holy_trinity by st andrei rublevSunday, May 31, 2015, is Trinity Sunday.

Trinity Sunday is always the next one after Pentecost.

My 2010 post explains that it was not until St Thomas Becket dedicated the Sunday after Pentecost to the Trinity in 1162 that it became a uniform feast in the Church.

Traditionally, in some denominations, subsequent Sundays until the First Sunday of Advent were referred to as Sundays ‘after Trinity’. Since then, this has changed in favour of Sundays ‘after Pentecost’ or ‘in Ordinary Time’. However, there are a few which have retained the Trinitarian association.

It is important for Christians to explain to their children the divine mystery of the Holy Trinity. My 2013 post features the Anglican, Revd Matt Kennedy’s, emphasis on the Bible which enables us to understand how the Holy Trinity helps us in our understanding of divine purpose. My 2012 post details an excellent Lutheran way of explaining the Trinity simply to our children: use an egg.

Along with many other clergy, Kennedy acknowledges that because we do not ‘get God’ as we ‘get’ — understand — the workings of our world, we tend to ignore or deny divine mysteries and truths. My 2012 post highlights his sermon on this topic; it is very useful for those who doubt the existence and doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

Today’s Anglican reflection also addresses our reluctance to accept the Trinity.

The late Revd Dr John Hughes, Dean of Jesus College, Cambridge, gave a sermon in 2010 which clarifies the importance of Trinity Sunday. Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

Trinity Sunday began to be observed in England under St Thomas Becket and then spread to the rest of Western Christendom.  And yet, there is a tradition that this Sunday the task of preaching is a short straw, not a joy and a delight.  Why is this?

The doctrine of the Holy Trinity, highest and most central of Christian doctrines has not enjoyed a good reputation in the last century or so.  I remember as a teenager being fascinated by those endless paradoxes in the Athanasian creed: ‘not three eternals, but one eternal, not three uncreated, but one uncreated…’   The whole thing sounded like some great riddle.  And let’s be honest, congregations have a tendency to glaze over when we come to the finer points of doctrinal and philosophical theology.  But the point runs deeper than this: for many in the last hundred years, the doctrine of the Trinity was seen as a later invention of Greek philosophy far removed from the simple faith of the Galilean fishermen.  Sceptics have ridiculed the endless debates in the early Church around that one word ‘homoousion’ – ‘of one being’ as we still say every Sunday in our creed.  The Trinity has been seen as part of the ecclesiastical baggage of dogma and metaphysics to be cast away in the return to the simple faith of Jesus.  Such a view was held by the Unitarians, who have a chapel on Christ’s Pieces.  And for a while such a view seemed to be becoming mainstream amongst New Testament scholars, theologians and even a few Bishops, although I’m glad to say things seem to have changed in recent years.  And of course the rise in interest in Islam, in many ways an early form of Unitarianism, has raised this question again of late.

Hughes’s three points about the Holy Trinity are that 1) Christians believe that God is very much alive and active in each of our lives; 2) He communicates this via Christ’s humanity (in addition to His divinity) in ‘collaboration with humanity’ and 3) we are called, via the presence of the Holy Spirit, to preach the Gospel.

Whilst I disagree with Hughes’s semi-Pelagian belief that we have a divine presence here on earth (see his third point) — our perfection comes in heavenly afterlife — his conclusion is worthwhile:

So to recap: God is Love, God is personal

Unbelievers do not understand this, and it is one of the most difficult challenges we face when evangelising in greater and lesser ways. So much atheistic propaganda has presented God as perpetually angry and distant, that it is hard to counteract this in conversation with curious unbelievers.

In closing, Hughes died in a car accident in June 2014. A memorial service in thanksgiving for his life took place in October that year at the University Church of Great Saint Mary’s in Cambridge. Professor Janet Soskice, President of Jesus College and Chair of the Faculty Board of Divinity, gave the address:

… John loved the Church of England, its language, prayer books and liturgies, but above all he loved the living church itself. Theologically and liturgically Anglo-Catholic, the services he organised and sermons he preached were never exclusive or cultish, and always deeply informed by his study of Scripture. He inherited from Tim Jenkins and Jonathan Collis, previous Dean and Chaplain, a lively and well-integrated chapel. With Mark Williams, the Director of Music, he oversaw a golden age of Jesus Chapel worship

John emanated unruffled energy. He never appeared to be rushed even while, along with all his chapel and college duties, I knew he was researching, lecturing, publishing and supervising and examining both undergraduate and graduate students. In the Faculty of Divinity he was a highly regarded colleague in theology, philosophy of religion and ethics. Amongst his contemporaries he was widely regarded as the most gifted Anglican theologian of his generation

I have spoken with a number of agnostics who think the Church needs a revival of Christian philosophy. Very few clergy have studied it in depth. It seems to be present among a few Catholic and Anglican priests, but not enough to make a wider difference. From my conversations with agnostics, Christian philosophy would facilitate a sort of applied Christianity which would enable making a greater connection between the New Testament and our lives today.

Readers may agree or disagree with this perspective. However, the Reformed (Calvinist) minister, the Revd Vincent Cheung, has combined the two in a traditional yet thought-provoking series of sermons.

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