Sermon for Sunday 12 June 2022
Trinity Sunday 2022
One of my favourite activities whilst doing the ironing is listening to back editions of “In our Time” with Melvyn Bragg. They’re all there on the BBC iplayer. Earlier on this week I tuned in to a fascinating one all about the Incas of South America. I never realised just how ignorant I was of the Incas, and their extraordinary civilisation.
Did you know, for example, they had a version of freeze dried mashed potato which could be stored for up to 10 years long before we “invented” it? The Incas’ civilisation was entirely created without knowing anything about the existence of the horse or the wheel. They simply carried everything everywhere.
But half way through the programme, Melvin Bragg turned to the question of what the religious beliefs of the Incas were.
I suppose one would say they were basically animists. Their god was the world around them. They thought the whole of the created order was suffused with the presence and energy of the divine. For that reason, any natural object was precious and blessed, and could be worshipped as containing or representing a spirit.
But just then, one of the academics discussing all this said something that struck me. “The thing about Inca religion is this. It makes much better sense to believe in a god you can actually see, doesn’t it.” “Oh yes, I couldn’t agree more,” said Melvin Bragg in a slightly patronising tone of voice, “much more sensible to believe in a god you can actually see.”
It was easy to get the sort of naive secular point they were making. If you’re going to believe in the ridiculous nonsense of a God, at least make it one you can see and touch. And if you are going to insist on being religious in our modern world, you’re not being much more intellectually sophisticated than the Incas worshipping rocks and trees and the sun.
But in a funny way, I actually want to agree with that statement. It does indeed make sense to believe in a God you can see. And today’s feast is all about the fact that Christians don’t believe in God beyond sight and sound. We believe in a God whom we can touch and see and feel and know.
For at the heart of our faith lies the person of Jesus Christ. We know what God is like because he has shown himself to us in Christ. In our Gospel reading today Jesus teaches us, “All that the Father has is mine.” Jesus is the human face of God, making tangible in time and space the God who made the world.
But more than that, we experience the presence of God today as the Holy Spirit that lives within us who have been baptized. We know and see and hear him as we make our pilgrim way through life.
“When the Spirit of truth comes,” Jesus tells us, “he will guide you into all truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”
A lot of these questions to do with how we understand God really touch on the question of how we understand faith. Faith is not, as Melvin Bragg seems to think, something that simply dupes you into believing the illogical or the foolish or the unreasonable.
Rather, faith is the gift of God that allows us to trust that the world in which we live is not just some arbitrary accident that came from nowhere.
Faith is the gift of God that allows us to imagine the perfectly reasonable possibility that life has meaning, that love is real, that our existence is intended.
Faith is the gift of God that allows us to hope in the entirely logical idea that if a creator exists, he might want to communicate with us through his Son Jesus Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit.
The feast of the Holy Trinity is the point each year when we remind ourselves that it does indeed make sense to believe in a God you can see. For our God is not some theoretical entity beyond our existence or knowledge.
The Father, who made all things sent his Son into our world to live as one of us and to share our life. In him we see what God is like and what his will for us is. And that same Jesus left us God’s Holy Spirit, his presence on earth in our hearts that draws us to the Father, and plants in our hearts the capacity to know and love him by faith.
Fr Peter Anthony