Slideshow image

I saw a funny post on Facebook a few days ago. Perhaps it will resonate with you, as it clearly did with many people online. It said: "I want to be left alone, but invited to everything." 

It is no secret that over the past years it has become harder to get people engaged  with the community around them. Volunteerism is down; events are less well attended; people find excuses to turn down party invitations, or just don’t show up when the day comes. There are all sorts of reasons for this. People are tired, people are already over-worked and over-scheduled, and home entertainment options abound. It was easy to become socially lazy even before the pandemic, and then during those years people became used to even lower levels of contact. 

But rates of depression and anxiety are through the roof, as are loneliness and all the mental and physical outcomes associated with that. Clearly, we are not meant to live in individual silos of our own making. It takes a village to make a life. So there is a big part of us that does want to "be invited to everything," even as we quail at the thought of what that may entail.

Now, you may wonder what this has to do with Trinity Sunday, and I confess that I was partially wondering that myself when I started writing those words. But as I sat down to my sermon prep, it came to me that many people have a similar push-pull reaction to a life of faith. I think most people have a built-in longing for spiritual understanding or transcendent experience; far fewer, however, push themselves to find out what seeking faith in community could mean in their lives. And I think that, just like people who are invited to an event might look for a hundred reasons to politely decline, people find all sorts of reasons not to engage more robustly in opportunities to try out organized religion, despite the good it might do their spiritual health.

There are, of course, many reasons people will cite for not making religion a part of their lives, and we have seen how society in general has become far less attached to any of its institutions than in decades past. But I am thinking of those people who stay away over a point of theology. I have mentioned before a conversation I had with someone who didn’t attend her husband’s church because, in her view, all Gods are one and so it didn’t make sense to commit to one particular expression of faith. 

And there are many others who just can’t get their head around certain Christian doctrines, so they feel false or hypocritical sitting in the pews or making credal statements they can’t quite believe in their entirety. And I always want to tell those people that we know faith to be a living, evolving thing and that our church doesn’t demand conformity of belief but instead offers community and mutual support on a shared journey.

The Trinity - the three-in-one God - is, of course, unique to the Christian faith and can prove a stumbling block for some who just cannot understand how the one true God can be divided in three like a math equation. It is a running joke that rectors routinely assign Trinity Sunday to the curate - or perhaps the deacon - so that they themselves can rest from the challenge of trying to make sense of the mystery that is woven into the very heart of Christianity.

Fortunately, I was happy to answer the call. Not because I have any hope of encapsulating the theological arguments that have been bandied about since the days of the early church, but because I have no desire to try. To me, the Trinity is not something to be proved, but to be lived. In the vast sweep of history, my time on this earthly plane will be indescribably short. I do not think I will get to know God better by spending that time buried in academic bantering, but rather by committing myself to making the faith I was born into come ever more alive in my daily life. 

By jumping into Christianity feet first, rather than staying arm’s length, we find that doctrines that might confuse our brains fit perfectly in our hearts. It makes entire sense to me that the majestic God sitting "high and lofty," as described by Isaiah in our first lesson, would need human agents to make God’s love known in practical ways - and it makes sense that, like the prophet, we would say "Here am I; send me!" 

But, knowing human nature, it also makes sense that we would often forget we are working for God and start to act out of self-interest, so that God would need to send God’s self in the form of Jesus to show us what God’s way of doing things really looks like. And, finally, it just makes sense that God would know we would forget again, over and over, and so sent the Holy Spirit to enliven and strengthen us in accordance with God’s - not our - will.

The Trinity is an active relationship between God and God’s people, ensuring that God remains an ever-creating force in our homes, workplaces and communities. Rachel Field, the speaker at our recent clergy conference, asked us what it meant to be a people of "resurrection versus resuscitation," and that stuck with me. I think the Holy Spirit, at work in us, is what keeps us moving forward constantly into new life, as opposed to desperately trying to keep alive that which belongs in the past.

The more we live our lives through the lens of our Christian teaching, the more we become grounded, uplifted and confident in our faith, the more we will have the opportunity to share that faith with others. If we see a confused looking person wandering down the sidewalk, looking down at a map and up at the street signs, are we likely to ask them for directions? No - we will ask the person who looks like they have been happily at home in the neighbourhood for years. So, perhaps we should each ask ourselves, is the Holy Spirit burning in me in a way that would attract people to the warmth of my connection with God?

Because, just as Nicodemus stole away at night for a confidential spiritual chat with Jesus, our streets are full of people wondering if the life they are living is falling a bit short. If the things they took to be vitally important are perhaps missing an essential element. And, if so, what can they do about it? What would you say if such a Nicodemus approached you for words of advice or wisdom? In his first letter in the New Testament, Peter wrote: "…in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."

You may on occasion be asked direct questions about your journey of faith, and being able to talk with confidence about the role of God in your life is a powerful thing. More often, though, your witness to the world will not be in questions you are asked but in the presence that you emanate. Your widely inclusive welcome, the listening ear you give to a friend, the assurance they are in your prayers, the offer of help to a stranger, the quiet joy you bring to everything you do; all of these make the Trinity far more real than any sermon or theological argument could do. 

We have come through the journey of Lent, Eastertide, and Pentecost, and Trinity Sunday is the final high holy day before we enter the long season of Ordinary Time in the church calendar - that green, growing stretch that takes us through to Advent, during which we take up our mantle to be God’s people, doing what we can to help God’s kingdom come. 

So let’s not hang out on the fringes like that commenter on Facebook, wanting to be invited to the party, but leery of committing. We have been planted here, now, and we will not pass this way again. Let’s jump in and see where the Holy Spirit takes us. And if you think you hear the voice of God saying "Whom shall I send?" I hope you will answer "Here I am: send me!"