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Thursday, 16 June 2011

19th June 2011, Year A Trinity Sunday

Sunday 19 June 2011

Trinity Sunday

Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Psalm 8; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20. White.

Call to Worship Psalm 8 from Uniting in Worship

Hymn Together in Song 166 Sing a new Song

Prayer of Adoration and Confession
Holy God,
Creator and Sustainer of all that is,
we give you thanks for your creation of all the universe
of time and space
and we give you thanks for each new moment of our lives
and for the space in which we live.
God of great and small -
of solar system and atom -
of major events, and everyday moments -
we give you thanks.

We thank you for your work of creation -
We thank you for your work of redemption -
for your presence in the ordinariness of our human lives,
in the person of Jesus.
For your reaching over the gulf which we had created
in the relationship between you and us.
For your overcoming our sinfulness
and making it possible for us to live in relationship with you
and with each other again.

We thank you for your work of creation -
We thank you for your work of redemption -
We thank you for your ongoing presence and work in the world,
in the church, and in our lives
For your dynamic, life-giving Spirit, moving in us and among us
recreating us from within -
helping us to become all that you would have us be.

We confess that there are times,
when we don not strive to be all that you call us to be
there are times when we are not thankful
or even mindful of your gifts.

There have been times when,
through things we have said,
through things we have neglected to say,
through things we have done,
through things we have neglected to do
we have failed failed to live completely as your people.

We are sorry for all of our sins -
those we intended, and those we did not intend.
We ask your forgiveness,
for a chance to begin over again.
And ask your help in turning around,
changing our lives and our way of living.

We pray in and through our saviour, Jesus. Amen.


Declaration of Forgiveness

Kids' time - Bec

Hymn Together in Song 158 God has spoken by his prophets

Scripture
Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Matthew 28:16-20
This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Sermon

There was a retired minister who would avoid going to church, because he didn't believe the ministers of today could preach as well as he could anyway – but he always went on Trinity Sunday because he enjoyed seeing people get themselves tied up in knots.

Well, it's Trinity Sunday, although I think every day should be a celebration of the Trinity, and let's try to not get ourselves tied up in knots.

The doctrine of the Trinity is unique to Christianity. There are monotheistic faiths, such as Judaism and Islam, which believe in one God. There are polytheistic faiths, such as Hinduism, which believe in many gods. Christianity is the only faith which sees God as one God, revealed in three distinct, yet indivisible, persons. This formula came out of the early church's struggle to describe the nature of God as revealed in Scripture, and in the church's experience of an ongoing relationship with God. Agreeing that God was both one God, and three persons, solved one of the biggest debates in Church history – and has sparked endless discussions, disputes, and divisions over exactly how that is to be understood.

The problem is, of course, that we can't fully know God. You can do a doctorate in theology and still not have a complete understanding of God. With my masters in theology, I can probably almost grasp the thin edge of God's shadow – the edge of a mystery – a very partial knowledge, with the hint of something more.

On Trinity Sunday this year, our Bible readings take us back to the very beginning, to seek to understand God, through that story told by our ancestors of the origins of all things.

Studying Biblical Hebrew, we spent endless time on the first three words of the Bible: “bareshit bara elohim.” When beginning, he created, God. (“God” is plural – but plural because of magnitude, bigness, not because there is more than one God).

When beginning – when everything is beginning – when there is nothing at all, God already is. There is no explanation as to where God comes from. God just is. The word for “created” in the Hebrew is a word only ever applied to God's action. This is divine creation – not where we take things that are and make them into other things – but where God takes what is not and makes something.
God is eternal – before time, before space, before anything, God.

The story goes on, and to us who have experienced a relationship with Jesus, it tells things it did not tell its first audience.

God created through God's Word and Spirit. To ancient Israelites, this was not a story about the work of the Trinity. God's Word was simply God's speech, and that speech-act was God's way of creating. God's Spirit/Breath/Wind (ruach) was not another person of the Trinity, as far as the Israelites understood, but God's presence with the created order.

We look at the passage, and see God's Word is Christ, present with God and sharing in the work of creating. Christians also know God's Spirit as a personal being: not an “it” but a “who”. (In Hebrew, a “she”, in later Latin translation a “he”. Always for us, a personal being, a “someone”.)

