This Service for use at home on Trinity Sunday 30th May 2021 has been prepared for us by Rev. Arthur Cowburn.
Hymn Singing the Faith 53 How shall I sing that majesty?
Prayers of Praise and Confession
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
We worship you.
We recognise your awesome greatness,
Your abundant love poured out on us,
And your presence with us.
May our praise bring glory
To your name. Amen.
Loving God, forgive us,
For the times when we have made you too small,
When we have failed to recognise your presence amongst us,
When we have failed to hear your word
Or respond to your call.
May we hear your gracious word
Telling us our sins are forgiven
And that we may go in peace. Amen
Reading Isaiah 6: 1-8
6 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: with two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’
4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
5 ‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.’
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’
And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’
Reading John 3: 1-17
3 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.’
3 Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.[a]’
4 ‘How can someone be born when they are old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!’
5 Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, “You[c] must be born again.” 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’[d]
9 ‘How can this be?’ Nicodemus asked.
10 ‘You are Israel’s teacher,’ said Jesus, ‘and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven – the Son of Man.[e] 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,[f] 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.’[g]
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
HYMN Hymns and Psalms 11 Lord of all being, throned afar
When I was at Theological College, we had to spend half a day a week for two terms getting experience of a form of ministry which didn’t directly involve local churches. I spent my Monday afternoons at GEC Ruston Gas Turbines, one of Lincoln’s largest employers gaining experience of what was then called Industrial Chaplaincy. After the first few weeks this involved being sent to different parts of the factory to talk to people, most of whom were happy to stop work for a while and chat. Entering one particular workshop one week, I was immediately pounced upon by one man who said, “You’re one of those believers aren’t you.” After I’d replied that I was, his next statement was, “Explain the Holy trinity to me then.” I tried for the next hour, but he always seemed to have more answers than me and I just kept digging myself into a deeper hole. When I got back to my supervisor at the factory, I told him what had happened and he laughed and said, “they got you then,” at which point I realised that I’d been set up.
But explain the Holy Trinity. It’s a concept to try to explain who God is, three in one and one in three, and yet many preachers will avoid being planned on Trinity Sunday because they find it a difficult subject to talk about. Because God is and will always remain beyond our understanding.
Yet, I believe, these readings are a good place to begin. In the Old Testament reading, Isaiah goes into the temple and has a vision of God. He is overcome by awe and recognises his own unworthiness to be in God’s presence. It’s all too easy for us to make God too small and miss out on his awesome nature, to make God what we want God to be when God can never be confined. I’m a great lover of the wild places of nature, mountains, rugged cliffs, wild seas. Beautifully cultivated gardens are nice, but they just don’t have the same effect as the powerful forces that shape our world. Those forces suddenly make me aware of my own smallness and when I begin to contemplate the universe as a whole, I am left marvelling at the wonder and the power of God.
Nicodemus has a conversation with Jesus, the man who Christians believe is God Incarnate. A human conversation is something we can all relate to, but for many the whole idea that God could be a man who walked the earth is just too difficult to contemplate. A few years ago, I read a book called “Not in God’s Name” by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Whilst the book is a denial of the concept of Holy War, in it he says that for a Jew it is impossible to believe that God could have turned himself into a human being. But here we find Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council, having a seemingly impossible conversation. It’s no wonder it takes place at night! And the conversation must have seemed very bizarre as it went on. Nicodemus recognises that Jesus is a teacher who has come from God, but in return gets a most puzzling answer about being born again. As Jesus develops this, he talks about being born of water and the Spirit. And he compares the Spirit, and those born of the Spirit to the wind, something we can’t actually see but only its effect.
Yet it is by the Holy Spirit that we discover the closeness of God in our lives and perhaps wind is the best way of thinking about it. A cool breeze on a hot day can be most wonderfully refreshing whilst the sound of a gale can be incredibly disturbing. The Spirit brings us comfort when things are difficult but also seeks to prevent us ever becoming complacent.
In this, is the measure of an amazing God, one who we can never quite describe however hard we try. All our attempts must somehow fall short of the mark. But what is perhaps even more amazing is that God trusts us and calls us to be witnesses for him here on earth. Isaiah hears God’s voice saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” In response he says, “Here am I. Send me!” Nicodemus turns up again much later in John’s Gospel as, along with Joseph of Arimathea, he takes Jesus’ body from the cross and prepares it for burial. Two people who were transformed by their encounter with God, dedicating themselves to service.
My prayer is that we would all meet God, being able to bow down and worship because of his awesome greatness, that we would know the cleansing that only God can offer in Jesus Christ, and that we would feel the guiding, comforting and at times unsettling presence of the Holy Spirit. Somewhere, we would hear God’s voice calling us to service and to be witnesses to God’s love and that we would commit ourselves to that service whatever it may be.
Prayers of Intercession
God the Father, ground me in your being as we pray for those who flounder and struggle with the pressures of life. May they see some shape, some purpose to life and find a way to move forward. May their struggles become less tangled, and may they find calm in the chaos of their living…
God the Son, enfold me in your love as we pray for those who know little or no love, security or peace; for those who live in fear and loneliness; for those who are shrouded in pain and smothered by death; for those without family support and succour, the friendless and the homeless…
God the Holy Spirit, embolden us to share as we pray for those who have no hope, no dreams, no visions; for those who have no knowledge of you, who have not seen you, nor felt you, nor encountered you; for those without faith and trust, those seemingly lost to themselves and to you…
God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, these are all your children;
for them we pray.
(From Roots on the web Trinity Sunday 2018)
The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn Singing the Faith 663 I, the Lord of sea and sky
May the blessing of God Almighty,
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
Rest and remain on us
Now and always. Amen