The Gospel: John 16:12-15
Jesus said to the disciples, "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you."
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that have you inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation and that you will empower our application. Amen
The Message: How many of you are Star Trek fans? I have to say that there have been times in my life when I really was engaged with the television version and then with the movies of the Star Trek franchise.
I particularly like the introduction that was used at the beginning of the television series: Space: The final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise.
Its 5-year mission: To explore strange new worlds, To seek out new life and new civilizations, To boldly go where no man has gone before.
Of course, if we are to be politically correct in our current time we would have to read the last sentence as: "To boldly go where no one has gone before." But that is perhaps a different sermon.
This introduction appeals to my imagination. It appeals to the idea that there is a place and there are ideas that I haven't yet had the opportunity to know and understand. Rather than space being a place that was the source of concern and anxiety, it has the potential to be a place of adventure and new experiences.
Now we all know that this is a positive, and optimistic view of space. We all know that lots of movies have been made about the dangers of space. There are plenty of movies about alien creatures from the depths of space who are bent on the destruction of our world and life as we know it.
The vastness of space lends itself to a belief that we should be wary, and cautious about sending people into that unknown territory. We just don't know what might be lurking out there.
We also know that the crew of the Enterprise often found themselves facing inhospitable beings and places. Space was not without its dangers and its predators. But they went on hoping and believing that there were opportunities that they wouldn't experience if they didn't go.
As we come to this Trinity Sunday I have something of the same sense about this day and the weeks to come. There are a lot of unknowns about what might be coming our way.
Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, and the weeks ahead of us, as we enter Ordinary Time, all have some quality of the unknown and the unknowable about them. There is a sense of mystery and we are not always sure that we truly understand these theologically charged words and concepts.
Most of us, I believe, have a couple of potential responses.
One is to shrug our shoulders and resign ourselves to the idea that since we can't wrap our minds or our thoughts around these concepts we will file them away in the "think about it sometime in the future box." Or we might just shelve these ideas in the "too hard" category.
Sometimes I think we are ready to say: "There is too much mystery here. I have managed to get by in my life, until now, without ever coming to a resolution for myself about these ideas, I may as well just keep on that way."
Or a second response is to become anxious or afraid.
For some of us, the concepts wrapped up in this divine mystery provoke fear of the awesomeness of God. Not to mention the idea that there is something, which we try to define in the concept of the Trinity, which could have some claim on our lives. An eternal creator, source of all life and power, who knows my every thought and my every motivation.
When it comes to the person and work of Jesus Christ we find ourselves in unknown territory. That, somehow, there is a being who was involved in the work of the original creation. That manifested by the eternal creator speaking things into existence. That this being was willing to take on human form and then to suffer and die on our behalf.
If that is not bad enough then we get to think about tongues of fire that fall on the heads of people and drive them out into the street to confess before crowds of strangers what they know of the Gospel. Woah! Hold on a minute, I am not sure I am ready for the Holy Spirit to manifest in my life like that. I am reminded of the person who attended a Holy Spirit event in the 1960's who was challenged o accept the Holy Spirit. They bowed their head and whispered under their breath: "Come Holy Spirit, but please, please please do it quietly."
But that is not the end of it, because we still have to grasp the concept of a spirit being who can dwell within us and guide us to understand all manner of strange and wonderous things. A being who can draw us into being the very best version of ourselves.
Somehow these three beings are coequal, divine expressions of unity and love. That this divine being would want to come close to us and to be in a relationship with us, on a daily basis, is beyond our comprehension is it not?
Suddenly I like the sound of Ordinary Time. That sounds comforting and normal. Just going about our everyday lives. Being able to do the things we want to do without having to take the time to consider others. To live our lives doing the best that we can, not being as mean-spirited and careless with our words as we recognize some other people in the world are. Being nice enough to get by without drawing attention to ourselves. No need to put pressure on ourselves to be better than we want to be at any particular moment.
So, how do we approach these Holy mysteries and strive to see the impact of Pentecost and the awesome nature of the Trinity with something of the optimism which we find in those immortal words from Star Trek? How do we not allow the unknowns and the uncertainties to overwhelm us?
Well, the reading from the Gospel of John this morning is short, but it is pithy. It is packed with invitation and encouragement.
Let me read for us all again:
"Jesus said to the disciples, "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you."
Jesus starts out in this short statement by declaring that he understands that we may well be overwhelmed by all that is being said. In fact, he is not sharing everything that he has to say. He is holding back because he doesn't want us to go into emotional overload. Then he makes the promise once again of the Holy Spirit. This time he refers to the Holy Spirit as a guide. Someone who can and will walk alongside us into all that is to come.
But there is an important caveat included in this passage. The Holy Spirit is not working independently or in some unfamiliar pattern. The Holy Spirit will only speak what the "will and the purpose" of the Trinity is for us. The Holy Spirit is speaking what Jesus can no longer say to us in person. We can be sure that Jesus will be glorified by what the Spirit says.
Then to compound that amazing situation Jesus says that he and the Father are one. Bound together in unity and oneness. "All that the Father has is mine." There is no division or separation in the Trinity. The three are one and the one is three.
Boy, could Hollywood scriptwriters have a field day with that concept if they wanted to create an aberration of it. But we need not be afraid of this wonderous eternal truth. Here is the perfect example of the reality of being completely conjoined and yet being separate beings.
What would our world be like if we could emulate that unity and oneness? How could we allow others to be their own, individual selves, and yet we could be united in community and purpose.
What would it b like if we could listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit guiding and leading us? If we could follow the guidance of the spirit without fearing that somehow we would be lost in the transaction.
What would it be like if we could look to the coming days with a sense of optimism and enthusiasm? Looking for the adventure of learning and growing to be more like the Trinity?
I wonder if we could perhaps paraphrase the Star Trek introduction and say something like:
Pentecost/The Trinity: The final frontier. These are the voyages of Christ Church.
Its 5-year mission: To explore strange new worlds, To seek out new life and new civilizations, To boldly go where no one has gone before.
Are we up for the adventure? Are we ready to enthusiastically move into the community we live in representing to our friends and neighbors that we have experienced Pentecost and are now unafraid to proclaim the Trinity to anyone who wants to hear?
Let me close this morning with The Collect for Trinity Sunday.
Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.