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Bible readings:


Trinity Sunday, Year A (June 15, 2014)                                                     St James’, Peace River


It feels like there are a lot of comings and goings today: a lot of endings and beginnings. In the gospel reading we just revisited the close of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and the beginning of the work of the apostles as they (and we) are commissioned to go into the whole world with the good news. Before that, we heard the mother of all beginnings in the creation story in the first chapter of Genesis – the very first words of the Bible. And that was balanced, and brought down to earth, with St Paul’s last words from his very fraught correspondence to the church in Corinth, basically saying that he’d done all he could to get them back on the right track and now is was up to God.


These readings are in front of us today because we are celebrating Trinity Sunday. The two New Testament readings are obvious choices – they are the only times in the Bible where the Trinity is named explicitly, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It took a while for the early Christians to wrestle with the reality of who God is, and who Jesus is in relation to God, and how the Holy Spirit fits in – the writers of the New Testament were part of that wrestling, and they all added to our understanding, but it wasn’t finalized and formalized until some time after the New Testament writings were complete. So we have just these two moments, the Grace and the Great Commission, pointing us so clearly towards this way of understanding and speaking about God.


The Genesis reading is a bit more subtle as a choice for a Trinity reading. Of course, you’d be hard pressed to find any Old Testament text which speaks of God as three persons; the Jewish creed was and is very firm on this point, “The Lord our God, the Lord is one” – though there’s just that one curious story about the Lord visiting Abraham, in the form of three men! [Genesis 18] But Christians reading the Creation story will see a reflection there of how we have come to know God. The creative power of God points us towards the source of all things whom we know as the Father; but there is also the Word of God, whom we know as Jesus the Son, speaking God’s love into the world and forming and transforming it; and then the Spirit-wind of God, brooding over the waters from the beginning, and breathing life into all living things. Perhaps there’s something to that unexpected word “us” after all, when God says, “let us make humankind in our image”?


As so often happens, though, the story of God and the world, which is in the Bible, is running smack into the middle of our story today. The endings and beginnings aren’t just in the readings, they’re right here in person. We’re praying our goodbyes for Cara and Cady and Noel, sending you off with the same prayer St Paul closed with, that you will always know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, just as we have experienced those things together while you’ve been with us. And sending you as well in the spirit of the Great Commission, to go and share the good news and keep making more disciples, in all nations, but especially Oiler Nation!


And how neat it is that part of that great commission is to baptize. Because here we are, ready to put our Trinitarian words into action with you, Irene, as you come to be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This is a beginning, as you make a commitment to God from which there is no turning back – and as God makes a commitment to you, too, saying to you as the Father did to the Son at his baptism “You are my child and I love you”, and assuring you that the Holy Spirit lives in you and through you. From this beginning you too will be sent as an apostle, to live out Good News and to be a person through whom God draws others close to himself.


Though it’s funny to speak of this as a beginning for you, when there is so much that has come before it – so much of your own experience of God, and even of this church, and so many conversations and shared experiences with the people around you that are already part of your story and your journey. But that’s the way it is; that’s the way our stories fit in the great story of God and the world. Our beginnings and our endings and all the stages in between are part of that story, and part of each other’s stories too. So the beginning of living your life in baptism marks the end of some things that have gone before, and the fulfillment of others. Just as the goodbyes we’re saying to you, Cara and Cady and Noel, mark how much you have shared in the story of St James’ in the time you’ve been here, but also carry our faith that you will soon be every bit as much part of the life of a new community, new friends, new church, because we know and trust that God has at least that in store for you.


I wonder if that sense of intertwining our stories, our lives, and seeing how they fit into the great story of God and the world – if that might give us a different way of looking at what we mean when we describe God as Trinity. Because the Trinity is made up of stories so deeply shared that they cannot be separated. When the Creator was creating, Word and Spirit were on the scene. When the Son was baptized, the Father spoke and the Dove carried love from heaven to earth. We can’t find words to describe it, but we know that when Jesus cried out from the cross, “My God, why have you forsaken me”, the one he was speaking to heard it and was struck to the heart, and the Spirit which is the breath of God must have stopped. For a time, anyway. And when Christ rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, the Spirit began to breathe again and speak in the hearts of all who followed him, and nothing could have spoken more deeply or wonderfully of the Love which is the Father, from whom all things come and who is reaching out to gather us all back to himself.


So the story looks different if you look at it from different points of view; but it is the same story. And to say that the nature of God is love, is to say that the Trinity choose to share their stories so perfectly that they live one story. That might sound like a high-flown abstraction about God that has nothing to do with us, but remember where we are in this story! We are the ones created in God’s image. We are the ones baptized into Christ’s death and new life, and shaped to be his body, members of each other. We are the ones in whom the Spirit lives and works. This story is about us too.


Which means there is another crucial dimension to the way that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit share their lives so completely with one another. That shared story is a creative one, which brings into being people like you and me, and brings into being the world we inhabit, and calls us to be part of God’s story too. To be so much a part of God’s life, and to invite God to be so much part of our life – not that we should lose ourselves in God but so that we can actually find ourselves there, our real selves, the people we are meant to, and most want to, be!


So this great glorious transcendent idea of God the Holy Trinity, which seems so far beyond us, turns out to be right here in front of us: in the body of Christ, given to us at the altar and visible to us in one another. And it turns out even to be right here within us, in the Spirit which God pours into our hearts and who gives us a life that is truer to who we are than anything we could make for ourselves. That’s not to say it’s “all about us” – quite the opposite. As we go from here today, beginning a new life in baptism, ready for a new stage of our journey, or simply going back into the world God made, it will be all about God. Because God invites you into the story, to live the same story the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are living: everything you do, every gift you exercise, every person you meet, every breath you take, will be all about God.