At home in Durham, we have a large drawer full of photographs: pictures of the family at different stages, the holidays we’ve enjoyed, the photos we’ve been sent by friends. When we had to clear mum’s house in order to sell it, one of my jobs was to sort out all her photographs and share them between me and my sisters. You will have your collection of photos too, and I imagine that you treasure them, especially when family members are far away, or relatives have died and aren’t with you any longer. They are so important.
With digital photography, pictures can be sent all over the world in an instant. We received a set of photos a couple of years ago from a celebration. Among them was a picture of a mature couple with grim, unhappy faces, and you could tell that it was an unhappy marriage where the couple barely tolerated each other. A real contrast to the lovely photos we received recently of a family wedding where the love and joy shine out. Photographs do show you something about the relationships of the people they capture, sometimes unintentionally.
Today is Trinity Sunday, a day for thinking about who God is, a day for looking at the pictures of God. The Bible gives us word pictures of God, and today’s readings give us three. Each one of these pictures show two or three beings, and you can see the relationship between them.
The first picture from the Book of Proverbs shows a woman in the foreground. She is at once very old and very young, one of those faces they called “old-fashioned”, where you know that she has been around a long time in one way or another. She was there before the world began. She was there at its making, measuring and planning and forming. With her, you too enter into creativity because she inspires you and teaches you. She is an artist, a creative, but more than that. She knows. She holds all the secrets of the world. With her, you enter into knowledge and undesrtanding. And she is someone full of joy, sharing and spreading delight. With her, you enter into joy. Her name is Wisdom. Her name is Spirit, Holy Spirit, God’s Spirit.
And behind her in the picture is the Ancient of Ancients. Just the form you see, not a clear image, but He’s there, the Creator. And you get a hint of the relationship between them, together and rejoicing in each other, close companions, co-workers. A strong bond.
Then we come to the next image. This is from the Epistle to the Romans. The figure in the foreground is instantly recognisable. We recognise the beard, the marks on his hands and feet, and above all the eyes. They are eyes that look upon you and know you and hold you in love. In the picture, he is opening a door, and you know that you can go through that door and find God. In fact, if you look carefully in the gap, the Father is there again, holding out a hand to welcome you. And hovering overhead is a swirly mist, perhaps a cloud, perhaps a bird, perhaps something else entirely. And the three of them belong together, relating in a kind of dance. We see them as separate figures one moment, but then you see that the connections are so strong, that they are one and the same.
And in their togetherness, they are reaching out to us, calling us to be a part of them, to share in the glory. They will help form us, to go on shaping us, so that we can be with them.
The last picture is from John’s Gospel. Jesus is teaching his disciples as he has done so many times before, but above the earthly group something else entirely is happening. In this picture, two worlds are brought together: the physical world and the spiritual world. The disciples can only see Jesus the man. But up above is an image of glory: God the Father in glorious technicolour, full of light, shining. And he is watching his Son, with loving, rapt attention. Jesus is telling his friends about the coming of the Spirit. In the spiritual dimension of the picture, the Spirit is there, present, flowing in and around the disciples as Jesus speaks. Listening to Jesus, they are not aware of the Spirit’s presence, but one day soon, they will know it for themselves, and the Spirit will flow through them with inspiration and courage and creativity. But for now, the Spirit is working with Jesus as he teaches the disciples and us, connecting the Son with the Father, because they are always one.
Then we come to one last picture. A fourth picture, unexpected. It wasn’t there in the readings we had just now. Rather, it is the picture we create together, the picture of this church, and we make it in our worship, in our prayer, in our service of others, in our caring for each other and for the world. And there is the physical image and the spiritual one. We are all there, all of us who follow Jesus. God the Father is reaching out to us, creating us, encouraging us, loving us. The Son, Jesus Christ, with his wounds clearly visible, is present in the Sacrament on the altar, bringing us wholeness and healing. And the Spirit, breathing tongues of fire in our hearts, is swirling in the atmosphere beside. And their relationship, their loving dance, spills out to us. We find that we are part of it, and it is full of joy. We are there in God’s delight when we rejoice in our loving God. The glory is just out of sight, not far away. The light shines on us. And the Spirit says “wake up, open your eyes. Look at us. Find us. We are part of you and you are part of us. We are One.”