The readings on which this
sermon is based can be found at: http://frsparky.net/a/r167.htm
s167e13 Trinity Sunday 26/5/2013 Ellesmere
'God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy
Spirit that has been given to us.' Romans 5.5
Of recent times I have been reflecting that the reason that
parts of the church become narrow, is that this makes the
minister indispensable. So the ordination of women
is threatening to male clergy, because it means that there is
more competition for ministry positions. It makes it
easier for parishes or bishops to replace them.
Unfortunately this means that clergy can, and have, acted less
than charitably with impunity. This is not, of course,
confined to clergy, but we do well not to criticise those
outside if they are only acting in the same manner as those who
ought to know better.
So narrowness not only alienates those outside, but also often
results in hidden incestuous behaviour within.
So reason tells us that a broad church, an affirming and
inclusive church, is likely to be both welcomed by the community
and a safe place for people to be.
So the question is, how does this square with the God revealed
in the scriptures of the ancient people of God, the gospels and
the emergent church - the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
As we have been reading Deuteronomy recently, I suddenly thought
how the making of the golden calf happened before Moses had
delivered the ten commandments to the Israelites.
They were unaware that they were about to be forbidden to make
for themselves a graven image. And the ten
commandments contained the sixth - thou shalt not kill - but
immediately the Levites were rewarded for killing their
neighbours. There is clearly a degree of
And one response to this is perhaps to close our eyes and hope
that no one else will notice the inconsistencies.
Those who loudly proclaim the bible as the infallible word of
God seem blind to these inconsistencies and dismissive of
'liberal' commentators who point them out.
Another response is to place oneself on the side of the elect
and condemn those who are not the elect. This is to
use the inconsistencies for one's own benefit. The
element of selfishness should be noted and cause us to ask: do
we worship a God who is capricious and self-centred?
And the doctrine of the Trinity can as easily be used to define
the elect as the words of scripture or the gift of the Holy
Sometimes the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is presented as an
academic exercise, something to bewilder the congregation - to
show up their ignorance and the preacher's wisdom.
Again, we need to see the selfishness here.
We can blindly recite the creeds and fail to see that this
marginalises those who see them as sanctifying selfishness and
misrepresenting God. Or to put it another way
around, others refuse to believe in a god that instigates,
perpetuates and rewards those who use the name of God in a
The ministry of Jesus is not about forgiving sins of the few
people who call on the name of Jesus in the correct manner in
church worship, but showing us that selfishness in the name of
God attempts to kill the real God and install an idol of human
making - a metaphorical golden calf. The ministry of
Jesus shows us that selfish religion is a force for evil, and it
is only selfless religion which is good. And Jesus
defines evil as only blessing our natural and spiritual family -
which is what the church has often claimed God does.
Such selfishness and narcissism are all pervasive, both within
and outside the church.
And I wonder how the church founded on a gospel of love has been
turned into sectarianism - who holds the right doctrines and
worship - and who doesn't. And given this, is it any
wonder that people continue to be fearful and lacking
self-esteem, beginning with the members of the church
themselves. And if the church only offers fear and
lack of self-esteem, is it any surprise that modern secular
humanists view the church's message with incredulity?
The doctrine of the Holy Trinity, if it shows us nothing else,
it must be that God, Jesus and the Spirit are 'on the same
page', when it comes to love. There is no need to
fear - no need for us to fear and no need for anyone else to
The doctrine of the Holy Trinity assures us that 'in God there
is no darkness at all' (1) - that all selfishness is essentially
of human origin. albeit often found in scripture, tradition and
So an essential element of our proclamation of a God of love is
that God is not capricious and self-centred, and that God does
not instigate, perpetuate and reward selfishness - in short that
others are loved whoever they are, whatever they believe, and
with whom they choose to share intimacy. The only
thing which should make us fear is when we use the name of God
for our own selfish desires, or when we experience others doing
so. "Fear him who can destroy both soul and body in
Recently I attended a clergy conference and I heard a number of
clergy refer to the great commission as the foundational
statement of their message: 'Go therefore and make disciples of
all nations' (3) And my reflections above
cause me to wonder if these words demand we have to make all
nations follow a self centred Jesus or to get all nations to
follow a God who, through Jesus, calls us to not act selfishly
in the name of God? If the latter is the reality,
surely the world would welcome our message and we would come to
realise that they too are on the same page as the Holy Trinity
we worship today.
(1) 1 John 1.5
(2) Matthew 10.28
(3) Matthew 28.19