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Apocalypse Again: Confession in a time of Climate Crisis

September 2, 2015

climate apocalypseThe apocalypse of Jesus the Christ, in all its singularity, comes again and again. Whether it comes at a micro level to an individual or a local community or at a macro level to the global community, it comes, nevertheless, like a thief in the night.

 

It comes as the unexpected newness to which the status quo is blind. A light goes on in the factory of blindness.

 

The question we are asking is whether the planetary climate crisis will occasion such an apocalypse for our globalised modernity. Will the physical limits of this planet act as a sign and a vehicle for the Christian gospel?

 

Whether it does or it doesn’t, the news is now unavoidable. Our global economic culture is about to crash into the limits of our planetary ecology. Only radical cultural and economic change will do. We must become ‘members of one another’ and communicant members of the earth’s ecosystem. The ancient truth of the apocalypse of Jesus Christ is that precisely this is central to what it means to embody Christ and his mission. Veni Spiritus Sanctus!

 

Here in this context we can make our confession in the triune God

 

Father: The earth is God’s. We are part of it for its nurture. It is not our possession, just as we ourselves are not our own possession.

 

 Son: Jesus Christ is the meaning of God’s creating act. He is the logos of love out of which and towards which creation is moving. Raised in new materiality he leads us in the renewal of the earth. Participating in him we can be set free to give ourselves to others and to our immediate created environment in hope.

 

Spirit: Neo-liberal capitalism, even if (perchance) it succeeds in improving the situation of some in poverty, nevertheless forms human beings in a way that is antithetical to the Christian gospel making the maximization of self-interest a virtue and a habit. In the name of the gospel of Jesus Christ it should be rejected as a theological and practical heresy, a dangerous principality and power, and a sin against the Spirit of God.

 

Confession without action is dead. Therefore in this context and time we commit ourselves to the following action and policy:

 

A total moratorium on fossil fuel exploration (by governments)

Divestment from the fossil fuel industry (by all of us)

Investment in clean energy and infrastructure (by all of us)

Emission targets which aim seriously at zero-carbon future and which respect the 2 degree guardrail (by governments).

Abandonment of all corporate and international globalisation projects like TPPA (by governments)

A renewal of localisation and sustainable local projects (by all of us)

 a commitment to reduced levels of consumption ( by all of us)

 

Bruce Hamill (Dunedin, New Zealand)

Singing, Drinking and Time          

August 15, 2015

 John 6:51-58             Ephesians 5: 14b-20measure-of-a-man-main

 Today we continue our journey of exploring what it means to ‘chew on’ the bread of life. Those who eat the bread of life, who consume Jesus… are those who live into the life of the age to come (eternal life). Again Ephesians, our Epistle reading, has something to say to this great theme in the Gospel of John.

 “Awake O sleeper, arise from the dead…”

It’s the kind of thing we should programme into our alarm clocks in the morning.

 

The writer says, “Be careful how you live”… be wise… wake up… don’t sleep through your life. For, says Ephesians, “the days are evil”. Not irredeemably evil. Redemption is what its all about. The days are surrounded by God’s redemption. The Christians at Ephesus are called to be a part of God’s redemption. That’s why they wake up in the morning. But the days are evil.

 

“Make the most of the time”… says the Epistle. And we say “What time?”. The tyranny of time is the mantra of so many people these days. We have no time. We work longer hours than ever before for less income and both parents have to work to survive. And the children have to do so many things in order to have a chance at succeeding in the rat race of competition.

 

I watched a powerful movie at the Film Festival this week. It was called ‘The Measure of a Man’ in English. The original French title is ‘Le Loi du Marche’ (The Law of the Market). It is a finely tuned observation of the life of a man, Thierry, a good man who loses his job and is struggling to keep his life together. His son is disabled and needs extensive care. But the home is a happy place. However, with the loss of his job the world beyond starts to grind him down. The job agency sends him off on a course. But the course qualification is useless to get a job on the new machines because he has had no experience. Eventually he ends up working in security at a supermarket (hence the title ‘the law of the market’). In that role he is witness to those caught shoplifting in various ways, on the cameras in the roof.

