Materials for Worship on Trinity Sunday

Peter writes: A young Chinese woman in the congregation in Bern once asked me to pray for her grandmother, who was very ill at home in China. I asked what her name was and, to my surprise, she said she didn’t know. In Chinese culture it would be very disrespectful to refer to – let alone address – an elderly relative by their name.

There is something similar among Jewish people. In the Bible the name of God is written YHWH (or JHVH) but they will never ever say it. When they see these four letters, they say Adonai, which means “Lord”. In most English Bibles it is written in capital letters as a signal that this is the sacred name of God. In the Hebrew Bible we also read how God refuses to give his name to humans – to Jacob after he has wrestled with him at the ford of Jabbok and to Moses on Mount Sinai. The reason is that, to know someone’s name is a way of defining them or even controlling them.

But obviously we cannot do that with God. He is literally “beyond our understanding”. That is how it must be for otherwise God would be a creature of our own will and intellect, like pagan deities who could be conjured up and controlled at will. Even to ask for proof of God is useless for to do so would mean reducing him to something inferior to our own intelligence – and that would be a contradiction in terms.

However, to say that God is “one and one alone and ever more shall be so” is also inadequate. If we cast our mind back six weeks, to the scene in the Upper Room, Thomas, having realised the futility of wanting proof, cries out “My Lord and my God”. He is calling him Adonai, the word every devout Jew gives to the God of the Hebrew Bible.

We now have an insight into another dimension of God’s being. Not a different God but the same God, now seen as one with his creation, who “tears and smiles like us he knew” and who will stop at nothing in his love for us and all he has made. Indeed, in becoming human – man even – he is allowing us to get our heads round him a bit more but without exhausting all the possibilities within his being.

And there’s more. In the Creed we say “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life”. Again, “Lord”, the one God. In the beginning we see him moving over the face of the waters, a poetic image not so far removed from the way astrophysicists and biologists describe the universe coming into being. It is also the Spirit who breathes life into the first human. The Hebrew word for “spirit” is ruach, which also means “breath” or “wind”. We use the word “breath” to signify life and “to draw breath” implies gaining energy. To say we believe in the Holy Spirit is to affirm that it is God who turns inanimate matter into living being – a process that remains utterly mysterious even to the most intelligent minds.
The Holy Spirit has been described as the “go-between God”, holding creation together and making it work. On a human scale, the gifts of the Holy Spirit make for healthy, life-giving relationships between one another and also between us and God. As we saw at Pentecost last week, he breaks down barriers – of speech and other human fallibilities.

Having said all this, even so our human language(s) will never exhaust the endless extent of meaning contained in that sacred name. It is literally inexpressible because the one who bears it is a mystery, beyond our powers of speech and understanding.

Prayers of Intercession
We pray to the Father, in the name of the Son and through the power of the Holy Spirit.
We pray that the mutual love and fellowship of the Holy Trinity may be reflected in our dealings one with another.

For the world: for all who suffer from war, oppression and the inequalities of society. For relief agencies at home and abroad.
For all in authority, that they may work for harmony and the good of all.

For our family, neighbours and colleagues: for the mutual love that has no limits and seeks no advantage to the detriment of others.

For those for whom we have special concern at this time. Grant them relief from suffering and anxiety.

For the Church. For Ian our bishop, for other congregations in Dunblane. For those who are persecuted for their faith in God the Holy Trinity,;for Jewish people and others facing intolerance and hostility because of their beliefs – in China, the Middle East, India and other places.

For our loved ones whom we see no longer. May they rejoice in the presence of God the Three in One.

In our prayers, we give praise and glory to God, the creator, redeemer and sustainer of life.

A modern icon based on Rublev’s icon of the Trinity