May 22nd 2016
John chapter 16 verses 12 – 15
with Maggie Cogan – Reader
May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of all our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, our strength and our redeemer – Amen
I thought I’d have a quiz with you this morning. And the quiz would be called ‘What do you really know about Maggie Cogan?’ I could have two teams – one each side of the church, – searching questions, a couple of picture rounds, a quick-fire buzzer round, and a complicated question to sort things out if there was a dead heat – How well would you do?—— Not too bad, you might think—— because you might have picked up bits and pieces of information about me.
But what if I was to ask a specialist compiler to set the questions?——- Who would that be? I know… the world’s foremost expert on Maggie Cogan – me—- What if the questions to be set were really obscure pieces of information you couldn’t possibly know—— things that were only known to me? Would you do so well then?
You might know the name of some of my grandchildren – I’m a Reader and Chaplain to the Air Training Corps
But would you know I was brought up in Beckenham—— and would you know where I went to school, and who used to take my seat on the back of my mother’s bicycle- so I had to walk to school!!!
Struggling? I thought you might be… and that’s why I’m not actually going to put you on the spot with a Maggie Cogan Quiz
Why do you think I am bothering to start a sermon this way? To make a point, really – You see, you know a bit about me—— but you don’t know it all… Only I know that.
The bits you know about me might help you understand who I am and what I’m like. They might encourage you to get to know some more—— They will, however, only give you windows to look through—– insights that allow you to work out what the bigger picture might be. They will not tell you it all. You will never know it all—–Only I know that.
This is Trinity Sunday—- the Sunday after Ascension and Pentecost, the day when we celebrate a central belief in the Christian Church about the nature of our God – when we celebrate the Trinity—– the Trinitarian nature of God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Now, that could easily be confusing. One God, three names… One God, three parts… One God, three images… One God—- three ways of understanding… Today, you see, that is where the “Maggie Cogan quiz” makes the point in a different way—— We can know some, but we may not know it all—– So we need to use what we know—– and let that point us to the bigger picture. The different ways of understanding the nature of God—– gives us windows through which we can look, insights from which we can begin to have an understanding of the whole of God
None of our readings today use the word ‘Trinity,’ yet God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is central to them. Indeed the word ‘Trinity’ is not used by Jesus—– it is not found in the Bible at all—- yet faith in the Holy Trinity is the touchstone of what it means to be a Christian. Those who do not believe in God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit should not use the term Christian to describe themselves.
The first article of Religion in the Anglican Church states: There is but one living God, everlasting, without body – parts – or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker and preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power and eternity; the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost
In our gospel reading today, the disciples are understandably quite terrified. Their lives are about to take a dramatic turn. They are quite concerned about the future. How would they continue to do his work without his presence and guidance?
Trinity Sunday is a special Sunday because we think about who God is —the Trinity of Father, Son, and Spirit. Even those of us who are very committed Christians find this hard because we all know that something cannot be individually three and also completely one. But this Sunday expresses and celebrates the fact that we encounter God in contradictory ways.
In our world there are some certain simple truths – ‘water is wet.’ – ‘a rock is hard’ But when we start to speak about things which really matter – God for example, then we soon find out that we run out of words. Human language and thoughts simply fail to work.
Whilst the word Trinity is not found in the Bible, the belief which it expresses is stated, many times – The early Christians soon discovered that they simply could not speak of God without speaking of the three ways in which he had revealed himself to them—- This does not mean that there are three Gods. It means that there is one God who has shown himself in three ways: God the Father, God the Son or Jesus, and Holy Spirit of God who came to them and made God alive in them.
We would all fail a quiz about what there is to know about God – God is too big, too wonderful, too amazing for us to get anywhere near a total understanding. People have tried all their lives to get close to that and they have all failed. Only God knows what the whole God is like—-So do we give up? Not at all- For God gives us windows, ways of knowing—- insights which are enough for now, but through which we can look with a view to exploring more what God is like.
God the Father is not the whole of God – but it may be enough for now, sufficient for our needs.
God the Son is not the whole of God – but it may be enough for now, sufficient for our needs.
God the Spirit is not the whole of God – but it may be enough for now, sufficient for our needs at this time.
We should not worry if yesterday we knew God through the wonder and creation of this world—— That’s the nature of God. For on another day we may need to know God through the Son or the Spirit. We should not worry if we know God through the story of Jesus. That is our way into the nature of God. For on another day we may need to know God through the Father or the Spirit. We must not worry if tomorrow we know God through a sense of the presence of the Spirit. That will be our way into the nature of God. On another day we may need to know God through the Father or the Son. That is the amazing message of Trinity Sunday. There are different ways into the nature of God—- and they all lead us to the same God, and they all reveal what God is like, and they are all absolutely right.
Tom Wright in his book John for Everyone says. How do we talk about things that are not just out of the ordinary but take us into a whole new world?
He says that one way of doing it is through music. That’s why some of the greatest songs are love poems. Faced with the glory and thrill of human love, all our own words are—rather threadbare and inadequate. Set them to music, though, and they soar with the eagles and beat in time to our hearts.
That’s why from very early on in Israel— and in the early church, people have used music to say things that words by themselves – couldn’t do
This Trinity Sunday reminds us of this important truth … there is more than one way to enter into the mind of God; there’s more than one way to know God’s amazing love; there is more than one way to know the touch of God’s blessing; there is more than one way to understand God’s glorious revelations; there’s more than one way to know God’s presence
Our wonderful closing hymn today says – (not for 8am service)
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God almighty,
Early in the morning, our song shall rise to thee:
Holy, Holy, Holy, Merciful and mighty,
God in three persons
On this Trinity Sunday, we say; thank God for that.