If you use your computer bible to search, you will find the word “Trinity” absent from the New Testament. So why do we call this first Sunday after Pentecost “Trinity Sunday”? Because Christians asked questions about God, and found answers which are still important from scripture.
It began with questions about Jesus. “They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Mark 1:22) – Jesus taught with authority; he did miracles: not only healing, but controlling the rough sea. John says much about the Father and the Son – “All that my Father has is mine;” John 16:15. Paul calls Christ “the visible likeness of the invisible God” Col 1:15, and several of his letters begin “May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ [together, like that] give you grace and peace.” 1Cor 1:3
Then the Holy Spirit, who came to Jesus at his baptism, and to the disciples at Pentecost, is recognised. The word Trinity may be absent, but the trio appear as in Mt 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”
Why does it matter? It might seem a remote and theoretical discussion – but isn’t! God is not a lonely old man creating the universe as a hobby, nor is he just Jesus the man. God is a relationship! Have you ever thought about that? A relationship beyond our understanding, with sympathy and communication!
Relationships are a popular concern: Teenagers, parents of children, children about parents, we all wonder about community, and the threat “they” pose – whoever they are. God is a relationship. Christians must learn to relate, like God. The world will watch to see if we can cope with one another, and doubt claims to bring forgiveness is we are not even speaking to one another. I am glad the gospel, which shows Jesus relating to all sorts of people, also tells me that failure in the disciples was forgiveable, as long as they kept with him and kept trying.
“God is love”. (1John 4:8,16). We quote the example of Jesus, both his behaviour and his sacrifice in accepting death by crucifixion, but love is what God is, as well as does. Jesus mission is an overflowing of a quality always in the Trinity – or do I mean among the Trinity? So “Trinity” is shorthand from after New Testament times for a biblical picture of God as a relationship, important for our dealing with people and especially other Christians.
The Son is not the same as the Spirit, and neither is the same as the Father. Is this dry theory? No. Different and equal, not in competition, working perfectly together, accepting themselves and one another, reaching out together in love and service – but who am I taking about? God, yes. The Church – ideally, as it shows the God it trusts. Every Christian individual, despite our fragmented structure?
Just as we are tempted to think we understand God (that has to be a laugh), we think we have it right, that our tradition is valuable – (which is true). We face a temptation: we have it all right, our tradition is enough. Wrong. God, unity in diversity, makes us think about being different together. God, love without competition, makes us think of using different gifts in the service of all.
I wonder if I have persuaded you? Those who followed Jesus of Nazareth came to know God, and recognised relationship in God. So Christians, even if not good at relating, must be interested and learning – about love, unity, communication. As the early Churches worshipped and thought, they recognised in God diversity and unity. We need to take that model of unity seriously; not all being the same, but having a shared life and goal. I can’t fill in the details, I can suggest that if we get closer to God, it should become clearer and easier.
I must end with words from 2 Corinthians (13:13) “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you – us – all.”