Bliss: knowing the Trinity (Sermon, 11/6/17)



Trinity Sunday, 11th June 2017


St Mary’s, High Offley

We cannot know when human beings first gathered on this hill top in awe and wonder to worship something other than themselves. We do not know what gods they worshipped or what prayers they used. But you only have to stand outside the porch here to see why they gathered here. It is impossible not to be aware of one’s own insignificance as the fields and farms, roads and rivers roll away all around, as you see the distant hills. We are fortunate indeed to be worshipping here together this bright June morning.


We do know that over 900 years ago the first stones were brought up the hill and the beginnings of this church were made. We do know that within a hundred years this building was pretty much complete. With the exception of the porch and perhaps parts of the tower our ancestors in the thirteenth century would recognise this building.


A hundred and more years after this building was finished, sometime in the second half of the fourteenth century something happened to a woman almost 200 miles away in Norwich. We don’t know her name, but we know that a small room was built onto St Julian’s church, one of the dozens of medieval churches in Norwich, and that woman was committed to living in that cell as a hermit for the rest of her life. It wasn’t quite being bricked up in the way that we might imagine. She had a maidservant to look after her needs and she probably had a window onto the street so she could talk to those who came to her for spiritual guidance. Another window into the church meant she could take part in the daily services and receive communion. It may be that through that window she met her own spiritual director and made her confession.

Because we don’t know her name she has become known by the name of the church, Julian, Julian of Norwich.

During her life Julian had a number of profound spiritual experiences, that are sometimes called visions or revelations but which she called ‘showings’. God showed her things.


I want us to think about Julian this Trinity Sunday because her showings were profoundly Trinitarian. She often talks and prays of the Trinity in a way which, I suspect, most of us don’t. Although we pray often to the Father, through the Son and implore the gift of the Spirit, I suspect a lot of us think of those three persons as somewhat semi-detached, separate, linked but not one.

There are two passages from Julian that I want us to think about and you have them on the cards you were given as you came into church this morning. I hope you will take them home and stick them on your fridge door, in your bible or prayer book or put them on your bedside table.

We are enclosed in the Father, and we are enclosed in the Son,

And we are enclosed in the Holy Ghost.


The Father is enclosed in us, and the Son is enclosed in us,

and the Holy Ghost is enclosed in us:

Almightiness, All-Wisdom, All-Goodness: one God, one Lord.



The Trinity is God, and God is the Trinity,

The Trinity is our Maker and Keeper,

The Trinity is our everlasting lover,

Our joy and our bliss.



Today’s Gospel reading that we have just heard is the very last part of Matthew’s Gospel. It is a wonderful little passage, a powerful scene of Jesus with his disciples. I love the fact that there are just eleven of them. Judas of course, has hung himself. It is a useful reminder that the church, the apostles is never perfect, we are the community of the broken, the incomplete even at this moment with Jesus. The eleven are gathered with Jesus on a mountain, as we are gathered with Jesus on this hill top today.

Mountains are important, the law was given to Moses on the mountain, Jesus was transfigured on a mountain, Jerusalem like many ancient sites for worship – like this church, is built on a hill.

And here on this mountain Jesus gives the disciples an important, final command. If last words are important these are the last words of the risen Jesus to his disciples. He commands them to go to the gentiles, to the nations and make disciples of them. We are used to the word disciples as a noun, as it is here, but in Matthew’s Gospel it is also used as a verb: in chapter 13 Jesus spoke of the scribe ‘discipled in the kingdom of heaven’ and in chapter 27 Joseph of Arimathea is described as one who has been ‘discipled to Jesus’.


I don’t know why you have come to church this morning. Perhaps it’s just habit; perhaps it is to keep someone else in your family company, perhaps it is to hear the amazing visiting preacher …

I don’t know if, although I expect you do, you would describe yourself as a Christian. Christian is a noble word with a long history but the earliest word for those who follow Jesus, the word that Jesus himself uses is disciple. We are those who are disciples, have been discipled to Jesus and it is our job to disciple others. To bring others to Jesus.


And look at what makes that possible. It is this last sentence of the Gospel of Matthew, the last sentence of our reading this morning:

“I am with you always…”

If you read Matthew all in one go, or remember back to the readings at Christmas you will notice the echo of Matthew’s first chapter where Jesus is called Emmanuel, God-with-us.

Jesus is with us. He is God with us, he is with us always.

And Jesus commands us to baptise not just in his name. not in the name of ‘God’ but in the name of the Trinity.


Now, I can’t even begin to explain the doctrine of the Trinity in a rational way to you. The Trinity cannot be explained but it can be experienced.


When I stand outside the porch here at High Offley this morning. When I gaze at the amazing views all around me, I will not feel alone. I will feel connected with everything that I see, connected with a thousand years of Christians who have worshipped on this hill. Connected with the disciples of Jesus on that mountain two thousand years ago. When I pray, when human beings pray it is not aloneness, isolation that we feel. It is communion, connectedness that we feel. It is the immense gift, the grace, of knowing that we are more than just ourselves. At the heart of human beings at the heart of the universe is this vast love and compassion and acceptance.

As St Paul put it at the end of our first reading. This gift is the grace of acceptance and forgiveness in Jesus, this love is the love of the Father who made us and knows us, this communion is our fellowship in the Holy Spirit.



Look again at the words on those cards written by that woman in Norwich when this church was already a century old.


Bliss is a word that Julian uses a lot. It describes her happiness in her prayer and in the showings that God the Trinity shares with her. It is an important word and one that I hope you will remember after we leave church this morning. It is what God wants for every one of us. It is what will draw our neighbours, our families, our friends, to Jesus. It is what God wants us to experience every day.


Knowing God is bliss, knowing Jesus is bliss.


In some of the old hymns the doxology includes that wonderful word consubstantial.


Consubstantial co-eternal, while unending ages run.


In the Creed which we will pray together in a moment we pray that Jesus is of one being with the Father. They are consubstantial.

Because Jesus is human he shares our humanity, we are consubstantial with him. And he takes our humanity into the very being of God the Trinity. In Jesus we are never alone. We are never denied the bliss of sharing in the life of the Trinity.


We are enclosed in the Father, and we are enclosed in the Son,

And we are enclosed in the Holy Ghost.


The Father is enclosed in us, and the Son is enclosed in us,

and the Holy Ghost is enclosed in us:

Almightiness, All-Wisdom, All-Goodness: one God, one Lord.



The Trinity is God, and God is the Trinity,

The Trinity is our Maker and Keeper,

The Trinity is our everlasting lover,

Our joy and our bliss.


My dear friends, my prayer for each of us this Trinity Sunday is that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us always.







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