The God who spans the universe is a God of life, and dwells amongst all life everywhere, including here on earth. Within and amongst all creatures of Earth. This same God, when one species in this vast ecological array needed help came to them, to the naked ape, offering a path of salvation, of healing and wholeness through returning to the divine communion with life from which some of them had started to slip. Even as they slipped, and certainly now, this God remains within and amongst them, as God remains within and amongst all life.)
Notes for Sermon on the Trinity, preached at
Victor Harbor Uniting Church 2006
Rev. Dr Jason John.
Trinity is the proposition that
* There is a God who created the universe and who exists apart from it. An awesome God, beyond our imagination, beyond our ability to limit and control. God of the universe. song 187, Psalm 8, Job 38.
* This same God became part of creation, experienced life.
We were able to see the image of the invisible God (not the full image, but enough)
God had been seen in the creation, now God was part of the creation.
This is the most controversial part in Christian thinking. Was Jesus God? In what way? Some new testament writings present Jesus as some kind of unique divine finger pointing to God, others as God’s very self. The majority view has been that Jesus whom people came to confess as the Christ, was God- God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.
So, most Christians say that God became one of us, a significant number say that God became one with us. Either way, that is what God as “son” is trying to get across. “Son” is the label for God one of/with us. From here on I’ll stick with God as one of us.
Thirdly, the first Christians agreed with their non-Christian Jewish peers that this same God who was beyond all imagining (Job’s God), nonetheless was here with us. The Christians thought that Jeremiah’s vision of God being in the hearts of all people was already true! Had Jesus made that happen, or just pointed out that it already was, and always had been true?
So The God who created us, and became one of us, continues to be united with us and active in our lives. The Spirit of God who empowers us to be part of God’s family, God’s kin- to live Kin-dom. We read of this in 1 Corinthians 2.
God beyond us, God as one of us, God within and amongst us.
Not different personalities (the vengeful Father, the loving/sacrificial Son and the comforting Spirit)- not three different people, but three different faces of the one God.
Trinity is a symbol of a reality we will never fully grasp. A symbol which is pointed to in the Scriptures, but not fully expressed until the church had had more time to think about and talk about our experience of God.
There is not one God beyond, one God who visited, and one God within us, but the one God is simultaneously beyond us, one of us and within us.
God is our source: Parent, father, mother, creator.
God is one of us- first born of creation, Son of God, Child of God, teacher, master, friend
God is within and amongst us- empowerer, encourager, comforter, fruit grower, gift giver, unifier
Father, Son and Holy Spirit <> Trinity
Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier <> Trinity
Mother, Child, Holy Spirit <> Trinity.
God beyond us, God as one of us, God within and amongst us = Trinity.
Can call the reality that God created and is beyond us mother, father, creator, parent…
Can call the reality that God is one of us- Jesus, Son of God, Lord, Messiah, Friend, brother, sibling
Can call the reality that God is within and amongst us- Spirit, comforter, encourager, gift giver,
God beyond us, God as one of us, God within and amongst us = Trinity.
That is what the Trinity is all about, that is the unique Christian claim, the Good News we ought to be sharing.
What happens if we drop one or other aspect of this trinity of affirmations out God? I’ll leave you to ponder that.
I want instead to leave you with another proposal.
Many of us are now comfortable with the idea that God is no more male than female. So we speak of God as mother. Hopefully the idea that God as Father, Son, Holy Spirit is three labels to describe the trinity, not the trinity itself is not too startling. We are probably comfortable with the idea that the scriptures have a heavily male bias because they were written, we’re pretty sure, by males, in male ruled communities.
Father is a metaphor for God’s creation of us, and we would all I hope agree that mother is at least as good a metaphor for a creator as father.
Can we take the next step?
God as father, son, spirit carries the same assumption as God as mother, child, spirit.
That is, when we say such things I bet we almost universally imagine God in human terms.
Can we accept that the scriptures talk about God in mostly human terms (warrior, father, ruler, lord, shepherd etc), because they were written by humans? That our worship songs almost universally use human images of God because we are humans? That humans were not so much created in the image of God, as we have created God in a human image?
Surely that is true?
Life on earth has existed for 3 billion years, and will continue for hundreds of millions after we go extinct. Out of all that diversity of life, even just out of the four species of humans which have existed that we know of, does it make any sense to think that God is somehow a big hairless ape, a big Homo sapien? You might think I’m being silly and exaggerating. We might think we know that the image of God isn’t about God looking like us. But when I sit in a pew, its exactly what we think! Listen to our songs, our prayers. We are not praying to, or preaching about, or singing to a God who became human for a time, but to a God who is a big human. The whole story of God and life, as we tell it in worship, is a story in which humans take centre stage. God’s relationship with life is somehow channelled through us because, however unconsciously, we think that God is a big version of us.
We are constantly tempted to forget the first affirmation of the trinity: God is beyond us. Beyond our imagining. At least twenty billion light years across, 15 billion years old, with several hundred billion years of existence left. God of 70 million, million, million solar systems. A god who is most certainly not just a big human. A God for whom the metaphor ‘human’ is so wholly inadequate.
Which is why the affirmation, the discovery, that God somehow became one of us is so amazing, so mind numbing, so incomprehensible, so reassuring. As is the minority idea that God even just became somehow visible to us, somehow revealed to us through the life and work of Jesus. We don’t want to forget the second affirmation of the trinity either. The story of God and life is certainly not limited to humans. I don’t think it is even centred on humans. But it does include humans. In a special way, not because we are special, but because we needed special help!
Finally, if God is not a big human, then the third affirmation, that God is within and amongst us, cannot be limited to humans. Us, is LIFE, not the naked ape. Our neighbour is not only our ethnic community as the Jews thought, nor our human community as the early Christians came to accept, but LIFE. All forms of life. It is bacteria and plants which keep us alive, producing oxygen and processing our wastes. If that isn’t neighbourly, I don’t know what is!
The flesh on your lunch plate comes from your neighbour. Did you treat them as you would have them treat you, if your places were reversed? The animals displaced to make way for soy crops for your vegetarian burger were neighbours. The same question applies.
So big a God, so little time to talk about them! Some of us might have a chance to continue to reflect on such things after morning tea at Insights.
So, my Trinitarian affirmation would be something like: The God who spans the universe is a God of life, and dwells amongst all life everywhere, including here on earth. Within and amongst all creatures of Earth. This same God, when one species in this vast ecological array needed help came to them, to the naked ape, offering a path of salvation, of healing and wholeness through returning to the divine communion with life from which some of them had started to slip. Even as they slipped, and certainly now, this God remains within and amongst them, as God remains within and amongst all life.
Yours, at the very least, I believe should be: “The God who is beyond our controlling and imagining nonetheless became one with us, us humans, and continues to be found within us, and amongst us, leading us as pilgrims on the way to the promised goal- the reconciliation and renewal which is the end in view for the whole creation.” That is a God worth knowing, and a journey worth being part of.