Monday, 12 June 2017

"Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you join the dance?" Trinity Sunday 2017 St Anne's Brown Edge

Genesis 1.1 – 2.4a Psalm 8 2 Corinthians 13.11-13 Matthew 28.16-20

Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday.  If you think you understand and can explain the Trinity then you do not understand the Trinity.

However I do not understand all the workings of my car and yet I trusted my life to its workings to get me here this morning.

Trinity Sunday was traditionally the one Sunday when the Curate was asked to preach, or a Visiting Preacher would be drafted in.

Because once you have exhausted all the many and various metaphors, what is left to say?

Thankfully, through the work of contemporary Biblical Scholars like Tom Wright and Paula Gooder, among others,  the Trinity has gained a fresh understanding and place of importance.

It can no longer be dismissed as somebody once said, as a second century sermon illustration that has passed its usefulness.

Acceptance of the Trinity is a distinctive mark of orthodox Christianity.

It is what sets us apart from Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons or Christadelphians to name but three.

Moreover, Richard Rohr’s book, published recently, ‘The Divine Dance’ has invited us once more to explore the multi-layered depths of Trinitarian theology.

Rohr, a Franciscan draws deeply on the Orthodox concept of perichoresis.  Dancing in a circle.

He invites the reader to contemplate Rublev’s famous icon, the Hospitality of Abraham that recalls the story of three strange visitors to Abraham in Genesis 18.  Many scholars have taken the three visitors as being the Holy Trinity manifest in human form.

In Rublev’s icon there is a space in the front of the seated figures, this, argues Rublev, is the space for ‘the other.’   

For Rohr the Trinity is a divine community of reciprocal love with creativity as the naturally out-flowing dynamic.

This is evidenced in the passage we heard from Genesis.

Here where we have the dynamic of the Trinity, Father as creator, Jesus as the Word, spoken out (think of John’s prologue, ‘in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God), and the Spirit brooding over the waters.  Note also the plural – let us make man in our image.

Then the creation of humankind as male and female, representing the community of reciprocal love out of which creativity is the natural out-flowing dynamic.

The one cannot love – the lover must have a beloved for that love to flourish and grow. The creative dynamic then flows out of this lover and beloved as the beloved reciprocates and becomes lover to the beloved. It flows, moves shifts and dances.

(Read the Song of Solomon for a wonderful expression of the lover and the beloved)

Although the word Trinity does not appear in Scripture, it is there in both Old and New Testament in various forms.

We have seen how it appears right at the very beginning of our Scriptures, as the creative dynamic of reciprocal love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

From our passages at the close of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, we have what has become a very familiar phrase, often used to close a gathering of Christians.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all.

Paul's Letter to the Corinthians was written around 55 AD and suggests from the very earliest times a Trinitarian frame of reference.

From our Gospel another well known passage – 'The Great Commission' with an injunction to baptize all nations in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Some scholars argue that this Trinitarian baptismal formula is a later Church interpolation as the Doctrine of the Trinity was not ratified in the Church until the 3rd century.

That may well be the case, however, what is striking about this passage is the worship of Jesus by the disciples who had grown up with a strong belief that worship belonged only to God.

Admittedly, here we have people who are in two minds about this, which is what it means by ‘some doubted.’  Nevertheless, we are told that they worshiped Jesus, which is quite extraordinary that they should do this.

Now this may all be very fascinating and interesting. However, what difference does this all mean to us today as God’s people?

Let me take you back to perichoresis, the Divine Dance of reciprocal love, God as community.

If there is one aspect that stands our clearly from the accounts of the first Christians, it is that they formed a community. A community of reciprocal love where slaves worshiped with masters, the poor with the wealthy, men and woman as equals.

‘For all are one in Christ Jesus.’

This was not easy and many of the Letters are seeking to address issues that arose out of this co-mingling of all strata’s of society.

Since the term was first coined around 2004, many ‘Fresh Expressions of Church’ have focused around a rediscovery of what it means to be community. 

Very often around food and eating together – the Messy Church phenomenon is a prime example.

As is Connect 2 that meets at St Anne’s School at 5pm every Sunday with worship, Bible teaching and food and fellowship.

