Audio transcript available at https://youtu.be/5FloWBjrGFE.
Trinity C 2016
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
We’ve reached the last big festival for a while and indeed even while this Sunday is Trinity Sunday, it is also the first of the Sundays after Pentecost- so called Ordinary Sundays. And yet by any measure the idea of the Trinity cannot be considered “ordinary” can it? I read this week an article, which made the point that Trinity is the one moment in the church year that is not about a narrated event. That’s interesting, isn’t it? Everything else has its basis in some story that is told, but Trinity’s story is the story, if you like, of the whole bible. The story that spans from Creation when God spoke the Word and the Spirit danced over the waters, right through to the moment when Jesus is saying goodbye to his disciples at the end of the farewell discourse. And indeed further still to the point when the Holy Spirit came upon the believers at Pentecost, and then on to the moment when any believer is baptised in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit as Jesus mentions at the end of Matthew’s gospel and which is the seminal act of the formation of the body of Christ, the church. No, the Trinity is not an event in time, like the Birth, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus, it is a present and ongoing reality.
And when we try to make it a matter for thinking about, it becomes much more difficult. In fact we have all heard all the ways of thinking about the Trinity, you know the Trinity is like H2O, and is found in three forms ice, water and steam. Or the Trinity is like an egg, shell, yoke and white, all of them necessary to the others and sundry other conceptual models. Sadly, all those ideas make it simultaneously too easy and too difficult to grasp. Because the Trinity is not an idea or a concept, but a relationship, and not just a relationship but a mystery as well. Now I don’t mean ‘mystery’ as in a novel, which has a puzzle to solve, but mystery in the sense of being something which is beyond understanding in a rational way, but that can only be understood in an instinctive way. There is another big concept a bit like that, which is the idea of love. And these two things are bound together. The Trinity exists in a dance of love, which we can also participate in but not adequately describe.
Even Jesus finds it difficult to articulate in his Farewell Discourse, these chapters we have been working through in the season of Easter. Jesus tells his disciples that he has many other things to say but that they cannot ‘bear’ them now, literally “take them up”. When we hear that “they cannot bear them”, I think most of us have the sense that Jesus means its all too difficult and that can’t stand any more, or it’s too painful, perhaps? But, I think it’s more in the nature of how many concepts they can carry away from this long disquisition. And, it doesn’t matter Jesus says, because when the Spirit of truth comes she will guide them into all truth. And that is the bottom line, the concepts might be important to grasp, but it is in action that this concept of Trinity is expressed. The Spirit of Truth is not given to us so that we can become gnostics, who feel as if we have hidden knowledge that we will not share. The Spirit of Truth functions in the opposite way. It is in witness, and prophesy, two concepts we have talked about over the preceding two weeks, that are gifts to our community, both inside and outside the church, that the Spirit of truth functions. And the fact that like the disciples we cannot take it all in at once, means that we become dependent on both God and our community of faith. God, in the form of the Spirit is going to guide us, but the way that it happens is so often through others. We learn things about our world and about ourselves from the people that God has given us, in the body that we share. David Lose asks the question,
“So might part of being a Trinitarian community be striving to be a place that knows it doesn’t have all the answers, and so consequently makes space for conversation and values those who are bring different voices and experiences into its midst? Conversation, valuing difference, being inclusive – these things aren’t easy, but genuine community, while challenging, is also creative, productive, and enriching.”
Being in relationship with one another gives us the opportunity to grow and to change, to be enriched. The body of Christ is one of those things that is so much more than the sum of its parts, because we each bring our own creative natures, to this dance that we join in, and then together we produce beauty and love and gentleness, joy and all the other fruits of the spirit. And peace is given to us, by God, to be both the means and the end product. When we have God’s peace we can endure suffering, “and that endurance,” Paul says, “produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the HS who has been given to us.” Love is not to be had in isolation. Love is both the fruit of being in relationship with God and the fruit of being in relationship with one another. And you know what Jesus says about love for one another- it is what gives witness to the world.
It is the same with hope. I don’t think that hope in the biblical sense can exist outside of community. These are not things we have on our own- but things that we hold together. Hope and love are what we have because we are part of the dance of the Trinity.
This Trinitarian community, the body of Christ, does not exist for itself but to be God’s hands and feet in our world. We are not called to endure for ourselves, we are called to endure for others. We are called to create and envision for our community, and by that I mean the people we share our lives with, not just the people sitting beside us in church. Our focus, in a Trinitarian church needs to be outward. David Lose again: “We are not called to survive, but to bear witness to the peace of God in Christ that responds to the needs of the neighbor.” And that is a very helpful word for us, isn’t it? We are thinking hard about our survival. We have been considering mission as the answer to our financial difficulties, but perhaps we should look at it the other way around, we must work out our financial difficulties in order to continue our great work of witness to the world, because whether we have sufficient funds or not we are called into mission. That is why we are here, that is why we are called into community- to tell others of God’s great love, to bring to others the peace that they so desperately crave and which can only be found in relationship with God. And, as I said a couple of weeks ago, whether consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally we are witnessing to our world by our lives, our deeds and our words. Our mission is to bring people to a knowledge of the potential of relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
God has given us the power of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of truth and we need to take hold of that, by prayer and listening to God, and then in action. We then need to respond, both to God and to our neighbor. God’s love has been poured into our hearts, through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. This is the Trinity in action. This is living in the community of love, the great perichoretic dance of the Trinity.