The Trinity

Based on a sermon from Trinity Sunday, 12th June 2022,

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”

John 16:13

As a child Mum and Dad read bedtime stories.  These included the exciting Swallows and Amazons stories by Arthur Ransome.  In one scene the children guide their boat into a little rocky inlet using the “leading-light” method.  Leading lights, used on both major and small waterways, consist of two lights or markers some distance apart. The one further inland is positioned higher than the one closer to open water.  The skipper of a vessel seeking to enter a harbour or inlet keeps these two markers aligned vertically and can confidently steer the ship in without mishap on rocks or other obstacles.  The whole process, however, depends entirely, of course, upon both markers being accurate or “true”.

Today’s Gospel passage starts with Jesus pointing out that his disciples still have much to learn about God’s purpose for his own life and death – and indeed the lives and deaths of the disciples themselves.  At this stage however, he acknowledges that they are in no state to hear what awaits them in the immediate future – the trial and crucifixion of the man they have followed and been taught by for three years, concerning whom they have high hopes for the future.

Equally, they are not ready to hear the message that in the longer term their future will be entirely taken up by travelling far and wide, propagating the good news about Jesus Christ.  Nor can they, at this point, grasp that they themselves – a group of fishermen and lowly souls – will become the founding fathers of the Christian faith and Church – and, indeed, that most of them will be martyred in that cause.

Jesus does, however, offer hope for the future in the form of the promised “Spirit of truth” – the Holy Spirit who, much like the leading-lights in Ransome’s story, will guide the disciples “into all truth”.  The guarantee is that the Holy Spirit “will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is to come” (John 16:13).

The voice that speaks the truth to the Spirit is of course that of God the Father, the source of all truth.  Thus the work of the Holy Spirit is not independent of the work of the Father but, as members of the Holy Trinity, the Father and the Spirit are in perfect harmony with each other, and with the Son.  God is one and God is three.  It may be perplexing and defy mathematics, but it is implicit in the message of scripture and confirmed by the doctrine of the Church.

So how are we to apply this theology to ourselves and our own time?  Firstly, we need to come to God the Father through Jesus the Son, our Saviour, who has borne our sins by dying for us.  Secondly, we need to nurture the work of the Spirit in our lives and seek guidance and spiritual empowerment through an active prayer life.

This emphasis on God’s guidance through the Spirit takes us back to the illustration of the leading-lights.  Remember that two perfectly aligned lights together guide the ship safely into harbour.  To push the illustration a little further, we can think of one of the lights as representing the Holy Spirit, guiding us spiritually from within, tuning our conscience, sensitising us to understand what kind of behaviour is holy, and what dishonours God.

Meanwhile, the second light might represent the apostles’ testimony in the form of the stories about Jesus in the Gospels – who Jesus was, what he taught and how he lived, died, rose from the dead and ascended to heaven.  In addition, the epistles – the letters that were written by St Paul and the other apostles – set out more clearly the doctrine of the faith.  Taken together, these writings, both Gospels and epistles, are the foundational and authoritative writings of the Christian faith and can be seen to be represented by the second light.

As we live out the Christian life, and as we think about the Holy Trinity today, we do well to keep in mind these two leading lights – the Spirit and the word.  If we steer our lives in such a way that we keep these lights aligned, we will be guided safely on our way.

Living thoughts

This is your opportunity to spend time alone with God.  The more time you spend with Him the more you will get to know Him as He reveals more of who He is to your heart, soul and spirit.  This time will be personal and wholly unique to your faith journey with Him.

Digging into God’s word…

  1. In your Christian life has one of the persons of the Trinity been emphasised more? Father, Son or Holy Spirit?
  2. Is there a person of the Trinity that you have felt more connected to?
  3. Who do you pray to most often?
  4. What’s the hardest part of the Trinity for you to grasp?

Digging deeper into God’s Word…

  1. What would the Spirit of truth do for Jesus’ disciples when He came? (John 16:12-14)
  2. In what way would the Spirit bring Jesus glory? (John 16:14-15)
  3. When would the disciples see Jesus? (John 16:16)

What Now?

  • How does understanding the Trinity affect our relationship with God?
  • Why is it important that we know God in all His fullness?

Pray

Spend time praying to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.