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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Homily

Trinity Sunday, Year B
South Sydney Uniting Church
June 3, 2012

Isaiah 6:1-8; Romans 8:12-17; John 3:1-17

From I to I’

Moses has been staying at the manse and helping to tidy the studio and garden. He always does a great job. I recall another time, a couple of years back, Moses helping to tidy the backyard, and in spite of my protests, refusing to accept payment for his labour. I recall the two of us at the table drinking tea, sliding money from one side of the table to the other. A comical scene. “You have earned it,” I’d say. “It’s my service to the church,” he’d say. Why share this story? Not to embarrass Moses, I hope. Nor to let you know that Moses is a very gracious person (I think you probably already know that). Nor, I hope, to let you know that the backyard is again neat and tidy. But because it strikes me as having something to teach us about God. Something pertinent on this Trinity Sunday. I’m not going to use the word, God, here again for a little while. If Trinity Sunday means anything it’s that we, like Nicodemus, often don’t know what we’re saying when we use that word. Let’s use another word, a very Johannine word instead. The word is love. Love be with you …

Moses’ gracious refusal of payment showed me something important about love. In that context, drinking tea at the table in the manse, I was not simply the one giving love, giving help, giving money. I was also the one receiving love, receiving help, receiving money.

In the context – one that in however small a way encouraged something life-affirming between us – love was revealed as a giving and receiving, as initiative and response.

As is the case in many contexts. You will have your own examples of being caught up in the giving and receiving of love, in the mutual exchange of regard, of kindness, of care, of wonder. Your own examples of genuine friendship. Of passionate engagement. Of falling in love, of remaining/abiding in love …

When we say that God is love, we don’t simply mean that God is a loving Person, or a loving Being. We don’t simply mean that God is a loving Father or Mother, a Creator or World Architect (significant as these images may be). That would be saying too little. God is more than a person, and other than being.

As Trinitarians, when we say that God is love, we mean that in the giving and receiving of love (and in the supra-abundance – a barn dance! – of that love) is revealed the creative and redemptive quality of life – abundant life for us and for all.

Sometimes we express this in terms of a familiar narrative: Abba God so loved the world as to give the Only Begotten One to share in the struggle for freedom, to gather all the beloved of God in a Spirit of joy and peace. Abba God so loves the world, now as always, as to give the Only Begotten One … Or some such story. We need stories for this kind of thing. Embodied, cultural, moving, engaging, converting/reorienting stories.

And do we hear what this story teaches? That God is not a being who simply gives life and love – certainly not a being far removed from the world. The story teaches that God is just as surely God in the person of Christ – the One who receives life and love, and who responds in faith to love’s initiative. God is just as surely God in the One who responds to the call of love with courage and dignity, even in the face of persecution, even to the point of execution. “Here I am … send me!” (Isaiah 6:8).

It is God who gives and it is God who receives, whenever and wherever there is love – the very breath, the very fire of God. In other words, God is not so much a loving person as the Love that creates and makes possible every kind of personal experience and commitment. In the beginning is Love – not solitary, but giving and receiving, incuding another, generating another. In the beginning is Relationship, Kinship, Trinity.

Sometimes we express this in familiar conceptual terms: that the Incarnation lies at the heart of Christianity. Or, more philosophically, that “the sacred is the ‘subjectivity of objects’ – the presentation in the contours of day-to-day things, of a meaning that sees ‘from I to I’” (R. Scruton). Or some such statement. We need statements like this because we are ever at risk of stating the faith otherwise – saying that some other notion of power or glory lies at the heart of Christianity – some kind of “power over” others, or some kind of force without regard for flesh, without regard for bodies, for subjectivity, history, culture or matter.

The Triune God is a God in whom we find salvation, in whom we find ourselves made whole, made for relationship … Christ is the Only Begotten, the Child of God (because the faithfulness of Christ is our inspiration), but we are all children of God. The Apostle Paul says: “We are … heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, sharing in Christ’s suffering and sharing in Christ’s glory.”

The Orthodox icon of the Trinity (based on a story in Genesis as well as books in the New Testament) depicts angels at a eucharistic table – with space at the table for another – for the viewer/reader. For you. What might you bring to the table? What might you expect to find t/here? What might you say/pray?

Last night, Alison told me about a book she really likes by Franciscan priest, Richard Rohr, who says that Christian worship is God in us communing/dancing with God. Our Collect says it well: “O God … draw us more deeply into your divine life, that we may glorify you through your Beloved, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever.”

May the silence we allow here be a reverent and expectant silence. When have you responded to love? When have you responded to the call of love? Our own stories of responding to love are also stories of our becoming respons-ible. Which is, perhaps, another way of saying “our becoming children/heirs of God” … Amen.