Traditionally people are rather scared to preach on Trinity Sunday.
To me it seems a good opportunity to think about what we mean by God – how we experience God – what difference God might be making to the world
I am going to share with you what I have been thinking about God over the last year – a lot of these things have been given shape by the Pilgrim Course which we have just completed at St Andrew’s
Given it is Trinity Sunday – and in the best tradition of Anglican sermons – we can look at this under three headings – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit
1. God the Father
For me this is God as the Creator of universe – the power, whatever it was, which made all of this stuff which we see around us – including ourselves
Paul in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans says we can learn about God from his creation –
Ever since the creation of the world, His eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things He has made. (Rom. 1:20)
So what can we learn about God from creation?
Science is the study of the material universe and we have learned a lot about this in the last 100 years recently especially about the very early stages of the development of the universe.
The Big Bang proves the intuition of the wrt=iter of Genesis, that everything came from a single point in space and time. If we all come from the same place then we are all inter-related – you might say we all have the same father – that is why we say “Our Father” in the Lord’s prayer
Another thing comes from this inter-relatedness: inter dependence
My father is a scientist and as it is Father’s day I thought I would share something he taught me
It is a fact about how the universe is made that every singe electron occupies a slightly different energy state – this means that if you rub your hands together and create some hotter electrons every single electron in the universe has to adjust very slightly – this is the butterfly effect in the extreme – everything we do effects everything else – it makes you frightened to get up in the morning. Who is your neighbour? Every single electron in the universe!
We think of God as all powerful – because he is the origin of everything. But the Christian story is that God has given up much of His power.
This began in the act of creation – once the world was made it could not be unmade; once time had begun it could not be wound back.
This giving up of power by God through creation is reflected particularly in the story of the incarnation – the ultimate expression of God’s self-limiting is to become human. In theology this is called Kenosis (the Greek word for “emptying”) – an expression which is taken from a famous passage in Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross. (Phil 2:6-8)
2. God the Son – Jesus Christ
So this brings us on to God the Son. God’s son, Jesus Christ, is the ultimate expression of God’s love for humanity and involvement in humanity
A son defines a father – you cannot be a father without there being a son
The son is of the father but different
And the son changes the father
My children have changed me – I know more about cage fighting, dinosaurs and musical theatre than I ever imagined or hoped to as a result of my children’s interests
Putting these ideas together we see that God changes
That God suffers through the Son
And so God is not the same as before
This suggests that God can Himself change and evolve – in the way described in our passage from Romans
we glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (Rom 5:3-5)
3. Holy Spirit
So let’s talk about the Holy spirit:
In the narrative the Holy Spirit comes after the son
Jesus speaks about the Holy Spirit in the future tense
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth (John 16:13)
The coming of the Holy Spirit marked the birth of the church which we celebrated last week
The Holy spirit stirs things up from that first day of Pentecost to this day
In 1054 the Roman Catholic church wanted to add the words “and the son” to the creed
This was just one word in Latin filioque but it caused the great schism in the church
The Orthodox wanted to keep the Father as superior to the son – the western churches argued for the equality of the Son – based on an understanding that God had given up that superiority by becoming involved in creation as a man.
The western churches thus embraced the idea that God changes and that ideas about God can change
As recently as last week a member of our congregation accepted that kind of radical change into her life and was baptised in the Holy Spirit and you could feel it in the church at St Andrew’s as we all repeated our baptismal vows as part of the service
Change is frightening – but we should embrace it because it is of God
God is the constant and unchanging source of all change
Like the centre of a wheel
All things take their meaning from the centre
And the spokes that link us to the centre? Why surely these are the Holy Spirit
While in the narrative of Easter / Ascension and Pentecost the Holy Spirit comes last – in the Hebrew tradition, the Holy Spirt comes first – in the book of Genesis the spirit of God hovers over the waters
Moreover, although this is Father’s day, in the traditions of the ancient East wisdom – Sophia – is a woman
Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand;
beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live.
The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
For me this means that the relationality of God was established from the outset – as we began with the common point of origin – God the creator
It was reinforced through the incarnation which we celebrate in our Eucharist – when we join with God and one another in sharing the body and blood of his son Jesus Christ, who lived and suffered and dies as one of us.
That relationship is felt and seen and heard in the still acting power of the Holy Spirit as the force of change in the world.
Our task as Christians is to accept the consequences of that common point of origin and have a relationship with it and through it with one another. That is our call as Christians – to have relationship with God – as father, as son and as Holy spirit – and perhaps above all to work on our relationships with one another – father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter – neighbour colleague – all are our neighbours, all are our brothers and sisters in Christ – in knowing that and above all in living with that – is where true wisdom is to be found. Amen
Sermon preaches by Rev Christopher Hancock at St Mary’s Headley, Trinity Sunday, 16th June, 2019