Sunday, May 31, 2015

Triune Mystery

This can be heard here

Gate Pa Trinity Sunday 2015
Psalm:                                     Psalm 29        
First Reading:                         Isaiah 6:1-8
Second Reading:                    Rom 8:12-17                          
Gospel:                                    John 3:1-17                             

What I want to say:
To explore the doctrine of the trinity as something that leads us to God as multidimensional, ultimately mysterious, who invites us through the relationship within the Trinity to live by different principles.

What I want to happen:
people to contemplate the mystery of God, three in one, and to be more immersed in the life that exists within this mystery

The Sermon

1.      Introduction:

today is Trinity Sunday
# (talk to you neighbours about how you understand the Trinity)
# plenary
day once again we stop take note
            central piece Christianity
            God is three and one
which of course makes absolutely no sense whatsoever
arose because we believe that Jesus is fully human and fully divine
if we were honest also doesn’t make a lot of sense
some of you are wondering
why bother with all this anyway?
so hard and difficult
what difference does it make –
for a starter
      These two pieces of theology that mark us Christians out from our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters.
      kind of important
lets spend moment remind ourselves of what it all is.

2.      300

most what believe about Trinity came together in 300’s
            – century of turmoil and brutal debate about the nature of Son
                        then became about how we understand Trinity
                        saw writing Apostles creed and Nicene creed
                        number of others – now rejected
In a nutshell then
Jesus – the Son, is both fully human and fully divine.
            one person – 2 natures
God is three persons – one nature
tease that out means - God is one
            Bible is clear about that
            hold that with Islam and Judaism
Also say God is 3
hold all together with
            God is three persons but one nature or essence
what on earth does that mean?
first things note
not God comes in three different ways
but is 3 “persons”
why      - gospels in particular
            Jesus sent by father – implies two “persons”
            returns to father
            father says – this is my beloved son
            Spirit proceeds from Father
person not mean separate people as we use term
person then is three separate “I’s”
to use traditional language
Father refers to Himself as “I” and Son and Spirit as “you”
Son too refers to Himself as “I” and Father and Spirit as “you”
Spirit too refers to Herself as “I” and Father and Son as “you”.
Each person in Trinity has ability for distinctive thought, initiative, compassion, love and action  
            Holy Spirit is not just a force at work in world doing God’s bidding
Three Gods then?
Listen to some Christians yes
still hold to one God
God is three persons but one essence
not three persons as you and I are separate persons
            where we get into trouble
But One God of  one essence
three “I’s” with one indivisible essence
nor like three chunks of pie which all together make God
God is one
God is found and experienced fully in each person of the Trinity
when one person of the Trinity acts, then all 3 persons act
to experience one is to experience all three persons
so we know nature God the Father and the Spirit through life Jesus the Son
we know nature God the Father and God and Son when experience work of Spirit

3.      Water

So who has followed me 100% so far?
probably not many of you
in fact trying understand Trinity like trying hold water in hands
actually can’t do it.
Is problem of Trinity
            a lot easier if simpler
            lots people tried make it simpler and more understandable
one author reading suggested that every heresy about Trinity is when people tried make Trinity more understandable
forget the gift on the Trinity
and gift
            not understandable
]           reminds us that God is mystery
            God will not conform to our ideas about how things should work
            remind us that God is multifaceted
                        – not reduce God down to Father or Son or Spirit
            reminds us this doctrine is incomplete
best we can do from evidence of scripture
            particularly gospels and words Jesus
            own experience
In the end – not whole story
Trying to describe something that is indescribable

4.      lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi?

There is a saying comes from early church
"lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi",
            As we Worship, so we Believe and so we Live[1]

for early church fathers (and I guess mothers)
how we worship shapes what believe (what we believe about God, God’s world and ourselves)
what believe determines how we live our lives
put a lot store on interplay between theology and worship - liturgy
If my worship is to a God who is judge sitting in heaven
            judging who gets to go to heaven and who goes to hell
            God who is angry with sin of world
            will come to believe that that is nature of God
            life will be lived in fear trying appease that God and earn my way in.
            and/or try become agents of Gods righteous anger
                        venting that anger on all we deem to beyond God’s compassion
                                    over centuries that included Jews, Muslims,             Gays
If my worship is to a God who is passionate about this world and those who live in it
so passionate that God the Son came among us as one of us
sign of God’s passion and commitment
died to release us from all that binds us and blinds us
prevents us from living with same compassion and commitment to all creation
then I will come to trust in that God and in grow in loyalty to that God
            which is what belief really means
with the help of God the Spirit seek to live as one who is  filled with God’s passion for this world and those who live in it
seek to join with God in God’s ongoing work of bringing life and redemption to all creation
As we Worship, so we Believe and so we Live

