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Keep On Breathing...

Last Sunday was Trinity Sunday, and Pete Stevenson led the service, the music AND gave the homily. Thanks, Pete, for your hard work!

Afterwards those who were able stayed behind to clean the church and the garden, in preparation for the visit by Bishop Mark Edington on 30th June.

Here are Pete’s notes from his homily:

The Father-Creator, the Son-Redeemer and the Holy Spirit-Comforter. Thanks be to God!

Today is Trinity Sunday, which gets me a little nervous, am I expected to explain the Trinity to you? I’ve discovered Christians who find it a surprise to discover there is no mention of the trinity in the Bible. As a 6 yr old, it was explained to me as a 3 leaf clover or the 3 parts of an egg, shell, white, yolk. Then later in life listening to people give a fuller explanation but ending up ‘...but it’s a mystery!’ In other words, I don’t think they understood it either!

The best explanation I’ve read to date is John Orberg’s book ‘Everybody’s normal till you get to know them’ (Zondervan, 2003). It’s a book about Christian community and early on he gives the view that the trinity is a community. The theology of the trinity grew very early in church history, with hints of it as far back as 110 AD, figured to best fit the descriptions of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that we have; where the separate members of that triune community do not push themselves forward, they do not try to outdo each other but each testify to each other...

Father/Son. This is my son in whom I am well pleased, listen to him. Luke 9; 35

Son/Father.”... the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees the Father doing.” John 5;19

Father/Holy Spirit.”..the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me John 15; 26

Holy Spirit/Father. “...the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to son-ship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Romans 8 15-16

Son/Holy Spirit. “He will lead you in all truth.” John 16; 13

Holy Spirit/Son. “...I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ...” 1 John 2; 1

I’ve used the word community, a community is a group of people but there are many other words that describe a group of people...

Team, group, association, guild, institution, nation, tribe, gang, caste, clan and so on. All these words describe a group of people, some of them imply they are for the common good of everyone and want to be inclusive, other words imply an exclusiveness, words like tribe, gang, clan and sometimes are sources of violence.

The community of the trinity is about reaching out, inclusiveness but the church can be notorious for dividing and splitting, for example...

Catholic/Protestant – Martin Luther 1517

Protestant/dissenter/Non conformist. 16th-18th Cent – there were dozens of them.

In the 1970’s and 80’s there were a lot of church splits with a section of congregations wanting to adopt a charismatic style of worship and teaching.

In addition to established Pentecostal denominations like Elim and Assemblies of God, there sprung up new names like Pioneer, Kings Church, New Wine, Vineyard...

Just look around for a second; here at Christchurch we have no such luxury of dividing! We just gotta figure out how to be united and inclusive! We’re mature enough to know none of us has the monopoly on truth but we can of course be in danger of thinking we are more right than others. Which might amount to the same thing?

If there is any truth in what I’ve said about the trinity being a community and the need to be inclusive, outreaching, then I hope it is a simple truth. Truth does not have to be complicated.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; Be prepared for new truths, be prepared for new truths to supersede old ones. For instance, did you know that in Hebrew the word for God’s Spirit (Ruach) is feminine, in New Testaments Greek it is either feminine or neuter (depending on who you read). It was news to me!

Spirit of truth (Greek pneuma translated as breath) John 8 32 “...the truth will set you free”

We can live for 3 weeks without food, 3 days without water but only 3 minutes without breath. Breath enables the heart to keep going, we describe it as being the centre of our emotions our motivations. We use expressions; heartfelt love, speaking from the heart, breaking my heart, broken hearted, putting your heart and soul into it, a decision made from the heart, peace in our hearts, heartfelt thanks etc etc. Things which come from the core of our being. Rom 5;1-5 ‘...God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (pneuma/breath) that has been given to us.’ I feel in this verse St Paul gives me permission to be using two metaphors together (breath and heart) without losing the thread of an idea; to imagine each literal breath we take is breathing in God’s Spirit – every waking and sleeping moment.

Keep on breathing!

Also from today’s Roman’s 5 reading ”...suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us,..

When working at sea I have observed migrating birds landing on the ship for a rest. It was always disastrous for the bird; we would put out fresh water and small bowls of muesli for them but in a few days they would die. I got the strong impression that if only the ship wasn’t there, they would have kept going and made it to land. Keep moving, keep breathing!

People can find themselves in what is sometimes called the dark night of the soul. Sometimes solid Christians have doubts and end up abandoning their beliefs and their faith. It’s as if they have wandered into an unlit tunnel - and just stayed there. Sometimes they manage to keep the grace and goodness they displayed as a Christian but I’ve also seen some adopt the bad side of cynicism and the bad aspect of scepticism. I have every sympathy for them finding themselves in a dark tunnel, I’ve been there but I wonder if only they had kept moving whether they would have started to see a light at the end – and no, it wouldn’t have been the cynical view of a light on a train coming towards you.‘... suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us,’

Keep on breathing! Truth does not have to be complicated and if simple truth is the only thing you feel able to hang on to – hang on to it! When Karl Barth was asked to sum up all his theological thinking he quoted the old children’s Sunday school chorus, ‘Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.

Keep on breathing.

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