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Trinity Sunday is Gospel Sunday

May 27, 2016

Romans 5: 1-5


It’s Trinity Sunday… the Sunday we talk about God

Last Sunday was Pentecost. To recap: Last Sunday I reflected on the God who refused to be imaged. I picked up Rabbi Jonathan Sachs’s contention that the deep thread of the Hebrew Bible is about the conflict and violence which threatens the human community (Cain and Abel, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah and Hagar, Jacob and his brothers and so on). To image God is to take control of God. God is here and not there, God is black and not white, God is male and not female and so on. Basically to image God tends to produce the sense that God is like us and on our side and not like them.


This refusal to image God is captured in God’s response to Moses. When Moses asks for God’s name God replies “I will be who I will be”.


And yet the great paradox of Jewish faith is that the God of ‘no images’ create’s God’s image in human life – this has the same practical implication in the Hebrew bible – do not kill the other, the one who is not in my image is nevertheless in God’s image.


So the Hebrew Bible’s response to conflict and violence in the human community is two-fold. (1) to refuse to image God and (2) to claim that God creates God’s own image in every person – even in the stranger who is not in my image.


And now we come today on the Christian festival of Trinity – Trinity Sunday – to talk about the particularly Christian way of naming God, to talk of God’s identity… God’s character… not just about what God requires of us but of who the God is who requires something of us, who claims us, who is still creating us.


Deep within the Christian experience of God is the conviction that law (or the Torah) is not enough to prevent us from othering the stranger, from violating the other. The law does not deal with the deep roots of conflict and violence. That’s certainly what Paul discovered.


For Christians to identify God is to tell the story of God’s love in action not just to tell of God’s law commanding or prohibiting humanity… but of God’s total immersion in human life to heal it. God became human (the Church Fathers said) so that we might become divine.


In other words the short version of what it means to say God is Trinity is that: God. Is. Love… God is not merely the creator who calls for peace. In God’s identity as love God makes peace.


On Thursday I had a conversation with my Dad. We usually avoid talking about religion. But when we do it is usually a ‘robust’ conversation. And by that I mean more ‘bust’ than ‘ro’. Dad was concerned to find out whether the folk I would be working with in Wellington knew what ‘the gospel’ was. It segwayed into whether I knew what ‘the gospel’ was.


I’m not sure whether my answer was up to scratch. But the gist of what I tried to say is that the good news that motivates me is this story of God’s identity as love and our need as human beings.


In some ways just to say ‘God is love’ is too short a version these days … love is overused. When we say God is love we are not talking about sentiment. God is not a feeling. Nor are we talking about love as an idea… As if “God” was simply a code-word for the idea of love. As if God is love simply amounted to saying ‘Love is God’ (which is pretty much what the Beetles said).

We are talking about God’s action towards us and what it might say to us about God’s life. In other words there’s a story of God which leads us to say that God is love. We are saying that we experience God acting in love towards us and so the true character of God is love from all eternity.


Going back to the image of God in us…. those who are Christians say that not only is God at work in all persons creating a divine image, such that no person should be killed because all persons are products of divine creativity. Christians are saying that God has taken the effort to immerse God’s self in our human life so that it can be turned inside-out, so that the roots of our violence can be addressed and healed.


And when we name that immersion of God, that peace-making love of God, we name it ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit’. Because that marks the story of our experience of God’s love. The relationship between Jesus and the Father he believed in and lived in, and the Spirit he gave to his followers, the Spirit that his Father gave him, the Spirit that he gave back to his Father at his moment of death and received in resurrection, and gave again to his followers. This is the story of God’s movement of love into the world and into the human community. Paul, in today’s reading puts it like this

“So, since we are justified by faith (since faith makes us right – Paul has been talking about Abraham’s trusting God – since our trust and reliance on God is basic to God sorting out our fundamental human problem, conflict etc), we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast of our hope of sharing the glory of God…. (and Paul continues…) hope does not disappoint because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”


Did you hear the Trinity in Paul’s statement of the Gospel. Because we rely on God to sort us out, to put us right, to sort out the deep roots of human violence… we reach this place of peace with God (not just with others) through the work of Jesus and through his Spirit who pours the same love that Jesus demonstrated into our hearts also.


When I read my sermon to Jan last night [just be thankful you are not married to a minister] she said… I need a picture, I’m a visual person… I rolled my eyes and said something about not imaging God. She said… but what about this…

[Diagram with drawn in figures – you’ll just have to imagine a cloud with the words “I will be who I will be on it” and then a cross  superimposed on it and finally some flames superimposed on that and to conclude some arrows  to stick figures of humans being drawn into the mix]

It’s not really a picture of God is it… it’s a diagram… diagrams don’t so much picture things as they symbolise relationships, movements.


Father, Son and Spirit – make peace – and so we name God in God’s own self as an eternal movement of love and peace. Trinity.


In a world where 62 people have half the wealth of the world and thousands starve to death each day. In a world where consumerist economics means that 1/3 for our food is wasted. In a world whose ecosystem is being steadily raped by our economic system and our dependence on carbon, in a world where tit-for-tat violence produces more refugees than ever before and politicians do not hesitate to exacerbate tensions and hatred along racial and religious lines to serve their own ends.


In this world God goes forth. In this world Jesus the self-giving one (free of all anxiety about death) gives the Spirit of self-giving to create people of peace and communities of peace and resistance and hope.


So in retrospect… looking back to my conversation with Dad… for all the robustness of our discussion… I am grateful to Dad for pushing me on this issue. Trinity Sunday is essentially Gospel Sunday. It names God and so tells the story of God’s movement towards us, so that we no longer need to kill one another and the created world around us.


It invites us to name the love of God as a story of how God not only creates in humanity the image of God, but takes up that human project, and enters it, and heals all that is violent, all that is destructive, re-creating us in the image of Jesus and thus in the image of God’s own peace.


Thanks be to God.





One Comment leave one →
  1. May 27, 2016 10:07 am

    I’ve been trying to make that picture…here is my latest attempt. -Ann

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