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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Trinity Sunday, Year C
South Sydney Uniting Church
June 16, 2019

Proverbs 8:1-4,22-31; Psalm 8; 1 John 4: 12-16; John 16:12-15

‘God is the loving’

In the 16th century Martin Luther paraphrased the 4th-century creed adopted by the Ecumenical Council at Nicea. The Nicene Creed (325 CE) is one of two ecumenical creeds our Basis of Union asks us to know and use. I’ve revised Luther’s version just a little. Let’s say the words of the Creed together …

We all believe in God who made
heaven and earth in all their splendour,
who as a Mother gave in love,
as a Father strong and tender.
God provides for us and feeds us,
every day good gifts surround us;
keeps us safe from harm and leads us,
with protecting arms around us.
Guards and keeps us day and night,
all things are governed by this might.

And we believe in Jesus Christ,
God’s own Child, our Friend and Saviour,
who rules with equal power and might
at the side of God for ever.
Light of heaven’s light to save us,
born of Mary by the Spirit.
Through a human witness gave us
life that we could never merit.
Died upon the cross, and then
was raised by God to life again.

And in the Spirit we believe,
holy Comforter, life-giver,
who with the Parent and the Child
is adored and praised for ever.
Reconciles from every nation
those to whom true faith is given;
in the church, a new creation,
wounds are healed and sins forgiven.
The dead will all be raised, and we
will live with God abundantly.

The Nicene Creed is a confession of faith, modelled on trinitarian doctrine. God be with you

If you could underline just one word from each stanza, which three words would you choose? … Your three words won’t capture or define God … They won’t amount to a pure theological concept (Louis-Marie Chauvet).

They may, however, constitute a short prayer to God – open a space, that is, for loving attention, transformation. One word resisting fixation on the next. The spaces between the words as crucial as the words themselves (as Alison has said on a previous Trinity Sunday). As a short prayer, your three words may be very useful in shaping a more faithful, hopeful and loving attitude.

Today’s homily is trinitarian but hereafter a reflection on love without reference to the word “Trinity”. A reading from the First Letter of St John is apposite (1 John 4:12-16).

“God is love.” So much is revealed in that short sentence. God is love – Gift, Response, Realm. Love is not any kind of substance. Love happens, embodies, spaces. So much is revealed in that short sentence. Our idols, our fixed images and concepts of God, are shattered by it.

God is not a being “up there” or “out there”, a being who happens to be loving. God is the loving.

And faith is ever this movement from idols to icons of love – from slavery to freedom as the big Bible story presents it – from stale answers to nourishing questions, from staid conventions to renewed commitments, from narrow arrogance to prayerful awareness, from objectification of the world to something the mystics (following St John) call “mutual indwelling”.

Ultimately, there’s no describing God “up there” or “out there” (there are no theological telescopes or scanners) because God is the love that makes every word and every reality possible. The Italian Marxist Antonio Negri writes: “[L]ove, charity, creativity are not measured but are measuring …” and this love “cannot be measured because it allows us to participate in the power of creation.” How do we imagine this love  – this love that is the measure of all things? It is supposed to rearrange our thinking, to move our language around.

Our three wooden chairs at the foot of the cross have always seemed to me a wonderful symbol – all the better if rearranged, moved around, sat upon (not unlike the 15th-century icon by Andrei Rublev). I imagine a certain mystical-musical chairs in which there is always seating for a stranger/angel, for another …

Sally McFague writes of a new “aesthetic sensibility” toward others, toward other creatures, which “values what is unselfishly, with a sense of delight in others for their own sakes.” To become friends with the divine Friend, she says, is to share this Friend’s delight in kangaroos and bougainvilleas …

How do we imagine this delight – this love that is the measure of all things? It is supposed to rearrange our language, to move our thinking around.

“All things are governed by this might,” we confess. We imagine this love in and through our being caught up in it – in and through our being included/seated. Divine love, John says, is “brought to perfection in us” – in our humanity, in our flesh, in our flesh-and-blood relationships – the passion of Jesus the supreme heartbreaking, liberating example.

To see in the Christ story (of Jesus and his siblings, friends), to see from the foot of the cross both disaster and indomitable freedom (John calls it “glory”) is the very definition of Christian faith. It is a special kind of seeing, a spiritual seeing (seeing by virtue of the Holy Spirit) – akin to blindness – something like weeping, like seeing through tears. “We have seen for ourselves, and can testify, that God has sent the Only Begotten as Saviour of the world.”

It can be difficult to know where to start when we so deeply desire what is good and life-giving for one another, for the world and for ourselves. Yet that is a deeply hopeful place to start. In a Spirit of reverence for one another – in trembling joy – in non-idolatrous love.

It is difficult, mystical and also profoundly simple – to allow the one (neighbour, stranger, divin-animal [Derrida]) before me to become what he or she is divinely free to be. To be aware of my tendency to label or stereotype (even to idolise), to assume that I already know, to reduce my beloved to some self-serving attribute – whether positive/flattering or negative/critical.

Simply to allow the one before me to become what he or she is divinely free to be. Simply to remain open to what, to whom love will make possible. In love, and so in every caring relationship, “our relation to this world is just like Christ’s”. In this, I am truly free (free of fear and free to give and forgive), ever changed and blessed.

You might like to repeat your three-word prayer-poem …

One theologian writes: “Once we are able to say it, we are able to live it as the ever-open place where the true nature of what we are in our relations with others and with God may become reality” (L-M. Chauvet). Amen.