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15th June 2014 - Sunday Morning - Revd. Preb Maureen Hobbs

Trinity Sunday Evensong - 15th June 2014
Isa. 6. 1-8
John 16. 5-15




What is Truth? A question as old as time, and one memorably asked by Pilate as he questioned Jesus before handing him over to be crucified.

Not a question that got a straight answer - but that was not Jesus' way. He very rarely gave a straight answer to anything - usually he would answer one question with another or tell a complex, many layered story - a parable - that would encourage his audience to come to their own conclusions and answer their own question ... just think of the rich young lawyer asking "So who then is my neighbour?" - In reply to that one, Jesus tells the story that we know - and love - as the Good Samaritan.

So on this Trinity Sunday, finding the truth about the Trinity is not likely to be straightforward or easy - which is just as well, because preachers through the ages have wrestled with this one - and it can be contentious - leading other faiths to accuse us of worshipping three separate gods - Father, Son and Holy Spirit; Creater, Redeemer, Sustainer or however you want to name them!

And yet for all the problems it gives us, The Trinity is still something that orthodox Christianity has clung to for thousands of years... and I don't think it will disappear any time soon.

Why? Well because I think the Trinity - for all the philosophical difficulties it gives us, is just too useful in a practical way, when we come to try and describe something about God and about our relationship with him /her/ it.

My old Granny used to say "good things come in threes" (well actually she said that all sorts of things, good and bad, came in threes! But let's concentrate on the good things for now.) And I think that one of the best things about the Trinity is that it encourages us to think of a God who relates to us in more than one way. If the Godhead is characterised as three persons - who are all in perfect communion with each other, then it follows that that relationship is one to which we too may be invited in. It is not purely exclusive - as a twosome might suggest. It is not turned in on itself - which if God were a singularity would surely be a risk? No God is shown to be in relationship and a relationship that is dynamic, where there is an ebb and flow of communication - of conversation - and this gives us the opportunity to both give and receive within that conversation.

Some years ago an American author wrote a now famous novel called the Shack. Anyone here read it? The Author is William P Young. And the story concerns a father who is grieving the loss of a child in violent circumstances.

Well, on a solo trip into the wilderness - to the very place where their beloved youngest child went missing - believed abducted and killed - the Hero of the tale meets with God.

But this is not the God he either expects or particularly wants to meet. God by this time has become an irrelevance for him - lost as he is in his anger at what has befallen his lovely family and his guilt that as a father he has been unable to rescue his little girl. And this anger and guilt is now spilling over to ruin his relationships with his other children and even with his wife. This is not uncommon in those who lose a child in difficult circumstances.

In making the place of encounter the shack where the family were staying on a camping trip when the bottom fell out of their world, God forces the hero - Mack - to confront his pain and worst nightmares. And he pours out his rage and recriminations to the god that he thinks has abandoned him until he is utterly exhausted - and says out loud that he has no more energy to look for God in what seems to him a black and hopeless world. If God wants him, he will have to come and find him.

Which is precisely what happens.... His first encounter with God is in the shape of a black African-American woman. One who offers him wonderful food, and an engulfing sense of welcome and affection. Just as he is recovering from the shock of this first meeting, she is joined by a small, distinctively Asian woman who defies his ability to focus on her clearly - she flits around, shimmering in the light, with hair that blows gently in all directions and soothes away his tears. Then comes a Middle-Eastern man, dressed like a labourer, complete with tool belt and gloves. This image is unmistakeably masculine and he is described as having eyes and a smile that makes it hard to look away.

Mack is overwhelmed and asks "are there more of you?" At which the three look at one another, laugh and the black woman tells him, "NO, we is all that you get, and believe me, we're more than enough."

Together they gradually help Mack to face the traumas from his life - not just the loss of his child, but the pain and shortcomings of his relationship with his own father - which it turns out was far from ideal.

It is only when he has addressed this deeper, suppressed sorrow and is able to forgive his father for the pain he suffered, that he is able to face up to the truth of his daughter's murder, and reach some sort of closure - acknowledging that he needs to surrender his daughter into the care and keeping of God. And when he is able to do that, then he is able to heal some of the other relationships within his fractured family that are on the point of falling apart.

So what does this tell us about Truth and about our understanding of God?

Perhaps that we need to believe in a God who believes in us; who loves us, comforts us when we need it; confronts us when we need it; respects and reaches out to us; who allows us to grow up through our own insecurities but will support us while we do so and help us to take responsibility while retaining the best of what it means to be a child - and a child of God at that.

So that is why I believe the Trinity is a holy thing; a useful thing; a beloved thing and a concept that leads us into an understanding of what God is and how we relate to him - or her - or it. Amen.