God creates everything with a balance: day and night, light and dark, water and land. In the Hebrew the passage is a rhythmic poem of praise, not looking at the details of how each thing came to exist, but recognising God as responsible for all existence and praising God. This balanced creation, God declares to be “good”.

And then God says “let's create Adam” (humankind – not ish a man – but a race of people). “..in our own image: and made male and female in God's own image.” It is male and female humanity together, therefore a community of more than one person, which is made in the image of God – not just one person alone. Together, they form a community, just as the triune God (Father, Son and Spirit) lives as a community. Together, they can take part in making new life, just as God creates new life. We are the image of God, not as individual people, but as people who live in relationship with each other.

And, as made in the image of God, humanity is given almost God-like responsibility: to be stewards of the earth.

And finally, as the ultimate act of creation, God created a day of rest. This could seem to be a strange thing for God to make. In creating day and night, God created time, so therefore must exist outside of it: surely a day of rest (or a day of anything) would be meaningless in the life of God. So why have such a thing? I think the answer lies in that rhythm and balance to all of creation: light and dark, day and night; work and rest. The balance is part of what God considers to be good. God is a God of order, and balance, not of chaos.

What does it mean for us that this is the God we worship?

For a start, it means we must respect all of creation – because this is the work of God. We must especially respect the balance in the natural order – this balance was carefully made, and something whit which God was pleased. We must have the greatest respect for all that God has made.

Not only must we respect creation, but we have a responsibility for stewardship of creation. The earth does not belong to us. It belongs to God. And we must treat it as something that belongs to God. When we're kids we learn it's wrong to break other people's stuff – it's also wrong to break God's stuff.

We need to value and respect the gift of life, because it comes from God. It is not something to take for granted. People talk about a “right to life”. Life isn't a right. It's something far more precious. It's a gift from God.

We need to bear in mind that we are made in the image of a God who exists only as a relationship (three persons, in one being). Therefore we are only made whole through our relationships – our relationship with God and with other people. That's how we were made to be. Everything which damages the relationships among human beings, or between human beings and God takes away a part of our humanity, makes us less than we are supposed to be. The plight of protesters arguing for basic freedoms throughout the Arab world, refugees being transported around the world in unsafe craft, Japanese people forced from their homes because of radiation leaks, all of the people displaced or disadvantaged because of disasters – it's not all just about them over there somewhere. Each of those things affects us. It's humanity as a whole who is made in the image of God. Everything that takes away from one of us, makes us as a whole less than we are meant to be. We must understand that. When Jesus tells us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves – it's not just a suggestion for something to do when there's nothing good on tv one day – it's about a whole outlook on life that sees that every single human being is vitally important to every one of us.

And finally, we need to recognise the need for balance in our own lives. Just as God created the balance of day and night, of the seasons, our bodies were created to live with a balance of work and rest, we need to be aware of that balance and seek to maintain it in our own lives.



Hymn Together in Song 142 Glory be to God the Father.

Notices

Offering

Prayers of the People
Loving God
We give you thanks
that your very nature
is to live in loving relationship.
We give you thanks
that your love overflows
from that relationship
and pours out
over all of your creation.

We pray that your world
will learn from your love
that humankind
will learning the loving
way of being which you created us for.

We pray that you would
break down the barriers
between people that lead
to war and violence
And we pray especially for Iraq and Afghanistan
and for the many countries where civil unrest
has led to violent clashes between
ruling powers and protesting citizens.
We pray for all those who flee violence
as refugees.

We pray that you would
break down the barriers
between people that lead
to prejudice and division
to intolerance and violence –
even violence within families.

We pray that you would
break down the barriers between people
which allow people who have
more than they need
to feel comfortable
while others go without the basics.
And we pray for the current moves
to have the world's poorest children
vaccinated against preventable diseases.

We pray for the specific needs and concerns that we are aware of.....
(Newsletter prayer points)

Lord's Prayer

Hymn Together in Song 609 May the mind of Christ my Saviour

Benediction

Threefold amen.

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