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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Homily

Trinity, Year C
South Sydney Uniting Church
May 30, 2010

Proverbs 8:22-31; Psalm 8; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15

Threefold in power and love’

Christianity was derived from Judaism when various social forces sought a more universal expression of their beautiful and imaginative, monotheistic faith. The early Christians – Jews and Greeks – discerned a threefold pattern to their experiences of God. Taken together, their scriptures described God as “Father-Mother”, the one from whom all things proceed, as “Child” or “Wisdom”, the incarnate expression of God, and as Holy Breath/Wind/Spirit, “in whom we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

Because Christianity derived from monotheistic Judaism, it did not – we do not – posit three gods. Instead, we believe that each distinct divine “person” or “persona” is the whole of God. Whatever is said about one persona must also be said of all three. (The Nicene Creed is a classical expression of this Doctrine of the Trinity.)

Taking the three personas together we get an image of one God in an imaginative, generative dance, moving into union. This is God’s nature, and it is expressed in God’s engagement with the world. God desires union with us precisely because God is God, precisely because God is Love. Our artwork today depicts this well. Trinitarian belief offers three “access points” into the divine love-life, which is good, because some, at various stages, are drawn to one and not to others. Each of the access points leads into the whole of God.

Evangelical Christianity (the red circle) has tended to emphasise an “I-Thou” relationship with Jesus, the incarnate “Child”. But when that entry point does not also lead us into the whole of God, into the whole love-life of God, we become disconnected from God’s generative power, and separated from all that is.

In view of the modern challenge to what has been called “the myth of God incarnate”, and also due to what may be regarded an evangelical “dumbing down” of the faith, many Christians (the blue circle) are seeking union with the “first persona”, the one from whom all things proceed. We are rediscovering the contemplative streams of our tradition. But when that entry point does not also lead us into the whole of God, into the whole love-life of God, we become disconnected from one another; faith becomes otherworldly, without basis for ethics.

The third entry point seems to many most apt for modern times (the green circle). When we study the cosmos, contemplating its enormity, complexity and beauty, the sheer interdependence of things, we are engaging Holy Spirit, the one in whom we live and move and have our being. But when this entry point does not lead us into the whole of God, into the whole love-life of God, when we do not enter into relationship with it, or unite with the generative power that creates it, then we become entirely focused on this world and lose any sense of purpose (See Rev. Sam Alexander is Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael, California).

You may well be able to complete the following verse: “…Well now in the streets the children screamed/ The lovers cried and the poets dreamed/ But not a word was spoken/ The church bells all were broken/ And the three men I admire most/ The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost/ They caught the last train for the coast/ The day the music died …”.

Don McLean’s plaint that the divine custodians of love have moved out on us, have left us for dead, sounds like bad news. It would also seem bad news to proclaim a mere admiration for God, however complexly imagined. No. The Good News is that our one God is threefold in power and love – Lover, Beloved and Spirit of Love. Our God is with us in the giving and receiving of love.

This is what God has revealed to us, in the Gospel and in the Church of Christ: The loved world is like a loved child – far from flawless, but embraced, nourished, taught, led and healed … However bad things get … however violent or malevolent or cynical or steeped in selfishness individuals or societies may become, it is not open to God to give up on the world: the unbreakable cables of divine love hold God to us.

The Good News today is not mathematical or even philosophical. It is not anti-Jewish (or anti-Islamic). It has to do with divine presence in the giving and receiving of love. It is the invitation to enter into the whole love-life of God. Jesus says: “Everything that Abba God has belongs to me. This is why I said that the Spirit will take what is mine and reveal it to you.” It is the promise of abundant and eternal life within such familial, relational, communal and cosmic love.

It also admonishes. If we do insist on declining love, in the end nobody, not even God, can stop us. To decline love remains a mistake, first, last and always. As we share Love’s meal together today, let us pray for one another – and in particular for those commissioned as our community elders (bearers of wisdom) – that we may continue to come to our senses. After all, there is so much to receive, and there is so much to give. Amen.

(Draws on homily by Peter Steele SJ, Bread for the Journey).