URC Daily Devotions Sunday Service for Trinity Sunday – 12th June 2022 – The Revd. Dr Susan Durber

Daily Devotions from the United Reformed Church
Service for Trinity Sunday June 12th 2022

Andrei Rublev The Hospitality of Abraham, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
The Rev’d Dr Susan Durber

Welcome! My name is Susan Durber, and I am a URC minister living in Taunton in Somerset. I am the Moderator of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches, and our Commission is working hard to renew a sense of the urgency of Christ’s prayer that we may be one. The WCC is preparing to have our 11th Assembly later this year in Karlsruhe in Germany, meeting at a time when churches are divided by politics and land, by moral questions, by their understandings of colonialism, as well as by the traditional ecclesiological questions about things like ministry and authority. We will meet under the banner Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity – may this phrase both be our confident proclamation and our deep prayer.
I am pleased to be leading worship for the most awesome Sunday of the year, Trinity Sunday. The fellowship of the World Council of Churches supports 352 member churches as ecumenical partners who journey together, promoting justice and peace in our world as an expression of faith in the Triune God, and invites all churches to call one another to that unity for which Christ prayed.
Call To Worship
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before the Eternal One with thanksgiving, and extol God with music and song.

Hymn       This Day God Gives Me
                  Fr James Quinn SJ

This day God gives me
strength of high heaven,
sun and moon shining,
flame in my hearth.
Flashing of lightning,
wind in its swiftness,
deeps of the ocean,
firmness of earth

2: This day God sends me
strength as my guardian.
Might to up hold me
wisdom as guide.
Your eyes are watchful,
your ears are listening
your lips are speaking,
friend at my side

3: God’s way is my way,
God’s shield is ’round me,
God’s host defends me,
saving from ill.
Angels of heaven,
drive from me always,
all that would harm me,
stand by me still
4: Rising I thank you,
mighty and strong one,
king of creation,
giver of rest.
Firmly confessing
threeness of persons,
oneness of Godhead,
Trinity blessed


Prayers of Approach, Confession and Declaration of Forgiveness

O God, Holy Trinity, we arise today to praise you,
to confess our faith in you, called by you and created by you.
Through the strength of Christ, we arise today to praise you.
You are the light of the sun, the splendour of fire,
the swiftness of the wind, the depth of the sea,
the stability of the earth and the firmness of the rock.
Your strong Spirit upholds us, your wisdom guides us,
you protect us and look over us, you hear us and you speak to us.

We arise today, and we call upon you, the great and holy God,
the Three in One, the Creator of all that is,
and we praise you and glorify you, today and for ever, Amen.
O God of all holiness as we are here in your presence
help us to be honest about ourselves and our world,
to recognise the good and the bad, our strengths and our failures,
all that we have done wrong,
and all the ways in which you are blessing and affirming us.
We confess our sins, and the sin of the world, and we ask for mercy,
and the wisdom and courage to change.
Let us hear for ourselves the words that Jesus said to so many,
‘Your sins are forgiven’ and ‘Be at peace’.
God the source of all life re-creates us each day,
Christ has, once for all, redeemed the world,
and the Holy Spirit works to empower us in goodness.
Thanks be to God, the Holy Trinity of mercy, love and power, Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Prayer of Illumination

O God of all light,
open the eyes of our hearts,
that we may see not only the marks of words on the page,
but their inner glory and eternal light,
as your holy Word is read and proclaimed.
In the name of God;
source of all light, light of the world and light of our hearts, Amen.
Psalm 8 
         O Lord, our Sovereign,
          how majestic is your name in all the earth! 

You have set your glory above the heavens. 
   Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
   to silence the enemy and the avenger. 
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
   the moon and the stars that you have established; 
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
   mortals that you care for them? 

Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
   and crowned them with glory and honour. 
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
   you have put all things under their feet, 
all sheep and oxen,
   and also the beasts of the field, 
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
   whatever passes along the paths of the seas. 

O Lord, our Sovereign,
   how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Romans 5: 1-5
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Hymn                The Peruvian Gloria
                           Sung at First Church, San Diego

Glory to God, glory to God, glory in the Highest!
Glory to God, glory to God, glory in the Highest!
To God be glory forever!  To God be glory forever!
Alleluia Amen!  Alleluia Amen!
Alleluia Amen!  Alleluia Amen!
Alleluia Amen!  Alleluia Amen!
Glory to God, glory to God, glory to Christ Jesus!
Glory to God, glory to God, glory to Christ Jesus!….
Glory, to God, glory to God, glory to the Spirit!
Glory, to God, glory to God, glory to the Spirit!..

