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Sermon on John Chapter 20 - The giving of the Holy Spirit by Jesus

Trinity Sermon 2011

Sermon preached by The Reverend Dr Sam Cappleman Year A 2011

Christ Before us

We do seem to like to make things complicated sometimes.  Theologians and others in the church could have that point levelled at them when we think of the Trinity.  And like all things that appear complicated there’s a whole set of vocabulary around the concept.  Words like hypostasis,(1) oikonomia,(2) homoousios,(3) homoiousios, (4) trinitarianism and so on…   ...many of which it would appear are not in the spell checker.  It’s led to controversies in the church and there are still many different opinions on exactly how to describe and understand the Trinity.

And if we come to something thinking it’s hard and complicated to understand, it will be.  But at its heart, the Trinity is inherently simple.

Jesus is the revelation of the one true Father God who lives with us now through the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is at the same time united with and distinguishable from His Father and united and distinguishable from the breath of life that sustains us now and forever.

The God that we see revealed in Christ is the creator God we worship.  He is also the re-creative God we worship.  Jesus’ command in the great commission in our reading from Matthew today is to go out and share that re-creative God with those we meet.  It’s a picture of a missionary God.  And the commission is not just about conversion, it’s about discipleship, following the God who is revealed in Christ empowered by the God who lives with us still.

The image is of movement, dynamism and purpose, not just staying where we are.

In a helicopter there are three main controls, the collective, the cyclic and the yaw pedals.

The collective is the lever that controls the power and the blade angle of the rotors.  It’s the thing that gives lift and separates you from the ground when you lift off.

In Genesis we read that the creator God put humans above all other forms of life on the earth to ‘rule over them’, Gen 1 v 28.  Irrespective of what we believe, God has put us in that position, separated and above the rest of creation – a bit like the collective.

The cyclic (joystick) is the lever that controls the direction, left and right, front and back, side to side.  In Jesus, and through the salvation He brings through the grace of God, He gives our lives purpose and direction, momentum and meaning: a purpose, direction, momentum and meaning that those without a personal faith lack in their lives, as we see so much around us in our society today.  In that sense Jesus is a bit like the cyclic control.

However, once you’ve lifted off and pushed forward on the cyclic, without the yaw pedals you just go round in circles as the forces between the blades and the aircraft interact.  It’s by the use of the yaw pedals that the movement is gently controlled and given meaningful direction.  A bit like how we could see the Holy Spirit.

To fly, you just have to keep the controls in balance.

It’s the same with the Trinity; we need to keep the different realities of the Triune God in balance if our Christian life is to have direction meaning and purpose.  If we don’t, we either merely realise that we are not the same as the rest of creation, or we may have momentum in our lives as believers, but sometimes we just end up going round in circles and not making the progress that God wants for us in our lives.

As humans, we are to recognise that God has put us in control of the earth’s resources and we are to use them wisely and with care.

As humans, we are to recognise that we have fallen short of the image of God that is within us and we need the salvation of Christ to give enable us to have a relationship with that creator God and in order that our lives meaning and purpose.

As humans, who are saved by the grace of God in Christ, we are to recognise that we need the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to gently guide every movement and moment of our lives.

As humans, who are saved by grace and empowered and guided by the Spirit we are to recognise that the image of the Trinity that is within each one of us only finds its true fulfilment when we are moving in harmony and with that Trinity on our own missionary journey. 

Engaging with others, that they may engage with Christ, who is the revelation of God on earth, and who blows where He will through the Holy Spirit. 

And as we engage with others we need to keep each of the facets in balance, not over or under emphasising any one aspect.  It’s not just about having responsibility for the earth, it’s not just about salvation, and it’s not just about going our own way, using the (spiritual and temporal) gifts that God has given us for our own selfish ends. 

One way of helping us to get that balance is to follow the lead of the Israelites addressed in Isaiah’s writing, who themselves were lacking true direction.  To spend a little time contemplating the greatness of God, to hope and wait upon the Lord, that we to may rise up and soar like eagles, to run and not get weary, to walk and not be faint.

Israel’s God in the incomparable and eternal creator God, yet He never stops caring for His people.  We are called to live our lives in the image of that creative Trinity, with purpose, direction, empowerment and love, caring for God’s world and its people.

In some ways that’s what the Gospel message is about.  The last few verses of Matthew’s gospel summarise this and make perfect sense for us.  The end of Matthew’s gospel is both an ending and a beginning.  It looks back and it looks forward.  The gospel begins and ends with a call to discipleship and requires a response of acknowledgement to the Triune God, through baptism, public acknowledgement, and the dedication of our lives.

The Trinity who the revealer God made manifest in the revealed Christ is leaving but the revelation remains, that they and we are to live out the reality and perfect balance of the Trinity in our lives.

  1. Person or substance as in Latin personae
  2. Greek for economic, as in the economic Trinity
  3. Consubstantial
  4. Of similar substance