Trinity Sunday

Speaker; M.Noorhoff

From the beginning of this year we have taken a look at some of the special days held by the Christian and Jewish traditions.

We have looked at Epiphany. Celebration of John the Baptist, Transfiguration Sunday, the celebration of Purim. And that bring us to today a day that is traditionally known as Trinity Sunday.

The Trinity, something that is so essential to our faith but also one of the least understand and the least talked about article of faith.

Many years ago Endo Shusaku was asked to comment on Christianity in Japan. In this commentary he stated that through the years of persecution, Japanese Christians kept the ceremonies and the rites of the Christian tradition, they worshipped the father and the son but what was lost was the Spirit. Often the spirit has been replaced by other ideas such as the virgin Mary or various saints. The problem is that if we remove the one facet of the Trinity we basically remove God and you remove his power. God becomes incomplete and therefore no longer God.

We need to ask ourselves today wether this is still true. Are we leaving out any facet of the trinity. Are we cutting God into pieces and reducing that which is difficult for the sake of simplifying our conversation.

The concept of the trinity has been debated by theologians for years and still is one of the key differences between the Western and Orthodox churches

One early theologian (Tertullian) postulated that the OT was the time of God the Father, the NT was the time of God the Son, and we are now living in the time of God the Holy Spirit, a model known as the economic Trinity. One God, three persons, three phases of dealing with the world.

St. Augustine, the great theologian of the Western Church in the 5th century, said that the First Person was pure, unbounded Love, who out of love brought forth the Second Person, the Beloved, and together Lover and Beloved breathed forth the Third Person, who is the very activity of Loving itself\so that the Trinity is Lover, Beloved, and Loving. And itfs this view we still predominantly have today in the western churches.

Needles to say, the Trinity is complex, and a subject which has kept theologians busy for years

St. Patrick, when he was evangelizing the Irish, is said to have taken a shamrock, a three-leaf clover, and said that just as the clover had three different leaves but was all one plant, so God was three different Persons but was all one God.

 Eastern Orthodox theologians speak of the relationship between the divine Persons as a perichoresis, a Greek word that literally means gdancing around each other together.h

 One twentieth-century theologian has said that the First Person is like a thought, and the Second Person like the word that expresses that thought, and the Third Person like the breath that gives voice to that word and carries it out to be heard.

 Over the years we have tried to describe it with words with symbols

In the face of this amazing mystery, Christians have looked for symbols which have expressed the Trinitarian nature of God.So let us spend a few minutes considering the Trinity this morning and I will use some iconography to illustrate

Equilateral triangle to illustrate the trinity

One of the first symbols used for the Trinity was the triangle. The three equal sides forming one complete whole captures some of what it mean to be three in one. The triangle is also an extremely strong shape used in construction, think of the Eiffel Tower!  Balance and stability in the Godhead was conveyed by the triangle on one side, and the eternal nature of the Trinity was demonstrated by the connection between each side of the triangle. The triangle is evident in the center of the triquetra.

Another classic shape used to bring to mind the properties of God is the circle. The circle has no beginning and no end, its never ending form represented God as eternal. The circle is a symbol used to represent God for many centuries. For the Greeks, the circle symbolised perfection.

Borromean rings (Named after the crest of the Borromeo family in 15th-century Tuscany.)

These are often used as a symbol of the Trinity. The earliest source for this that we are aware of was a thirteenth-century manuscript in the Municipal Library at Chartres. It contained four diagrams, one of which is shown above. In the centre, inside all the circles, is the word `unitas'; the three syllables of `tri-ni-tas' are distributed in the outer sectors. Unfortunately, the manuscript was destroyed in a fire in 1944.

The sides of the equilateral triangle conveyed to believers in the early church that there is equality in the Trinity.

In the early church, the eternal nature of the Trinity was especially clear through the use of the circle. Three overlapping or intertwined circles would represent the three persons in the Godhead. Thus, the equality, unity, and eternity of the Trinity was represented. Each of the three circles were of the same size to symbolize equality. They were intertwined to symbolized unity. And because the circle has no apparent beginning or end, it symbolized the eternal nature of the Godhead. The circles are so arranged that take one away and the other two will also separate, this emphasises the interdependence and indissolubility of the Trinity. This trinitarian shape, like the threefold cord of Ecclesiastes Chapter 4:12, is is not quickly broken. However take away one strand of a threefold cord and it will break, so it is with the Borromean rings, take on away and the whole shape is ruined.


This shape found in Spanish churches uses the circle and triangle in a very obvious way


One of the most common symbols of the Trinity is the Trefoil, generated from three interlocking Circles. It is generally believed that this symbol was created by St. Patrick when he illustrated the Trinity by pointing to a shamrock and remarking that it the three separate leaves form yet one shamrock. Hence the name Trefoil, i.e. three-leaved.

