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    Bishop Richard's Weekly video Message - Transcript 04/06/2020


    Category
    Talking Points
    Date
    4 June 2020
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    Hello everyone, I’m very glad you can join us for this weekly video. Today, I’m outside Holy Trinity Church in Hereford. Its not the most popular dedication for a Church, people often preferred a local saint. However, that’s not to say the doctrine of the Trinity isn’t important. Its Trinity Sunday in a few days and Bishops get more invites to preach then that on any other Sunday in the year! It’s the doctrine Christians know they have to hold to be orthodox, but hope they never have to explain!

    We shouldn’t be unduly worried about that. If we could explain God within the limits of our understanding and rationality he wouldn’t be God as scripture and tradition have sought to explain him. How could a human mind fully grasp a being who created the entire universe?

    Although, it feels dense and philosophical, the doctrine of the Trinity actually emerged from reflection on experience. The Jews of the Old and New Testaments were passionate monotheists. They defined themselves as believers in one God, as opposed to the bizarre pagan cults with multitudes of deities who surrounded them. This was the culture the first disciples were steeped in. They had plenty of experience in a faith in the one, true God, creator of the universe. For them to start seeing Jesus as God was a remarkable transformation. This emerged from their eyewitness testimony to the extraordinary things that Jesus did, and their sense he was so much more than a mere human being. There is a wonderful section in John’s Gospel where Jesus preaches a very difficult sermon that after he has gone people will eat bread to remember his broken body and wine to remember his shed blood. At the end of the sermon it says that many deserted him because it was just too hard to accept. Jesus turns to Peter and asks, “are you going to desert me too?” Peter’s response is fascinating, and I paraphrase, “we didn’t understand the sermon either, but when you speak, something comes alive inside us!” In the middle of Mark’s Gospel Jesus asks him who they think he is, and they respond, “the Christ, the son of the living God.” At the end of John, Thomas says he won’t believe until he sees the resurrected Christ for himself. Jesus appears whereupon he falls on his knees and says, “my Lord and my God.” Jesus’ rebuke to him is that he’s slow to get the point!

    After Pentecost they experience God again in an entirely different way in the person of the Holy Spirit. They discover GOD as a living active power within them. As the New Testament unfolds this idea of God as three in one becomes more and more explicit.

    But how can we hold two apparently conflicting ideas about God at the same time? Fortunately, nature can help us. As I look at the sun, scientists tell me I can understand it as either an electromagnetic wave or discreet packets of energy called photons. Its not either or, it’s both and. The philosopher Emmanuel Kant described this idea as antimony: two apparently contradictory ideas you have to hold to grasp at the truth. You can’t really do theology without this. God is three and one; Jesus is fully God and fully man; the bible is inspired by God but fully written by human beings; God is sovereign over the unfolding of history and yet freewill and choice is real. You can find all of these ideas affirmed in the Bible. You can’t reduce them to one or the other, or even try to bring them together in a synthesis. The Trinity proves to be not just a picture of what God is like but as a template for the whole Christian life

    Now you might be thinking that all this is vaguely interesting but not really relevant to my life. But let’s think of it like the bicycle I rode to get here. Bicycles with one pedal don’t go very far and even with two pedals if you keep pushing down on just one you are going to fall over. How might it work with prayer? You push on the idea that God made the world and sustains it with his love; prayer is tapping into that sovereign purpose. But then you carry on pushing and you can start to think well there’s no point in praying; he’s going to do what he wants anyway, and what about the mystery of unanswered prayers; prayers that don’t seem to make a difference. But as you start thinking you might as well give up you remember he invites us to pray, “Thy Kingdom Come.” To have the expectation that these prayers will make a difference, and that Jesus said ask and you will receive but before you know it you can start thinking about prayer in formulaic terms – if I just pray in the right way God will answer – that’s his job, and even looking to blame people for the fact that God didn’t heal them when you asked, at which point you begin to push down on the other pedal and are reminded that God made the world and sustains it with his love; prayer is tapping into that sovereign purpose. But then you carry on pushing and you can start to think well there’s no point in praying; he’s going to do what he wants anyway, and what about the mystery of unanswered prayers; prayers that don’t seem to make a difference. But as you start thinking you might as well give up you remember he invites us to pray, “Thy Kingdom Come.” To have the expectation that these prayers will make a difference, and that Jesus said ask and you will receive but before you know it you can start thinking about prayer in formulaic terms – if I just pray in the right way God will answer – that’s his job, and even looking to blame people for the fact that God didn’t heal them when you asked, at which point you begin to push down on the other pedal and are reminded that God made the world and sustains it with his love; prayer is tapping into that sovereign purpose. And round and round it goes, but the bicycle moves forward.

    Have a good week and may you be enfolded by the love and know the blessing of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.