Saturday, 18 June 2011

Trinity notes


So here we are again on Trinity Sunday. We’ve celevrated the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ at Eastertide, and the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost – and now we have this one week to try to tidy all our thoughts about God into the formula of the Trinity – Father, Son & Holy Spirit.

But why should we care about the Trinity? And especially, why should we care about the Trinity when there are 'real' problems in the world which demand our attention so much more urgently. Take suffering. To be specific, let's take the case of a little boy in one of our villages who is undergoing treatment for a tumour. He is suffering. His family is suffering. His friends are suffering. The whole school community is suffering. (all these to varying degrees, obviously). And in the face of all this not one person has yet asked me to explain to them the theory of the Trinity. Odd, that.

But one thing that people are wondering and quietly asking, is ‘what is happening when a young child is sick?’. And particularly, “where is God in this?’ and ‘what is God doing about this situation?’.

And so I believe we do need to think about the Trinity today, because how we handle the crises and suffering of life on the one hand and how we think about God on the other hand are intimately related.

If we think there is no God, then there is no anguished question 'why?' - stuff happens, people get ill, even little people, and there really is no reason.
But once we decide that we think there is a God, we are left with the question 'what sort of God is it that lets a little boy suffer?' or at least ‘what is God up to, right now?’.

So as we struggle to make sense of our world we are left with the question ‘what do we really think God is like?’.

Do we think God is Omnipotent? All-powerful? Then if God is the one who is in charge of everything, why can't he just stop all cancer from happening?

Do we see God as a loving Father? Do we think God actually cares about what happens to any of us? or has he created a world, wound it up & let it go, relatively unconcerned about this cosmic experiment? Is God, in fact, an absent father rather then a living loving reality.

Or have we got it all wrong & is God not much more than a comforting idea on a cold night?

You wouldn’t expect me to comprehensively answer all these questions in the space of one sermon, let alone unpack to your entire satisfaction the mystery of the Trinity!
But the idea that God is somehow three in one – and that all three ‘persons’ of the Trinity are about relationship and about relating to the world has something to offer us.

Whatever else the doctrine of the trinity says into this situation, it says that God is complex, not easily understood. It reminds us that we need to keep wondering, and asking, and searching, and remember that there will be no simple answers to our deepest questions. If God is truly God, then all our human ideas about God are bound to fall short of the reality that is God.

Yet even though we accept that our ideas will only offer us a partial glimpse of the truth about God, the idea of God as Trinity can be helpful. The idea of the Trinity points us to a God who is both dynamic & active and one who cares about the fate of humanity.
So the God who creates and cares in the Father cannot impassively watch his children suffer.
The God who comes to us and suffers alongside us in the Son will not simply leave us to our fate.
The God who moves among us in the Spirit has power to act, yet not a power which merely over-rides our human condition and our physical laws.
The God who is all three - and yet one - is a God of inter-relationship, complexity, love.

This is a God who is with us in our questioning, but who defies simple answers and straight-forward definitions.

When the ups and downs of life cause us to wonder what God is about, we need to have the courage to face the hard question of what we believe about God’s involvement with the world. In the end we are left with a deep mystery of a God who cares, and yet cannot protect us – or our children - from all suffering.
The Trinity teaches us that God is intimately involved with this world God has created. God who is Father & creator holds all things in being and sustains life; God the Son is the one who has lived a human life with all its pain and difficulty; God the Spirit is present in all and to all human lives.

When we wonder whether we understand the nature of God, the idea of the Trinity can remind us that the God whom we meet on our journey through life is complex and wonderful. Yet although we will never understand God, we are faced with the idea of a God who exists in community within Godself – and who reaches out to pull each of us into the dance of the Trinity.

So may we know ourselves held and loved, even in the hardest of life’s questions and the darkest of life’s episodes: held and loved by God – Father Son & Holy Spirit. Amen.

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