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Bishop Richard's Weekly video Message - Transcript 23.05.2024

23rd May 2024

Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s video which is released the Thursday before Trinity Sunday.

C.S. Lewis gave a number of radio talks on the Trinity some years ago, in the days when the BBC was interested in such things.  In one he said, “The union between the Father and the Son is such a live concrete thing that this union is also a person. I know this is almost inconceivable, but look at it like this.  You know that among human beings, when they get together in a family, or a club, or a trade union, people talk about the ‘Spirit’ of that family, or club, or trade union. They talk about its ‘Spirit because the individual members, when they are together, do really develop particular ways of talking and behaving which they would not have if they were apart.  It is as if a communal personality comes into existence. Of course, it is not a real person; it is only rather like a person.  But that is just one of the differences between God and us. What grows out of the joint life of the Father and Son is a real person, is in fact the Third of the three persons who are God.”

Darrell Johnson asked the questions, “What does it all mean?” and responded, “it means that in the deepest mystery of his being God is in an intimate relationship, a fellowship, a community of love.” And it is in this that as St. Paul said to the Athenians, “we live and move and have our being.”

This is not simply obscure theological theory. If God is indeed the ground of everything, and we are made in his image, this principle inevitably bleeds into our everyday experience. It explains why our relationships can be the source of our greatest joys and deepest pain when they go wrong. Many animals exist in solitary isolation – particularly the males of the species, coming together only for mating and taking no notice of their offspring afterwards. Some might argue that some of us blokes are a bit like that even now! But, our need for one another is enshrined in a principle at the beginning of our creation story in Genesis. God said, “let us make humanity in our (note our) likeness.” When he contemplated the freshly created human he said, “it is not good for man to be alone.” This is partly because Adam will be lonely, but mainly because Adam alone doesn’t reflect the divine image. The story continues, “And God created mankind in his image: male and female he created them.” So, just as God is in relationship, we need relationships to experience the fullness of being human. As the metaphysical poet John Donne said, “no man is an island, entire of himself.”

That is why solitary confinement is such a crushing punishment, even for introverts. Its why neglected children are often naughty.  Any attention, even negative attention, is better than none at all. There was a famous experiment in which baby monkeys were taken from their mothers, and supplied with all their physical needs but had no physical contact. They all grew up to be very screwed up monkeys. Its because we bear the marks of our trinitarian creator that loneliness is so crushing and that broken relationships are the source of so much pain.

This is one of the reasons Jesus emphasised righteousness so much in his teaching. Righteousness simply means right relationship, first with God, but then with everyone else. Jesus ministry was one of reconciliation. He came to reconcile us to God, to one another, ourselves and even a fractured cosmos. Understanding ourselves in this way gives a compelling rationale for the Christian imperative of love that overcomes self-interest. This is the way the world was designed to be. Putting ourselves at the centre of the universe can feel intuitive. We can be tempted in relationships to a manipulation that seeks to control or influence others to get what we need from them. This can even lead to a false community with foundations in negotiated self-interest. But this isn’t the deep relational community of the God who made the world. His is the community of self-giving love: an open, transparent communion with love that flows from itself to draw others into the same communion. However, we have been damaged by bad relationships in the past, it is still something that our hearts crave for: to be loved and known as we are, accepted and helped to grow and flourish. We were made for it; God as Trinity models it and makes it possible for us to experience it even in the midst of our human frailty.

Happy Trinity Sunday.


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