We don’t know who the writer of Psalm 8 was. But I imagine that most of us have at some time stood and looked at the heavens, at the moon and the stars – and fallen into a thoughtful and awed silence – bordering on prayer. I wonder if this is why Psalm 8 is a favourite among the psalms – not just because there’s relatively little about smiting enemies and all that – but because we’ve all stood where he’s stood, we’ve all looked at the sky, at the heavens, on a dark and beautiful night and drawn breath at the wonder and beauty and hugeness of it all…
And if you tell me that it isn’t infinite, it still feels pretty infinite to me… the great sweep of space, the beauty of the lights and the milky whiteness of the moon and the way it’s always there if only I had the time to look.
And like the Psalmist, I begin my looking by feeling very small, insignificant, tiny, a dot in the great awesome vastness of God’s creation.  There is nothing like time with the night sky to deepen a proper sense of awe before the greatness of God – the infinite, the immortal, the ancients of days… And you start thinking, like the psalmist, ‘What are human beings?” – we are so small, so insignificant… the inhabitants of one tiny globe in the far reaches of a universe so big I cannot imagine it. ‘What are human beings that you are mindful of them?’ But the psalmist does not stay there, with the thought of our littlenss. The psalmist’s time before the great stars leads him to say of human beings,
‘Yet you have made them a little lower than God – and crowned them with glory and honour’
And the psalmist sees that the glory and the wonder of God do not mean that we are nothing, but that we drawn ino the holy presence of a God who gives us great dignity and worth – and a part to play in caring for the great and wonderful creation which God has made. And the psalm ends, as it began, with words of praise… ‘O Lord, our sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!’
I’ve heard it said that on most Sundays of the year what we do is look at a small segment of the Christian faith – a Gospel paragraph, one aspect of the faith, one part of the great Christian story, maybe creation, or the crucifixion,  or Pentecost. Most Sundays we look at some part of it, a fragment that we get out and look at closely and turn over together. But Trinity Sunday is different. On this day we have a go at looking at the whole thing – all of it. For one day of the year we screw up our theological courage, we stand and look into the big sky. Trinity Sunday is a kind of staring up at it all – of knowing, even if we can only bear it for a moment, the huge, thumping wonder of the whole great story of our faith.
The effect of that is like staring up into the night sky – we get the awesome beauty and mystery of God, the holiness of God. We stand still for a moment – and look up – at what it is that we celebrate in fragments and stages every other Sunday. It’s a kind of ‘wow’ moment. One way we try to put this ‘wow’ into words, the infinite and eternal mysteries of the God revealed to us in Jesus and known to us through the power of the Holy Spirit, is to talk about the Trinity. It’s not about speculation and abstraction, not that we need to put it all into words that Greek philosophers could understand, but it means that we have to so something like get out of the car – and look at the sky – and see the whole thing laid out before us and kneel and worship the holiness of God. Here is theology that is like poetry, stretching ordinary language beyond what it can bear, as we do the theological equivalent of staring up at the stars… or down into the deeps, to gaze on the God who is the glorious, undivided, holy Trinity of love.
Trinity Sunday is not so much a puzzle for the intellect, but a challenge and a joy for the soul – like the challenge of standing before the night sky and seeing what is hidden from us most of the time because we could hardly bear it. It’s about the awesome splendour and majesty of God. I would not be without this great day.
