The Spirit of Truth
Working with others isn’t always easy. There can be frustration, misunderstandings, and so much more. But when team work really works, a group of people can become more than the sum of its parts. I remember one summer during secondary school being on a programme for potential engineering students and entrepreneurs – we had to design a product, building a prototype and then pitching it the programme leaders. We didn’t work perfectly, but we did have those moments where we really were able to work beyond any of our individual potential. It depended on having a clear shared goal, but it also depended on us really caring for each other. Wanting one another to succeed, at times more than we wanted ourselves to succeed,
in a way that a young person can, which becomes more difficult when ambition and self-consciousness get in the way. In studies of what makes teams effective that care for one another’s mutual success is recognised of a sign that a team could become seriously efficient.
Of course looking at those in the public arena it is hard to think of many role models for such behaviour. Just look at the last week’s campaigning for the leadership of the Tory party. Apart from Rory Stewart (which is becoming a bit of a catch phrase in the media) who is thinking of anybody’s success apart from their own. While the others are all trying to be the ones coming up with the sound bite to swamp the airwaves Rory Stewart has been travelling the country asking people to speak to him. But then his former life, which he has had, was at least in part spent roving about parts of the world most Europeans were too frightened to go listening to people.
Of course listening properly, like putting other people first, isn’t easy. We are usually so concerned with what we can say. Even when it’s meant to be helpful. I was reading about novice monks being made to listen to one another’s prayer life each week, without being allowed to comment. Each desired to be the one who made the incisive comment, or pointed out what the other could do differently, to be the one with the wisdom of Christ, It was really hard to hold back, but they realised, in time, that the point was that any of those comments would have been for their own benefit, their own ego, what they were being taught to do is truly listen to their fellow novices and simply witness God working in them. By doing this they were able to develop real empathy for one another.
In today’s Gospel there is this familiar formula, here given as the Holy Spirit speaking on behalf of Jesus. The Holy Spirit declaring the truth which Jesus revealed. In the same way that elsewhere in the Gospels we are told that Jesus reveals the Father. That whatever Jesus has the Father gave him, and that if we want to meet the Father we should look to Jesus. Because the Father and the Son are one. And so here the Son and the Spirit are one. And as such the Father and the Son and the Spirit are one – three in one – and so we have the mystery which is named the Trinity.
So central to our faith that it is one of the great feasts of the year, coming immediately after the feast of the Spirit at Whitsun or Pentecost. How the Trinity works, what it looks like, is so beyond our ability to describe or draw it, that any attempt can only give us a glimpse of what it is, but like any analogy, particularly of God, immediately falls down under any scrutiny at all. What we know is that God is one, but has three distinct persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, each co-equal, each co-eternal, That is each fully God, each fully involved in all that God does, each existing outside of the time which God creates, and yet distinct and in a permanent relationship with each other.
It means that when we think back to the image in which we are created that we are created to be in relationship. Relationship with one another and relationship with God. But more than that, we are created to be in equal, mutually flourishing relationships with each other. Relationships where we are willing to listen fully to one another and to build one another up. Where, like the Spirit proceeding from the Father at the ascension, in order that the work of the Son can be carried out by you and me, we are willing to give fully of ourselves to enable others to flourish. A relationship where we are willing to listen so deeply to another that not only do we hear them, but that we can have the empathy to repeat their truth to others.
The other thing which I think is worth noting about the Trinity is this number 3. We are so used to the idea of duality, of partnership; in marriage, in friendships, in the way we too often think of ourselves. But this model of a three way, mutually flourishing, loving relationship God reminds us that a truly loving mutually flourishing relationship has the confidence to welcome. In some cases it welcomes other members of a family, in others it welcomes the stranger or acquaintance. In the case of God, through Christ’s death on the cross and drawing us up into God at the ascension, in the sending of the Spirit to pour out God’s love upon us, we are welcomed into that eternal epathic loving relationship of the Trinity. And so we must, in our care and love for one another never be afraid to open up the circle in which we are talking to welcome another into our midst. For they will know that we are Christians, that we are the body of Christ, empowered by the Spirit, by the love we have for one another.
The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams
8.00am Said Eucharist in the lady chapel
10.00am Parish Eucharist with choir and Sunday School
Said Eucharist on Wednesdays at 11.00am
Monday through Thursday at 5.30pm
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Every day we are forced to make judgements. Judging who we spend our time with and what we do.
Often we have methods and tools which help us make those judgements – we make judgements based on what somebody looks like, how they behave, how clean they are.