Evensong - 15th June 2014
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
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
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.