They call me Trinity
John 2:1-17

Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday, a day when we deliberately reflect on what it means to have a God who is one and three at the same time.  It’s a concept that we struggle with over and over again, and has been struggled with for centuries.  We may never truly understand with our feeble human intellect exactly how it works. 

Many have tried using various illustrations or analogies to explain the Trinity, but invariably there is something still incomplete about them, something missing, because we can’t really explain God.

I’ve spoken a few times lately about prayer.  I’d like to share a prayer attributed to St Patrick, a man who lived in trying times, with pagan influences all around him, trying to be a missionary in a hostile land.  In the midst of all of that he was aware and attuned to who his God was as three in one, and one in three.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through the confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the Judgment Day.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of demons,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

This is the prayer known as St Patrick’s breastplate.  This is one man’s effort to describe his beloved God, calling on the name of the Trinity to cover himself with that Trinity’s protection in all that he encounters throughout his day.  There are some fantastic images in it.  Yet even it falls short of truly describing the Trinity.

We also have three creeds that do a pretty good job of explaining who the three persons of the Trinity are and the roles they play, the Apostles, the Nicene and the Athanasian creeds.  Some churches actually go to the trouble of reading the Athanasian Creed on Trinity Sunday; it’s in your hymnal if you want to read through it later.

Nicodemus was having trouble understanding the concepts that Jesus was trying to teach him too.  This is just one concept that you must be born again from above to see God’s kingdom, born of water and the spirit.  Now Nicodemus was a Pharisee, well versed in Scripture, not just any Johnny-come-lately who came at night to question Jesus, this was a clever and righteous man!

It is little wonder then that if all of these learned scholars struggle to explain the Trinity that you and I might have a bit of trouble with it too!  We want to understand everything there is to know about God, but it just doesn’t happen.  Adam and Eve were after knowledge, to be like God, to know everything about him, or even to be God.  A big part of their original sin was in wanting to understand God fully.

When all is said and done with Nicodemus, Jesus explains everything with two much more simple verses, For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  Indeed God did not send the son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

The doctrine of the Trinity IS important, we need to have some understanding of who our God is and how he operates within the world and throughout history.  But when all is said and done, it comes back to one simple thing, that by grace you are saved through faith.  Whoever has faith in the one who came to save them, will be saved.  That’s all we really need to believe and understand completely.  We still struggle with the concept of free grace, but I think that’s our sinful nature having its way with us.

Believe you have been saved by grace, freely, through the faith that has been given to you by the Holy Spirit, to believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, who created and sustains you, now and to all eternity. 

Don’t be afraid to call on that same God, just like St Patrick did, to protect you and guard you and guide you throughout your life.

Amen.