Readings: Romans 5: 1-5, John 16: 12-15
Let us pray: O God, may your word be spoken and received with open hearts and minds, that we may find your truth, your purpose in them for us. Amen.
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So that’s the sermon taken care of for Trinity Sunday.
To be serious though – like much else in our doctrine and our theology, our attempts to verbally explain and tie down what it is we believe so often lead us into places of incomprehensibility and confusion – and none more so over time than the Trinity – maybe that is why we make sure there always is a Trinity Sunday in the lectionary – so that we keep on plugging away in the hope we get it right one day?
So I thought that today we might approach the three in one through a particular word – and that is ‘consistency’.
Both the Gospel and the Epistle reading for today beg the question – how is it that we, responding to Christ in the leading of the Spirit, avoid an almost carte blanche approach to what is right – where excessive and wayward claims are made in the name of God, and where power and rightness are counted above grace and love. Where we get it wrong in other words.
In the Gospel reading we find John in chapter 16 has kind of broadened the promise of the Spirit from the earlier reading from last week – then it was that the Spirit would teach the disciples all things and remind them of everything Jesus had taught. This time we hear that the Spirit will lead the disciples in all truth – speak what it will hear and announce to the disciples what will come. In other words the disciples, and us, could claim almost anything as warranted by the Spirit – the obvious link to the memory of the historical Jesus is missing.
Any one of us could think of some of those wayward claims: inner voices that lead people into destructive attitudes and behaviours, bizarre claims to truth and harmful deviances from community. On a very practical level claims to Gospel truth and action that would make Jesus weep. Add in the fact that for us, and for the early church, society and ethical and social choices were no longer directly spoken to by the historical Jesus experience and you have a Spirit presence open to very human interpretations. But John was very aware of this - if you look at the words again – its not a free for all, a loose and potentially mischievous Spirit with no controls – but a Spirit speaking what is heard of the risen Christ and declaring it to us – what is mine is yours says Jesus, through the Spirit. The Spirit’ teaching and revelation is consistent with the teaching and revelation of Christ who is consistent with the purpose of God – Jesus completes the circle - saying that what is his is the Father’s and the Father’s is declared for us. To be truth, it must be consistent with the entirety of the three in one.
William Loader puts it most succinctly: all claims to the Spiritual are measured by the image of God we see in Jesus. This totally applies, says Loader to the teachings of the Gospels – they were gathered and shared in the workings of the Spirit in the knowledge of God made known in the life and teachings of Jesus. In the same way we, and Christians throughout time make our calls on the way of our faith within that circle of trinity, within the consistency of the three in one. And where we don’t do this we inevitably go astray. Its hard and rigourous work, this living a God facing life.
Paul too echoes these same concerns of a spirituality that seems to embrace a truth that was inconsistent with Christ – where impressiveness and power are valued over grace and compassion – you can find him in just such a debate in 2 Corinthians as he argues that adversity and not applauded success are a trademark of the Christian who lives within the Trinitarian consistency of God – the Jesus way is both radical and counter cultural – so expect to be out of sync with what the world deems successful.
In Romans he is following this same theme – that there will be dangerous and disturbing consequences if we fail to base our relationship with God or the Spirit or Jesus without the consistency of the trinity.
But he goes further – he suggests that finding yourself out of step with what might be society’s prevailing definition of success and right living is in fact a good thing, because it encourages us to be in right relationship with God. And in fact, rigourous thought it is to live it, figuring out what the Spirit is saying to us within in the consistency of the triune God becomes incredibly straightforward when we place it in the simplicity of our relationship with God – a relationship based wholly on unconditional love.
We don’t have to bow to the pressures of what someone else says we should be because we are loved as we are.
We don’t have to have a handle on truth or wisdom or works before we can be accepted into God’s embrace, we are loved as we are.
We don’t have to worry that we are broken, hurting, bewildered, doubting because we are loved as we are.
We don’t need to worry that we will disappoint God with our backsliding and mistakes and wrong choices for God loves us despite all we can do and be.
We, all we need to do is accept and live in that love that has been poured into our hearts.
It does make us more vulnerable for we are always guided by love and love can hurt.
It does make us radical, for the Jesus way of love grace and mercy is definitely not the predominant culture in this world. It does build character and endurance and hope - for living in the consistency of the three in one places us in a position of adversity with much of the world. So be it.
The presence of and connection with the Spirit, through which and in which we know the mind of the living Christ and of the Father, Creator, Holy Mystery encourages us to live out the presence of God in our community, in our time, in a way consistent with the purpose of, and in the love of the triune God. And for this we say thanks be to God.