(If you would like to know more about Fresh Expressions of Church then there is a Vision Day at Newcastle of the 24th June. Details are on the Diocesan web site)

Bill Hybels says that ‘the local church is the hope for the world.’ 

With a caveat of ‘when it works well.’

“There is nothing like the church when it’s working right. The local church is the hope of the world.”
– Bill Hybels

So – how well do you think you are doing?

How well do you think you doing at being and developing a Faith Community?

A Faith Community that exemplifies the Trinitarian community of reciprocal love and always makes room for the other?

Bishop Michael invited everyone to the Cathedral on the 20th May for an event called ‘Next Steps’ – this was Bishop Michael setting out his vision for the dioceses and its onwards journey of continuing growth and development.

He reaffirmed the Five Icons of Focus as a mark and measure for each and every Church. That every Church in the Diocese should be regularly asking how it is addressing these Five Icons.

Ø  Practicing Generosity
Ø  Reaching New Generations
Ø  Discovering the heart of God
Ø  Growing Disciples
Ø  Transforming Communities

He then went on to invite us to - ‘come follow Christ in the footsteps of St Chad.’  In so doing, we were to deepen our discipleship, discover our vocation and engage in evangelism.

On Wednesday, Jane and I went to the funeral of a lovely Church Army Captain, Eric Shaw.

One of the hymns chosen before by Eric was ‘In heavenly love abiding.’
Now I know what Anna Letitia Waring was trying to say in this verse…

In heavenly love abiding,
no change my heart shall fear;
and safe is such confiding,
for nothing changes here:
the storm may roar without me,
my heart may low be laid;
but God is round about me,
and can I be dismayed?

However it does in some cases appear as a suitable anthem for much of church life in quite a different way.

That with all that is going on out there in this crazy, mixed up and dangerous world, when the storm roars around us, we want to come here Sunday by Sunday and find that ‘nothing changes here.’

I understand that to a degree.

That being said, last week we celebrated Pentecost – the time when the disciple were forced out of the upper room and into the market place to bear witness to Jesus, his death, resurrection and ascension.

Today we are recipients of their labours and all those who followed on faithfully heeding the Great Commission.

How are we doing at passing on that legacy, demonstrating by our life together that the Christian faith is dynamic, life transforming, life affirming and life giving?

That the Christian faith can face life today with all its multiple challenges and opportunities and offer a true way of life – ‘I have come that you may have life, said Jesus, and life in all its fullness.’

Do people see that ‘fullness of life’ in us as the People of God – as a Faith Community?

Do we always emulate the Holy Trinity that makes room for the other?

Brothers and sisters, we have a choice to make.

We can join in the Divine Dance of the Trinity and assist in the recreation and redemption of the cosmos, inviting others to come and join in.

What we might say is ‘living out the Lord’s Prayer.'

Personally, you may have some doubts, being in two minds about it all, and yet you could embrace the dance and go with the flow, learning the rhythms and patterns as we live and grow alongside each other.

Growing and developing as a community of reciprocal love, care and fellowship, always with room for the other.

Alternatively, we could say that ‘nothing changes here’ and that we like it this way. It is familiar and comforting in a troubled and troubling world.

The difficulty with that is in fact everything changes; everything is in a state of flux.  You are powerless to stop the processes of ageing, of either buildings or bodies.

The dynamic symbiosis of the Divine Trinity is a creative force that always brings forth new life, new hope and new possibilities. 

Getting caught up in the Divine Trinity as a community of reciprocal love you will also discover that same creative force that will bring new life, new hope and new possibilities. 

You will discover that you are able to practice generosity, reach new generations, discover the heart of God, grow as disciples and transform this community.

The choice is yours to make. 

Let us pray...

Holy God, the one who calls,
accompanies and sustains,
so use our hearts and minds
that honour may be given
to your faithful witnesses
  past and present;
and, as new patterns of living
flow around us,
draw us into your pattern
for offering new life in Christ
to all peoples and nations,
and especially to the people in this
community of Brown Edge.,
By the power of the Holy Spirit
make us courageous, creative,
  gentle and obedient to go where you are
and give glory to your name.

CMS Emerging Mission Study (adapted)  

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