The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead
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Online      7th June 2020
The doctrine Christians were prepared to die for
Jan Rushton

Trinity Sunday Year A  2020  HPC  Pandemic
Readings:  Isaiah 40.12-17, 27-31;  2 Cor 13.11-113;  Mt 28.16-20
The Church has always been adept 
at finding concepts and symbols to express its Truth.
And perhaps in this time of pandemic, 
0these symbols are more important than ever!
They hold the remembering of our faith as we are unable - 
for serious reasons of safety, to gather together physically, 
to be with one another, in our church buildings.
First perhaps that cross-shaped tree which has been transformed from instrument of death to instrument of life!
At the Eucharist we receive the bread of life, the cup of salvation!
Today in the Church calender we celebrate that concept 
which captures for us the nature and person of God: the Trinity, 
the belief in one God alone - yet, one God in three persons:
co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial. "Each is God, whole and entire".
Have you got that?!!
Why does it matter? I hear you ask?!   This doctrine 
which Christians in the early Church were prepared to die for!
The early Church Fathers themselves, took well over 300 years 
to finalise this concept of the absolute equality 
of the three persons of the Godhead.  
The logical outworking of the concluding words of Matthew’s gospel,
which we have just heard, Jesus’ sending forth of his friends:
“Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them 
in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” 
OK!  We’ve got it!  But why is this an important symbol for Christians?
0We will never get our heads around the metaphysics!
The metaphysics is not what matters.   We need to put ourselves 
into a different mindset, a much older way of thinking 
where truth was not a matter of mathematical certainties or proven fact.
Yet it was Truth with a capital T, and very important truth just the same.
In the ancient world ideas were simply placed side by side, long pondered 
and merging together, they emerged as something greater than their parts.
What is vital to our living, to the communities human beings 
create and build, is this revelation: there is only one God, 
and God is not unitary, God does not have a ‘solo’ existence. 
A unitary God is monarchical, God top of the pyramid, all powerful 
- and life under this concept of God, is hierarchical.
But this is not the Christian understanding of God.
When we celebrate - as we do today, 
the Christian revelation of God as one and God as three, 
this tells us succinctly some very important things 
about that Christian understanding - and helps us remember them!
The irrationality of the Trinity reminds us that God is mystery.
We reach out after understanding but God is always more than, 
much more than the bits of understanding that dawn upon us 
all through our lives as we continue our Christian journey.
Nevertheless, within the mystery 
God in Jesus has revealed to us aspects of God.
God who is different from the God of much human thinking!
Ancient archaeological remains suggest most early communities 
operated indeed on the basis of hierarchy.  
The burial of the very few with luxury grave goods 
suggests that this few, had high status and special places of honour.
Monarch at the top of the pyramid.
And down the centuries this how we too, every society, 
instinctively operates.   And it’s how we instinctively view God.  
As those ancient Greek philosophers:  
God is omniscient and impassible - impervious to suffering that is. 
Untouchable by the longings - and the disasters, of our puny lives.
God is perfect  -
while we are far from perfect and can but bow our heads in shame.
God is omnipotent - we are only too aware of our limitations.
God transcends the universe.  
We are finite.  We do have astonishing capabilities, 
but we are also limited in our capacity to comprehend our universe.
In the coming of Christ is revealed to us, 
a new and different understanding. 
Yes, God is beyond human status, but not in terms of ranking.
The Trinity speaks of a God utterly other than overpowering might.
In God as Trinity there is no pinnacle of power and authority 
held by one majesty alone.
Rather, creation, existence, only happens in relationship,   
in engagement.   God engaged with us!
The Trinity tells us power is not the essence of creation, rather, 
it is love at the heart of all creation, 
love which wills to empower the beloved.
The Trinitarian God models for us a pattern of being, pattern for living, 
which is not hierarchical but rather one of equality and mutuality.
The understanding of God as Trinity tells us 
a radical new story of what it means to be human.
To live well we need both stories, stories which tell us who we are, 
what our values are, 
and we need ritual and symbol which capture and hold those values for us.
God the Holy Trinity tells us: 
our Creator God is love, community, equality; 
in God the Son, our creator God is mercy, 
in God the Holy Spirit, divine power is ours to accomplish all things.  
Together they tell us the primordial mode of life 
is to seek to honour and enable one another!
God as Trinity demonstrates for us a pattern of living in all our diversity
where all may prosper, where all count 
- and all may grow into astonishing stature, the likeness of Christ.
God as Trinity is such a challenging symbol and concept!  
Inevitably we try to evade it!  
Evade embracing it’s implications. 
Right now, events across our world highlight 
the perilous divides, the consequences of inequality, 
especially inequality across race.  
I am so grateful to all who protest, black and white.
To those in positions of power who are speaking out, 
seeking change, taking action.
A pandemic shakes our foundations. 
In this shaking and all the uncertainty and fear that accompany it, 
let us seek diligently, pray to understand, 
see and act to bring about those changes we need to make.  Amen.

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