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s033e05 Trinity Sunday Lockleys 22/5/2005
"farewell" 2 Corinthians 13.11
None of us are indispensable and every one of us is indispensable. We live in a small enough community to know that the contribution that everyone makes is vital; yet the continuing existence of our fellowship is not dependent on any one person. Our continuing existence is dependent only whether we recognise our need for other people and tell them so.
St Paul is able to bid the Corinthian Church "farewell". His attentions were needed elsewhere. The Church at Corinth had got the message and it was now up to them to put it into practice. They didn't need St Paul to be there to arbitrate or to ensure that they did put it into practice. They had only to love one another, and the rest would sort itself out. There was no need for Paul to appoint leaders. All had an equal share in being encouraging towards one another.
Trinity Sunday always has a special place in my heart because it was liturgically this day 32 years ago when I first travelled to St Barnabas' College to attend a vocations day. I travelled with one (now Fr.) Stephen Clark and met clergy like Fr. Malcolm Lindsay, Fr. Mark Sibly and Fr. Philip Carter. I applied for candidacy and was accepted. My studies began in 1974, and I'm still here and I'm still learning.
The doctrine of the Holy Trinity affirms that God is the God of the whole universe. The ministry of God the Son was to show that the efforts of humans to make God into the special preserve of a theological, racial, or moral elite were and continue to be doomed to failure. And so the ministry of God the Holy Spirit is to continue this same leading us out of this perception of a special preserve reserved for ourselves and see God elsewhere and everywhere in the whole of the universe.
That awful word about God "visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children's children, to the third and fourth generation" is all about this insidious iniquity of those who believe God is "theirs" in a way denied to others. It is the essence of the mafia, whose sole objective is to protect their own. Their punishment is to be left to get on with it, and the resultant iniquity does indeed go on from generation to generation. It ultimately is only a matter of scale whether this "protection of our own" is exercised in the religious sphere or on a local secular sphere as in the mafia, but the potential for widespread abuse of others is much greater in the religious sphere, though the means are less melodramatic than those we saw in films like the "Godfather".
One person spoke to me recently about the poor in South America campaigning to be permitted to use contraception and another person mentioned the authorities in Africa trying to arrest the spread of HIV -- AIDS by using condoms, to see the potential that lies in religion to not really address the issues that might make a real difference in the lives of some other people -- to contribute to their continuing misery rather than concern for and assisting their welfare.
So our proclamation of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is not to assert this as the only true faith that we hold and if others don't; well then they're going to hell, so we really don't have to concern ourselves with them. The Holy Trinity is not a big stick to beat Jews and Hindus and Moslems and Buddhists and agnostics and atheists over the head with. I suspect that most agnostics are precisely what they are, because they are not sure they want to believe in a god who is used as a weapon against others; and I wouldn't disagree with this at all. Most atheists are precisely what they are because they simply don't believe any god worthy of worship would be this way, and I heartily agree.
So we are simply bidden to "fare well", to live prosperously and generously towards all. We do not have to become doormats for the rest of humanity. We are simply to live peaceably and honourably amongst all.
The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is not something we have to learn, to understand, to be able to explain and defend, lest we, or others, fail to measure up because we don't. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity enables us to live in peace with everyone else. We could spend a lifetime trying to unravel the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, and not "fare well". We may well be distracted from living prosperously and generously, peaceably and honourably among all. There are, of course, lots of ways to be distracted. We could spend our lives reading the bible, praying and going to church. There is nothing wrong with any of these things, but they may well not help the "fare welling" (=welfare) of anyone else at all, and so miss the point of it all.
It is this "welfare of all" to which Jesus invites us and all people become disciples. We are baptised into the "welfare of all", it is the primary thing to which Jesus calls us to obey. It is as long as we do this that we can surely say that our risen Lord is with us.
I do think that we, and others, will "fare well" by "obeying everything that" Jesus has commanded but I don't recall Jesus talking about family planning at all. Jesus is always allied to the poor, the heretic, the outcast; the ones who are in need. And I say these things knowing full well that there are many good and faithful Roman Catholics who believe likewise.
The words of James come to me as a suitable way to end this sermon, for again they focus on the word "fare well": "What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill," and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness." (James 2.14-17, 3.1)
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