5.      God in relationship

so how our belief about the Trinity shapes our worship is really important
            will shape what we believe about God
            it is shaping how we live our lives
number theologians suggest that when get too hung up on mechanics Trinity
mechanics are important
but they are not the point
miss one most beautiful truths of Trinity
miss that at heart of Triune God is profound relationship of mutuality, care respect, loyalty, generosity
miss that Son came out of that relationship
            offering that same mutuality, care, respect, loyalty, generosity to all creation
Through the Son – Jesus
we are invited into that same relationship
through the ascension we are drawn into the heart of that relationship
which we might describe as love
Go on to say that whenever we come together in worship
we do not invite God here

God is already here
God is the one inviting
we are invited into heart Trinity
The Triune God invites us into the mutuality, care, respect, loyalty, generosity that is God
and in doing so we are to become people marked by that same mutuality, care, respect, loyalty, generosity
When we gather
we gather in heart of God
God - St. Augustine of Hippo described as
God is the Lover, the Beloved and the Love between
We are invited into the heart of mystery
to be shaped by that mystery

So how has your worship over the years shaped what you believe about the Trinity?
How have you lived that out?
As we are invited into the heart of God who is the Lover, the Beloved and the Love between
            what is it like to be invited into the heart of mystery?

Let us pray
In this new season
may you know
the presence of the God
who dwells within your days,
the mystery of the Christ
who drenches you in love,
the blessing of the Spirit
who bears you into life anew.[2]

[1]

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Trinity Sunday!

Trinity Sunday! Every preacher’s nightmare. How do I make sense of the Doctrine of the Trinity?
Understanding God as three in one is a central platform of Christianity. And it is really difficult to grasp. And we get it wrong a lot. it is so hard to keep the balance between Threeness and unity.
I suspect a significant number of us really believe in 3 Gods. The way some Christians talk about the three persons of the Trinity has no sense of unity about it at all. For them the separateness of the three persons reigns supreme. And others in reality believe in one God and loose the Threeness. To say that God is one expressed in three modes (like water, ice and steam) is not Trinitarian either.
God is one and God is three “persons”. The three persons of the Trinity each have their own work or mission. Only The Son was incarnate, lived among us and died on the Cross. Only God the Father is the source of all being. Only the Spirit enlivens and empowers us today to join in the ongoing mission of God. But in each we see the other two.  For each person of the Trinity is of one being, co-eternal.
How can any of this make sense? In many ways it doesn’t, which in part is the point. God is fundamentally a mystery. Beyond our comprehension, beyond our control. We will never fully grasp the Trinity. It will hold us in god’s mystery. When we think we have mastered the Trinity – I suspect you have got lost and made an understandable image of God. But you are no longer worshipping the Triune God.
So why bother? Because both Paul and John in today’s readings state that our theology shapes our lifestyle. Who we understand God to be shapes how we respond to God in our everyday lives. Some theologians have suggested that rather than get hung up on the mechanics of how the Trinity works, it is better to focus our attention on the nature of the relationship between the persons of the Trinity. What words then might we use to describe this relationship? What does Jesus teach us about the nature of the relationship? How does this help us read scripture and live our lives?

Friday, May 22, 2015

Wind Blown

Listen to this sermon here.

Gate Pa – Pentecost Sunday 2015
Psalm                         Psalm 104:24-34, 35  
First Reading:                         Acts 2:1-21                             
Second Reading:                    Rom 8:22-27                          
Gospel:                                    John 15:26-27 16:4-15           

What I want to say:
Explore the wonder of the languages, and the social justice basis for pentecost

What I want to happen:
People to be opened to the radical newness of what Pentecost is all about

The Sermon

     1.      Introduction:

who felt earth move listened to Acts reading
left feeling bewildered, amazed, astonished or perplexed?
guess is none of us
2000 years hearing
so familiar
too familiar
hearing different language from what occurred in
            when occurred
            what written in
miss so much radical nature what Luke describes
left with nice story
need birthday cake for the church
happy birthday church.

