Event Name Sermon given at Matins on Trinity Sunday 2017
Start Date 11th Jun 2017 10:00am
End Date
Duration N/A
Description

The Reverend David Stanton, Canon in Residence
Today is Trinity Sunday. This day always falls on this first Sunday after Pentecost and is one of the few feasts in the Christian calendar that celebrate a doctrine rather than an event. Today we give special thanks for the unity of the Holy Trinity, recognising that we can only really think and talk of God using analogy from our own world and experience.

Perhaps the best way to capture something of the likeness of God, his nature and self, is to see God as a God of love, being in a constant movement of love, given, received, returned between Father and Son, outpoured in Spirit.

The other day, after Evensong at the great West door, I was chatting with two Seminarians. I fielded numerous detailed questions about Anglicanism and about the age and architecture of the building.

One then asked: How long has the faith been held in this place? and I thought I would impress them by saying that Christian worship had been offered on this very site since the 10th Century.

They nodded slowly but appeared little affected by this statistic. As we talked it transpired that they were from Armenia, that as you may well know, boasts one of the earliest Christian civilisations (with origins going back well into the fourth Century).

The other one asked: Is there something of the faithful that has survived from that time? We gazed upon hundreds and hundreds of fellow worshippers leaving this church and I asked them to stand still and look about.

All around us there were living signs and expressions of faith, people from different countries chatting together; people marking themselves with the sign of the cross before departing.

A large group of young people from Norway congregated near the grave of the Unknown Warrior, school children were being gathered together, others on their knees in the nave, nearby an elderly couple lighting votive candles, the duty chaplain talking with a visitor, vergers going about their business. The daily life of a worshipping community quietly happening faithfully in this place. That has resonance, being both ageless and full of faith.

For centuries the doctrine of the Trinity has grounded the church in the way we should shape their lives. For many Christians the relationship between the persons of the Trinity have provided a recipe for the best sort of human relationships.

These are relationships in which individuality is balanced with relationship; relationships whose basis is mutual love and communication. Perhaps the doctrine of the Trinity helps us answer a particular question: How are we to live and relate to others so as be most Godlike?

Diurmuid McCulloch, in his magisterial book on the Reformation published a few years ago, Europe’s House Divided, argues that the Church of England and Anglicanism owes its special place within Christendom (bridging that which is both catholic and reformed) to one thing and one thing alone: the survival of our great Abbey churches and cathedrals.

He says it is a great puzzle why they survived, for in other parts of reformed Europe they did not. Of course the buildings survived, but what he means by these great religious buildings is what we mean by faithful worship stretching right back to our very first Christian foundations.

He argues that the survival of a Dean’s Yard or a cathedral close was a great puzzle, but a puzzle that saved our special brand of English Christendom. All that, he says, is because the great churches of our land fostered community and relationship.

Such places reveal Jesus through creative communities, so often grounded on the Benedictine model of giving one’s whole of life, mind, body and spirit, in worship, work and study, to God. To this end the pursuit of Godly living, the pursuit of holiness lies at the heart of any authentic Christian community.

Indeed St Benedict was keenly aware that the Christian vocation is not a solitary journey. He reminds us that from the very moment of being baptised in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit we are gathered into a community; indeed from that moment on, we are members not only of a community of faith, but of the communion of saints.

Its also helpful for us all to remember that the pursuit of personal holiness always takes place within community and first and foremost within the perfect community which is the Most Blessed Trinity the perfect community of love.

We should regularly remind ourselves that this search for holiness must be grounded within the community of people that we are thrown together with, and who support us along the way.

For example, small quiet gestures of encouragement remind us that holiness isn’t just a matter of God and me, but that holiness is worked out and realised together.

In many ways we can see the Trinity as a special recipe for life; firstly because a  theology of relationship, explores the mysteries of love, relationship, and community, and secondly because all this takes place within the framework of God's self-revelation in the person of Christ and the activity of the Spirit.

Perhaps the key teaching within this doctrine of relationship is that the best relationships are those of equality and mutuality.

For in being called to be the church, we’re called to live in and reflect in the divine communion of love. This has often been described as the Christian calling of ‘living in the Trinity’.

Indeed in the Easter Orthodox churches immediately before reciting the creed the congregation says: ‘Let us love one another so that we may with one mind confess Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Trinity, one in essence and undivided’.

Finally I would like to say that it is such love that fashions us all, and ultimately holds us all together. It is love that gives life and warmth, love that inspires and guides. Love is the seal set upon creation, the signature of the Creator.

As St Augustine said of the Kingdom of Heaven, it is not just to be looked at but to be lived in. To proclaim faith in God as Trinity is to commit ourselves to a radical new way of being and living our lives.

© 2017 The Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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