Monday, 13 June 2022

What kind of God? A Trinity Sunday sermon


Proverbs 8.1-4, 22-31 Before the earth came into being, Wisdom was born

Romans 5.1-5 The love of God has been poured into our hearts

John 16.12-15 The Spirit of truth will lead you to the complete truth




How often, I wonder, do we ever really think about God.


It seems an odd question to ask in a church.


After all, isn’t part of coming to church about believing in God?


We refer to God a lot in prayers and hymns, we claim insights into God’s will and say that God is interested in our world and in us.


Do we ever really ponder God? Is the worship and adoration of God front and centre of our hearts and minds when we come to church?


Jesus Christ, as shown in today’s gospel reading is all about setting us aright with God, and all that flows from that in how we think and speak and act.


He notes that the sheer weight of the mystery of God is unbearable without him, and without the Holy Spirit of God to continue to lead us into all truth.


It’s easy, and convenient, to dodge talking about God even in church.


Perhaps we are like footballers who talk endlessly about 4-4-2 formations, passing, heading, crossing and the offside rule, but never consider the nature of the ball they kick.


It’s a trivial example perhaps, but do we really consider the mystery at the heart of faith: God?


Ironically atheists seem to think more about the existence and nature of God than many people of faith.


Atheism, an emphatic belief that there is no God to be understood or worshipped, challenges us to consider who God is, and who God isn’t.


Often an atheist asks, ‘what kind of God would allow such and such?’ It’s as if they want to believe in a god, but it’s a question that Trinity Sunday demands too: what kind of God do we believe in?


It matters what we believe about God; it matters that we believe in God.


The object of our worship is where we locate our heart, our desires, our purpose.


Human beings have the capacity to make all sorts of things their gods.


Many ancient religions and contemporaryspiritualities’ regard elements of creation, on earth or in the skies, as things to be worshipped: for the ancient Egyptians it was Ra, the sun god.


Those heading off to Stonehenge at the end of the month for the summer solstice will also reverence the sun.


After all, the sun was, and is, a source of life, with power and energy, light and warmth.


But neither the sun – s-u-n – nor moon, nor rivers, nor springs nor anything else in all creation brings us to life, has the capacity help us see beyond ourselves.


The sun cannot save us from the mirk and mire of human existence. As Genesis notes, in creation God put the sun in its place (cf Genesis 1.17-18) and saw that it is good.


Nature is compelling and beautiful, but it is a gift to us to be cherished and tended, but it is not our god.


Psalm 8, sung this morning, is a beautiful meditation on just that theme.


This idolising continues in contemporary culture when parents make gods of their children; advertising makes a god of the toned and lithe human body; food (cf Philippians 3.19), drink, even fun, are seen as the highest Good.


If those are the forms of devotion that we see today this is because the kind of god that is ultimately believed in is the autonomy of the individual: I am the beginning and ending of my own reality; creator, producer and star of my own drama.


And if I am my own god, then everything is on my terms.


That is the secular creed: I believe in me.


A Christian cannot ultimately say ‘I believe in me; I believe in my own power to sort out and save my life’.


What we do profess, we say at the beginning of the Creed: ‘Credo in unum Deum’ - I believe in one God.


The Creed is the distilled account of our witness to who God reveals Godself to be  and our response to the atheist question: what kind of God?


In the Creeds we describe the God who is ‘above all things and through all things and in all things’ (Epistle I to Serapion, 28-30, St Athanasius Office of Readings, The Most Holy Trinity).


St Athanasius echoes this: ‘Yes, certainly “above all things”’ as the Father, the first principle and origin; and truly “through all things” that is through the Word, and finally “in all things” in the Holy Spirit’.


In making that profession of faith we are claiming something deeply true about God – the oneness of God – and about ourselves.


Since when we say ‘I believe in God’ we are saying that the source of all that is, seen and unseen, is not generated by our own imaginations, not a projection of our fantasies about ourselves, but we are rooted in the invisible God who is made visible in Jesus Christ and continues to be known to us in the Holy Spirit.


This God, our God, is known intimately in his face, the face of Jesus Christ. And we seek his face in the sacraments, in prayer, in scripture.


To see Christ is to see the Father, that is, to see the God who is both beyond ourselves, and ‘Emmanuel: God with us’ (Matthew 1.18), who diverts us from our self-destructive ways and the idols we would so merrily create for ourselves.


‘What kind of God?’ asks the atheist.


Trinity Sunday is the annual invitation card to the day by day placing of God at the very heart and centre of our lives.


God, the Holy Trinity, is not a mystery to be explained but an invitation to be accepted.


Responding to the invitation we fix our gaze on the face of Christ and are drawn into the love of God that is both perfect within the Godhead and spills out into human existence.


We can say, with any atheist, that we do not believe in a god who is capricious, grumpy, ill-willed or takes pleasure from natural disaster or devastating illness.


Rather the God in whom we believe condescends to share our humanity, comes to renew creation and shape us into the people he created us to be in the first place.


Only in God’s power, and not our own, can we overcome the tendency to be possessive, controlling, manipulative and self-destructive.


All that is God’s is declared to us by Jesus Christ and, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we are led by the hand into all truth, that is the truth of God.


At the heart of Catholic Christian faith is this deep yet ever generating mystery: God the maker of all things wills to save us from our self-destruction in the person of Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit: three persons, yet always One God, to whom be power and glory, majesty and dominion now and in all eternity. Amen.

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