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Gospel centred sermons, based on the lectionary often in advance.

Jul 20, 2022

Key Bible passages: Proverbs 8:1–4, 22-31, Romans 5:1–5, John 16:12–15

The experience of God (Trinity)
Today is Trinity Sunday. From our tradition and in our history the church has usually named God as Trinity. God is One but at the same time God is Three - Father, Son & Holy Spirit. 
 Today, I’m going to talk about how God is experienced and how in that experience, as God is revealed to us, we come to know God as three and as one.
 This understanding of God as Trinity comes from the experience of God by the people of Israel, in the early church, and in our personal experience.
 It comes to us in the Bible. The Bible records the experience, and the revelation of God, to the peole of Israel and the early church.
This experience is made formal in the Creeds of the church, Especially the Nicene Creed. Creeds are short summaries of the faith, created in wordy arguments but built upon the experience of the Christian community.

To put it another way our understanding & so our experience of God stems from 
  i. creation.
  ii. from the life and work of Jesus, and
  iii. from the personal experience of the first Christians and church members down through the ages.

 h. God out there... (God the creator)
Many people are led to faith, begin their faith journey, or are strengthened in their faith by the awe they experience in creation. Whatever you believe about the age of the Universe, if you are a Christian you will believe in God as the Creator, the one who spoke the worlds into being.
 Through the ages Christians, indeed all the major faiths refer to the divine origin of the worlds. In Eastern faiths, some indigenous Spiritualities and Greek philosophy, the universe, is the outworking of the divine. In Jewish, Christian & Islamic faiths, the Universe is the handiwork or the artwork of God. It is God’s Mona Lisa. Some Eastern faiths argue that the matter of the Universe is evil and that the aim of life is to connect or become part of the divine reality beneath it. Christianity, Judaism and Islam all teach that God made the Universe good and we can see at least a little of God’s goodness as well as God’s power and cleverness in creation. 
 To quote from Psalm 8 Psalm 8:1 (NIV)

      1 LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! 
         You have set your glory in the heavens.

As human beings we also experience another aspect of creation. No matter our faith or even lack of faith, all human beings have a sense of right and wrong. We may argue about the details but it seems to be universal that we should not murder (at least our own), or steal or lie and so on. We should love our neighbours, at least those who are near to us. This common morality and also what we call common sense could together be called wisdom.  

Proverbs tells us that Wisdom was the very first creation of God. Proverbs 8:22–23 (NIV)
      22 “The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; 23 I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be.”

Almost all human beings have this sense of morality, a sense of what is right and how it should be applied. You may not always want to apply it, you may want to act selfishly but if you look into your hearts, your core, we know this basic wisdom.

Almost all human beings have also looked at the stars, or a sunset, or the tiny perfect hand of a newborn gripping their finger, they have been caught in a terrible storm and have been filled with and awe and wonder and sometimes even fear, at the power, creativity and artistry of God. 

This picture of God is not whole, not how Christians understand God. Creation gives a mixed picture of God, it is full of beauty and majesty but when earthquake, fire and tsunami strike, and when you consider the vast empty barren-ness of space it can strike fear or even horror into you.

Creation says almost nothing about God being love. It does not reveal God as a loving parent, as the one Jesus called Father or Dad. In creation, everything dies. Even wisdom only speaks of justice, it doesn’t speak the wonderful foolishness of forgiveness, compassion and grace.

