Toorak Uniting Church

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Three in one

Genensis 1: 1 – 5   Psalm 8   2 Corinthians 13: 11 – 13
Rev. Anneke Oppewal
18 May 2008

Trinity Sunday is one of these Sunday on which the Church isn’t quite sure what colour to use. Different Church traditions come up with different liturgical colours for this day suggesting they don’t quite know what to do with it: Is it a White Sunday? Part of the great Easter Festival which started on Easter Morning, or in some traditions at halfway the midnight Vigil Saturday night, or is it a Green Sunday, the first Sunday of a series of "ordinary" Sundays that will stretch all the way to advent in which we are invited to receive the seed of the gospel and grow as the green plants of God’s creation do? The Sundays where the great feast has been replaced with the day to day hard work of listening to God’s word and letting our lives be shaped by it in our every day existence and journey with God through thick and thin (not that that does not happen at festival times, but the emphasis is different).

After the bright red of Pentecost is Trinity the first Sunday or (in a way), the last? Do we celebrate the coming together of the Trinity as part of the life that broke through the confines of death on that Easter morning, or do we see the Trinity as something where the journeying of God with his people after Easter begins? Is Pentecost a transition to the "ordinary" every day or is it an integral part of Easter, of what happened on Easter morning, and is Trinity than the place where Easter comes full circle and finally finds it completion?

These may seem trivial questions to you, but they are important theologically. Because the answer to these questions will determine how we see God in our lives, and how we might relate to him.

Of course, over the centuries the answers have swayed from one end of the spectrum to the other. Indicating that there is no one right way or answer. This is a white-green Sunday and in two thousand years we haven’t been able to decide one way or the other as a Church and sort it out. So perhaps we should just leave it that way and leave it to whoever puts up the pulpit fall to decide which way we are going to look at God this year.

Now, what if Trinity was the conclusion of our Easter Celebrations? What if Trinity was a "White" Sunday? A hight feast, at the tail end of the High Feast of Easter which has stretched, over 50 days, all the way from Easter morning till Pentecost?

That would mean we would be invited to not see Easter morning as the sole focus of the Easter event but see Pentecost as an integral part of it too. Easter and Pentecost than two ends of the spectrum, with the third part of the trinity, the Father, holding them together. He brings the Son to new life, He pours out the Spirit on the people. He discloses himself in the life of the Son, he makes himself known in the presence of the Spirit.

On Trinity Sunday it becomes clear that the Spirit was part of the Son as the death defying love of God all along. And that where the Spirit is poured out the new life of the Son takes shape and therefore Easter takes shape in the life of ordinary people in their ordinary lives. All three manifestations of God in trinity part of that life changing event called Easter where death loses its grip and love takes over the life of the world.

Than the Trinity is really where everything comes together and Easter finds its fulfillment and conclusion on the highest note: The Father reveals himself in the Son and through the Son shows how love conquers death, to come together in the work of the Spirit who reveals herself through both the work of the Father and the Son from the beginning and now finds her way into the hearts of those who seek to follow Jesus and open themselves up to the healing, life renewing power of God as it was revealed in his life in his Name.

What however happens if Trinity were a green Sunday? And Pentecost is seen as a transition from the great Festival of Easter into the "ordinary" day to day normality of hard won and doubt ridden faith?

Trinity would be the Sunday after the picture had come full circle. Pentecost done, the Spirit poured out, it is now time for you and me to stop the endless celebrating and high hallelujah's of Easter and get back to the business of life on the road. Christ is risen, the Spirit has been poured out. Time to get some work done! The Trinity just that slightly complicated thing that God in his wisdom wanted to put in place before we would be fully prepared for the journey he is calling us to. Father, Son and Holy Spirit all we need so to speak to get our life of faith on track.

If we look at the Trinity from that perspective something significantly different from the previous option comes to the fore theologically. Something equally important and worth considering. Because it looks at the Trinity not from the perspective of what has happened, and to add a deeper dimension to our Easter faith, from the fullness of what there is to celebrate at Easter, but it looks at the Trinity from the day to day of our lives and what God being Father, Son and Holy Spirit means in that.

It is then these three words become three ways in which God accompanies us on our journey, three ways in which he reveals himself in our lives. Like a mother who can be many things to her children at once, cook, taxi-driver, sports coach, tutor, to name but a few, God is someone beyond our imagining but at the same time a friend and companion, and also a source of strength and inspiration, is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Then the Trinity draws our attention to the relation-ability of God and the different ways he can become a presence in our lives. A presence we can relate to on many different levels.

God the Father that part of God that relates to us as above and beyond us. The awe inspiring part of God, who we recognize in the vastness of the universe and the beauty of creation, in whose presence we feel ourselves to be entering when our hearts stop at something too profound for words. But also that part of God that is terrifying and incomprehensible: Terrifying as earthquakes and cyclones, as roaring waves and merciless droughts.

God the Son in whom we believe the true nature and intent of that awesome and sometimes terrifying God was revealed more clearly than ever before or ever since as a God who is love, whose intent is healing and peace and not devastation or destruction, whose purpose is to bring light and life in streams of abundance into the lives of those who open themselves up to him.

A God who makes himself known in our life as a close friend, a brother or sister who shares the journey at our level, sharing our crying and our laughter, our pain and our joy, walking beside us, inviting us into relationship. A God who knows and understands what we go through because he has been there and done it, all the way to the last breath and beyond.

And then there is God the Spirit. That intangible quality of God we experience as something that can set up house inside us, fill our being, direct our purpose from the depths of our heart and our soul. God as the source of courage, of strength, of guidance, of growing beyond ourselves into people who live the life of Christ and manage to change the world because of it.

God as the challenger who calls us beyond what we are or what we would do of ourselves. God like wine, warming but also exhilarating and frightening at times because it makes us lose control, makes us move where perhaps it would have been easier or more convenient for us to have stayed where we were.

So if we look at the Trinity that way what emerges is a companion for the road with three very distinct sides to his personality. An awesome God beyond our ken, who can be a friend as close as any, able to become as intimate with us as our own heart and able to challenge us to great, new and daring adventures, a seeds us with his gospel and encourages in us the abundance of lush valleys and green meadows where his Kingdom can grow and come to full bloom in us and through us.

Should we make a choice between green and white? I think perhaps we had better not. Because isn’t it in the tension between the God of love, resurrection and new life who came in Jesus Christ and won victory over death and the the God of companionship who meets us on the road, walks the journey with us and calls us to his Kingdom that we get to know the true nature of the Father, meet hope and new life in Jesus Christ and discover new life after the darkness of death as stronger than any other force or power in this world? Isn’t it the Trinity that holds the Easter Event which is to be celebrated with high Hallelujah’s together with the hard work of life on the road and the long journey we are called upon towards the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises in our life and in the world?

God meets us. At the Easter Feast where we remember how great God is, but also on the road where he comes towards us from a future where we can be his people and he our God, close as a friend and intimate as our own breath. Amen.

© Rev. Anneke Oppewal, 2008


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