Trinity Sunday: Divine Image & the Human Community
Kia ora koutou!
We join together in our apart-ness,
pausing to acknowledge and grow in the presence of God in our lives.
We are meeting as part of a church community, albeit a scattered one.
We are stilling ourselves, our fears, our anxieties, and all the distracting things around us, to seek and delight in God’s life with us.
Let us worship God!
A Prayer on our Way
Holiness, Word, Power,
you reveal yourself as one God in three persons,
a mighty, creative, life-generating dancer
who invites your creation to join you.
Sing into our ears, O Spirit, the holy word of life.
Tell us who we are and to whom we belong
so that we may live with gratitude for all that
you have done.
And catch us up in your love and lead us into your world
to call others to follow you with singing and rejoicing.
Be Still and Know that I am God
Our scripture readings for today:
Genesis 1:1- 2:4a The story of creation
2 Corinthians 13:11–13
Matthew 28:16– 20 Commissioning of the disciples
A reflection by Dan Spragg
As I mentioned in my midweek thoughts this week, occasionally the lectionary does well with the grouping of readings it selects for particular Sundays. This week is one of them.
More on that in a moment. Firstly though, today is Trinity Sunday – the day we pay particular attention to who God is seen as being as witnessed to in the scriptures. It’s fair to say that it has taken up quite its fair share of time as a topic of debate throughout history.
Quite often we have been left more confused about things after we’ve debated than before we started! The metaphysics of the existence of God can make for quite a few mental gymnastics. I must admit at times feeling a little like this quote suggests:
This is Trinity Sunday, but people who have cancer probably do not care. This is Trinity Sunday, but those young couples who cannot get pregnant probably do not care either. “But, this is Trinity Sunday,” proclaims the worship committee. Even so, the family dealing with the wayward teenager, the couple headed for divorce, the person who has lost a job, they do not care. Does it really matter to them that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
Indeed, what does it matter if we see God as Trinity or not?
What does it matter in times of uncertainty?
What does it matter when facing unemployment?
What does it matter when indigenous people and people of colour are constantly subjected to systemic racism and violence?
I must admit to becoming less convinced of a number of proclaimed ‘certainties’ the further into this faith journey I get. I find that I am finding more ‘certainty’ in the knowing of my experiences rather than what I can or can’t get the logical part of my brain to.
Understanding how God can be one- but – three is one of those. Needing to understand the math of it is becoming less important. What is becoming
more important is the sense of meaning which is portrayed by various descriptions, metaphors and images of God.
The late Rev Andrew Norton when reviewing the Alpine Presbytery’s mission planning project in his time as National Moderator suggested that really there was only one question we needed to ask when looking at how to shape our thoughts towards Mission, towards the what we do with our faith. The question he suggested was:
Who is God?
Answer that, he said, and that will tell you what your mission is.
If God is an abstract concept that seems quite far removed from daily life, then so too will our mission be (if there is a sense of one at all?)
If God, however, is understood in quite relatable terms, then well, that starts to make a real difference to what our mission will be.
So what of these readings today? What do these tell us of who God is (keeping the Trinity in mind)?
Genesis 1:1- 2:4a – God is = creative, life-giving, exists in relationship, the author of goodness…
Psalm 8 – God is = majestic, protective, attentive to creation, empowering…
2 Corinthians 13:11–13 – God is = peaceful, grace-giving, loving, relational…
Matthew 28:16– 20 – God is = authoritative, mission orientated, united as one, present…
That is quite a list!
Is this true for your experience(s) of God?
If this is an accurate list of who God is, what do you think it means for how we are to be?
One of the gifts of our recent ‘lockdown’ experience for me was to be introduced to the early church theologian Gregory of Nyssa. Gregory’s big idea in his On the Making of Humanity
was that the creation story of Adam and Eve doesn’t talk so much about the
creation of the first humans but rather it paints a picture giving meaning to the concept of the entire human race, which only in its entirety is able to reflect true divine likeness and divine beauty! In other words, to be made in the image of God could be far less of an individualistic thing than we have often made it out to be.
As if I by myself, or you by yourself could be the image of God!?
For Gregory, the image of God in the world = humanity – the entire species –
all of us – ever!
That paints a different picture of who we are.
The human community… the ever evolving, growing, diverse, colourful, beautiful image of God in the world.
If you were to look out your window right now and see someone walking their dog down the street, they are a part of the image of God in the world… they are a part of the representation of God in the world… they are a part of God’s responsibility in the world… they are a part of God’s activity in the world…
But only a part because you are too, as is all the people you know and love as well as those who you find difficult, as is those who are seriously misguided! (which is a little challenging to swallow).
Now here’s where my brain is colliding the two ideas today – Trinity & Humanity. If God is creative, life-giving, exists in relationship, the author of goodness, majestic, protective, attentive to creation, empowering, peaceful, grace -giving, loving, relational, authoritative, mission orientated, united as one, present…
And add to this list all of what the earlier images say to you of who God is…
And if we, all of us who have existed and all who ever will exist, together, are the representation of God in the world…Then we must be at least capable, if not possessive of the seeds and expressions of these qualities too… (without lifting ourselves to the position of being God ourselves, of course, that’d kind of be the whole point of Genesis 3 perhaps?) So I think we can take a guess at how we are to get about our living – it might have something to do with being: creative, life-giving, relational, sowers of good, majestic, protective, attentive to creation, empowering, peaceful, grace-giving, loving, relational,
authoritative (in the right way), mission orientated, united as one, present…
If we were to do that I think we’d go a long way towards being at one with what seems to be God’s mission in the world that was what Jesus lived and told his disciples to go and do the same: Love and reconciliation, the valuing of all and the bringing of all into completion in the joy of life with God.
We can certainly identify in our world situations where humans are not valued, situations where we do not act in alignment with who God is, or with who we are, situations where love and reconciliation are not the driving forces.
And systemic racism
Rears its head
I haven’t gone anywhere
And in Aotearoa
Our egalitarian values
Struggle to own
What is true for us
Isn’t it sad?
Doesn’t it make you mad?
What are we to do?
God as Trinity
And our human community
The divine image
That is what we are to do
Offering & Prayer for the Road
Collectively now at this moment as we turn our hearts and minds outwards let us be grateful for God’s ongoing gifts, the many different ways we experience the generosity of God, and be grateful that many of us can still give to the ongoing life and work of our church community in various ways and dedicate ourselves to being the image of God in our various post-lockdown spaces.
In accord with God’s command that we hold dominion over creation,
let us pray for the church, the world and all for whom we are called to be stewards. We give you thanks, God, for our world, which you made and renewed in the power of Jesus’ resurrection.
Make us wise and careful of your gifts as we live on Earth.
We pray that the love which passes ceaselessly between Creator and Word,
in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit may renew and deepen the life of each Christian and draw us all into your unending life.
For the leaders of the church:
for Protestants, Roman Catholics, and the Orthodox;
for children and young people;
for the elderly whose wise counsel is sorely needed in all ages;
and for all ecumenical endeavours that seek to bring us closer to each other and to you.
For Earth and all creatures and plants; for healthy water and air and soil;
for policies and laws that regard our home in God’s universe as a precious gift.
For our families, our households, and our communities, that your life together as three-in-one may show us the importance of each of us, and so strengthen us in your grace and truth.
For the sick and those who suffer in any way;
for those who struggle to pay rent or a mortgage;
for those who have no home;
for those who are neglected and abused in our communities;
for people who long for family and are instead alone;
for children who do not have a good guide to raise them up;
and for whatever else you see that we need.
For all those needs still unnamed but placed before you now
…(take a moment to offer your own concerns to God)
Into your hands we entrust all that is of concern this day,
sure that you hear our pleas, grateful that your will be done on earth as in heaven.
We pray this in the name of the Saviour, Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.
Great and deep the Spirit’s purpose – Marnie Barrell (Tune, Hymn to Joy)
Great and deep the Spirit’s purpose hidden now in mystery
Nature bursts with joyful promise, ripe with what is yet to be
In a world of rich invention, still the work of art unfolds
Barely have we seen, and faintly, what God’s great salvation holds.
Great and deep the Spirit’s purpose making Jesus seen and heard
Every age of God’s creation grasps new meaning from the Word
Show us, Holy Spirit, show us your new work begun today:
Eyes and ears and hearts are open, teach us what to do and say.
Great and deep the Spirit’s purpose all God’s children brought to birth,
Freed from hunger, fear and evil every corner of the earth,
And a million million voices speak with joy the Saviour’s name;
Every face reflects his image never any two the same.
Great and deep the Spirit’s purpose, nothing shall be left to chance
All that lives will be united in the everlasting dance
All fulfilled and all perfected each uniquely loved and known,
Christ in glory unimagined once for all receives his own
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not seek so much to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
— Attributed to Francis of Assisi (c. 1181–1226)
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the
Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you, and with those you love (and perhaps even with those you don’t). Amen.