The Reverend Margaret Legg
In the Church Times recently, Andrew Brown wrote that a recent survey by the Christian Radio Station ‘Premier Radio’ has found that Theresa May is the Party Leader that most resembles Jesus.
It’s not clear how they identified the category ‘Christian’, but it certainly stimulates a little thought. After all, Theresa may be a vicar’s daughter and go to church regularly, but surely it is Tim Farron who shows the most fervent public faith? And anyway Jeremy Corbyn is the only leader with a beard! However, the fact Theresa is a woman clearly had no bearing on the survey’s outcome. The fight over women priests must be over!
If only the ideology of the leaders, rather than their identity, resembled that of Jesus: someone who engaged with all regardless of wealth, power, status or lack of it; who confronted and righted injustice wherever he came across it; who cured and healed; who told stories that spoke to the hearts of all who heard them.
Ideology, not identity, is a clue to help us with Trinity, which we celebrate today. One of the Oxford English Dictionary's definition of this is ‘ideas at the basis of some economic or political theory or system’ and the idea at the heart of Trinity is relationship, relationship between the 3 parts of the Godhead: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. How I used to struggle to explain Trinity when I taught in Sunday School – is it a tricycle, or a Victoria sponge or even a shamrock? Finally I cottoned to the truth – Trinity is not about a thing, but a relationship, one of self-giving love, of peace and of harmony; a relationship of endless movement, a dance of joy between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
I’ve been rather dismissive of Trinity in the past – a man-made construction, the man being Paul, as we heard in our NT Reading, and of no real significance. How wrong I was! It is at the heart of our Christian faith.
It occurs so frequently because it is vital – it is the nub of Christianity – one God, revealed in 3 ways. It invites us not to switch off, but to live creatively, caringly and with the strength that faith brings. Isaiah points out that he is a creator God, who created the ends of the earth. He invites us to live creatively, for instance by seeking out and fulfilling our potential, by using our imagination to solve seemingly intractable problems, by creating hope and motivating those we encounter; he is the God made human in Jesus, who cares so much for all humanity that he charges his disciples before his Ascension at the end of today’s Gospel not only to baptise all nations with a Trinitarian baptism but also to teach all people. Teach them to obey his commandment to love your neighbour as yourself, thus inviting us to live caringly. Perhaps by sharing our skills: I am indebted to my colleagues for their patience and willingness to help me time and again when the computer, or the photocopier or even opening the safe defeats me! and he is the God who strengthens us through the Holy Spirit, because he recognises what a struggle discipleship can be. I rather prefer the REB’s version of Paul’s last words in his letter to the Christians in Corinth: ‘mend your ways!!’ to the more anodyne rendering we heard from the NREB ‘put things in order’. Paul’s not a happy bunny and he lets them know very sternly.
Not for nothing is the HS often referred to as the Comforter, from the Latin ‘with strength’ and we are invited to live with strength, encouraging and supporting each other, by comforting each other when we are troubled, if we work in a team by offering a helping hand if we notice a member is struggling or over-burdened, by having the strength to challenge bullying or unhelpful behaviour when we come across it.
No wonder that Trinitarian refrain: Father, Son and Holy Spirit or variations crop up so often in our Sunday Service at least 11 today – and I’ve counted very carefully because I know Bryan will check!
Today we move to 6 months of Ordinary Time – described by some as those interminable green Sundays after Trinity (the set liturgical colour). That’s far too dismissive. Trinity is at the heart of our faith, remember. Trinity is the hinge between two parts of the church’s year. In the past 6 months or so we have moved on an exciting and busy highway through the story of our salvation, starting at Bethlehem and the Nativity, to Nazareth and the Epiphany; we have participated in Jesus’s Passion and death in Jerusalem; we have celebrated his Resurrection and coming of the Holy Spirit last week at Pentecost – all part of God’s initiative to rescue a wayward world.
Now we enter – let’s name it ‘The Green Avenue to Advent’, yes, all the way to November. which seems a lifetime away on this sunny and light June day. In another way though it’s hardly any time at all: just 6 months in which we are invited to share in the dynamism of the Trinity, 6 months to activate and motivate and inspire us to live as disciples of Jesus, 6 months in which we will be reading Matthew’s Gospel Sunday by Sunday, focusing on the life and deeds of Jesus to prepare us for the End Times and the Final Judgement which Advent presage. Suddenly those interminable green Sundays seem far too short.
The nation has voted! We have a hung parliament; would be leaders are popping up all over the place. But, imagine this: a trinity of the current leaders of the 3 main parties, May, Corbyn and Farron, holding hands and dancing with joy, relating to each other with creativity, care and strength, exchanging that self-giving love at the heart of God. it seems unlikely, yet that is how the Trinity inspires and invites us to live with each other: dynamically, joyfully and selflessly.
Like the moment in the Voting Booth when we decide where to put our ‘X’, Trinity gives us a choice: whether or not to join the dance. In the joyful, playful thrust of Trinity, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland comes to mind. I leave you with extracts from the Mock Turtle’s song to Alice, who has little experience of the delights of life in the sea:
“You can really have no notion how delightful it will be
When they take us up and throw us, with the lobsters, out to sea!"
But the snail replied, “Too far, too far!” and gave a look askance—
Said he thanked the whiting kindly, but he would not join the dance.
Oh turn not pale, beloved snail, but come and join the dance.
Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you join the dance?