A Sermon for Trinity Sunday
Fr. Robert Crouse
St. James' Church, LaHave, June
"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
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.