The following service was streamed live via Zoom on May 30th at 10:30am. Due to the Covid lockdown in Victoria, there will be no services in the church buildings on this day.
Even though the service is streamed live, those who are unable to participate online may use this material at any time for their private devotions. If ‘two or three’ are gathered with you, you may choose a ‘leader’ in order to use the responsive prayers and readings as you would in church.
There are also links to YouTube files for music and, should you rather listen than read, sound files for some of the text, including the sermon . [I’m sorry about the commercials that sometimes come with YouTube clips. Be sure to click on the “Skip Ad” box if and when it appears in the lower right of the YouTube clip] When a YouTube clip has finished, simply click on the ‘back’ button of your browser to return to this page. Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.
“Dung beetles study humans and their ways, and call it Humanology. Human beings study God and call it Theology.”
ENTRY INTO CELEBRATION
‘Today is a day the Lord has made’, says an old religious writer, ‘let us therefore rejoice and be glad in it’. It is indeed! It is also good to be together again! For it is a sacred time, this. And a sacred place. So let us celebrate the richness and diversity of life in the presentness of God.
R: we worship you in faith.
L: God with human face,
R: we worship you in truth.
L: God who moves, draws, forms and enlightens our life,
R: we worship you in Spirit. God in three persons, God the beginning and God the end, you are our God.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
Holy One of many names, whose presence we most often recognise only in retrospect, bless us this day. Amen.
JOURNEY INTO SILENCE
Meditation “The One Who Brings Life Out of Barrenness”
Sarah, Rachel, Ruth, Elizabeth, carried within them – nothing. Women of worth, women of faith, empty, hopeful, hopeless. Then God spoke, and barren wombs swelled with life. Out of darkness new life sprang into the light of day. Moans of lament became shouts of joy to God who brings life out of death. It is ever so. God’s promises of life come to us in our barrennesS and our deaths, calling us to a faith that waits in hope, that acts on God’s promises, that empowers with love for the world… faith in the one who rolled away the stone and released into the world eternal life.
In this time of silence may we move from busy-ness to quietness. God of life, God of peace, God of wonders that will not cease: present with us now. …( 30 seconds of silence)….
WE REFLECT UPON OUR RELATIONSHIPS
L: My friends, led by the Spirit, let us seek the love of God through the grace of Christ Jesus our Saviour. Spirit of truth, something in our hearts say: “We are made for light and truth’. But our anxieties and doubts divert us back into the lies and prejudices of the world: Create in us a clean heart, O God,
R: and renew a right spirit within me.
L: Prince of peace, something in us whispers: “We are intended for concord.” But our inner conflict reacts with the world’s strife and leaves us suspicious and aggressive. Create in us a clean heart, O God,
R: and renew a right spirit within me.
L: Father of love, something within us wants to sing: “We are created for love.” But a discordant self-interest allies with the world’s greed and inhibits our will to love others. Create in us a clean heart, O God,
R: and renew a right spirit within me.
L: God of Jesus and our God, forgive us and straighten us out. You are truth: Help us to really trust you. You are peace. Overcome our disharmony. You are love. Fill us with compassion. Amen.
L: Sisters and brothers, though I am just another sinner being saved by God, by the authority of Christ Jesus I tell you plainly: Your sins are forgiven. Receive Christ’s grace, and accept the enabling power of the Spirit, that you may not make the same mistakes again.and so I declare to you, the door to life has been opened to us.
R: With great joy we are made alive. Thanks be to God!
FROM THE PSALMS – Ps 8
Holy Friend, God our True God, how awesome is your name in all the world! Your glory is greater than the universe yet you enjoy the songs of infants and children. Their praise is a stronghold against foes and it silences the vengeful enemy.
When I look at the skies, the work of your little finger, the moon and the stars which you have destined, what are human beings that you think of us, mere earthlings that you care for us?
Yet you have made us little less than gods and have covered us with glory and beauty. You have put us in charge of your handiwork, placing the whole world at our feet: the sheep, cattle and creatures of the bush, the birds of the air, plains and billabong, the fish and dolphins that live in our seas, and whales that make paths through the ocean. Holy Friend, God our True God, how awesome is your name in all the world!
