Tag Archives: Trinity

Jesus, Wisdom of God

Readings
Proverbs 8.1–4, 22–31
John 16.12–15

It used to be the conventional wisdom of New Testament scholars that predication of a divine nature to Jesus came about as a result of the impact of Hellenistic culture outside Israel and the ideas that culture had about the Divine. The assumption was that early Jews in tune with their monotheistic language would not use such language of anyone but Yahweh. The oneness of God ruled out speaking of multiple persons in the Godhead. — Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Christian Understandings of the Trinity, quoting Ben Witherington & Laura Ice, The Shadow of the Almighty

The reality that Second Testament and early church texts that speak of Jesus in relation to Woman Wisdom do not articulate a clear trinitarian self-understanding is not, in itself, an insurmountable problem. Across the early Jesus movement this is the same, as convictions about Christ and the Spirit are not clearly enunciated in a trinitarian doctrine. However, what is evidenced in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2 is the claim that some early communities were experiencing the Spirit and the risen Christ, and understood these experiences in relation to Woman Wisdom. It was from the ground-bed of such experiences that later trinitarian theology arose. — Sally Douglas, Early Church Understandings of Jesus as the Female Divine

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In today’s psalm, Psalm 8, we read 

When I look up at your skies,
at what your fingers made—
the moon and the stars
that you set firmly in place—
what are human beings
that you think about them;
what are human beings
that you pay attention to them?                       Psalm 8.3–4 CEB

That’s the psalmist being awed by the night sky, but honestly he had very little idea of what the universe really is like. (Do you remember Douglas Adams, who wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy among other things? Adams said something similar, in his own inimitable style)— 

Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space. 

We live in an amazingly huge universe. The distance from Earth to the observable edge of the universe is 46 billion light years. What’s beyond the edge? We don’t know, there may be something, maybe more of the same. Or not. 

We live in an amazingly old universe, some 13.8 billion years old. The earth we live on is 4.5 billion years old. 

We live in an amazingly odd universe, where light may have the properties of either a particle or a wave, where there is dark energy which can only be inferred, and in which if you know how fast a particle is travelling you can’t know exactly where it is. Or something like that.

We live in a universe that I can’t comprehend. When I say it’s 13.8 billion years old, or its edge is 46 billion light years away, I really don’t get those numbers. I can probably visualise a few thousand at most, but I’m throwing those ‘billion’ numbers around without any understanding of how big they really are. 

I can’t comprehend the universe, and I can’t comprehend God. 

I can’t comprehend the universe, yet I believe in God. 

Should that be like a confession, something from a twelve-step program? Hello, I’m Paul. I can’t comprehend the universe and I believe in God. It’s been six weeks since my last feeling of awe and wonder. 

How may I know anything about the God who spoke this universe into being? How may I have any knowledge at all of the God who gave birth to such an odd and weird place? 

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“Trinity Sunday” by Malcolm Guite

I am not preaching this Sunday, so I thought I’d introduce you to this sonnet by Malcolm Guite, Trinity Sunday: It comes from his wonderful collection, Sounding the Seasons: 70 Sonnets for the Church Year.

In the Beginning, not in time or space,
But in the quick before both space and time,
In Life, in Love, in co-inherent Grace,
In three in one and one in three, in rhyme,
In music, in the whole creation story,
In his own image, his imagination,
The Triune Poet makes us for his glory,
And makes us each the other’s inspiration.
He calls us out of darkness, chaos, chance,
To improvise a music of our own,
To sing the chord that calls us to the dance,
Three notes resounding from a single tone,
To sing the End in whom we all begin;
Our God beyond, beside us, and within.

I love the way the poem goes from “the life of God-as-God” to our lives participating in the life of the triune a God: God “makes us each the other’s inspiration”, to make our own music, yet music that calls us to the eternal dance of God, music with “Three notes resounding from a single tone”.

There is so much here to ponder and wonder at.

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On earth as in heaven (Ascension of Christ, Year B, 17 May 2015)

Readings
Acts 1.6–11
Ephesians 1.15–23
Luke 24.44–53

Jesus hasn’t just gone away. He has gone deeper into the heart of reality—our reality and God’s. He has become far more than a visible friend and companion; he has shown himself to be the very centre of our life, the source of our loving energy in the world and the source of our prayerful, trustful waiting on God. He has made us able to be a new kind of human being, silently and patiently trusting God as a loving parent, actively and hopefully at work to make a difference in the world, to make the kind of difference love makes.—Rowan Williams

…when he is seen, the exalted Lord is recognized, made particular, given content, by the fact that he bears tangible human scars, and forever confronts us wounded.—Rowan Williams, Resurrection–Interpreting the Easter Gospel

I decided to speak about the Ascension of Jesus today, and it took me quite a while to know how to approach it. To tell you the truth, if you just tell the story straight, it can be a bit embarrassing.