Most days all I manage is to a tiny detail of the story of our faith. I might puzzle over a Bible text, or ponder a theological idea, or have a go at putting some part of all of this into practice. But I need at least once a year – to draw back and let my spirit gasp before the wonder of the God who created all of this, who was made visible and present in Christ, and who is still sweeping with passion, warmth and power among us to this day. The things we say about the doctrine of the Trinity, all those hymns and poems and words stretched to breaking, all these bear witness to the grandness of God, the God whose light embraces all the colours, the God who is bigger than we could ever imagine. The doctrine of the Trinity is our way of saying what cannot be adequately said, that our God is infinite, eternal, beyond, wonderful, unimaginably ancient and yet always new, and more than we can yet say. It tells the whole story – in a glorious poem of praise.
It’s that moment when you realise that the minute you try to say something about God you have to ‘unsay’ it because any human words just won’t do. It’s a day when we sing of the glory and holiness of God – and far from being left feeling small and pathetic – we are invited in to the mystery so that we can be more wonderful than we thought possible too…  We start by thinking ‘Well, who are we that the God we see in those moments of revelation would be interested in us?’ – and then discover that we are part of the awesome miracle that it’s all for…
Trinity Sunday gets me to my knees in joyful wonder. This day inspires me to believe that I can draw closer to this glorious God and let the rest of my life, the ordinary Sundays and Mondays, find a new connection with the beautiful mystery of God. It gives me a new sense of what it could be to be a human being, in the light of the God revealed in Trinity.
Denys Turner, a theologian from Cambridge, once wrote,
‘I cannot imagine what else …. a preacher, should do except to remind people of their capacity for the infinite….’
So that is my task on this great feast day – to remind you of your capacity for the infinite, to let an experience of God the Holy Trinity draw you to wonder not only at God, but at your own place within the great and beautiful world. In the passage we heard from Romans, Paul wrote to Christians like us, ‘we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God’. We look into the glory of God, inspired by the awesome mystery of our faith, and we see not our own insignificance, but the ways that God invites us into the mystery too.
There’s a famous icon of the Trinity. I once saw it in a museum in Moscow – and even in a thoroughly secular museum it felt like a holy space. In Rublev’s icon there are three persons in the picture but there is space at the table for one more … and it is you… or it is us… humankind. Perhaps we should take off our shoes in the holy presence of God, but we are welcome to let our feet join the glorious dance of life with God.
So many of our troubles as human beings are rooted in the smallness of our vision for humankind. We can so easily reduce life to consuming or achieving just getting through to the next episode of whatever we watch or listen to…. We need to look at the sky, to see the bigness and beyondness of it all – not so we can feel small– but so that we know what it might mean really to become fully human, to be but a little lower than the angels, with a part to play in the beauty and grandness and justice of the world, children of the God who made us, with a capacity for the infinite.
There’s a children’s story that I have read and told time and time again, called ‘Can’t you sleep little bear?” – Big Bear cannot get Little Bear to sleep because Little Bear is afraid of the dark. Big Bear finds lamps of ever increasing size, but none of them can crush the dark with all its fearfulness. And then Big Bear takes Little Bear outside into the dark world and he says, ‘I’ve brought you the moon and all the shining stars’ – and Little Bear is asleep, and at peace.
Perhaps you have found little peace or hope from any of the small lamps lit Sunday by Sunday by a Bible story or the doctrine of the Church. But let me take you on Trinity Sunday and show you the glory of the whole story of our faith – in the Holy Trinity of Creator, Christ and Spirit – and may you find like one open-mouthed before the moon and the stars,  a sense at last of the glory of God and of your own dignity as a human being.
O Lord, our sovereign, How majestic is your name in all the earth!  Amen.
Hymn       I bind Unto Myself Today
St. Patrick tr. Cecil Francis Alexander – BBC Songs of Praise
I bind unto myself today
the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three.
I bind this day to me for ever,
by power of faith, Christ’s Incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river;
His death on cross for my salvation;

