Read Sermon


'Confidence in our credo'

Trinity Sunday BCP

11 June 2006 11:00 | Fr. Roderick Leece

Trinity Sunday tends to be regarded as a time to rehearse dusty old doctrines about the nature of God, but it is most importantly a celebration of God as the foundation and bedrock of Christian faith. This feast of the doctrine of God gives us a time to examine and rejoice in our Orthodoxy, from which our challenge to the world and to other 'partial' faiths with which we share some elements (especially Judaism and Islam) springs. We are provided with a rallying reminder of the truth about God, and are able to relax freely into an Orthodoxy that emerged only after decades and centuries of debate and passionate controversy.

This Sunday could also be regarded as a sort of festival for our creeds. These days any old credo from runes, to tarot cards…from reading the stars to the latest West Coast/Californian spiritual or mystical enlightenment, is often treated on an equal basis with the Christian faith. Today's fashion is for DIY spirituality, and the dynamic of interacting with the givenness of the faith, and the wisdom of her doctrines, is not always welcome. People are used to choice, to picking and mixing, whereas, as Cardinal Hume used to say… the Christian faith should be the menu of the day…a 'menu fixe' rather than 'a la carte'. The beauty is that we are set free to get on with Christian life, rather than constantly tiring ourselves out by re-invention, according to latest mood, fad or fashion. There is much in the faith that demands we 'have what we are given' and enjoy it. More than this. Because it is our duty, and above all the task of Bishops, to guard and defend the faith from heterodoxy and heresy, both from within and without. This is not to say it is safe to go along with all the Bible says, or the Church teaches…whither orthodoxy now with regard to slavery…and what will the orthodox position on homosexuality or women clergy be in a few hundred years time? But on the nature of God, notwithstanding the divisions between western and eastern traditions, there has been overwhelming and longstanding agreement, and this is reflected in the creeds.

The most popular creed is the Apostles creed… a summary of Christian doctrine used prior to baptism in the Roman churches from the early 3rd century, with its central doctrines of the Trinity and God as Creator.

The Nicene Creed (approved in 381AD in Constantinople) says a lot more about the deity of the Holy Spirit, and about Jesus Christ as both true God and true man. We sing it every Sunday. It is a sermon on the Trinity in itself, and perhaps today we can sing it with more focussed reflection upon what we are actually saying.

I wonder how many of us actually know the Athanasian Creed, probably from 5th Century southern France? The Quicumque vult… 'Whoever wishes to be saved must, above all, keep the Catholic faith'…the creed is then given before the final flourish… 'everyone must believe it, firmly and steadfastly, otherwise he cannot be saved.'

There are13 occasions stipulated in the BCP for it to be used, and I'm not sure we do! Use declined because of its anathemas, but it is a creed of theological excellence. Finally the definition of the Council of Chalecedon in 451AD, was the ancient Church's definitive statement on the person of Jesus Christ, but never used in worship as the other three.

The welcome tone of mutual respect in our dealings with one another might sit uncomfortably these days with the anathemas contained in Athanasian creed, but a day like Trinity Sunday gives us the opportunity to think carefully about our beliefs and be confident in taking on sub Christian beliefs. C.S. Lewis, in an introduction to a translation of one of Athanasius' books views the so-called Athanasian creed as a deliberate attempt to combat Christian converts who reverted to sub Christian beliefs: The author, in fact, is not talking about unbelievers, but about deserters, not about those who have never heard of Christ, nor even those who have misunderstood and refused to accept him, but of those who having really understood and really believed, then allow themselves, under the sway of sloth or of fashion or any other invited confusion to be drawn away into sub-Christian modes of thought. They are a warning against the curious modern assumption that all changes of belief however brought about, are necessarily exempt from blame.

Thank God for Trinitarian Orthodoxy that preserves us: from the anthropomorphism which would create the Creator in our own image; from Christological heresy which would deny either the humanity or the divinity of Christ; and from a pneumatology (that is, the theology of the Holy Spirit) that is unbalanced. Father Son and Holy Spirit form the unity we call God. Although there are so many shared aspects with other faiths, we are called to proclaim the truth of God the Holy Trinity to the whole world, even though we seem not to possess the confidence of our forbears who sometimes gave their lives. We are to insist quietly, gently, and lovingly, to both Jew and Muslim, and to those of other faiths or no faith, that God in three persons, the blessed Trinity is true, and that he has been revealed once and for all in Jesus Christ, who is The Way the Truth and The Life.

The Christian Faith itself is a unity, and hangs together, and it is dangerous to say some doctrines of the creeds are fundamental whilst others might be optional. Like a cathedral, the Church's faith will not fall down all at once if we remove a pinnacle here, or a buttress there, or leave the dry or wet rot to infect the structure of the tower or roof. It is surprising how long a ruin will stand if the foundations were well laid.

So we keep today a festival of the creeds and above all a feast of God. And the person whose heart is centred on God will, hopefully, be a vigorous Churchgoer, yet not be 'churchy'…a valiant soldier bringing in God's kingdom, but not aggressive…a loyal defender of the truth, but not a bigot. Modern culture celebrates the ephemera of fame and wealth…there is a cult of celebrity that sadly seems a big enough dream and aspiration for many young people, and God is invoked as a means to an end, rather than an end in Himself…or the beginning in Himself. He is called upon just before the lottery numbers come up, or a penalty shoot out, or in the crisis of illness. To say this is a sub-Christian approach is a huge understatement.

Surely God is to be worshipped and adored as the author of all good things, and not to be sought as the purveyor of good things. The aim of the Christian life is to see the beauty of God, to enjoy Him forever, to know and be one with Him in praise and worship and adoration. Blessed Trinity!
Cookies used on this website
New EU legislation requires that all web sites clearly specify the presence of cookies and their purpose. Cookies are used to enhance the user experience. StGeorges uses Google Analytics to track activity on its site, helping to keep the site relevant and easier to use, via the use of these cookies . For an enhanced site experience, consumers will need to consent to the use of StGeorges cookies. A preference cookie, that will become available to you when you choose the ‘I agree’ button, will be a long-life cookie that will not automatically clear when you close the browser window. If you manually delete this cookie you will need to re-confirm your preferences every time you next visit this website, unless you choose accept the long life option.