TRINITY SUNDAY 2016
THE TRINITY: IMMERSIVE THEOLOGY
‘For “In Him we live and move and have our being”’
A man was walking his dog alongside a lake and idly picked up a stick and threw it into the lake for his dog to fetch. To his utter astonishment, the dog walked across the water, picked up the stick and walked back across the water, dropping the stick, but not dripping with water at his master’s feet. The man, in a daze thinking he was hallucinating twice threw the stick back into the water, only to watch bewildered as each time the dog walked on the water to retrieve the stick. Worried about his own mental health he called a friend to urgently come down to the lake – and when he arrived threw the stick into the lake and once more the dog walked out and returned to shore completely dry. ‘Did you see that?’ he almost screamed at his friend. ‘Wow!’ his friend replied – ‘your dog . . . it can’t swim!!’
[With hearty thanks to John Pritchard, former Bishop of Oxford]
We can know about many things, but to really know them we have to dive in, to be immersed in them. We can’t really know what a lake or indeed an ocean is, unless we go swimming into the depths, and the height, and the width and the breadth. The week before last at General Synod, we heard more from Archbishop Winston regarding ‘Moana Theology’ – Ocean Theology. As I might have said, his talk on this at the Synod in Waitangi in 2014 left a deep impression on me, for here was theology done deep in the reality of existence. Of Wind and Wave, of the complex web of interdependence between those who dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea and those who live on those fragile scraps of land with all its storm born chaos in the immensity of Moana, the Ocean.
And there is no better stopping off point for us moderns than this perspective, especially on this Trinity Sunday – for we have bought an illusion about our existence, in the World and indeed in God – an illusion that says, ‘there is some Olympian height – some place where we can stand back and consider the reality of our lives, or indeed the Reality of God himself. And so we draw diagrams, or word pictures to ‘illustrate the Trinity’ as if we might reduce God to a set of ideas to ponder and either accept or reject. Liberalism and Fundamentalism being in essence to sides of the same coin . . . for how unthinkingly do we speak about God . . . as if He were not ‘everywhere present and filling all things’ . . . this is why the true language of faith is not language about God, but language directed to God – Worship – Praise – Thanksgiving – Lament – Confession. God is our Life – apart from Him we are no thing.
Where will we stand to consider God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit . . .
And our readings today will not give us nice theoretical answers – let us consider for example our Psalm.
O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honour. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Do you hear the heart of worship? The Psalmist immersed in the Creation, Immersed in the Worship of the living God. The Psalms, the basic language of our faith – teaching us faith, not as ideas but by a lived human response to the God who was and is and is to come, even in his apparent absence. For the Psalmist, God IS existence.
So too the apostle Paul. In the fifth chapter of the epistle to the Romans he begins making what might sound to us to be ‘objective – dry – theological statements – not getting his feet wet, not swimming we might say
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
But not so, our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand;
for this grace has gathered us up, taken us into itself and like the ocean current brought us into a new place – access – we have been brought into this grace – the Life of God and that Life has so taken root in us and brought for the fruit of hope!! And what a Hope! and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. Anyone who knows true hope knows it goes much deeper than a vague wish – we boast – we confidently proclaim our hope of sharing the glory of God.
Having been granted access to the Ocean we now feel the water bouying us up! And we begin to Rejoice to Enjoy our life in Him. Yet this is not for a moment otherworldly it is Real. It is rooted in the true circumstances of our lives. As our Polynesian brothers and sisters were full of life and hope, even though the waters surge and the waves and the winds blow with unimaginable force, so our immersion into God teaches us through many strange means – but knowing that Grace and Peace, ‘we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, Why? because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. Because we know God present within us, as Brett taught us last week – we Know the Love of God in our hearts, we are set free to love others – we sense the powerful River of Life beginning to surge through us as the Holy Spirit is poured into us.
Jesus said, The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth ‘will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.’ The Holy Spirit points us to Jesus – we come to Know and Love Jesus because of the action of the Holy Spirit, who always and everywhere works to direct us to Jesus – and pointing us to Jesus he draws us into Jesus relationship with the Father – for whoever has seen Jesus has seen the Father All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that [The Holy Spirit] will take what is mine and declare it to you.
This is why we speak of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit – for by Grace through faith the Holy Spirit has made Jesus known to us, we have come to love him, and by that same Spirit we have been drawn into Jesus’ perfect relationship of Love with the Father – as St Paul tells us For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with Christ [There it is again, that note of real world faith] . . . so that we may also be glorified with Christ.
Trinity Sunday is not a Sunday for sitting on the shore looking out at the water and trying to figure it out – it is not even a Sunday for walking on the water – it is Sunday for swimming in the depths of the profound Love of God and Knowing Him in Truth as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.