Today is Trinity Sunday, when we proclaim and celebrate what we believe about God. We do it every week when we say the Creed together, our faith and our worship is steeped in that belief, it binds everything that we do and say in church, but today it’s in-your-face. We are called to pay attention, to renew our faith, to hear and to respond.
So let’s look at the Creed and try to make sense of it.
We believe in one God,
We believe in one God. God is One – that is who God is. But our God is three persons, three centres. The three persons do different jobs. Each one is distinct. But they are still one. It is very difficult to get your head around, but this is how the scholars and people of great prayer found to be the best way to describe what we experience of God and how we can know God. It is not rational or logical. It only makes sense when you pray and relate to God directly.
Children sometimes ask me: Who made God? What happened before God? When did God start? And the answer is that God was always there, before anything else, before God brought everything else into being. There wasn’t anything before God. God was. God is. God ever shall be.
The Creed continues:
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
God the Father is source of all creation. God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are with God the Father in creation, but the Father takes the lead in this work. The creation is not just about how the world was made millions of years ago, including the big bang and evolution and all the ways humankind has tried to understand the beginning of the universe and life on earth. Creation didn’t happen once upon a time. It continues. It happens every day, all the time.
A lot of people experience the presence of God through creation, a beautiful sunset, an amazing landscape, the still sense on top of a mountain. Or when you hold a newborn baby or sit beside someone who is making a good death and going to their Lord. This is what it means to experience God as Father.
For other people, the idea of God as Father can be very difficult if they have had a bad experience of their own human fathers. God as Father is like the very best, loving, caring dad you can ever imagine, not in a wishy-washy way, but a Father who wants the best for us, his children, including the way we live and the things we get involved in.
The Creed goes on:
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven,
was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
The longest part of the Creed tells us about God the Son. It looks at the key events of Jesus’ life from the perspective of what God is like.
Jesus was a man, born as a baby to a human mother. He experienced all the things that we go through. But Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the Lord is also God the Son. He came into being as an infant on earth, but as Son of God, he already existed as part of who God is, the One God. To become incarnate means to take on flesh. So he was a real human and he is really God.
Jesus was crucified. He died. He was buried. But that wasn’t the end of the story. On the third day, the Sunday, the first day of the week, he rose again. That’s why the early Christians moved their holy day from the Sabbath, the Saturday which the Jews observe, to the Sunday, the day of Resurrection – it was so important to them.
The life of Jesus is not just something that happened way back, 2,000 years ago. It affects us now. It gives us the promise that sin, evil and death can never triumph, because they have been destroyed by Christ when he died on the cross and rose again. Christ rose into heaven and now reigns over the world as king. As Christians, we live with God in charge, we are called to live his way. And that matters, because at the end of time, there will be a judgement.
For a lot of Christians, Jesus Christ, Son of God, is the key to the way they understand God and relate to God. If you want to know what God is like, look at the life of Jesus.
And the next section of the Creed gives us this:
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
Last week, at Pentecost, we celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit comes to us, lives in us, breathes in us, guides us, helps us to become more like Christ. The Holy Spirit is the way God relates to each one of us all of the time, individually and as a church.
For some people, the Holy Spirit is the key way they relate to God. They are very aware of the presence of the Spirit in their lives. They find it motivates them and inspires them and brings them great joy.
God the Holy Spirit pours gifts and abilities on us to enable us to do God’s work. You can tell when someone is living in God because they show the fruit of the Spirit in their lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Not everyone has all these precious elements all of the time. But you know when someone is growing in faith when you see the fruit flourishing.
God asks a lot of us, but we don’t have to rely on ourselves. We know we can’t achieve it on our own. But the Holy Spirit works through us and makes great things happen.
The Creed then moves on from expressing our belief in God to talking about how we as a church relate to God:
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
The Church is the body of Christ here on earth. It is how we relate to God and to each other as the people of God. The Church is catholic because it is everywhere. It is apostolic because it flows from the role of the apostles appointed by Jesus. We become part of the church through baptism, when our sins are forgiven. We live as the people whom God loves, whom has forgiven and made new. As a church we prepare for the end of time when the dead shall be raised and God will establish a new order. But we live now with God in charge, doing our best to work with God in establishing God’s way of doing things here and now.
We say the Creed every week. It is what we as a Church believe. There have been times in my life when I haven’t agreed with all of it. As a teenager, there were lines I wouldn’t say. But the journey of faith is not static, we grow and develop in understanding and commitment. The Creed is a weekly reminder of what we believe about who God is in order to help us grow into our relationship with God the Most Loving Father, God the Son who put himself on the line to rescue us from all that is evil, and God the Holy Spirit who helps us to be creative and loving and joyful.
We believe. We are a people who believe.