Trinity sermon (text below)
I thought I'd bring everyone up to speed with where I'm coming from. This is a sermon I preached a couple of years ago. It's about the trinity and grace.
I reckon between preaching, trinity and grace that's covered a good chunk of what I rant about here.
(By the way, I stumbled on this trinity sermon by Jurgen Moltmann yesterday. I tell you - agree with him or not - no-one writes more beautifully on trinity than Moltmann.)
Trinity Sermon: Galatians 4:4-6
Let me ask you a question and let's see where you mind goes. 'What was God doing before the creation of the world?' What do you think God was up to when there was no universe to run, no people to care for. Just God, nothing else. What was that like?
Well the wrong answer to that question is basically to think about one solitary god.
God was not lonely before creation, He wasn't bored, He wasn't just itching to get on and create since He had only His thoughts for company!
No, what was God doing before creation?
They were enjoying one another. Who's they?
The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Is that who you were thinking about when I asked my question? Or were you thinking about some other god - a god who is not Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
This morning we will learn that God is not, and never has been, lonely or aloof or self-centred or brooding or solitary or bored. God is and always has been, loving and giving and other-centred and relational and sociable, companionable, friendly. Because the real God is the relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Christians call this relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit the trinity (and I'll tell you why in a second). And this God, the trinity, is the living and true God.
But that other, solitary, self-centred god is not really God at all.
That god is simply an imaginary idea that reflects our own culture and times. Other people in other times have imagined - perhaps - lots of different gods and warring people have imagined warring gods. Sensual people have imagined sensual gods. Intellectual people have imagined that God is 'an eternal mind'. And touchy feely people have imagined God as 'pure energy which we tap into'. None of this tells you about the real God - instead it tells you a lot about the people who offer their opinion. It's like the heavens are a gigantic mirror, we look up but all we really see is ourselves. God has to tell us about God. And we just have to listen and discard all our own opinions on the matter.
I'm convinced that most of the problems people claim to have with the trinity, are because they want to have the trinity AND the god of philosophy, or the god of our popular imagination. For most of us it's an attempt to MIX the trinity with the solitary, self-centred god. And you just can't do it.
So let's allow God's Word - the Bible - to tell us who He really is. And let's be prepared to let go of your own dearest ideas of god. And be shaped again by God's Word
Have a look with me at Galatians chapter 4 and verse 6.
6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father."
Now all three Persons are on show in this verse, that's why it's a good one to study. Let's see who they are and how they relate to one another.
Look at who they are. The One at the beginning of the verse called 'God' is also called at the end of the verse 'Father'. And then there's the Spirit who God sends. And there's the Son who (kind of ) owns the Spirit. Three Persons. Father, Spirit, Son. And how do they relate? Well the Father sends the Spirit. And the Spirit calls out to the Father. The Father is father of the Son and the Spirit belongs to the Son. You don't have to get all of this, I just want us to see how inter-twined these Persons are? The Father is father of the Son and sends the Spirit. The Son is son of the Father and possesses the Spirit. The Spirit is sent by the Father and belongs to the Son.
These three Persons - the Father, Son and Holy Spirit - are involved in inseparable, loving relationships which go back and forth. Which is why the Bible can say 'God is love.' It doesn't just say 'God is loving' which would be true. But God IS love - He is who He is because of these love-relationships between the Father, Son and Spirit.
And that's what that we mean when we talk about the 'Trinity'. It's simply the unity of these three - it's the three-unity, the tri-unity. The Trinity. So what's God like? God is Three Persons united in love. That's what the trinity means: Three Persons united in love. Simple.
The trinity is not a maths problem: "How can three be one?" It's clear how the Father, Son and Spirit are one - they are bound together in love. In the Bible that's how real one-ness comes - love. In the Bible, when people get married they become one. In the Bible, when a whole group of people get together and agree on a certain direction, they speak as one. There's even an example of this kind of one-ness in our passage. In chapter 3, v28 we see lots of different people Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, male and female but they are all one. What does it mean that they're one? Have they all disolved into the one person, are they all thrown into a giant melting pot and all that's left is the single essence? No, they are different people who are a community - united in love. And God is different Persons, the Father, Son and Spirit, united in love.
But let me make something very clear - the trinity is a community far far superior to any other. I could leave the community of St John's and somehow, you'd still get on without me. You'd still be St John's and I'd still be me. Gerri Halliwell can leave the Spice Girls and the Spice Girls, unfortunately, kept on going. But with the Father, Son and Spirit - none of them are going to leave the band. The Son is not going to split from these relationships and begin a solo career. Why not? Well think about who the Son is. He is the Son because He has that relationship with the Father. And the Father is the Father because He's always had His Son. The members of this band don't have a solo career, they've never had one. They don't just work as a team, they ARE this team. There was never a point when the three Persons decided 'Hey, why don't we form a group!' They have always been bound in loving relationships. They were never solo artists in the first place and their band will never split up. Their loving community is not just what they do - it's who they are and who they will be for all eternity. God IS love.
So, to find the pulse of the universe (if you want to tap into the heart beat of reality) what do you find? You find fierce, passionate, determined, life-giving love that flows between the Generous Father, His Beloved Son and the Life-Giving Spirit.
The life of these Persons, the relationships which they share IS the source of all true beauty, joy, goodness, holiness and love. To belong to this God, to participate in this circle of divine friendship is the goal of all existence, it is the meaning of life.
The trinity is not a maths problem. The trinity is the good news that God is love.
.... to be continued tomorrow... part two here