 

There is the elderly gentleman who has no family and is caught with two small items of frozen meat in his pockets and cannot afford to pay for them. He has no one to help out so they call in the police. Then there is the staff member who is spotted not scanning something through. Then there is the staff member who rather than binning the discount coupons pocket’s them. She tries to hide it, in her understated desperation, and loses her job. Next scene we learn that she has committed suicide somewhere at the supermarket. The boss gathers the staff and does a big speech to insist that there are more troubles in her life and they ought not feel guilty about it. Her son had drug issues, there is trouble at home and so on. The supermarket bears no responsibility. In fact no one is responsible. The boss speaks a greater truth than he knows. The system itself has destroyed her and everyone else. It is a system without humanity or mercy. We understand its necessity. The stealing and lies are wrong. And yet the whole world (the market in the wider sense) is what is ultimately destroying them.

 

It is a film with an incredible attention to detail, both financial and emotional, but one which uses the detail to let us see the bigger picture. The law of the market casts a bright light on the saying in Ephesians ‘The Days are Evil’.

 

When the days are evil, time itself can be a tyrant. It is hard to make good use of the time because the world around us wants to control our time… God’s time. We feel like there is a shortage of time. Time has become a commodity. “Time is money” we say. Good use of the time, becomes a use of time which secures our financial bottom line.

 

On the other hand we might take the view that we have all the time in the world… avoiding all thought that our time is coming to an end we might end up postponing indefinitely all significant calls upon our time, moving from one distraction to another because there is no main thing from which to be distracted. There are just distractions.

 Either way we forget the single thing that matters

 

The writer says, even though the days are evil … be wise and ‘understand what the will of the Lord is’. Not whether or not you should buy the red or the green dress or whether you should park further out of town and walk or pay for a car park… Ephesians has already told us something about what the will of the Lord is… Eph 1:10 says that the will of God is to gather everything together in Christ. The reality of Jesus is going to gather all the chaos of the world together and reorder it and make peace. That’s the will of God. Eph 3:10 says that we as church are placed as witnesses to all the spiritual powers of the world, which are often caught up in deception and evil. This witness too is the will of the Lord. The will of the Lord is that big picture, that beautiful reality that visits our detail with great hope. When we just want to survive, the writer calls us to wake up to what God is doing and be a part of it. So even the detail can be beautiful. Perhaps especially the detail.

 

‘Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery’… or another translation has it, ‘that leads to desperation’. At each step along the path that Thierry took in the movie, there must have been the enormous temptation to obliterate himself, to drink his sorrows away, to drink himself into the ground, to silence the pain and go to sleep.

 

But the call of Ephesians is to wake up, not to escape down the path of despair.

 

The alternative to getting drunk is not self-control. It is being under the influence… of the Spirit. Do not get drunk … BUT be filled by the Spirit.

 

And do it with music! And do it together!

‘singing to one another (not just to God but to one another) in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts.’

 

I think we underestimate the power of music to be used by the Spirit of God to lift our spirits. Do you ever do that… ‘make melody to the Lord in your hearts’? Do you have those moments when you are singing inside? But it’s interesting the writer knows that music is not just ‘to the Lord’ it is also a way that we talk to one another (‘singing to one another’) about what matters. It is often said that many people learn most of their theology, their understanding of God from the songs they sing. This can be a worry! as well as an encouragement. We are not just brains on sticks. We are emotional bodily creatures who move to music, both emotionally as well as physically. Sometimes its hard not to tap your feet… even if you’re a presbyterian!

 

To sing together is to participate in beauty together. To be lifted up… by the Spirit. To sing together is like getting drunk. Both are ways in which we might not be completely in rational control. We are moved…. in singing as in prayer.

 

Unlike getting drunk it can move us away from despair rather than towards it.

 

“Giving thanks at all times for everyone/everything.” Both ‘everyone’ and ‘everything’ are possible translations here. It’s a powerful thought to give thanks for everyone. Even those who annoy us. Those who talk too much. Those who get the car park ahead of us. Those who buy the same red dress as we bought.

Our reading says, effectively: Get over it! In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Problem with Bread

July 31, 2015

sliced bread John 6:24-35                            Ephesians 4:1-16

 

There’s a great TED talk on addiction I would recommend to anyone who’s interested. It’s by Johann Hari entitled “Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong”. (https://www.ted.com/talks/johann_hari_everything_you_think_you_know_about_addiction_is_wrong?language=en)

 

He talks about an experiment in which a rat was put in an empty cage with two feeding containers. One has water in it and the other has water laced with heroin. Faced with this choice the rat prefers the heroin and dies fairly quickly. This seems to confirm the traditional story we tell ourselves about addiction. It is caused by ‘chemical hooks’ in a substance so if you take it enough you get caught. But a scientist called Bruce Alexander decided to see if that was the full story. So he created a different cage. A rat heaven with tunnels and cheese and coloured balls and other rats (i.e. lots of sex), and the same two feeding containers in the middle with water and heroin. Result: the rats were fine. They didn’t get addicted. They didn’t die.