His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom:
I bind unto myself today.  Amen

Affirmation of Faith
We believe in the one God,
Eternal Trinity,
from whom, through whom and for whom all created things exist.
God alone we worship; in God we put our trust.
We worship God source and sustainer of creation,
whom Jesus called Father,
whose sons and daughters we are.
We worship God revealed in Jesus Christ,
the eternal Word of God made flesh;
who lived our human life,
died for sinners on the cross;
who was raised from the dead,
and proclaimed by the apostles, Son of God;
who lives eternally, as saviour and sovereign,
coming in judgement and mercy, to bring us to eternal life.
We worship God, ever present in the Holy Spirit;
who brings this Gospel to fruition,
assures us of forgiveness,
strengthens us to do God’s will,
and makes us sisters and brothers of Jesus,
sons and daughters of God.
We believe in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church,
united in heaven and on earth;
on earth, the Body of Christ,
empowered by the Spirit to glorify God and to serve humanity;
in heaven, eternally one with the power,
the wisdom and the love of God in Trinity.
We believe that, in the fullness of time,
God will renew and gather into one,
all things in heaven and on earth through Christ,
and be perfectly honoured and adored.      
Prayers of thanksgiving and intercession

O God, we thank you for the gift of yourself as Holy Trinity,
for the revelation that you are as you are in Jesus,
and that you are present with us in and through the Holy Spirit.
Thank you for the invitation to share in the loving community at your heart.
Give us such a true and deep sense of your holiness and beauty,
of your strength and and your love,
that we may receive the gift of your presence with us.
Holy, holy, holy…
Holy, holy, holy is the God of all creation!
O God, we thank you for the holy gift of human life;
for people who love us and befriend us,
for food to eat, for beauty to enjoy,
for work and leisure, youth and age.
We thank you for the mysteries that delight us
and the sense that life is a wonder.
Help us to know already, in this world, the holiness and mystery of eternity. 
Holy, holy, holy…
Holy, holy, holy is the God of all creation!
O God, we thank you for the world you have made;
for its diversity and beauty,
and for all the people who inhabit it with us.
We pray that we will learn how to treasure the holiness of the world
and all of its people and lands.
We pray and long for a just and lasting peace in every place.
Help us to be peacemakers and advocates for justice
as you give us power and purpose wherever we are.
Holy, holy, holy…
Holy, holy, holy is the God of all creation!
O God, we thank you for our friends and our families,
for our neighbours and colleagues.
Help us to honour them all as your holy children
and to be attentive to the holiness in each person.
We pray for those who are ill or in any kind of distress or trouble.
Touch them with your peace
and help us to bring them comfort and hope,
Holy, holy, holy…
Holy, holy, holy is the God of all creation!
O God, we pray together
in a time of silence…
offering the deepest prayers of our hearts
and waiting on the holiness of your love…
Holy, holy, holy…
Holy, holy, holy is the God of all creation!
O God, we thank you
for those we have known who have died.
May we never forget them
but continue to honour them with our living.
And may we, with them, find our eternal rest in you.
A Prayer for the day:
Eternal God,
         whose beauty is known in creation,
         and whose wisdom is heard in the Scriptures,
         be present with us today.
         May Christ, who has shown us your face
and who carries us to your holy presence,
be among us.
And may the Spirit,
fire of creation and bearer of your love,
stir us into holy life,
today and always, Amen.
We pray these and all our prayers
to God the holy and eternal Trinity,
source of our being, saviour of the world, Spirit of all holiness.
Offertory Prayer
We offer to God;
the lives we lead each day,
the best of what we are and hope to be,
the resources we have and the money at our disposal.
God of all that is made,
take this money and make it holy,
fit for good work in the world.
Take our lives and equip us
for service among your people.
Take all that we have to offer this day
and make it a blessing for others. Amen
Hymn       Immortal, Invisible
Walter C. Smith (1867)


Immortal, invisible,
God only wise,
in light inaccessible
hid from our eyes,
most blessed, most glorious,
the Ancient of Days,
almighty, victorious,
thy great name we praise.
2 Unresting, unhasting,
and silent as light,
nor wanting, nor wasting,
thou rulest in might;
thy justice like mountains high soaring above
thy clouds, which are fountains
of goodness and love.
3 To all life thou givest,
to both great and small;
in all life thou livest,
the true life of all;
we blossom and flourish
as leaves on the tree,
and wither and perish
but naught changeth thee.


4 Great Father of glory,
pure Father of light,
thine angels adore thee,
all veiling their sight;
all praise we would render,
O help us to see
’tis only the splendour
of light hideth thee.

Go in peace to love and serve God;
the holy and undivided trinity.
And the blessing of God;
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be with you today and always, Amen.

Call to Worship by Andy Braunston, Statement of Faith – the URC Statement of Faith.  All other work by Susan Durber.
This Day God Gives Me – Fr James Quinn SJ 1969 © OCP Publications Sung by Chris Brunelle and used with his kind permission.
I bind Unto Myself Today – St. Patrick tr. Cecil Francis Alexander – BBC Songs of Praise
Immortal, Invisible – Walter C. Smith (1867)
Closing Organ Piece: Procession by Arthur Wills
(organ of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Venice, Italy – 2014) played by and received, with thanks, from Brian Cotterill http://briancotterill.webs.com
Thanks to all those who read various spoken parts of the service.


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