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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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