 

It’s more to do with the cage than the chemistry of heroin. Hari talked about evidence from human life that confirm this thesis (based on the 20% of heroin users in the US services during Vietnam and research about their reintegration into society). His conclusion is clear: When the environment people live in is one of connectedness and purpose the chemicals don’t have the power over them. It’s about the way we bond. When we bond with one another in certain ways we thrive. When our ‘cage’ is such that we can’t bear to be present in our life for various reasons, boredom, pain, emptiness (like a rat in an empty cage) we find something else to bond to… And whatever it is, the alcohol, the computer games, the drugs,… it substitutes for the real relationships and captures us.

 

The opposite of addiction is not sobriety it’s connectedness … human connectedness, says Hari.

 

We say we’re the most connected generation… as if fb friends counted as real connectedness. No the connectedness Hari is talking about is our deep, nuanced, textured, face-to-face relationships – the people you can call on in times of need.

 

Bill McKibben cites research that shows that since the 1950s the number of friends that people say they can call on on in a time of need (i.e. real connectedness) has steadily decreased. Over the same period of time the floorspace per person in our homes has steadily increased (parable of our time)

 

The alternative to connectedness is a modern kind of captivity.

 

I want us to hold that thought, that word ‘captivity’, for a moment while we look at our gospel reading today…

 

Jesus has just fed 5000 people bread and fish as a sign that God is with them … and the people are on the chase for more. They want another sign, more fish and chips. The miraculous sign is quickly replacing the thing that the sign points to.

 

And in a sense I can understand this desperate desire for a sign of God’s presence and action in the world. There’s a Lutheran Hymn that goes

“Across the world, across the street,

the victims of injustice cry

for shelter and for bread to eat,

and never live before they die” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship #729)

 

That’s a powerful line: “and never live before they die”. In this kind of a world we cry out to God. We complain. We want some kind of indication that God really is present… especially when it’s the children who ‘never live before they die’. Give us this day our daily bread. For many people that is the basic prayer. Enough for today. One helping of loaves and fishes will be enough.

 

But interestingly Jesus says to the crowd: “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal”.

 

Craig Satterlee says: “I do not think Jesus was scolding the crowd for seeking bread because they were hungry. I think Jesus was disappointed that the crowd did not expect more, not more bread but something more. Perhaps Jesus was thinking more about ending hunger than serving up more bread.”

                

We may need our daily bread. But if we think that’s all we need and we forget about what Jesus calls (in modern terms) ‘the sustainable food of the life of the age to come’, if our work is simply to “earn a living”, to provide bread to eat. Then, no matter how poor or rich we are, we may ‘never live before we die’. We can find ourselves trapped in a rat-cage of consumption.

 

That’s the first point. We can kill ourselves spiritually simply because we don’t want more than ‘bread that perishes’.

 

But perhaps the second point is just as important. We can kill the world, and perhaps we are, because of our addiction to ‘bread that perishes’. Craig Satterlee hints in that direction when he wonders: “Perhaps Jesus was thinking more about ending hunger than serving up more bread.”

 

The problem with the world is not that there is not enough bread for all. The problem is that the world is structured for competition and not sharing. The bread of life – Jesus Christ – inserts into our inner life this script: “What I have is God’s gift to me to give for the life of the world”. That’s the bread of life that we feed on. The alternative is a captivity to ‘bread that perishes’. It has its script too: “What I have is my private property, my sacred rights to private property”. Or “This is our national right to seek our national advantage over other nations”.

 

If we go back to the rat-cage metaphor, Jesus is saying that the bread of life creates a new ‘cage’, a new environment in which we can live. You only solve the captivity/addiction if you change the world. I want to conclude, as I did last week, by reading part of the Epistle reading for today. Because Ephesians describes the new environment that Jesus creates. It describes a new economy. And it brings us back to the beginning, to the question of captivity and addiction.

 

Ephesians 4:1-8

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive.

 

In short there is an alternative to addiction. There is an alternative to late capitalism. It is Jesus Christ and his body.

 

Thanks be to God

 

Not a contest but a doorway

June 24, 2015

I found this today in a “Common Prayer” office that I use. It’s a poem by Mary Oliver

 

“Praying”

 

It doesn’t have to be

the blue iris, it could be

weeds in a vacant lot, or a few

small stones; just

pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try

to make them elaborate, this isn’t

a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which

another voice may speak.