FROM THE EPISTLES – Romans 8:12-25
12So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
17and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. 18I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
FROM THE GOSPELS – John 3:1-18
3 1-2 There was a man of the Pharisee sect, Nicodemus, a prominent leader among the Jews. Late one night he visited Jesus and said, “Rabbi, we all know you’re a teacher straight from God. No one could do all the God-pointing, God-revealing acts you do if God weren’t in on it.”
4 “How can anyone,” said Nicodemus, “be born who has already been born and grown up? You can’t re-enter your mother’s womb and be born again. What are you saying with this ‘born-from-above’ talk?”
5-6 Jesus said, “You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit.
7-8 “So don’t be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be ‘born from above’—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.”
9 Nicodemus asked, “What do you mean by this? How does this happen?”
10-12 Jesus said, “You’re a respected teacher of Israel and you don’t know these basics? Listen carefully. I’m speaking sober truth to you. I speak only of what I know by experience; I give witness only to what I have seen with my own eyes. There is nothing secondhand here, no hearsay. Yet instead of facing the evidence and accepting it, you procrastinate with questions. If I tell you things that are plain as the hand before your face and you don’t believe me, what use is there in telling you of things you can’t see, the things of God?
13-15 “No one has ever gone up into the presence of God except the One who came down from that Presence, the Son of Man. In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up—and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life.
16-18 “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.
A CONTEMPORARY WITNESS “The Trinity: Creation at Work”
Dorothy Sayers wrote a generation ago that, to the average church-goer, the mystery of the Trinity means: “The Father is incomprehensible, the son is incomprehensible, and the whole thing is incomprehensible. It’s something put in by theologians to make it more difficult; nothing to do with daily life or ethics.”
A few years ago a distinguished preacher said that, if a preacher has any sense at all, he will call in sick on Trinity Sunday. British writer A.N.Wilson, after first telling us that he had been converted to Christianity, then told us that he had given it up for, among other reasons, the rather ridiculous idea of the Trinity.
I used to be among those who had little time for the Trinity; that is, until I learned what it was. I now think it is one of the most important doctrines in the church; however, this, in turn, has led to frustration. Every time the church calendar comes round to Trinity Sunday, I confess to giving a sigh of disappointment. Why? Because for me, Trinity Sunday symbolises all the failures of institutionalised Christianity. I think that, in the church today, Trinity Sunday has become an “empty cocoon”; empty, because the life which shaped it has long since departed. It seems that the Doctrine of the Trinity has become a mathematical formula, much like, and as arid as, E=mc2, which Einstein told us was the clue to the physical universe.
But when I read some of the more enlightened biblical scholars of our day, I learn that the doctrine was ‘created’ to describe, define and safe-guard an experience. Alas, in the process of time, the ‘experience’ seems to have been drained right out, and what we have left is just the formula, as if this was what being a Christian is.
Let us go back, for a moment, to the originating events of our faith and see what these events suggest to us. A man by the name of Jesus, of whose early life we know little, if anything, changed jobs in mid-stream, (Tradition suggests that he was deeply affected by a religious experience at his baptism) and he became an itinerant teacher, healer and storyteller; respected as a sage. During a period of either one or three years, depending on which storyteller is in charge of the story, he seemed to attract a mixed group of people, usually from the fringes of his society. With these people he was able to share himself so completely that, over time and after a lot of struggle, they became new people, gripped with a new creative imagination.
In this becoming, the thoughts and feelings and stories of each other resonated with the thoughts and feelings and stories of others. This was not something which Jesus himself did. It was something that happened when he was present, like a catalytic agent.
One theologian has put it like this:
“…something about this man Jesus broke the atomic exclusiveness of those individuals so that they were deeply and freely receptive and responsive each to the other… It transformed their minds, their personalities, their appreciable world, and their community with one another and with all [people]…” (Wieman 1946:39-44).
Following the death of Jesus despair gripped this group of people so much they could not see any good in him. He was not the messiah they had expected or hoped for. In fact, for them, he was no messiah at all. Period.
