commandment to, ‘Love one another, just as I have loved you; you also must love one another.’ (John 13:34) Our vocation, then, is to reflect the nature and being of God who is of himself, mercy, compassion, forgiveness and love. If we follow Jesus he will teach us how to put all our trust in the Father, how to be gentle, kind and understanding and how, therefore, to participate in the very life of God himself who is by his very nature Trinity.

As we follow in the footsteps of Jesus then something new happens, a new community is formed, reflecting a new way of living, a new way of being. The task of this new community is to do the Father’s will, ‘Your will be done, on earth as in heaven.’ (Matthew 6:10) Eventually Jesus will leave this new community on earth as he ascends to be with the Father, in heaven. This new community we call the church and its primary task is to incarnate, make visibly present, the continuing work of Jesus to make the Kingdom of God alive and active in the here and now. Just as Jesus went out in search of the poorest and most vulnerable people of his time, those who believed themselves to be rejected, despised, unwanted and unloved, even by God, so the church must do the same and assure all people of God’s unconditional love today. If this new community can do this it will become an authentic sign and symbol of what it is called to represent, that is God, ‘By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples.’ (John 13:35) When this happens people will be able to see right before their very eyes, that something new is being established, something new is being created that has never existed before, which is not a reflection of the will of man but of the will of God. This is the kind of world that God the Father desires and invites us to participate in. Again to do so means to live the life of the Trinity itself.

However, none of this can happen unless our lives are set on fire by the gift of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, when that happens Jesus assures us that we can do anything in His name, ‘You will receive power when the Holy spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses.’ (Acts 1:8) And what a gift this is! The Holy Spirit is nothing less than the Spirit of love that binds together the Father and the Son and it is this self-same spirit that Jesus tells us is poured out into our own hearts. Only the Holy Spirit shared by the Father and the Son can give us the strength and the faith to do the Father’s will in the here and now of our lives. Only the Holy Spirit can give us the will, the drive and the energy to enable us to be authentic witnesses to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Only the Holy Spirit will enable us to work tirelessly and ceaselessly to establish the Kingdom of the Father here on earth, which is a reflection of his will for all people. A Kingdom in which everyone is welcome and no one is excluded but a Kingdom like no other because it is founded on the nature and being of the Father who of himself and by his very essence is mercy, compassion, forgiveness and love. Jesus invites us to participate in this life of God in the here and now and when we accept this invitation, when we become witnesses to him, when we point to him, when we work to establish the Father’s Kingdom enlivened by the Holy Spirit, then our very lives become nothing less than reflections of the Trinitarian God.

God bless

Deacon Sean