One of the problems about the doctrine of Trinity is that we twentieth century people try and understand it from a logical, scientific point of view. We can't. It's not logical. It's more of a poetry… which points us to the central mysteries of God's being. So this morning, I'm following the poetic path…. let's hope I'm not too mysterious!
We have peace with God. In the Hebrew way of thinking, the word we translate as "peace" didn't just mean we were not at war. We could say "We have Shalom with God." That is, since we are set right with God by faith, we have fullness of relationship with God.
It means we have an end to our separation from God… the sense of being utterly alone in the world… the loneliness and distance from God, and people, and God's creation can be healed. The sense of alienation and 'out-of-joint-ness' with the world which sometimes cloaks our life can be removed. Colour can come back into life.
Fullness of relationship with God also means our enmity with God is brought to an end. Everyone has fallen short of the glory of god (Ro 3:23),and is under the power of sin (Ro 3:9).
However we understand sin and judgement, almost all of us know of enmity toward God… the anger and resentment we feel sometimes at God. And we also know about fear of God, and fear of judgement. Fullness of relationship with God is about release from fear of God, and of judgement. It is right to stand in awe of God, but now we are able to relate to God as someone who loves us, not someone filled with anger and wrath, who will destroy us.
What I am trying to say is that all the things that separate us from God, our low self worth, our fear, our smallness, our sinfulness… all these things are healed and removed. We have peace with God.
And while we struggle through the deep gorges, and mean forests and scratching scrubs of life, the doctrine of the Trinity is a great tall tower of God which guides us. The doctrine of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the great Tridentine pillar by which we navigate the faith. It stands as a tall tower to safe guard our imagination. We must steer by it to be Christian.
There is one God, who is Three Persons. But a God who has many names. It is here we discover some of what the richness of peace-with-God means for us!
These many names are our names. God's grace is so rich, that God actually relates to us as we imagine God to be. God relates to us as we need God to be in our particular wounding by life.
If I am unable to relate to the notion of Father because I was beaten by an alcoholic who never did father me, God will come to me as a friend instead. This is the way of God for me.
If I am alone and in pain, facing a great time of fear, the great and mighty God will bear me up with his strong right hand.
Am I lost? The gentle mothering God will look in all the dark places, until she has found me, her precious lost coin.
This is the great gift of peace- of shalom. What I truly need, God will be.
That great navigation tower of the Trinity tells me if I am just being sentimental about mothers. But when I need the gentle mother, God will be there for me.
The stabilising triangle of the Trinity convicts me when I am projecting my inner violence and sinfulness. But should I need a strong and mighty God, God will be will be there for me.
The Trinity destroys any idol-god who is fair-haired and blue-eyed, but when I am beaten and need a lap in which to lay my head and weep, he will caress my soul.
However, if we are at peace with God, then we will not have peace with the world. "The world" is a technical term, meaning the part of creation which is out of relationship with God.
If we are moving to fullness of relationship with God, we are to some extent moving out of fullness of relationship with the world. Believers suffer more than others, said Martin Luther. He said if you expect not to suffer, you cannot be Christian.
Christians do suffer. We have lived in a rare time in our land culture.
Paul is brutally honest in the verses of Romans we read today. (Ro 5:1-5) Earlier in the letter he has reacted against those who boast about their good offices with God because they keep the law and so on. No one has anything to boast about he says. If we Christians must boast he says, let us boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. Not our certainty, our hope.
Because in one sense there is no certainty. In fact, we suffer. We are constantly faced with apparent evidence that we are wrong. We are saying to the world, you are going the wrong way, when the way of the world, ingrained in our hearts, often seems to make eminent good sense.
The "world" is like the river gums and ferns deep down in a shadowy gorge. It has its roots deep in water and is safe from drought and heat. It worships the safety of money, and a fine house, and a secure job. It lets the cool breezes of the 'pokies' and constant TV distract it from the harshness of the desert round about.
And we who say we are right, that we know the one true God who is three persons and comes to us in great grace as we need….
well, we are like little ephemeral desert grass-flowers, high up on the lip of the gorge, with none of the water of the world to sustain us. We are fools. We suffer. They mostly just pass us over for promotion, and abuse us in Australia, and hope we'll look after the poor. Elsewhere they burn our churches, or kill us.
But even in our vulnerability, in our suffering, says Paul, we could boast. Because "suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." (Ro 5:5)
It's holy poetry- there's no point in trying to work out some psychology of suffering, or justification of suffering from these words. But they are true, nonetheless.
We have been offered a gift. The gift is to turn from our previous life, climb out of the deep gorge of rebellion and selfishness and live high, and exposed, and uncomfortable on the cliff face.
As we struggle to keep our footing in this odd faith we make a discovery. God's love pours into our hearts. Our character is changed.
And some mornings… the world sleeps huddled down in the frost, with the wet dew of self concern freezing upon its soul. Even the highest branches of the gums reach only into darkness. While the world still sleeps, we of hope, with the love of God in our hearts, see the sun rise in all its Glory. And the love and glory of God floods our hearts.
So my friends, when we are feeling high and exposed, when life is harsh, and the way of the world seems a cool oasis down in the shade… let us go on.
Let us take our bearings from the great Trinity tower the scripture brings to us- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And if all we can boast of is a remote hope, which this day we can scarcely believe, it will be enough. Because this hope will not disappoint us. There will be times again when we will know… we will feel, the love of God poured into our hearts.
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