However, this is not the end of the story. After a while, when the numbness and the shock began to wear away, something happened. That transforming creativity previously known only in fellowship with Jesus, began to work again. It had risen from the dead.
Now, when the 4th century church, in a climate of dissension and so-called heresy, created the doctrine of the Trinity, it was to safe-guard an experience; an experience, similar if you like, to the resurrection experience; an experience of life over death, of making new and alive, that which was dead in their lives; an experience which pointed to God in the world, and in the human being Jesus of Nazareth.
And God is not limited to only one form or style of self revelation. What makes us truly human, and thus truly Christian, is not accepting superstition or what can’t be believed, nor accepting what can only be presented in some kind of arid formula. What makes us truly human is being able to live in relationship to the other. The relationship is what constitutes our existence and our wholeness, not the efforts to formulate and analyse. We are all webs and we are part of a great web!
Let me suggest a practical matter. I would like to ask you a question and then invite you to ponder it for a moment: what are your best moments, your really best moments? For me my best moments occurred when I was in relationship.
- When my mother or father, son or daughter hugged me;
- When my wife embraces me – my best moment;
- When someone who cared for me was in the same room with me;
- When a teacher or colleague affirmed me;
- When friendship was valuable and touchable and strong.
I remember those as my best moments: when I was, and am in, relation. What’s the so-called ‘point’ of all this? Simply this. These experiences are universal experiences that tell us about ourselves. They tell us that not only do we exist (a web), but that we exist in relationship (WEB). Relationship is what makes us what we truly are.
And that which makes G-o-d is relationship. Relationship is what God is about. This is what the Trinity says: God is relationship and, therefore, it is no wonder that we, who are made in God’s image and likeness, are also essentially about relationship.
So those are my comments: Trinity Sunday is about you and me, and it’s about God, and it’s about relationship. The Trinity is not a mathematical question that tries to explain why 1+1+1=1. It’s not even a theological question. And any reference to it is only found once in the entire Bible, and then scholars tell us it was a very late addition. The Trinity is all about relationship that makes life the very best it can be. As it is about building relationships, it is indeed all about creation at work.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Loving, three-personed Friend, please enlarge our awareness and stretch our compassion to include those people who are edged by circumstances or personality into an isolation that they do not really want.
Make us aware of the people in our neighbourhood who are feeling forgotten and isolated. Please stretch our compassion and show us the best ways to assist.
Make us aware of those living in remote places, or those who are lost in big cities, whose need for friendship and support is not being met. Please stretch our compassion and give us the will to make a difference.
Make us aware of refugees and migrants who are finding it difficult feel included in our community and nation. Please stretch our compassion to reach beyond race, skin colour and culture.
Make us aware of folk who are hungry for a community of faith but are anxious and tentative when visiting our congregation.Please stretch our compassion to include strangers in our midst.
Make us aware of any in our regular membership who float around the edges of our fellowship without feeling they really belong. Please stretch our compassion until all are valued as our sisters and brothers in Christ.
We know loving Friend, that you are already working in the lives of these for whom we have prayed. We dedicate these prayers, and whatever talents we have, to cooperate with your work of gathering into your love all the lonely and unwanted people of the world. Through Jesus Christ our Saviour. who taught us to pray, “Our Father….”
THE LORD’S PRAYER
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name;
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us in the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory
are yours now and forever. Amen.
WORDS OF MISSION
L: The God we worship is never confined to this holy place. So go and travel with the God who is found in ordinary and surprising places. Go in faith, for there is God riding in the light on the water, singing in the songs of the birds, sitting in the midst of the feasts of life.
R: We go in faith to live in joyous freedom, to play in the creation, and to drink deeply of the gracious cup of life.
In the name of the Spirit I assure you of good company: The Spirit who inspired Jesus; a friend in joy or pain, a counsellor in anxious times, a comforter in sorrow, and a discomforter whenever we become indifferent.
In the name of the Son I bless you: The Christ who loved you and gave himself for you, whose peace is your healing, whose rule is love, and whose grace will one day bring you truly home with exceeding joy! Go faithfully, for all is well and all manner of things will be well.