THE STRONG NAME OF THE TRINITY

Sermon delivered on Trinity Sunday, the 11th June 2017 by Bishop Nicholas J G Sykes in the congregation of St. Alban's, George Town Church of England, Cayman Islands in the service of the Holy Eucharist.

Scriptures: Isaiah 40: 12-17, 27-31     2 Corinthians 13: 11-14     S. Matthew 28: 16-20

2 Corinthians 13:14 "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all."

STRONG NAME OF THE TRINITY
The Island of Trinidad is said to have been given that name by Christopher Columbus in fulfilment of a vow he had made before setting out on a journey of exploration. It means, of course, the Island of the Trinity. Today, oil-rich Trinidad is cited as one of the leading gas-based export centres in the world, and because of its industrial base and its mineral reserves, on acount of its real geographical position off the shore of South America, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago has a certain strength in its dealings with other countries of the Caribbean region. So we can acknowledge there was a prophetic element in its being named that way. For the connection of the Trinity with real strength appears in our Scriptures today and comes out also in hymnody. St. Patrick's Breastplate, which is to be found in our hymn-book as hymn 162, begins, "I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity." The poem is a vigorous exposition of the mighty power of God, declaring that when we bind to ourselves the power of His Trinitarian attributes, His virtues, and His graces we have a borrowed strength available to us to be victorious over all the hosts of evil and sin both external to us and within us. God is not just good: He is also strong. It was only recently that we thought about the fundamental strength possessed by the good, as compared with the bad.

THE GRACE
St. Paul's words at the end of Second Corinthians have become known to us as "The Grace", which Anglicans say at the end of the Daily Offices of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost be with us all evermore." We should not miss the fact that the words connote God's tremendous goodness and strength. In Second Corinthians St. Paul has shown his high concern for the church that he himself planted and his deep consciousness of its failings. He is aware that there needs to be great changes as its members root out some of their attitudes and grow into Christ. We have heard him in his farewell message to them at the end of his letter telling them, "Mend your ways, heed my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace." But where is the power to come from for them to be able to make these changes? Right at the end of the letter St. Paul states where the power comes from, in the words of the grace. ("The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.") It is worth noting too that the word "Be" in "be with you all" does not occur in the original language. It is more than likely that St. Paul was confirming that these strengths, the grace of Jesus, the love of God the Father and the fellowship or communion of the Holy Spirit, were with the church. The fact that their attitudes and behaviour left much to be desired compelled St. Paul to assure them that the power to change was there for them to call upon. That, perhaps, is why St. Paul begins with the aspect of “grace” - the available strength, through the perfect offering of Jesus, was entirely undeserved. The Corinthian church was to bind itself to the strong name of the Trinity. Today too the worldwide Church, both locally and as a whole, has very many deficiencies and defects, many things awry in its understanding of itself and of the nature of great world forces, but the mighty and good power of God to deal with it is present, which we in patience should acknowledge, not least when we say the Grace in the Daily Offices or in our prayers.

WE NEED THE STRENGTH
It is good to be reminded of that power at a time when one feels sometimes almost overwhelmed and crushed by the various battles to which we are committed. When we are tempted to feel inadequate to meet all the challenges both internal and external, we too can in the words of the old poem say - and you can follow them if you like in verse 6 of hymn 162, “Against the demon snares of sin, The vice that gives temptation force, The natural lusts that war within, The hostile men that mar my course - Or few or many, far or nigh, In every place, and in all hours, Against their fierce hostility I bind to me these holy powers." We need that strength so much, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost. As the concluding Doxology of the same hymn goes, “I bind unto myself the name, The strong name of the Trinity, By invocation of the same, The Three in One, and One in Three, Of whom all nature hath creation, Eternal Father, Spirit, Word…..”

GOD'S WISDOM AND GRACE
Our wonderful Old Testament lesson today speaks to us of the character of God's strength. Repeatedly the prophet asks rhetorically, Who can teach God? Who can teach Him who has created and arranged the heavens and the earth? Who can enlighten God, who made the men and nations, about conscience and justice and understanding? The character of the mighty strength of God, we are reminded, is its unfailing wisdom. But not only is His wisdom unfailing, but His grace, too, is inexhaustible. The prophet asks, Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, "My way is hid from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God"? I am suggesting that we too, often enough, have similar grumbles and times when we feel down. The truth, though, is that our plight, whether as a community or as an individual, is never unnoticed by God. Whatever our plight may be, and however intractable it might seem to us, it has indeed been noticed by Him. We need to recall our own baptism, we who have been baptised into the heavenly realms, we who have been made sons and daughters of our heavenly Father, we who have been made the very limbs of Christ - indeed, we are never disregarded or unnoticed by God. Not only does He know us through and through with His inexhaustible wisdom, but He replenishes our failing strength with His own, when we wait upon Him to do so. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit are with us evermore, to renew our strength and raise us when we stumble. The prophet reminds us that it is not by virtue of physical vigour or youth that we may endure in the race of salvation, but by virtue of the increase and replenishment that the Lord provides. "Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."

ROYAL EXALTATION
At the end of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, we read of Jesus appearing to His disciples before His ascension, and saying "All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me." What Satan had fraudulently offered Him in the wilderness is now declared to have been given by the Father following the unalloyed obedience of Christ to the Father’s will, following the Wisdom that He had adhered to and following the love for His brethren that He had put forth to the extent of death itself. The Son of God had suffered royally and was exalted royally. Now, that grace that He had so demonstrated, is available and granted to us too. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." By the strong name and authority of the Trinity, we too are charged to mount up with wings like eagles on our mission to the world and to this age with all its contradictions and deceptions, to run and not be weary, to walk and not be faint. May we not neglect our charge.

QUESTIONS

1. Why would the popular or "folk" mind associate Trinity with strength?

2. What does the Gospel tell us about the character of God's strength?

3. What might be the significance of associating the Trinitarian formula with Baptism?