What I said this Sunday – Trinity Sunday
Three things to cover this week, which seems rather appropriate for Trinity Sunday. First, Trinity Sunday itself. Second, we had a baptism of two children from the same family. Third, it was of course the Diamond Jubilee. The names of the children have been changed.
Those of you who are addicted to TV gameshows – and I’m sure that even if none of you would admit it you’re out there – will probably remember the hugely popular gameshow presented by former Butlins Redcoat Ted Rogers that ran for ten years from 1978 to 1988. In all that time it never had fewer than 12 million viewers, numbers that today’s television executives can only dream about. Personally, I’m baffled as to why it was so successful. It was, of course, 3-2-1 – the only show on TV where you could end up, if you were unlucky, winning a brand new dustbin and nothing else. Our service this morning is a celebration. And it’s a 3-2-1 celebration, though no-one will be going home with a dustbin!
In our gospel reading this morning we hear how Nicodemus, one of the Jewish leaders, goes to visit Jesus. He goes at night so that no-one will know – but he goes because he is fascinated by Jesus and wants to find out more about him. He has come to realise that Jesus has been sent by God and wants Jesus to explain what is going on. Who is he? Why has God sent him? What is he about? Which brings us back to our 3-2-1 celebration this morning – specifically to the ‘3’ part of our celebration. For Jesus tries to explain something of the nature of God. He talks about the importance of the Holy Spirit. He explains how because of God’s love for the world he sent his Son so that those who believe in him might have eternal life.
Now, it took time for the early Christians to begin to grasp the relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. But in time they came to realise that while being described as the Son of God, Jesus was himself actually God. And they came to realise that although after the resurrection of Jesus, after he had ascended into heaven, Jesus asked the Father to send the Holy Spirit to live in his people, the Holy Spirit was also God. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. And yet they knew that there was only one God – not three. Can’t get your mind around a God who is both three distinct persons – Father, Son and Spirit – and yet at the same time just one God? Don’t worry about it. Neither can anyone else. On this Trinity Sunday we simply accept that this amazing God that we worship is a Three in One God – and that how that can be is a mystery that only God himself can fully comprehend.
Which brings us to the ‘2’ part of our celebration this morning. Jesus explained to Nicodemus that to enter the kingdom of God you must be born of water and Spirit. Jesus was, of course, talking originally about physical birth and then being born anew as a Christian. But Saint John was also referring in this passage to the two sacraments of baptism and confirmation. At baptism water is poured over a person’s head three times – to reflect the Trinity – as they become a member of the Church, and then at Confirmation the bishop lays hands upon them and prays that they will receive the Holy Spirit.
And this morning we welcome two new members of the Church, of God’s kingdom that Jesus spoke about – John, who (a year old) probably won’t know what’s going on and his sister Mary (four), who being older will. And she didn’t seem too keen when we did a quick rehearsal with her before the service!
3-2-1. Three for the Trinity that we celebrate today, our Three-in-one God. Two for John and Mary as we celebrate their baptism. And finally, of course, our ‘1’ today is our Queen for she is unique, and for whom today is a special celebration as we give thanks for her 60 years as our monarch and, in the Church of England of course, as our Supreme Governor. She is often thought of as the head of the Church of England. There is a story I heard once told of a previous archbishop of Canterbury – I think it was Michael Ramsay – who was at a Royal Dinner when the Queen Mother turned to him and said, “Isn’t it nice that my daughter is head of the Church of England?” To which the archbishop replied, “No ma’am – she is merely the Supreme Governor of the Church of England – God is it’s head.”
Today we will finish our service by celebrating that remarkable 60 year reign and pray for God’s blessing on our Queen, Elizabeth.
3-2-1 – but no prize dustbins today. Instead today we recognise that we have a prize that is far beyond anything this world can offer. The knowledge that as we celebrate God the Trinity, baptise two children in his name, and ask his blessing upon our one head of state, that he will fulfil his promise to be with them and each of us throughout life, bringing as he said to Nicodemus salvation and eternal life to us all.