Unknowable, Unownable God

by Jun 7, 2020Sermons

Matthew 28:16-20

Go and Baptise in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

On Monday evening in Washington D.C., President Trump stood up in front of St John the Divine holding a bible – the photo has been widely ridiculed. The reality that only half an hour before police in riot gear with smoke and flash grenades had cleared the welfare support station that had been set-up by the church.

The assumption and adoption of the bible and the church, and God, as an ally is a form of idolatry, it’s an attempt to claim an ownership over God. Something we all do but we should all be weary of.

This morning’s reading from Isaiah is a prophecy directed at claims of control and power by Babylon. In the face of Babylon’s attempted dominance Isaiah asks: ‘who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand… and marked out the heavens with a span.’ ‘Who has directed the spirit of the Lord?’ Isaiah then asks the people of Israel who are accepting Babylon’s overtures: ‘Have you not known? … The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.’ A reminder that long after our human institutions are gone, God will remain.

Trinity Sunday is the day when the church celebrates the doctrine of the Holy and Undivided Trinity. For preachers it is thought to be the most difficult Sunday in the year to preach. So great is the temptation to offer the congregation some way of understanding how God is both one and 3 persons. How those three persons are not the same as each other, and yet are also not separate in either substance or action. There is the temptation to simplify it down to explain in a neatly packaged sentence – but that too would be idolatry. 

What the existence of the Trinity teaches us is that at the heart of God there is difference, reflected in the difference we find in the creation made in God’s image. 
The existence of the Trinity also teaches us that God is beyond our understanding – and is thus un-ownable. That is not to say we don’t seek to better understand God, or what God wants for us, or the way God wants us to act. 

In the Gospel Jesus tells us to make disciples
and to teach them everything that he has commanded. As members of Christ’s church we are on a lifelong journey of learning from one another what Christ commanded us. Christ’s great command – to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and his 2nd command – to love your neighbour as yourself, would be a good place to start. Like any relationship built on love, these commands demand that we be willing to listen and to receive. 

It is always easy, particularly for a white man, to slip into the mode of transmitting without receiving, to begin mansplaining, or whitesplaining, or godsplaining because by the institutional assumptions of the world I have been taught to presume I know best.

In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd and the swelling of protests both in the US and here making the plea that ‘Black lives matter’, there is a lesson to all of us of the importance to recognise and challenge the institutional racism that surrounds us. For those of us for whom that institutionalisation has taught us that we have some special access to knowledge, the lesson is to shut up and learn. Because as much as I cannot presume to understand what it is to be a Trinitarian God, I cannot presume to understand what it is to be black, or asian or a woman. What I am challenged to do by the command to love my God and my neighbour, is to listen, to pray & be changed.

The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams

Weekly Services

Sunday Mornings

8.00am Morning Prayer in the lady chapel
10.00am Parish Eucharist with choir and Sunday School

Weekday Services

Christian Meditation Wednesdays at 9.10am
Said Eucharist on Wednesdays at 11.00am
Evening Prayer
Monday through Thursday at 5.30pm

Please note that Public worship has been suspended, you can therefore participate in these services via Facebook live stream

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