This Sunday is called Trinity Sunday in the Church Calendar. It is an invitation to look at God in a particular way, to allow our imaginings of God to be directed in a particular way as it were. Every religion has it’s particular expression of God and the Trinity is the Christian’s Biblical tradition of imagining that which cannot really be described. It is why the Trinity is such a difficult idea I suppose .. it is a description of the indescribable.
Perhaps I can put it like this .. I don’t know whether you have been watching the BBC’s Great Painting Challenge in recent weeks where, I think it was 12 hopefuls compete every week in different artistic challenges. Hosted by the Rev Richard Coles ad Mariella Frostrup and judged by experts there are also 2 mentors who help the painters each week to learn new ways of seeing and transfering what they see onto canvas. In the semi-final the challenge was to capture movement on the canvas through paint. What a tough task.. the challenge was to watch a gymnast perform a routine and then paint something that represented what the painters had seen. It was remarkable what each individual came up with. Every one different but every one expressing something of the same event.
And this is perhaps something like the task we have when we talk about God. We look at someone, something, at work within history, within creation, within our lives, and then try to express that in words which can only ever capture an element of what that might mean and what shape that might take .. like the painters watching a movement, a performance, a living thing and then trying to capture it so that it can be shared in some way with others.
When we talk about God as Trinity I believe this is what we are doing. In fact it is more accurately the Church acting as the mentors did in the Painting Challenge pointing out things which help us create our picture accurately. So as the painters work on their canvas the mentors go around and say things like .. did the gymnast fill the space in the same way you have portrayed it in the picture .. were the gymnasts proportions as you have depicted them .. how is the colour you have used helpful in portraying the speed of movement .. if you use curved strokes of the brush and not straight lines would that help communicate the rhythms you saw. The Church and its traditions perhaps function like these mentors trying to help us when we think about and talk about God. Helping us get a picture which truly represents God’s movement and work in the world through the perspective and learning of others as well as your own efforts.
So in the book of Isaiah we have this amazing imagery of Isaiah trying to tell us about his experience of imagining God at work ..
I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.
Can you see Isaiah is painting a picture with these images attempting perhaps to encourage people to think of God as distinct from our world .. holy and exalted not found in the things of this world like the Egyptian and Persian religions who saw God in the sun or in cats or animals .. the Israelites pictured God as beyond this world or anything we could full come close to .. so the language and images are fantastic in the picture they paint.
Then in the New Testament and the Bible and the Church tradition that follows there is the language of Trinity. God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is as thought the Church is like the mentors in the Painting Challenge saying to us as we talk about God .. have you seen how the God of creation is like a Father .. see how that image helps you feel safe and secure .. have you heard Jesus words as the Son of God .. the rhythms of His life communicated as love and care .. can you include something of the Holy Spirit in the language you use on your canvas of prayers and singing .. observing God in the world through relationships and the fruit of love and joy and peace.
The idea of the Trinity invites us to capture something of how we know God and express it in a way that others can join in .. like those who observe the paintings of the artists in the competition and then find their own experience of that event, that movement of the gymnast, through the brush strokes of the painters. As we paint the picture of God as Father Son and Holy Spirit we share what those throughout History have also seen of God in the world and capture the indescribable in this particular description of the Almighty.
For a brief moment I want to undertake this exercise this morning .. I want to invite you to take a moment in silence after I speak each of the persons of the Triune God and then to see how these words help you experience something of God in the world.
Blessed be you Father ..Blessed be you Son .. Blessed be you Holy Spirit .. Amen