Sunday, May 22, 2016

Trinity Sunday - 22 May 2016

 
Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ,
 
Revelation 4: 1-11 and John 3: 1-16
 
Nicodemus retorted, "How can a man be born again once he is old? Can he return to his mother's womb and be born over again?"  

Jesus replied, "I solemnly assure you. No one can enter into God's kingdom without being begotten of water and the spirit."  
 
My friends, as I have been ordained a priest over five years  years or so, I approach the Feast of the Trinity, as I do each year, with no little fear and trepidation. How do you preach about such a profound mystery as the inner life of God himself? What is it that I can share with God's people on this very special day? It seems to many people that the Trinity is more a toy for theologians to play with than anything else. It is so difficult for us to understand that, therefore, it has very little practical relevance. Some people would maintain that. I hope this morning you and I would all agree, after my remarks, that this is really not true. 
 
What is it that we can say; what does our Church teach about this dogma? That God is One and that he is Three-In-One. That the Father is not the Son nor is the Son the Father and that the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son. There is one God and there are three distinct persons in that one God. All of this, of course, is a mystery. 
It is the favorite technique for preachers on this day to recall the symbols that have been used historically to point out the oneness in unity in the three distinct persons: the use of the shamrock by St. Patrick; a triangle, three points and yet one; three rings that are tied together as one. Yet none of these symbols can ever fathom the mystery we are confronted with. Hence it is very possible for some people to think that the Trinity is a toy for theologians to play with. Maybe it's just as well that they play with it so that they don't get into trouble with other things! 
 
But if we look to the Sacred Scriptures, when God burst forth into our history, perhaps we might get a little different idea about the Trinity. Within the Scriptures, the Word of God is revealed to us. God himself teaches us about his inner life and the reason why that life is so important to us. In order to begin with the Scriptures, we have to go nearly to the end of the Bible, to the First Letter of John to find a definition of God that is so beautiful and so perfect - and so simple. Here's what John wrote: ". . .God is love. And he who abides in loves abides in God and God in him" (1 John 4:16). What a definition of God this is! God is love! Not some sentimental notion of love, but love that means an emptying of oneself for the other. For that is really what love is about. Why were you and I created? We were created because God loved us. That's the only reason. But what a reason! We were created by God out of love. 
 
We were created by God for a purpose: to know him and to love him and to serve him in this life and to be happy with him in the next - an old catechism definition of why we were made. God made us out of love. He made us for himself and he intends us to be happy with him forever. What a mystery that is. If we take a look at ourselves, we might say, "I don't find anything that is that particularly lovable in myself that God would create me." But God created us out of love. 
 
The whole history of the people of God that we read in the Old Testament is a history of that love continually surprising God's people. How often did they reject that love and go their own way and God continually called them back, renewing the covenant with them; that special relationship that he, in his love, had with them. He did not abandon them. "Can a mother forget her infant? Be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even though she forget, I will never forget you" (Isaiah 49:15). That is how much God loved us. 
 
And yet even that is not enough for God. As you know, God sent his Son into the world. Jesus Christ our Lord emptied himself of the glory of his divinity, in order to take up this human nature of ours, to be born of a woman, to live among us, to suffer and die on a cross. For what purpose? Because he loved us. God is love. Jesus, our Lord, is the personification of the Father's love for us. 
 
Remember that dialogue between Jesus and Philip? Philip said, "Show us the Father and that will be enough for us". Jesus had been talking about the Father. They said, "Just show us the Father and that will be enough for us." Jesus answered this way, "Philip, have I been so long a time with you and you still don't know me? He who sees me, sees the Father also" (John 14:9). "You want to know who the Father is? I am the perfect reflection of the Father." 
 
All that the Father is and has, he has given to his Son. There is a bond of love that exists between God the Father and God the Son and that bond of love is so perfect that it's a person. It is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. On the night before he died, Jesus spoke to his disciples (We read it in the sixteenth chapter of John's Gospel.) about handing over the Spirit to them; sending the Spirit to them as another Advocate, to teach them all things; to confirm them; to strengthen them in the truth so that they would know God. And what is that Spirit, but the bond of love between God the Father and God the Son. And now that Holy Spirit would be poured out upon the world in order that our relationship between ourselves and God would be established from the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit. 
 
Simply put, it means this. God has expanded his family to include you and me. The same love that the Father has for his Son, Jesus Christ, whom he raised from the dead, is the love that he has for each and every one of us. And that is the Holy Spirit. You and I, having been graced by that love, are able - empowered - to return that love to God by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. We are, as St. Paul says, the adopted children of God (Romans 8:15). What a marvelous concept that is. 
 
This Trinity Sunday is not a day that should be considered merely a toy for theologians. This is our day. This is a day for you and for me because we reflect on the revealed truth that God has deigned to act out of love to share his life with each and every one of us. 
 
The night before He died Jesus gave himself to us, as he gave us his body as our food and his blood as our drink. You and I this morning will offer to God the Father that gift of Jesus Christ. We will offer it through Christ, and with him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit to God the Father. We will make a gift, a sacrifice, of ourselves in Christ to the Father. We are empowered to do that because we have been born again of water and the Holy Spirit. We have been made the adopted children of our heavenly Father. We have been graced by God himself. In Christ, as members of his Mystical Body, of which he is the Head, we offer a perfect gift to the Father. 
 
That is the reason we are here. We are here, not to listen to great music. We are not here to hear a sermon. We are here because of what happens there on the altar and because of what happens here at the communion rail, when you and I receive the body and blood of the Lord to nourish that God-life within us. This is indeed our feast, this feast of the Trinity. It isn't a toy for theologians. This feast is a joy for believers.
 
Father Ed Bakker
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne
Launceston on Tasmania
Australia 
 

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