Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Trinity Sunday & heresy...

Trinity Sunday (15 June, this year) is the Sunday of the Church Year where preachers fear to tread, knowing that they are in very great danger of committing heresy when trying to explore the Christian Doctrine of God as Holy Trinity - One God and Three Persons...

My own sermon for St Peter's follows this wonderful video about the dangers of heresy, with St Patrick picked out for particular castigation!... ;-)

ISAIAH 40:12-17, 27-31
2 CORINTHIANS 13:11-13
MATTHEW 28:16-20

“If you have a Bible in one hand, what should be in your other hand?”

When I was doing work, a few years ago, as a Bishop’s Chaplain, I heard a regular repetition of the Oaths and Declarations made by a priest upon the occasion of their licensing to a new ministry.
The Bishop declares before the congregation and the priest about to launch into a new context:
“The Church of England is part of the one, holy catholic and apostolic Church worshipping the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation. Led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty–nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.“

He then asks the priest:
“will you affirm your loyalty to this inheritance of faith as your inspiration and guidance under God in bringing the grace and truth of Christ to this generation and making him known to those in your care?”

And all pray that the priest will say:
“I do so affirm, and accordingly declare my belief in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds and to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear witness”

The affirmation is of a faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and which is being understood and explored through creeds and formularies.
In essence, a faith which expresses itself through a constant dialogue, or maybe even a trialogue… this is my reflection for this Trinity Sunday.
Or, to put it another way,
“If you have a Bible in one hand, what should be in your other hand?”

The theologian Karl Barth, at the beginning of the 20th century, famously contended that, in order to be a Christian, you needed to have a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.  Thus, you are constantly seeking to understand and be shaped by the big issues and questions around you in the world in which you live.
I would like to suggest to you a bunch of other things you might have in that other hand, from time to time, as well as a newspaper.  You might have, on occasion, an empty hand, a hand available to offer service to another person or project;
or you might have a blessing;
or someone else's Scripture;
or a quinquennial report (I have been a Churchwarden, well before I was a priest, and so know about these things!);
or poetry, novels, a film, local events guides, etc;
or a computer mouse;
or your diary. 

All very good suggestions and all, I feel absolutely convinced, necessary to live a balanced, careful Christian life.  A life we are called to which is modelled for us by God being a Holy Trinity, not singular and fixed, in that sense, but endlessly in relationship and love.

But I want to be particularly passionate about our particular need to recover a balance that most Christians have had down through history, but that we modern, especially Western, Christians have dangerously downplayed during the last couple of centuries, and especially during the 20th century and the post-War generation.  The great medieval theologians all talk regularly about our need to hold together our understanding and valuing of God’s Word and God’s World.  That is to say, to hold together and learn from the revelation of God’s purposes and nature through both scripture and the natural, created order.
I think that a rediscovery of this Christian wisdom and balance is perhaps the greatest challenge before the world at present and for the generations now growing up.

And so it is today that the Church’s calendar directs us to learn afresh what it means to comprehend God as Most Holy and Undivided Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit – three Persons in one Godhead.  That God’s very nature and being is the source of this balance and relationship of one thing to another of which I have started to speak.

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