     2.      Language

experience of Maori class – operates in te reo Maori
get a lot of what is saying
have to really focus
know lot I am missing a lot
don’t have vocab truly understand all being said
not spent a lot time around marae and Maori settings
            don’t get some idioms and phrases.
Langauge is tricky thing.
When on Iona 10 years ago
doing my after lunch duty woman grown up in Glasgow
spent last 20 years in Perth
before coming to Iona
been home
as we swept she spoke to me
apparently we both were speaking same language
I had no idea what she said
spoke in Glaswegian once
            which translated at – we are a bunch of mucky pups
            even knowing that – no idea what she had said
language is tricky thing
            so much more that words and grammar
experienced that other way around
exchange students
whose English pretty good
whole lot of New Zealand slang they kept missing
we used without thinking
left them with blank faces
teaching in Pacific Islands or Solomons – people for whom English is not first language
always trying
            keep it simple
            leave out New Zealand isms
realise is that whole of language tied up with where from
all which only make sense if know the assumed knowledge that lies behind what is being said.
so while I am trying to learn te reo
unless immerse myself in te ao Maori
always going to be pretty superficial
bucket load of cultural images, stories, sayings
            not get
            never use
leave my language impoverished

     3.      Translating

that makes translating work so hard
remember at peace event in Brazil where Desmond Tutu was speaking about us being arms of Jesus
            translated as we are guns of Jesus
even harder when talking about translating words  written at least 2000 years ago in very different language and culture

work translators made so much more difficult
            too often not really knowing that assumed knowledge
            even if do – trying work out how capture that in their work
all of which is why we are not feeling
bewildered, amazed, astonished or perplexed
a lot going on in this story that we just miss

     4.      God’s new thing

all which makes Pentecost such ground breaking event
People heard their own dialect
Glaswegians would have heard
            not just English
own language
with all little nuances from where came from
used their images
used their little sayings
they heard what a bunch of mucky pups when everyone else heard gibberish.
not only hear it
heard it in their language of home
Remember friend mine talking about coming home from OE
arrived airport in London
check in person said “sweet”
like she was home already
in this story today
            people hear their dialect
            with all emotion that evokes
            of family and land
            sense of belonging
            of rootedness
Gospel proclaimed to them
            in their language
just imagine how people felt as they heard this
in their own language
hearing and understanding
with no strain of trying comprehend
            in this place where always having strain a little
response they are bewildered, amazed, astonished or perplexed
are we?

     5.      Ramifications

At heart of todays readings is declaration that God is doing a radically new thing
number radically new things
left those initially involved feeling bewildered, amazed, astonished or perplexed
Most obvious is ..
            there is no one holy language
no God language
unlike just about every other religion around Jerusalem and Roman world at time
Judaism – Hebrew is God’s language
            holy language
                        language of scripture
                        language of prayer -
places Israel and Jerusalem at centre of that religion
where you look to
other sects arose around that time
            used language of founders – sacred language
            geographical centre became home religion
600 years later – Islam arise out Arabic Peninsular
            language of Prophet Mohammed Arabic becomes the language of God
            language worship
            language of scripture
            Prophet Mohammed’s Home of Mecca becomes centre of that religion
similar assumption among new group of followers Jesus
            good Jews
            Hebrew continue to be language God
            Jerusalem with temple – be geographical centre
Pentecost explodes all those expectations
Book acts recounts story how all other expectations
            feel to one side as gospel spread
suddenly no language is more important that others
no place is more important than others
eventually understood as
            no people more important
            no culture more important
God is shaking thing up here
and figuratively
and still is
shaking up our assumptions
shaking up our notions how God operates and who God works through

     6.      Pentecost

Pentecost is about Coming of Holy Spirit of God
message is clear
Spirit of God is at work in every people, place and language.
God will be known in new and fresh ways
not just here in the holiest of all cities
but where you are from
God does not need to be taken there
God is there
at work
offering hope
creating new ways of being a society
all important
all cared for
God is doing a very different thing
God is breaking out all moulds God stuffed into
Are we ready?
what moulds are creaking today
How are we hearing God’s words of life to us afresh
in our language of home

Come Holy Spirit

shake the hearts of your faithful

fill the hearts of your faithful

and kindle in them the fire of your love

Send forth your Spirit

and we shall be created

and you will renew the face of the earth