Trinity Sunday

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Readings

Isaiah 40.12-17,27-31
Psalm 8 
2 Corinthians 13.11-13 
Matthew 28.16-20

Sermon

Welcome to this reflection for Trinity Sunday. My name is Robert Jones and I am Archdeacon of Worcester, and it is good to share these thoughts with you as hopefully we are beginning to see a light at the end of this dark lockdown tunnel.

I don’t know what it has been like for you, but I realise that I have been extremely fortunate and have much for which to be grateful. I’ve had company, and been able to exercise and enjoy a garden. I’ve learned more than I ever wanted to know about going to Zoom meetings, and indeed Zoom worship, from the safety of my desk and computer. On the whole I’ve managed to remain positive, though have found myself looking forward to the weekly shop slightly desperately as an opportunity to chat to people in the supermarket queue!

Let’s face it, however fortunate we have been, we are getting a bit tired of trying to remain positive about not being able to do the things we yearn to do. Many of us crave human contact, face-to-face three dimensional conversations, and an end to isolation. On the whole we’re made for community and we need others in order to flourish. It is clear the virus can be deadly, some of you sadly may that know that in a very real way personally. But it’s also clear that isolation can be death-dealing too, not at all life-giving.

In 2013 – doesn’t that seem a long time ago - Barack Obama spoke about the African concept of Ubuntu at the memorial to Nelson Mandela. Listen to what he said:

There is a word in South Africa – Ubuntu – a word that captures Mandela’s greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us.

We can never know how much of this sense was innate in him, or how much was shaped in a dark and solitary cell. But we remember the gestures, large and small – introducing his jailers as honoured guests at his inauguration; taking a pitch in a Springbok uniform; turning his family’s heartbreak into a call to confront HIV/AIDS – that revealed the depth of his empathy and his understanding. He not only embodied Ubuntu, he taught millions to find that truth within themselves.

Obama’s words. I’ve heard people say how good it has been to experience neighbourliness and a renewed sense of being a community, and couldn’t we bottle this for afterwards. We are bound together. We need one another, some of this Ubuntu, if you like. Isn’t this what we have learned somewhat paradoxically during lockdown, and expressed in things like the Thursday ritual of clapping the NHS key workers or putting up the rainbow signs in our windows. We are bound together and actually want that.

I wonder if this experience and this concept of Ubuntu can in fact help us understand what we celebrate today on Trinity Sunday. It is the only major Sunday festival named after a doctrine, rather than an event, and is trying to address what I think is quite a key question. It’s not so much whether you believe in God or not, but what sort of a God do you believe in.

We have all sorts of pictures of God, and Trinity tries to express who our God is. What is our God like? So we talk about God being Three Persons in One God – God the Father, who is the Creator of all that is; God the Son, who is the Redeemer of us all; God the Holy Spirit, who is the life of Jesus active in the world today.

But of course as we start talking our words fall short. Our words can never define, confine, or pin God down. God is bigger than we can ever conceive or imagine, which is why so often the Church resorts to poetry, music and art to express the inexpressible, in much the same way as lovers buy flowers for their loved ones.

What these words do try to say, however, is that at the very heart of God’s own self is community, and it is a community of love – of the Father for the Son, the Son for the Father in the power of Spirit. That’s a little bit like the African idea of Ubuntu, but it’s also like our own experience of what it takes for human beings to flourish, what we have learned afresh during lockdown – that we need community and we need love to be the people we are called to be.

So may God the Holy Trinity bless you, and may this this community of love at the heart of our God overflow into our churches, our homes, and our neighbourhoods, loving us into life to play our part in re-building our society and our world over the coming months and years.

Questions for Reflection

  • What have you learned about yourself during the lockdown isolation? 
  • What has your Church learned? 
  • What experiences might we want to hold on to and develop as we open up again?


Page last updated: 2nd June 2020 8:16 AM
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