Another Modest Proposal

June 10, 2015

A famous anabaptist slogan reads

 

A Modest Proposal for Peace:

Let the Christians of the world agree that they will not kill one another”

 

Let me make another ‘Modest Proposal’. It could be called a Modest Proposal for Unity. It could equally be called a Modest Proposal for Sustainability. Or again it could be called a Modest Proposal for Community. Or it could well be called a Modest Proposal for Localisation, or for Local Mission. I have opted for “A Modest Proposal for Sustainable Community.” Like the anabaptist proposal this title connects with something that is seen to be desirable in the wider society. Similarly it calls on Christian to lead the way in a manner entirely consistent with the Christian gospel. The beauty of modest proposals is they do not claim to solve all the world’s problems they simply claim to be a small but significant step in the right direction. So without further ado, here it is.

 

A Modest Proposal for Sustainable Community:

Let the Christians of the world agree

that they will only worship in congregations

within walking distance of their homes.

Or, if they can’t walk there, that they will worship

in the congregation nearest their own home,

regardless of its style or tradition.

 

Sound easy? My suspicion is that this modest proposal will desperately need to be held together with the former anabaptist one, otherwise the Christians of the world will fight each other to death over the details.

A Crazy Man takes on the System

June 5, 2015

don-t-keep-calm-go-crazyMark 3: 20-35

 

Imagine for a moment, the frenzy that surrounded Jesus ministry. He is a rock star. Mark tells us:

 

Then he went home, and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat

 

It’s so chaotic around Jesus that his family can’t get into his house… so they take up a stand outside the house and send messages to him inside.

Even Jesus’ own family and friends are trying to restrain Jesus. He seems to be crazy. Verse 21 says

And having heard, his people came to take him, for they were saying that he was insane.

 

They are worried about the stir that he is creating with his preaching and his ‘news’ about God and God’s reign, and his power to heal and to break and change normal social relations. They fear it takes a crazy person to say and do these things. So they want to stop him… for his own well-being of course.

 

If his friends think he’s insane, his enemies have a more sinister take on it. The scribes are calling him demonic. He’s in cahoots with Satan. He’s a big demon with the authority to cast out smaller demons.

 

In response Jesus tells a parable (or better a riddle). “How can Satan cast out Satan?”

 

Some say that this is simply a rhetorical question. Obviously the answer is NO. So Jesus can’t be satanic (end of story).

 

Others say that this is too simple a reading. Jesus has a much more interesting understanding of evil. Satan is the Accuser. The satanic world is based in ‘casting out’. That’s how unity is maintained. So Jesus is asking a serious question in this riddle, not merely a rhetorical question. It really is a riddle. This is how the satanic works: You find someone to accuse, to blame for things and cast them out. So Satan does cast out Satan? But Jesus point is not that it doesn’t happen. Jesus point is that it is unstable, it won’t last – you can’t built a future on it. He says ‘A house divided against itself will not stand’. If our unity is based on the people we blame and cast out it will collapse. Jesus doesn’t play Satan’s game cause he knows it won’t last.

 

There’s a lovely irony in this context. The sadducees are trying to do precisely that… cast Jesus out. They accuse him of being a demon… they demonise him.

 

Jesus vision of the good news of the kingdom is the vision of a coming world where people love one another and even learn to love their enemies rather than cast them out… it’s a vision that includes the lepers and the crazy people that other people cast out. Jesus is trying to open up their imaginations and hopes to a new way of relating to God and one another. He comes with news of a new world coming. Luke records that Jesus at the beginning of his ministry telling his disciples “I was watching Satan falling like lightning” – a powerful image of the end of the world as he knew it.

 

But rather than being an accuser. Jesus sees himself as doing battle with the accuser, the Satan. He tries another metaphor, another parable. It’s not about casting out at all.

No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first trying up the strong man.

 

This one is tricky too. But perhaps Jesus sees himself as challenging the economy of his world. He’s the thief who breaks in. He’s disabling the ‘strong man’ – the powers that be. Binding the power of the Satan to control the way the world operates. Rather than playing Satan at his own game and casting him out, he sees his mission in terms of tying Satan’s hand – possibly something quite different.

 

Fascinating metaphors! Can you see how his family thought he was crazy. His vision of the kingdom of God is just too different. It is going to get him into trouble. You can’t just change the whole way the world works. You have to be realistic.

