|1:00pm||Doors open for sightseeing|
|4:00pm||Last entry for sightseeing|
Sermon preached on Trinity Sunday (11 June 2017) by the Reverend Canon Michael Hampel, Precentor
The Precentor reflects on Dorothy L. Sayers' analogy of the Trinity and that "God cannot be contained within the confines of a doctrine or of a Sunday in the Church’s year but must of necessity burst our of the bounds we set and is found...wherever the ingenuity of men and women strive to achieve the tasks God has given us with the skills God has given for the world God has given us to God’s greater glory and for the benefit of the people God has set us among."
This is the day of the Church’s year which preachers shy away from. How to explain the doctrine of the Holy Trinity in the context of a ten minute sermon. Having said that, it seems odd that we try to avoid the doctrine.
After all, we articulate the Trinity many times a day in the liturgy: Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be with you; and so on.
We read in the Old Testament of the Father as creator and law-giver; we celebrate the incarnation of the Son of God at Christmas; and we mark the sending of the Holy Spirit of God at Pentecost.
But, of course, it’s easy to talk about the Holy Trinity but it’s not probably so easy to explain. And perhaps – on that score – we can listen to C S Lewis who said that a doctrine never seemed less real to him than when he had just been defending it.
So instead I’m going to offer you an analogy – or a comparison – which you may find helpful and which you may be able to apply to your own activity as a human being and thus feel drawn more successfully into the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.
It is not my own analogy. It comes from the pen of a ready writer and from an unusual class of writer at that – that great detective novelist of the early twentieth century, Dorothy L Sayers.
She started at the very beginning which, as the song tells us, is a very good place to start. She wanted to work out what connected us most closely to the persons of the Holy Trinity and began her detective work in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis where we are told that men and women are made in the image of God.
She was pretty certain that this didn’t mean that we looked like God – the world can only contend with so many old men with long white beards so she looked in the preceding verses of this first chapter and noted that the only thing we know about God up to the point at which God made us in the divine image is that ‘God created’ and she concluded that to be made in the image of God means that we are most God-like when we are being creative.
This illuminating and positive and collaborative theory then drew her into the analogy with the doctrine of the Holy Trinity for which she became greatly renowned as a popular theologian of the mid-twentieth century.
And she drew the analogy with her own craft – that of a creative writer. And it goes like this.
She knew from her own experience that, when she began to write a book, she had the vision or the idea for that book complete in her mind: the idea was the origin of the book, where it started but also where it ended. And this was God the Father.
She had only now to write the book – to turn the idea into reality, into something contained within the bonds of matter, like the flesh and blood of human being, able to be beheld and experienced by the world around her. And this was God the Son.
And then the book, once released upon the public, had an impact on those who read it and also took upon itself a power of its own; it was no longer under her control. And this was God the Holy Spirit.
Now the analogy may or may not work for you and I’ll talk a bit more about how it might work for you in a moment but what is brilliant about the search for an analogy is the way in which Sayers relates it to her own experience which, as a faithful and committed Christian, she believed was an experience which God had endowed her with so that, for her, it was not surprising that she should be able to find God – to find the Holy Trinity indeed – within her experience, rather than as a rather dry and dusty doctrine best left to the professional theologians. And I agree with her.
So how might her analogy work for you? Well, you have to test it for yourself by applying it to your own creative activity – and let me say straight away that that doesn’t necessarily only mean the sometimes esoteric avenue of the arts. It also works if you apply it to your work, to science, to sport, even to the household chores. Don’t forget George Herbert’s servant who makes drudgery divine if he does it for the sake of God.
And that’s because the Holy Trinity is about incarnation, about what it means to be human, about the creative spirit. And Sayers’s analogy takes God out of church and back to our homes and places of work with us – in an echo of that prayer we pray at the end of our liturgy: send us out as a living sacrifice to live and work to your praise and glory.
It can be applied to the writing of prose and poetry, to the painting of art, to the composition of music, to the quest for invention, to the science of life, to the achievement of the sports field, to the preparation of a fine meal, to the care of one’s household, even to the efficient conduct of duties at work – if they’re done for the sake of God – if we allow God into the work we do and the achievements we record.
You have a vision for what you do, you make it real through the skills and talents you have, you watch it have an impact, however great or small, on those around you.
God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. So great that God cannot be contained within the confines of a doctrine or of a Sunday in the Church’s year but must of necessity burst our of the bounds we set and is found in home and hearth, in board room and shop floor, in studio and workshop, on the pitch and wherever the ingenuity of men and women strive to achieve the tasks God has given us with the skills God has given for the world God has given us to God’s greater glory and for the benefit of the people God has set us among.