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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Trinity, Year A
South Sydney Uniting Church
June 15, 2014

Genesis 1:1-2:4a; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20

‘Threefold in power and love’

Christianity was derived from Judaism when various social forces sought a more universal expression of their monotheistic faith. The early Christians Jews and Greeks, in the philosophical context of Neo-Platonism (which spoke of divine emanations and gradations) discerned a threefold pattern to their experiences of God. Their scriptures described God as “Father-Mother”, the one from whom all things proceed; as “Child” or “Wisdom”, the incarnate expression of God through whom all things come to be; and as Holy Breath/Wind/Spirit, “in whom we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). God be with you ...

The doctrine of the Trinity was worked out in the third to early sixth centuries and laid out in the Nicene and Athanasian creeds. The doctrine has to do with salvation, with a conviction that the “true Light” of the “true God” was/is encountered in Jesus and in the Church that is both a Spirit-filled community and the body of Christ. Bold and distinctive language professes a loving presence that is the very ground of personhood even as it exceeds the merely personal. After the Trinity, after the experiences of Easter and Pentecost, God is no longer confined to notions of solitary or aristocratic being. Something new has been given. Something other is revealed.

Still, at least one prominent 20th-century theologian argues that the doctrine has yet to articulate the revelation (Jurgen Moltmann). Others think of Trinity as invitation, guideline or grammar, as model of prayer or poetic form ... As we proceed today it's important to acknowledge the limitations of language and culture even as we honour the intellectual and spiritual rigour (of past and present generations) that seeks to do justice to the experience of divine encounter and humanisation-divinisation a coming to our senses (Peter Steele, SJ), that is, our being saved from despair and guilt and meaninglessness, our being saved for whole and happy life with others ... with and within God ...

Because Christianity derived from monotheistic Judaism, it did not we do not posit three gods. The Athanasian Creed puts it this way: “We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence ... The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinities, but one uncreated; and one infinite ... And in this Trinity none is before or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal ...”

Taking the three persons or personas together we get an image of one God in an imaginative, generative dance, moving into union. The tradition has a word for this: perichoresis. Peri means around. Choresis, as in choreography, means to dance. The divine love-life is an infinite and egalitarian dance. There’s something timely, pertinent, contemporary. The Lord of the Dance is interrelatedness, reciprocity, movement, openness, freedom, flourishing, giving and receiving … dancing.

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 by Sister Mary Grace Thul depicts trinitarian belief (if not the Trinity itself) by way of 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 (Rev. Sam Alexander, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael, California).

The Good News is that our one God is threefold in power and love Lover, Beloved and Spirit of Love. The Good News today 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. It is the promise of abundant and eternal life within communal and cosmic love.

As we share Love’s meal together today, let us pray for one another that we may continue to know salvation, 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.