 

Last week I was writing a submission on behalf of the Presbyterian Church on the Government’s Carbon Emission Target. And the more I thought about the impact of our ‘carbon addicted culture’, our ‘growth-addicted culture’ on the Pacific Islands and on vulnerable places like Bangladesh, the more I thought about the destruction we are dealing to future generations the more I felt we had to have the courage to set an ambitious target for reducing our carbon emissions.

 

But as I was researching this work I came across a podcast from The Guardian in which they presented three alternatives – (1) the first is the do nothing alternative – just accept a world in which climate change gets out of control (I don’t know how you imagine that will be… but my image is of a world with 20% of the human world living in massive protected mega-cities of high-technology surrounded by enormous slums for the remaining 80%) (2) the light green response – live with the system that we have, the economic system, but modify it, constrain the markets… and hope that the system will correct itself (3) the deep green response – (these are the really “crazy” people, you know the ones the media calls ‘greenies’, the one’s who are completely out of touch with the real world) was one that interested me. Someone called Tim Jackson commented that the basis of our current system is the idea that prosperity means economic growth, growth in GDP and consuming more – consuming more in a finite world. Jackson says but that’s not what prosperity really is. Prosperity is about living well. Once we have the basic material conditions of shelter and food in place (as we have in the west since about the post-war period) real prosperity is much more about our social conditions, our sense of family, our community and the hopes we have for that. Rather than furthering our real prosperity the current system of economic growth based on consumerism is actually undermining our real prosperity. In other words the system that we think is making us prosperous, is actually destroying our real prosperity – the quality of our community together.

 

That’s the “crazy” green response. The kind that calls for a revolution in the system rather than simply tinkering or relying on salvation by new technology.

 

And as I thought about the ‘deep green’ views of Tim Jackson it struck me that he sounded awfully like Jesus

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God… and all these things will be added to you.”

“Take care and be on your guard against all forms of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of one’s possessions.”

 

Jesus came with news of a world without covetousness. For those who live as ‘the body of Christ’ real prosperity not measured by GDP! How radical is that?! Funnily enough, even the Guardian economist who was part of this big project to address climate change. Concluded that the deep green position was a step too far. We’ve gone down this economic model too far to go back he said. Even for the Guardian, people like Tim Jackson and Jesus are crazy!

 

And I ask myself… are the followers of Jesus, those who carry his good news… are they always going to be a bit crazy? Is it our destiny to be the crazy people?

 

The first sermon ever preached after the resurrection is arguably the words of the women in Luke’s gospel to the other disciples, telling them that Jesus had risen just as he told them. Do you remember the response? “But these words seem to them like an idle tale.” Now I think Luke is protecting his listeners with a kind of euphemism. The word translated ‘idle’ (leros in Gk) is the word we get delirious from. In the eyes of the other disciples the women are clearly crazy. They have lost the plot.

Do we also need to be people who have lost the plot?

 

Trinity Sermon

May 30, 2015

trinity brighterIsaiah 6:1-8              John 3:1-17

 

The movie Nuns on the Run is a story of two small-time crooks (Robbie Coltrane and Eric Idle) trying to escape both police and the triads. They hide in a convent disguised as nuns. Eric Idle finds himself scheduled to teach the Religious Education class. He’s horrified. Robbie Coltrane, a lapsed Catholic, tries to reassure him by telling him how easy it will be. ‘What’s your first lesson on?’ he asks. ‘The Trinity!’ Robbie’s face falls. “The Trinity! Now that’s a bugger” (H/T to Lawrence Moore for this story)

 

Do you get that sinking feeling when you hear the word Trinity. Perhaps you have a sneaking suspicion that the Trinity is really an ‘in-house’ conundrum to keep theologians in a job… a kind of serious sounding nonsense where everyone pretends they know what they are talking about but they don’t.

 

The truth of the matter couldn’t be more different… “God so loved the world…” That’s the trinity…

 

God comes out of nowhere… and rather than remaining in some kind of splendid isolation and hiddenness for us to sit around on late night philosophy sessions imaging how God might be… God comes out… of God’s closet.

 

God so loved the world… not God loved the world so much (that is true, but not an accurate translation) but God loved the world in this way. God sent the Son. God sent the Spirit. The Spirit, says Jesus to Nicodemus, comes out of nowhere, so that humanity can be born again, rebooted from above, start again, be set free.

 

God loved the world in this intimately self-involving way … in the way we call Trinity

 

God is deeply relational.

 

God… The Trinity… is not a theory about how three people can be one thing… God is this movement of love. And because that’s how God is experienced that’s how we talk about God. Trinity is not just about who God is (certainly not in the abstract) but about what God does and what God is like.

