By Fr Jarel Robinson-Brown
2 August 2023
Earlier this year, I had the honour of preaching the Trinity Sunday University Sermon at the University of Oxford. There are many approaches one might take to preaching on the Trinity, but in particular, I wanted to make connections between my conviction that how we as Christians name God has particular consequences for how we see one another, and indeed how we see ourselves and our world.
For most preachers, the task of preaching on the Trinity is both daunting and challenging, and for me this was no less true preaching at the University of Oxford on this particularly feast day.
Making something which is hugely complicated, simple, is not the task of Christian preaching. As a preacher of the gospel I very much see my task as introducing people not to an abstract concept or a philosophy, but as John Donne so wonderfully put it, to a ‘three-person’d God’ – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Belief in the Trinity means that when we speak about the Trinitarian God we are speaking about a God who is already revealed in the world and continuing to be revealed – in other words, our words about God are neither the first nor the last word on God, as God’s revelation in the world as Father, Son and Spirit precedes anything we might try to say about God today. In essence, we do not preach ‘on’ the Trinity – we preach the Trinity.
This sermon was my attempt to preach the Holy Trinity not as an abstraction or as a complicated ‘doctrine’ requiring simplification, but as a doctrine which is very simply rooted in the human experience of God in three persons, seen throughout the scriptures and witnessed as living and active in the life of Christians, and in the Church today.
Fr Jarel Robinson-Brown is a Visiting Scholar at Sarum College. He is a contributor to the Autumn 2023 Hurricanes Roar series to celebrate Black Poetry in Western Spirituality. Presented by the Oxford Centre for Religion and Culture and Sarum College, the series begins on 23 October with The Revd Dr Emilie Townes. On 30 October, Fr Jarel and Dr Beth Dodd will discuss the process of compiling a collection of meditations on Black Poetry and its contribution to British spiritual life. They also will reflect on the evolution of a society that has gospel choirs in royal weddings and coronations, and Grime artists releasing worship songs. The series finishes on 6 November with Prof Willie James Jennings.
Trinity image credit: Fr Lawrence Lew