27. May 2018

The Square on the Hypotenuse…The Eternal Triangle

Service Type:

‘…All who are led by the Spirit of God are Sons of God…’ (Romans 8, 14).

It was just over 13 years ago that I led worship in this church for the very first time. I wasn’t the minister then; I was, as it were, auditioning for the role. I mention it only because it was the last time that I preached a three-point sermon here…until today. If there is any Sunday that invites such a sermon it is, ‘Trinity Sunday’ when we are to celebrate the mystery that is ‘God in Three Persons, Blessed Trinity.’ The New Testament doesn’t give us that much ‘joined-up’ thinking as far as the Trinity is concerned. There are innumerable references to God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, but rarely if ever are they brought together. One of the few occasions we find it to be so is in 2 Corinthians 13, 14, words that are very familiar – ‘The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God [ the Father], and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all’– although even here the idea of God the Father has to be implied from the context. But anyway, as regards a three point sermon: when we read that verse our immediate focus is on the ‘named persons of the Trinity’ when actually we might be better served, devotionally at least, by concentrating on the words that describe the role each of the person’s plays within the life of God and beyond that describes how God, ‘in three persons’ engages with that which is other than God, supremely humankind, that which we affirm to have been made in the ‘image and likeness of God’. And so, it is all about the graceof our Lord Jesus Christ…the Love of God [the Father]…and the Fellowshipof the Holy Spirit. Our knowledge of God is predicated entirely on Jesus Christ. God has acted in Jesus that we might be enabled to know there is a God, to know who God is, and to know all there is to know about God. Hence the starting point for any consideration of who God is, how we might discern the purpose of God, how we might be brought into a relationship with God, begins and ends withgrace. ‘It is by gracewe are saved, through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God’.In Jesus God gives Himself to the world, an act of supreme self-giving in order that the world, rather than standing condemned before God, might know itself saved from the consequences of its own self condemnation, delivered from the consequences of its own self destruction, liberated from its own self incarceration. And what is true for the world, must necessarily be true for each one of us. By the graceof God, made manifest in Jesus is made sure our salvation.

Our tendency in the midst of suffering is to turn on God. To get angry and bitter and shake our fist at the sky and say, "God, you don't know what it's like! You don't understand! You have no idea what I'm going through. You don't have a clue how much this hurts." The cross is God's way of taking away all of our accusations, excuses, and arguments. The cross is God taking on flesh and blood and saying, "Me too.” (Rob Bell)

The Graceof our Lord Jesus Christ – in Jesus, God has opened a window that we through the eyes of faith we might see God; the One whom no one has seen, but who in Jesus is made known to us. And when that window is opened, we discover a Father’s heart of love. A Father for whom loveis the essence of the relationship that exists between the Father and the Son at the very heart of God. Loveis the life-blood that is the heart beat of God. But a lovethat is so perfect it could not be contained. In contradistinction to the way we ‘love’ one another – love that is essentially self-centred, self-serving, arrogant, even rude – the lovethat is at the heart of the Father is gentle and kind, thinking noting of self, extending beyond self that it might reach out to everyone and anyone. All of us, without exception, are lovedby God. In Jesus God graciously lays bare the extent of that love– selfless, self-giving, sacrificial – that we might be ‘persuaded’ to receive thatlove,that gift of grace, the love-gift that is laid bare before the world @ Calvary; that we might find ourselves at the foot the Cross, that we might love God because God first lovedus.

“Turn around and believe that the good news that we are loved is better than we ever dared hope, and that to believe in that good news, to live out of it and toward it, to be in love with that good news, is of all glad things in this world the gladdest thing of all. Amen, and come Lord Jesus.”
(Frederick Buechner, The Clown in the Belfry: Writings on Faith and Fiction).

As surely as God the Father and God the Son are in relationship with each other, so too graceand love. Such a relationship is sustained by the Holy Spirit whose task it is to create a fellowshipwithin God that the three otherwise distinct persons might coinhere as One and to seek to replicate that fellowshipboth between God and us, and between ourselves. The Holy Spirit, God present and active in the world, is binding together a body of believers, creating a fellowshipwithin which we are to share one with another as intimately as the Father and the Son are in fellowshiptogether. So power filled is the Holy Spirit, we find strangers becoming friends, even enemies becoming reconciled one to another: a fellowshipgrounded in lovemade possible by gracealone.

“The church exists primarily for two closely correlated purposes: to worship God and to work for his kingdom in the world ... The church also exists for a third purpose, which serves the other two: to encourage one another, to build one another up in faith, to pray with and for one another, to learn from one another and teach one another, and to set one another examples to follow, challenges to take up, and urgent tasks to perform. This is all part of what is known loosely as fellowship.”
(N.T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense).

Father, Son, & Holy Spirit…Grace, Love & Fellowship…This is Trinity Sunday