 

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who has given up on God and believing in God, maybe they even hate God… and often I’m tempted to say… something like a friend of mine once said, “I’m not at all sure that I believe in the God you’ve stopped believing in.”

 

One of the things that puzzles me is people who say they believe that God is love but are not sure about the Trinity. If they don’t believe in the Trinity why on earth do they believe that God is love? What does that mean?

 

We are here to worship God… worship the Trinity. In today’s reading Jesus says “Whoever believes in him [the Son] will not perish”. The Greek word for believe is not about intellectually drawing some conclusion… it’s about entrusting and investing yourself in him, its about worshipping him, as one does God… for God has come to us in Jesus. Whoever worships him… will not perish… but live in the life of God (eternal life). Those who worship/believe in Jesus understand at least the need of this name Trinity.

 

Funnily enough there are some people who believe, in spite of this, that God’s hands are tied. The other night I was watching the Student Alpha video with Mary and 8 or 9 of our young adults, and the speaker on the video was saying that when Jesus was on the cross there was a barrier between God and Jesus… our sin… which stopped the Father relating to Jesus, and if Jesus hadn’t somehow taken our sin-barrier, then our sin would be a barrier between God and us that God couldn’t get through.

 

According to this story, Jesus is somehow punished by being shut out from God (so we don’t have to be shut out from God). Sin, the speaker seemed to be saying, was the kind of barrier that ‘tied God’s hands’.

 

Todays reading says the opposite. It says that not only can God interact with our sinful world in all its sinfulness, but in fact sin was no boundary to God’s love. God loved the world in this way: God gave his Son into intimate contact with the broken world (the Greek word for this is cosmos) and he threatened this broken world so much with this enormous love of God that the broken world broke him, he chose to become the victim of this broken world… and so to hang alongside all the other victims of this broken world.

 

Jesus is God hanging out with sinners – both in his life and on the cross. It is not true that sin separates us or Jesus from God. It may alienate us from God it may create some work for God, it may stop us relating to God, but it is not a barrier that prevents God being with us.

 

Although Jesus wondered at his darkest moment, his Father did not abandon him on the cross. As the Son of the Father, he endured the cross with his Father and in the end abandoned himself into the arms of his Father (who proved that he hadn’t abandoned him by raising him from death).

 

There are a couple of ways people imagine that God might be contained behind barriers. One is the idea that God is so different from the world that God simply can’t be active in the world. All God can do, apparently, is kick it off at the beginning and leave it to be, and wait for souls to return when they die.

 

Another way in which some people have imagined that God is cut off from the world has to do with moral purity. A holy God cannot touch anything unholy. And when God does touch something unholy – boom. Like the story of the guy who touched the ark of the covenant.

 

In our OT reading today, there is something like this thought going through Isaiah’s head.

‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, yet my eyes have seen the king the Lord of hosts’.

Isaiah assumes that God’s holiness and his uncleanness cannot mix and so God must eliminate him… that impurity is a threat to purity… so the pure God must destroy the impure person…. And Isaiah is shaking in his boots waiting to be zapped when quite the opposite happens. Isaiah is cleansed and not destroyed. A glowing coal, signifying God’s holiness, comes down and touches his lips. And he is transformed and given a new vocation to be a voice for God in a world of unclean lips. Contrary to the way we usually think… the unclean is infected by cleanness (not the other way round) Which is what happens all the time in Jesus ministry … touching unclean people. Love it turns out is the greater power.

 

Lawrence Moore uses the word ‘transgressive’. The Trinity is the Christians way of remembering that God is ‘transgressive’. God transgresses all the boundaries that we might put up… God’s love is a passionate driving force. God the creator, who is already intimately related to the world, closer to it than it is to itself, sends the Son and sends the Spirit and together in the love that is God’s life they dance through all the barriers that we might put up. Disorienting and reorienting people to learn new dance steps and enter into a new dance of life.

 

When we say God is Father, Son and Spirit (Trinity) we are not using obscure jargon, we are talking, albeit stumblingly, of a God who is so dynamic and personal that all the destructive barriers that we in our fears might use to control the world and make it ours are no barriers to God. We are talking of the experience of love that enters into the deepest intimacy of our lives. God who is passionately determined to be with the world and for the world, to be with you and me and for you and me.

 

The story of the Father who sends the Son and the Spirit ends (or at least can end) with the words of Isaiah on our lips ‘here am I send me’.

 

 

 

 

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