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A Sermon for Trinity Sunday

Fr. Robert Crouse

St. James' Church, LaHave, June 1, 1985

 

"After this I saw, and behold, a door was opened in heaven." 

Rev.  4: 1

 

With this great festival of the Holy Trinity which we celebrate today, the Church's year reaches a certain climax.  Everything that has gone before leads up to this, points to this, and is fulfilled in this; for in this festival, we who are born anew of water and the Spirit, we who are risen with Christ, seeking the things which are above, we who are graced with God's Pentecostal Spirit, lift our gaze to look upon the mystery and majesty of God himself - God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  This is not a festival which celebrates what God does; this is a festival which celebrates what God is, and the spirit of this day is therefore the spirit of worship pure and simple, the spirit of adoration. 

 

Most of our festivals are celebrations of the works of God - what God has done and does for us: his Incarnation, his Epiphany, his Passion and Resurrection, his bestowal of his Holy Spirit.  This one is different; this one invites us to lift our minds and hearts to contemplate, so far as human souls are capable, the very life of God Himself.  That is the meaning of the Scripture lessons appointed for today. 

 

For the Epistle lesson, we have a portion of the vision of St. John: "After this I saw, and behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, "Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter.  And immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne: and he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardius stone: and a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald..." and so on. 

 

Well, it's a strange language, isn't it: the noble, urgent speech of trumpets; the earth-shaking voice of angels; the throne, "high and lifted up" [Isa.6]; the flashing lights of precious stones; the colours of the rainbow.  It's the poetic language of vision; it's the language of symbols, and poetic images, the language of imagination; the effort to speak in earthly terms of heavenly reality, which is infinitely beyond all earthly things.  The language is obviously inadequate, as it must inevitably be.  But it does catch some little hint of the glory and the majesty of God.  "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God the Almighty, which was, and which is, and which is to come."

 

In the Gospel lesson, we have St.  John's account of Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus, the Pharisee, a leader of the Jews.  The point Jesus makes is that true religion requires a new perspective, a new standpoint, a vision of heavenly things, a rebirth of the spirit.  Nicodemus tries to draw the conversation back to familiar things, to bring it down to earth - he can't follow this "highfaluting" talk.  "How can a man be born when he is old?  Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"  But Jesus insists: unless a man be spiritually reborn, unless he can be lifted up; unless he can learn to look beyond earthly, fleshly, conventional, familiar things, he cannot see God's kingdom. 

 

These scripture lessons, then, from Revelation and from St. John's Gospel, make essentially one point - one simple and all-important point: we who are reborn of water and the Spirit (as these infants are today), we who are schooled in the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ must learn to fix our minds and hearts upon spiritual reality, the reality of God himself.  That is our Christian training, that is our destiny in Christ.  We must fix our minds and hearts in adoration, on the glory and the majesty of God and live our lives in the light of that vision.  That is the meaning of this festival. 

 

When we speak of God as Holy Trinity, we speak the language of theology.  We speak of God as Father - God as source and ground of being: we speak of God as Son, the eternally begotten word, the perfection of all knowledge; we speak of God as Spirit, the eternal will of God, the perfection of all love.  But whether or not we speak the language of theology in any sort of technical way, this doctrine and this festival have a very basic practical religious significance for each one of us. 

 

To know God as absolute Being, absolute Knowledge, and absolute Love, is to be spiritually reborn: it is to know ourselves as encompassed and upheld by Providential care, and thus it is to see our own lives in a new spiritual perspective.  It is to lose ourselves in the worship of a goodness and a glory infinitely beyond ourselves, infinitely beyond all earthly things, infinitely beyond all worldly pretensions and pettiness.  It is to see our troubles, our frustrations, our disappointments, our ambitions and achievements, all in a new spiritual perspective, "high and lifted up" -- a radically different perspective, the perspective of eternity. 

 

But perhaps we ask, with Nicodemus, "Is this really possible? Is this really practical?  Can a man be born when he is old? How can these things be?" Nicodemus was a sensible man, no doubt: a Pharisee, a leader of the Jews, and he couldn't let go of his supposedly sensible, practical perspective.  Jesus warned him, and Jesus warns us: unless you are spiritually reborn, you have no part in God's kingdom.  "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."  It is what we worship that makes us what we are.

 

Being born anew of the Spirit means a broadening and deepening of our minds, a refocussing of our loves: "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth; so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.  The ways of spiritual life are very different from the ways of worldliness, and seem strange and unpredictable to worldly eyes.  Nicodemus, in his worldly wisdom, does not understand; to him it seems visionary and impractical, and he will not venture. 

 

This festival of God the Holy Trinity sets before our eyes an open door in heaven.  "Come up hither", says the trumpet.  We are called to fix our minds and hearts upon the majesty and mystery of God - to lose ourselves in adoration of a goodness and a glory immeasurably beyond all earthly imagining, and to live our lives in the light of that vision.  It is what we worship - what we really worship - that makes us what we are.  It is whom we worship who makes us what we are. "So is everyone that is born of the Spirit."  That is the challenge of this day.  "Behold a door is opened in heaven."  "Come up hither."  That is the meaning of our worship.

 

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