The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead
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11am Holy Communion      30th May 2021
Trinity Sunday
Jan Rushton

Readings Isaiah 6.1-8; John 3.1-17

 

Today we celebrate, hard on the heels of Pentecost,

our celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit,

this morning we celebrate the revelation of the Christian doctrine of God: God as Trinity: three persons in one Godhead.

God is three, and God is one! One God!

About as clear as Dominic Cummuings, Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock scraping with each other like rats in a sack,

each maintaining their particular account

of what happened last year in the handling of the pandemic!

Not me mate! I saw it coming! I called for action! Pronto!

I was ignored! Don’t blame me!

No, no! Everything that it was possible to do, got done as fast as possible!

Look at the vaccine roll-out! Just look at the vaccine roll-out!

As indeed we do! And how very grateful we are

to have been given our jabs! One if not yet two ....

 

Does it really matter what happened at the beginning of 2020

and the coronavirus pandemic, when not one of us

could understand what might be coming around the next corner!

Why are we bothering to juggle with this paradox of Christian doctrine:

one God, definitively one God - yet God in three persons?

What difference does it honestly make

to our understanding of life, the universe - and everything else!?

 

Well actually, a great deal! A very great deal!

At theological college the importance of remembering

that God is triumvirate was drilled into us -

as week by week, we are reminded throughout our liturgy.

 

Important because it distinguishes the Christian God

from the God, and indeed gods, of other religions.

God as Trinity does matter, and for much bigger reasons than this.

It vitally matters because what we believe about God

will be radically alligned with what and how we think

about life, one another, society and the world.

Ancient archaeological remains suggest most early communities

operated on the basis of hierarchies.

The burial of the very few with luxury grave goods

suggests that some, a very few, had special places of honour.

Monarch at the top of the pyramid. And down the centuries

this is how we too, every society, most communities instinctively operate.

Such thinking underwritten in the name of God as God’s will.

 

It is how we instinctively view God. God omniscient and impassible.

All-knowing, and untouchable by the longings - and the disasters,

of our puny lives. For God is perfect while we are far from perfect

and can only bow our heads in shame.

God is transcendent, omnipotent - we, only too aware of our limitations.

 

 

This monarchical image of one God above all else,

which in medieval times was embraced by the Church,

is not the God of the Trinity.

The conundrum of God as Trinity reminds us that life itself is a mystery.

What is ‘life’? How have living organisms become a part of the universe?

What animating force is it that has gone when our bodies die?

No one, not scientist, not mathematician,

has yet been able to answer these questions.

From a philosophical perspective,

I’m not sure these are questions capable of an answer.

 

They are in the same category as questions concerning

0the existence of God. The only rational position - to say we don’t know!

 

It can be helpful, especially if we are wrestling with areas of our living,

to remember that at the heart of all life is a deep mystery.

Not a mystery we cannot touch,

though one we will never in this life, finally resolve.

The mystery which drove the prominent Pharisee Nicodemus,

to be searching. Spiritually hungry and open-minded,

he has sensed there is something extraordinary about this man Jesus.

0But not wanting to make a fool of himself,

he comes to Jesus secretly at night to ask his questions.

He affirms that Jesus has been sent from God.

And receives the also mysterious answer,

that we can know nothing of God without being born from above!

Nicodemus responds with the obvious question!

a foil now, for Jesus’ account of God’s working in the world!

We may be born anew in water and Spirit -

Water with its liminal quality, the outward sign of a new life

powered by the outpouring of the Spirit. Baptism in water and Spirit!

Again it is mystery! The wind, which in Greek

-480also means breath and Spirit, blows where it will, we experience it,

but we cannot fathom where it has come from or where it is going to!

 

16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that

everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17 ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

 

So God the Father - who does not condemn us,

his only Son - whom he gives to the world to save us,

and the outpouring of the Spirit, the power of God to transform our lives.

One God in Trinity. The God of love.

God as Trinity changes our perceptions.

God as Trinity cuts the head off those destroyers of human well-being: hierarchy and certainty.

Many have died in the name of monotheism.

Five hundred years ago in the Church. Today at the hands of Islamists.

Not to forget the far greater number killed in the twentieth century

in the name of that secular monotheism, communism.

 

 

The assurance of one single absolute truth,

sole answer to all the world’s problems

can be a very dangerous proposition indeed.

In the three equal persons of the Trinity monotheistic Christianity

is denied the comfort of absolutism, one right and absolute knowledge,

that drives the certainty at the heart of hierarchical structures.

 

But not only do Christians believe in three equal persons of the Godhead, that word ‘believe’ in Hebrew thinking, only had meaning in action.

You could not claim to believe something

if it didn’t change, was not reflected in, the way you behaved.

Behaviour mirrored for us in those divine actions

of mutual honouring and empowering within the diversity of the Godhead.

The Son who lives in the form of human life, the love of God the Father.

The Spirit blowing in divine and loving power across the face of creation.

The Trinitarian God models for us a pattern of being, a pattern of living,

which resists hierarchy. In its place, it models for us a pattern

of humble mutual honouring and uplifting among diverse members.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If we reflect on God as Trinity, unpack it,

there are layers of radical understanding which will transform our lives.

Indeed the understanding of God as Trinity tells us

a radical new story of what it means to be human.

We learn that creation, existence even, only happens

in relationship, in community;

God as Trinity tells us that what moves the universe is not power.

Rather, it is love.

 

To live well we need stories, stories which tell us who we are,

and what our values are -

and we need symbols which capture and hold those values for us,

remind us, help us remember them:

God our Creator is love, community, equality;

in God the Son, our creator God is mercy, who looks in compassion

upon our weaknesses, our failures - and acts to redeem us;

in God the Holy Spirit, divine power is ours

to accomplish the restoration of all things. Amen.

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