You will sometimes see this shape in Gothic windows in Churches.

Fish in a triangle shape

Triquetra      (Try ket ra Latin for three cornered)  

You will find this symbol used on the spines of the NKJV version of the bible.

The triquetra uses shapes like one of the oldest Christ symbols, the shape of the fish. Remember it was found in Pompeii which destroyed in AD 79! The shape In the triquetra, the three equal arches of the circle expressed the equality of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Second, the union of the arches represented the unity of the Godhead. Third, their continuous form symbolized eternity. And last, the fact that they were interwoven denoted the indivisibility of the Trinity. In the center of the triquetra was an equilateral triangle, the most ancient of the Trinity symbols, and each pair of arches formed an ellipse, the symbol of Godfs glory.  

All of this goes to show just how difficult it is for us adequately to express in our human language, difficult divine concepts. Fortunately we do not really have to. This is the job of the Holy Spirit to point to the Truth, to guide us to truth.

We find that language fails us when we talk about that which is truest, that which is most holy, and all of our language that we use about the divine is just groping. Itfs almost like an experience you may have had when in the presence of something so exquisitely beautiful, or in the depths of a love that is so exquisitely powerful for you: you recognize that any words, however eloquent, to describe that experience are just babbling, just baby talk. So here are generations of church-people who seek God through their minds\and that is a wonderful way to seek God.  And this stream of intellectual and rational struggle to comprehend and apprehend God led people to say: We can name experiences of God in three general categories. We can name the Creator, about whom the words glory and majesty, creativity, lavishness, power and might, about whom those words seem to get a little bit at what you can never name.

Thankfully Christians are not people who understand a load of facts about God. Christians are people who reach out and discover God for themselves. Only as we open our lives to God and discover that God is real, only then will be able to have our hearts and minds opened to his presence around and within us.

Trinity Sunday is a special Sunday in the church year, it has been celerated since 1334 when Pope John XX11 fixed it as the Sunday after Pentecost. It is a Sunday which is not tied to any special event. We don't have to remember any special events or rituals. Instead it is about a day when we remember just God himself, it is a day to focus our hearts and minds on him. It is a bit like a birthday when all we do is celebrate a particular person and their presence with us.

But of course when we celebrate God we have a problem of sorts, do we celebrate God the father, Son or Holy Spirit? Should we have three days, one for each! This is the difficulty for Christians.

The Doctrine is

1. God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
2. Each person is fully God
3. There is one God.

The Bible never uses the word Trinity, it is something that we have invented to explain they way in which we think of God.

But whatever image or symbol we use to try to describe how the Three are One and the One is Three, the doctrine of the Trinity at its very most basic level tells us that God is Relationship. The Really Real, the Being of being, the Source and Redeemer and Sanctifier of all that is, is a relationship. And if God is a relationship, then the Universe that is created by God and that bears the mark of its Creator, the Universe also must be built on relationships. As creatures of the Triune God, it is our relationality that is the image of God in us.

It isnft that God calls only us into community, but that there is something in the Divine nature that is essentially communal. In other words, relationship must be the essence of God. And because relationships happen with people who are other from us, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have an otherness with respect to each other, in their oneness.

The Trinity shows us that relationship depends on distinct persons who are different. If my relationships depend on how much alike we are therefs really no reason for love or need for it\I simply love a copy of myself. Otherness is the gift. And because loving the other is how we deepen into God, these communities of table fellowship said, It isnft just that God wants us to be a community or calls us into community, it is that Godfs very nature is community. Within the persons of the Trinity is an incredible dynamic; a power of love overflowing from First Person to Second Person to Third Person, and that love is so intense that they are also one, utterly one.

C.S. Lewis  said it is hard to imagine what brings Christians together. After all there is little they have in common the politician sits with the doctor on one side and a plumber on the other in front of him sits the housewife and behind is the highschool student. They all come together in this thing called church What bonds them is their relationship with God.

Jesus often talked in very

John 14

9  Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?

10  Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.

We as Christians are called to form a relationship like that of the trinity. It is hard for us to do this when we are still of the old self. When we are truly born again born of the spirit it is the beginning of a new kind of relationship.  We first form this relationship with God as we are in Him and he is in us. This is true for all person of the trinity that we then live in the father the son and the holy spirit and the trinity is in us. 2 years ago I told everyone in a sermon that Christs ministry did not begin when he was born but at hisw baptism when the three persons of the trinity came together. All seems separate but in fact all are together but omnipresent. When we are truly reborn the trinity will converge and that is when our true ministry will also begin

Your relationship with God will be like never before but more so your relationship with others will also improve through the over flow of the joy complete.