For example, the astronomer Carl Sagan once remarked that if the ascending Jesus had reached the speed of light, he wouldn’t have left our galaxy yet. Not even after 2000 years.

I mean, we don’t see the creation as a three-storey thing any more, with heaven on the top floor, earth on the ground and a shadowy world of the dead as the basement. We are becoming even more aware than ever of the vastness and strangeness of the universe.

The story is told about some Ascension Day celebrations at a particular theological college. A special Ascension Day service was held and the whole faculty in their robes and regalia gathered for the big celebration. It was quite an event.  Continue reading

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Grace, Love, Communion … (Trinity Sunday, Year A, 15 June 2014)

Readings
2 Corinthians 13.11–13
Matthew 28.16–20

 

Last week, I said that while preachers often feel the Trinity Sunday is a hard gig, I really feel that Pentecost is the hardest day to preach and to do justice to the message.

Today, I’m not so sure. Trinity may be the hardest day to preach after all. But here goes!

‘Trinity’ is the best way we have to speak of the unutterably great, incomprehensible God who came to earth in Jesus Christ and who comes to earth today as Holy Spirit.

God is unutterably great; God is beyond the understanding of our best minds. God has come to us as a human being, Jesus of Nazareth, exactly as we are yet without sin. God is poured out upon us as the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of God.

When the New Testament speaks of God, it often links God our Father with Jesus the Son.

For example, Paul begins 2 Corinthians like this:

Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is clear from the New Testament that we can’t think of God, we can’t talk about God, we can’t know God without Jesus the Son.

And then the New Testament also speaks of God in a threefold way, so Paul ends 2 Corinthians with these very familiar words:

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

And there are other places too. For example Galatians 4:

God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’

Or Ephesians 4:

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

There are other examples, but let’s look at the closing verses of Matthew’s Gospel. Here, the (singular!) name of God is given as Father, Son and Holy Spirit:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

And that’s the Name we use of course, whenever we baptise anyone. The name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

I wonder what would happen if we only baptised people in the name of the Father? Or just the Son? Or just the Holy Spirit?

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Holy, holy, holy One (Trinity Sunday, Year B, 3 June 2012)

Readings
Isaiah 6.1-8
Romans 8.12-17
John 3.1-17 

 

Holiness, a biblical concept associated with separation from the ordinary or the profane, on the one hand, and connection with God or the divine, on the other. God is supremely or definitively holy and people, things, and actions may be considered holy through association with God. Holiness may also include the ideas of consecration to God and of purity from what is evil or improper.

from ‘Holiness’, in Powell, MA, (ed.), HarperCollins Bible Dictionary

 

In the temple, Isaiah heard the seraphs sing these words:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of God’s glory.

At the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, we say these words in the Sanctus:

Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

And especially since it’s Trinity Sunday, we’ve sung Reginald Heber’s words:

Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty
God in three persons, blessed Trinity.

When Isaiah experienced that vision in the Jerusalem Temple, he had no idea that over 2500 years later the Gentiles would be quoting his words in their services of worship. Holy, holy, holy!—but what is ‘holiness’?

Holy, holy, holy. God is holy because God is other than what we are. There is a separation between us and God. It has a lot to do with sin; when we are preoccupied with ourselves, we cannot notice God. But God is holy also because we are finite creatures, while God is infinite. We can’t see God. God is way beyond us.

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Trinitarian humour

As we’re in the Octave of Trinity, I thought some trinitarian humour might not go astray…

A Trinitarian Rap, and a model (!?) of a sermon on the Trinity here;

The amazing Dave Walker’s take on a Christian education approach to the Trinity;

Agnus Day (‘it’s one of those “three things”…’—hilarious!)

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Trinity Sunday

The Trinity: I just can’t help myself

Readings
Romans 5.1-5
John 16.12-15

Before I came to Australia, I had two terms in an English grammar school. The kind where some teachers still went around in academic dress. The kind where Religion was a subject on the same basis as Maths or English or Latin. Then I came to Australia and my education came to a…

I love this story which comes from that old-style kind of school environment. The day before the big exam, the religion teacher says to the student,

Teacher: Now you’re sure you’ve got the Catechism all buttoned up, Hopkinson?

Hopkinson: I’m still a bit hazy about the Trinity, sir.

Teacher: Three in one, one in three. Perfectly straightforward. And if you have any more doubts about that—talk to your maths teacher!

But the Trinity is not a mathematical puzzle. The doctrine of the Trinity is not a mathematical nonsense. The doctrine of the Trinity is this: it is the best language we have to name God as love. Continue reading

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