Sunday, June 03, 2012

One Human Being in a Multiplicity of Persons

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis for Trinity Sunday 2012.
Text:  Apocalypse iv.

Why is the liturgical colour
               for Trinity Sunday not Rose,
                        or at least a sort of light reddish-pink?

We only see Rose vestments
           twice a year in Advent and Lent.

Why not Trinity Sunday as well?

After all,
       we remember God the Creator
                in the weeks before Lent,
                       that’s violet.

We remember God the Saviour
          at Easter and that’s white,
               and last week
                     we remembered God the Sanctifier
                               in the Red of Whitsun.

 Violet, White and Red together
            make an interesting Reddish,
                       Rosy Pink.
Seems quite reasonable, doesn’t it?
Let’s be clear: today is Trinity Sunday.

We may think about God,
             and Sanctifier,
                       but what we have not heard used
                             is the phrase:
                                 Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

That’s important.

It’s very important,
         and it’s something we human beings
                  can and do miss
                          if we are not careful.

So what’s the problem?


You’ve in the process
              of meeting a new friend
                   and you’ve just uttered the first question
                             “Hello! How are you?”

 Your new friend
              has just told you her name is Elizabeth
                      and that she’s very well.

What’s your next question?

Well, chances are, you’ll say,
              “and what do you do?”

 It’s very natural and quite reasonable.

No-one is going to take any offence
                 at that question, are they?

But why do we go straight
                to asking what someone does?

What answer would you expect?
         “I’m a lawyer,”
          “I’m a doctor,”
           “I test the taste of cakes for Mr Kipling.”

It’s a rather good question to ask,
          “what do you do?”
                 because it opens up a conversation very nicely
                         without probing into anything
                                unnecessarily deep too soon.

However, as the days,
             weeks and months move on,
                        you begin to know Elizabeth better than that.

She doesn’t just test cakes for Mr Kipling;
            she paints portraits in oils;
                      she jogs 3 miles a day to stop getting too podgy
                                 from tasting all those cakes;
                                     she loves watching Desperate Housewives
                                              but can’t ever watch Watership Down.

You learn more about her history,
          her philosophy of life and how she sees herself.

And so you’ve made a new friend for life.
In order to know Elizabeth better,
          we have to go beyond what she does.

As the rather over-used phrase says,
            Elizabeth is a Human Being,
                        not a Human Doing.

Do we treat God in exactly the same way?
Do we ever try to focus on Who He is?

God is our Creator, yes
         but that doesn’t pin him down
                   – He’s more than a Creator.

God is our Saviour,
     but that is only one (albeit vital) aspect
              of His interaction with us
                   and says too little of His character.

God is our Sanctifier,
           but that tells us nothing about Who He is,
                    save that His Presence makes things Holy.

He is God.

   to describe God just by what He does
              means we never get beyond finding out
                    Who He is.

Many Christians these days make a big mistake
             of not Baptising people correctly.

Our Lord Jesus commanded us
         to baptise in the Name
                  of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
                          not in the Name of
            the Creator, Saviour and Sanctifier
                    as some Christians do.

How does this give any depth
            to the new Christian’s initiation
                         into the family of God? 

If this is a family,
       then we’re beyond talk of what people do.

We don’t call Dad,
       Mr Machinery Operative at Balfour Beatty,
              or Mum,
                     Mrs Part-time Lecturer at the local Sixth-form College.

 We call them Mum and Dad,
                because that is what they are.

Our relationship with Mum and Dad
          is not about what they do,
                    though they do do an awful lot for us,
                         but it’s a relationship of being not of doing.

So it is with our Christian Family,
             we have a relationship of being with God,
                  and the Lord Jesus reminds us that
                        He knows us more intimately
                                than we can even ever know ourselves.

It is God who searches us out and knows us.

He knows our down-sitting
            and up-rising and discerns our thoughts long before.

Not only does God know us,
            but He wants to be known by us
                    and he promises us that one day,
                              we shall indeed see Him as He is.

Actually, He promises us more than that.


St John reminds us that seeing God as He really is
           has a profound consequence for us:

     now are we the sons of God,
          and it doth not yet appear what we shall be:
             but we know that, when he shall appear,
                   we shall be like him;
                         for we shall see him as he is.

We shall be like Him?

He is One God in Three Persons,
      Blessed Trinity.

How can we,
         little single persons,
                all individual, be like that?


If we look hard,
       we begin, perhaps,
              to see why Lord Jesus gave us
                     the second commandment,
                            to love our neighbours as ourselves.

  He tells us first of loving God
          with all that we are
             and all the faculties we possess
                  and then goes on to show that the same love
                        must be lavished upon those who are around us.

Both commandments are about relationships
      and forging those relationships.

In so doing we become like God,
     that is to say “one human being
          in a multiplicity of persons”.

How do you feel about that?

Does it make you a little uneasy?

Do you really want to be one
     with every human being who ever lived?

Aren’t there some human beings
       who do some horrible things out there?

God is always showing us
     how much He loves humanity
            no matter what.

He created us to be like Him
          despite our tendency to sin.

 While we are on this Earth,
      we are to walk with Him
           and with our brothers and sisters.

In this we find out more about who we really are.

In the Mass,
          we find that relationship with God
                    and others at its very deepest.

It is our destiny to be perfected,
          our sins destroyed,
          our brokenness healed,
          our weaknesses strengthened,
          our souls nourished.

We will never understand the depths of our own being,
    let alone God’s,
           but trying to understand
               and meditating on the Holy Trinity brings about
                    a deeper relationship with Him.


God is love and love makes us one.

In being one, we do not lose our individuality,
       but rather it is perfected
              by being in communion with God and others.

How much more do we need to love others
     in order to become more human?

No comments: