Trinity Sunday, 11th June 9:45 am St Peter’s Together service
By porthkerryandrhoose, Jun 12 2017 11:31AM
This image is called ‘Lux Aeterna’ or The Eternal Light. It was painted by Mary Fleeson, who lives and works on Lindisfarne – Holy Island – off the Northumberland coast. Mary’s paintings are all very colourful and are inspired by the ancient texts produced by monks on Holy Island in the 7th Century, such as the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Book of Kells.
Of her painting, Mary says: ‘This is based on an album called Lux Aeterna by David Fitzgerald. I drew together elements from David’s inspirations with themes from some of the tracks, such as ‘Christchild’, ‘Golgotha’ and ‘Resurrection’. The Trinity is expressed in the embracing figure of God the Father behind the cross, the dove of the Spirit and the representations of Jesus as a babe in the womb and ascending to His Father.’
With that in mind, we’re going to use some of the images contained within the painting to help us think about the Trinity. As Christians, we believe in one God but we believe that he has revealed himself to us in three forms – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Each person of the Trinity is different but the same. The Father is not the Son or the Spirit, the Son is not the Spirit or the Father, and the Spirit is not the Father or the Son; but they are all the one God. Each person has a role to play but also doesn’t work separately from the other.
Does that sound complicated? That’s because it is! Over the last 2000 years many people have tried to explain the Trinity but we still only have limited understanding of it. Melanie and I are going to share our understanding of the Trinity with you this morning. Firstly, using the ‘Eternal Light’ picture, we’re going to look at the 3 persons of the Trinity separately.
God the Father
The clearest image of God the Father in the picture is the embracing figure – with arms held open – behind the cross. God loves us and wants to be in relationship with us. Thousands of years ago, he made a covenant – a promise – with a man called Abraham.
Genesis 17: 3-8 Abram fell face down, and God said to him, ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: you will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.’
God called himself our God and us his people. That’s a special relationship. Jesus showed us how special God wants that relationship to be when he told the story of the Lost Son in Luke’s gospel. We’ve heard the story many times – the man with two sons and the younger son asks his father for his share of the inheritance ‘now’. Then he goes away and spends it all. He ends up working for a farmer looking after pigs and not having anything to eat because there’s a famine in the land. One day, things are so bad for him, he decides to go home – his life would be better even as a servant in his father’s house than it is at the moment. But through the father in the story, Jesus shows us the enormous size of God’s love – even for a son who wasted away the family money and was doing a dirty, horrible job.
Luke 15: 20-24 ‘But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him. ‘The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” ‘But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate.
When the father (that’s God) saw his son coming home he ran towards him, welcomed him and loved him. He celebrated the son coming home. He didn’t take him back as a servant or a worker but brought him right back into the heart of the family. Through this story, Jesus is telling us that that’s how much God loves us – he wants to bring us into the heart of his family.
God the Son
We can see three images for God the Son – Jesus – in the picture. Firstly, at the foot of the cross, there’s an image of a baby in the womb. This image reminds us that God wants to be in a relationship with us so much that he came to live among us as a human.
Luke 1: 28-33 The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants for ever; his kingdom will never end.’
Jesus didn’t just come to live among us. God’s plan was much bigger than that. The image of the cross shows us God’s plan. Although God wants to be in relationship with us, there are too many barriers in the way. We keep on turning away from God and doing things that make him unhappy. That’s sin. God wanted to deal with our sin so that we could be free to have that special relationship with him. And so Jesus died on the cross, taking the punishment for our sins from us. Then on Easter day, Jesus rose from the dead to show us that death is not the end – for him, or for us. When we die, we can be with God forever.
John 3: 16-17 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
After he had risen from the dead, Jesus ascended to heaven and returned to God the Father. This is the third image of Jesus that we see in the picture – the figure in the yellow section is Jesus ascending into heaven. But, he promised that one day he would return and that until then we wouldn’t be alone. God would send a gift – God the Holy Spirit – to give us strength and courage to tell other people about Jesus.
Acts 1: 4-9 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptised with[b] the Holy Spirit.’ Then they gathered round him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’
He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
God the Holy Spirit
A common image of God the Holy Spirit is a dove – when Jesus was baptised by John, the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove – a visible sign from God that Jesus was chosen by God. The image of the dove can be seen across the centre of our picture. When we receive the Holy Spirit at our baptism, this is a sign that we too have been chosen by God. We have been commanded by Jesus to tell the whole world the good news about him and he promised the Holy Spirit to help us. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians explains what that help will be.
1 Corinthians 12: 4-11 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
So, just as God made each one of us different, so the Holy Spirit gives us different gifts – different strengths for our work of witness. We may be doing different things, but we’re all working towards the same goal and for the same God.
In summary, we have God the Father, who loves us and created us to be in relationship with him; God the Son, who makes that relationship possible through his birth, death and resurrection and who commands us to go and tell the world about him; and God the Holy Spirit, who live among and within us and equips us with everything we need to go out and tell others about Jesus.