Moreover the God of creation may be close. But this God who called the worlds into being with a word, is beyond you, separated from you, it may feel like you can reach out and touch God like on a clear night it feels like you can touch the stars but in the end you are part of the creation, part of the art work and you cannot reach out of the canvass to touch the artist even if he or she is near by.

 i. God with us : Jesus
The second way the Christians have experienced God is in Jesus. God who was alongside you in history. God the eternal son become a human being. The artist become a part of the artwork. In his healing, touching the leper, in his teaching, in his sharing meals with sinners and respectable people alike, in his miracles, in his calling and commissioning of the disciples and in his death and resurrection, Jesus has revealed God to be compassionate, forgiving, a friend, a brother, a loving parent you can refer to as your Dad. The one who sees even the sparrows fall, and cares so much more for you. It is in Jesus witnessed to in the pages of the Bible that you come to know the fullness of the character of God. Because of Jesus you know that you are not just parts of an artwork, tiny brushstrokes on a vast canvass, you are God’s adopted children. 
 As the reading from Romans 5 says “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. " (Romans 5:1–2, NRSV) And as Jesus says in the John reading "All that the Father has is mine." (John 16:15, NRSV) and he promises that he will pass that on to you or as Jesus says in John 14 “If you have seen me , you have seen the Father.” (v9) and in 10:30 “The Father and I are one.”
 Now if this is true that Jesus is God among us in history there is a problem. Yes, Jesus has shown you what God beyond us is like. Jesus has shown you his dad, indeed he shares his Dad with you and because of his life and death and new life, you know you are welcome with God, but just two Sunday’s ago we celebrated the  Ascension when we remembered that Jesus has gone to be with God the Father. So God is still out of reach.

 j. God Within
Yet I bet this is not your personal experience of God. Most of you will not have heard God speak in a voice from heaven or a burning bush, but nearly all Christians have the sense at least sometimes God is with them or even in them. This is the Holy Spirit. This is the way you are connected to Jesus and his Dad. “When the Spirit comes” Jesus says “he will guide you into all truth... he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” That divine inner sense of peace, that conviction that you should speak up about something or check up on a family member or friend, that divine strength you have at time of loss, or need or illness, that perseverance you have through suffering, that sense of hope, all of these could be, and probably are, the presence of the Spirit.
 I have many favourite Bible verses but Romans 5:5 has to be one of them. Romans 5:5 (NIV)“... God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

 k. Summary
So the reason for this idea of the Trinity is essentially to do with the way God is experienced. You experience God as beyond you, the artist of creation who you cannot reach out of the canvass to touch, even though this Artist is very near. You also know that God was with us in history; God became part of the artwork, one of the brush strokes, and so you know God, who reveals that the Artist is a loving parent who loves the creation dearly. And you know God near you and in you, the Spirit, who fills your hearts, your inner being with God’s love, bringing you peace and strength and wisdom, connecting you to Jesus and the Father. God is beyond you, was and is one of you in history, and God is in you and among you: Father Son & Holy Spirit.

Today as Christians this experience of God is still the same as you look out at creation, as you read the teaching and stories of Jesus, and as you close your eyes in prayer.

 l. Practical expressions - 
This church’s mission and vision is to be a practical expression of the love of God. How practical is the Trinity? How does it work out in your common life?
  i. God Alongside - Food pantry
When you read about the Story of Jesus feeding the hungry and having compassion on the broken, the Spirit’s voice and love at work within you very often calls you to action. One of the ways you have answered that call is with the food pantry. On Sunday and Tuesday you have helped four different households giving away three lots of food plus soap and toilet paper.
  ii. God within & alongside - Witness - comfort, hope, peace, forgiveness, acceptance
When you face suffering loss or illness or fear what could be more practical than the forgiveness and healing  known in Jesus and the inner peace and strength, acceptance and love you experience through the Spirit. And what a story you have to tell each other, your family and your neighbours. “Despite COVID and inflation, and my illness and my loss” you can say to others “I have hope. I believe that God who was with us in Jesus healing and providing, is with me still. I have a sense of peace, and you can have it too.” 
  iii. God the Artist - beyond us
Next year the Worship and Evangelism committee is considering doing another visual arts Stations of the Cross. Echoing the creativity of the Creator, the Artist of the Universe and drawing attention to the artistry of the creation itself is a great practical way to bring people hope, joy, and wonder. As we ponder all of that let’s come to God with our free will offering and sing a great hymn about the experience of God.