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All about ... us

It is Trinity Sunday. And the Trinity is all about … us.

Maybe you thought I would say that the Trinity is all about God. Well, I’m not saying that’s wrong, but what I am saying is that the idea of the Trinity, our understanding, the metaphor and even the doctrine of God as Trinity, is rooted in human experience. It’s rooted in the final promise Jesus made to his disciples, “I am with you always.” It has to do with who we are and how we experience the God who created us. We are, to borrow a phrase from Karl Rahner, “ordinary mystics”. We gather here this morning because we’ve experienced something, because we have at least some awareness of God as the one in whom we live and move and have our being.

And the wonderful thing about these mystical experiences of ours, the God-moments in our lives, is that they can happen in this amazing variety of different ways. Think about some of your God-moments.

Sometimes we experience God in the beauty of creation. Have you ever looked at the stars? I mean really looked at the stars, from a place free of light pollution, where you can see them in all their splendour. Some time ago, I was in Peru, hiking the Inca trail on the way to Macchu Picchu, and on the way we were camping high in the Andes mountains, nearly 4000m above sea level where the air is thin and there are no lights. One night I woke up in the middle of the night, got out of the tent and looked up. And I was amazed by the array of stars overhead, filling my vision, impossible to count, breathtaking in their beauty. It was an awesome sight. And on that occasion my words could easily have been the words of the psalmist that we just heard:

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you have set in their courses, O Lord, how exalted is your name in all the world.”

This is one of the ways that we as humans experience God. We experience God as Creator, as transcendent, vast and glorious, and we are filled with awe and wonder.

But our experience of the immensity of the universe does raise questions for us, doesn’t it? The billions of stars in the heavens and our imagining of the powerful God who created them can make us feel rather small and insignificant. Why would such a God care for us? Or again in the words of the psalmist, “What are mortals that you should be mindful of them? What is the human that you should seek them out?”

But strange as it might seem, we do experience God as caring for us. We do experience God as seeking us out.

One way that we experience this is in the Pentecost moments that we talked about last Sunday. Those moments when we experience the divine within us and all around us, as Spirit which inspires, empowers and guides. We feel it sometimes. In fact many of you came up to me afterwards and told me that you had felt the Spirit in our midst last Sunday as we baptized Malcolm and greeted baby Alva. This is the God who draws near, the God within.

And then, perhaps most tangibly, we experience God in the person of Jesus, in the stories told by those who walked and talked with him, the scripture texts that we read together each week. As Jesus taught them, as they experienced his great deeds of healing and power, his friends came to understand that they were seeing God in human form. That when they saw Jesus, they could say to themselves, “that’s what God is like”. The resurrection appearances were the exclamation point confirming what their experience of Jesus had been pointing towards – that here, in this human being, we can experience and know God most fully.

It is out of these very human experiences that the idea of the Trinity was born. We live in a world that is saturated in God’s presence, up there, down here and everywhere, a God in whom we live and move and have our being, one God in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the Trinity that emerged in the third century had its origins in the lived experience of the early church, the lived experience of a God who is living and acting in our lives at every turn.

This idea of God as three in one and one in three points us towards another truth: that the essence of God is relational. There’s a lot that’s been said about the doctrine of the Trinity over the course of 2000 years, a lot of ink has been spilled and yes, a lot of it is confusing. But the key I think to working out the idea of the Trinity is to remember that it’s grounded in our experience and it’s all about relationship.

Jesus kind of nudged us in this direction, didn’t he? Jesus was an individual human being, like you and me. But when people around Jesus encountered him and were amazed by him and asked the question “Who is this?” what sort of answers did they give?

They said, he is a prophet, that is one who speaks the word of God. They said he is the Messiah, the one who is chosen and sent by God. They said he is the Son of God. They said he is the Word of God made flesh. They said he is the one who calls God Father, Abba.

To those around him, it became quite apparent that it was nearly impossible to talk about who Jesus was without talking about his relationship with God. The essence of who Jesus was as a person flowed out of his relationship with God the Father. So too with the Spirit, the Spirit of God which swept over the waters in the beginning, the Spirit which anointed Jesus at his baptism, the Spirit breathed into the disciples by Jesus on the day of resurrection. It’s all about relationship.

God is relational. And we are created in the image of God. That makes us relational beings as well. We are created to love and to serve, to give and to receive, to share in each others joy’s and sorrows. Relationships are not just something we do. Relationships are who we are.

Now I’m well aware that understanding ourselves this way, and also understanding God in this way, can be a bit difficult for us.

Part of our difficulty is that in this world of ours, we tend to view ourselves as autonomous. We value our independence. We define ourselves by our differences. We see ourselves as individuals

But suppose we change our vision. Suppose we listen closely to the Genesis story. Suppose I was to realize that what makes me me is my relationship with you. Suppose I was to realize that my very identity, my meaning and purpose in life is to be found in relationships, in community.

Would that make a difference? Would it make a difference in how we live? I think that it would. We were made for relationship, in the image of God who is relationship, of the God who is love. And God wants to draw us into relationship, with God and with each other.

But not just any relationship. The relationships that God desires for us are loving relationships. Relationships of justice and peace. Relationships of grace, compassion and service. Relationships which respect the inherent dignity of every child of God. That’s what God desires for us, and for all God’s children. That’s what it means to be fully human.

And that’s why Jesus gives us the great commission. There is work to be done.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”

Jesus wants to draw all people into the loving relationships for which God created us, learning to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves. To draw us more deeply into who we really are. And he is commissioning us to work with him, to do the hard work of loving, serving, forgiving, reconciling and community building that is needed to heal the broken relationships of this world. We have work to do. But we don’t have to do it alone. For God is with us. The God in whom we live and move and have our being.

The very last line of the gospel of Matthew, the one we read this morning contains this promise.

“And remember I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

I did a couple of bible studies on this passage this week, and the same question came up both times. What does Jesus mean by “to the end of the age?” When is the end of the age? So I went back to the original Greek text to have a look, and I found there a surprise that I’d like to share with you.

The Greek word that we translate as ‘end’ is “sunteleias”. It doesn’t mean end in the sense of the end of a period of time, it means end more in the sense of “purpose” or “completion”. In fact the literal meaning of the word ‘sunteleias” is “together complete”.

And so the promise could be translated in this way, which I will finish with this morning:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Remember, I am with you always, until together we complete the work of this age.”

And the work of this age is all about relationships. In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


Homily Yr A Trinity Sunday, June 4 2023, Trinity

Gen 1.1-2.4a; Ps 8; 2 Cor 13.11-13; Matthew 28.16-20

Image by Bill Devlin



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