Sermon for Trinity Sunday 2021
Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? And I said, ‘Here I am; send me.’ (Isaiah 6:8)
Recently our son Jamie, who is a great fan of musical theatre and a good singer played the lead role in the 1980s themed musical ‘The Wedding Singer’. How did he do that in these days of restrictions? I hear you ask. Well, the answer to this question ,as to every other question in the last year, lies in four little letters- ZOOM. In an exercise of almost military precision, the director casted the show, with people playing the parts in the rooms of their dwellings, some recorded in advance, some live, some sung, some danced, then all cut and pasted together through technology. The opening dance number – 30 people in their little boxes all moving in sequence- was surprisingly effective and the closing scene when Jamie reached out from his box to ‘touch’ the hand of his girl in their Las Vegas wedding scene was very touching.
When I saw it I said to Sarah ‘I must re-write my Pentecost sermon’ because it seemed to me a good illustration of isolated people being brought together by the power of technology, like that disparate group was united by the Spirit at Pentecost, but, being Saturday night, it was a bit late. However, one thing I’ve learned over 34 years of preaching is to never let a good illustration slip through your hands, so here we are – Trinity Sunday 2021. In many ways this illustration is more appropriate to the doctrine of the Trinity than Pentecost.
Any production needs an author, a playwright, to conceive the play/ musical and a director/producer/ choreographer to stage it. This director needs actors to put the words, songs, dance moves on stage. For Christians the author of our salvation, the writer of our story is God the Father who, as we have just heard, ‘so loved the world that He gave his only Son.’ Yet without the willingness of the Son to take on the part, that idea, that plan would have remained just that. At Jesus’ baptism he felt a prompting by the Spirit and a call from God to do so, confirmed at various other key points in his life, such as the Garden of Gethsemane when he said ‘thy will, not mine be done’ in the face of his impending death. Yet, for this greatest story ever told to jump off the page and the stage (or people’s front rooms) into our hearts, we need the Holy Spirit of communication to move us, so ‘everyone who believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.’
Yet the doctrine of the Trinity is not a clever formula to explain what happened back then but a script, a screenplay, for our lives as Christians now. Our readings today remind us that none of us has to pass an audition to be in this play, that each one of us has a part. In our first reading we find the prophet Isaiah in the temple, caught up in a mystical vision of God, whose angels cry ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; heaven and earth is full of your glory.’ Yet there’s no time for Isaiah to dwell on his vision before he is asked the question, ‘whom shall I send and who will go for us?’ and he answers ‘here I am; send me.’ Just as Jesus at his baptism, so Isaiah was called. Contemplating the sacrifices offered in that temple, he seems to say (in the words of Psalm 40), ‘sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me…I have come to do your will o God.’
Paul too, in the climax to the majestic eighth chapter of his letter to the Romans, reminds his readers living in a city which offered every possible temptation of the flesh dreamed up by man, to not give into those but to realise that our calling is not to act a part but to be a true child of God through adoption.
Finally Nicodemus the theologian and leader of the Jews, who might well have expected to get a starring role in God’s drama, especially after buttering up the producer with the words ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God..’– this man is told in no uncertain terms to think again. Like everyone else, he must be born again, to start in the chorus and to play his part in whatever way the Spirit sees fit, for ‘the wind blows where it chooses, but you do not know where it comes from of goes to. So it is for all who are born of the Spirit.’ For Nicodemus this was to be, together with Joseph of Arimathea, the menial role of finding a grave and preparing Jesus’ body for burial when the time came, not a leading role.
Each of these played, or was asked to play a part in God’s story in their time. Over the last 14 months we have been stuck in our little boxes, living out the calling God has given us. For some this has been a blessing, finding the chance to hear God’s voice in solitude and to experience the wealth of resources to be found in books, on the media or online and to go deeper in faith. Others have enjoyed stepping on to the stage of the church’s life in the restricted way that is allowed, either here in worship or by visiting or telephoning people in need.
I very much hope that the time is coming soon when the church can step out of its Zoom boxes and live out the full life of the Holy Trinity in these parishes. Yesterday it was great to spend time with people at St Catherine’s whom I haven’t seen for several months, face to face and in person. Today and next week it’s good to be with these two churches for your patronal festivals and share the plans you have for opening up the stage for the life of God- Father, Son and Holy Spirit- in these parishes.
Yet, as with any production, it’s not enough for us to wait for the curtain to rise. We must rehearse, and continue to use these times of restrictions to grow in our faith wherever and however we are, to know the song of God well before we start singing, to play our part on the stage and to pray for the Spirit to communicate our drama to those who join us. It is a song which begins with worship in the words ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord’ and ends in service with the words, ‘Here I am; send me.’