Scripture for Trinity Sunday:
Proverbs 8.1–4, 22–31; Psalm 8; Romans 5.1–5; John 16.12–15
Someone grumbled on Twitter last week to the effect that in preaching we should stick to presenting the gospel and bringing people to the foot of the cross. “I don’t care about your views on the news,” he said. Which is an odd thing, because it really is quite a good idea to set the Gospel firmly in the context of the real world: that is what incarnation is about, which is to say, that is what the humanity of Jesus presents to us.
So – should we be engaged with the news about the world around us, or should we adopt a more detached approach to our Christian faith and the way in which we practise it? How do we relate our own human nature to the remembered presence of Jesus in the world as a human being? We can, of course, delve into scripture, and there we may find challenges.
For example, in the Song of Solomon, often chosen for wedding blessings, we find some quite passionate expressions of the joy of physical, human relationships. This is a reflection of the Jewish tradition of accepting as sacred the physical nature of the relationships of love between men and women. The spiritual, intellectual and emotional aspects of our relationships are at least as important, of course, but not at the expense of losing sight of the sacred aspect of being wonderfully created in the image of God as physical beings.
Jewish tradition has in common with Celtic Christianity an appreciation for the physical, material world, not to be possessed by humanity, but to be nurtured and cared for as something that is sacred. With Jesus, the divine, creative force, this spirit that breathes over the dark, disordered cosmos and shapes and forms it, is present in human form and so demonstrates how, ultimately, humanity can be a force for compassion, caring and love for the created earth, and the life that occupies it, especially fellow human beings. In doing so, it says to each of us, “You are, indeed, wonderfully created in the image of God. Now go and act as if you are.”
The pages of the New Testament challenge us to find ways to live collectively, in communion, as a community of faith that cares for creation, respecting it as sacred, especially the gift of human life. This is an on-going process. We can’t live as if we operate in some other-worldly plane of existence. We have a responsibility for this world and what happens in it. There is an approach to Christianity that focuses on such expressions as accepting Jesus as a personal Lord and Saviour. Well, the pages of the new testament are filled not with ego-centric, individualised faith, but communal, collective living, to establish a kingdom of God that calls us to act in communion.
Of course, it’s not always easy to understand exactly how we should do so. One problem is, I believe, that there are too many people who act as though they know all the answers. But no one really does. Jesus’ words to his followers that they had more to learn apply just as much to us, both as individuals and as communities. When we stop learning, we stop growing – and that is when death begins. Jesus reminds us that we still have much to understand, much to learn. Perhaps that is why it is a good idea to use the expression “practising our faith” – there is always room for improvement, so that we can engage with the world around in a way that recognises the sacredness of the created order and life within it.
Jesus’ words remind us of our continued obligation to listen and learn, to do so in communion, and to act in this sacred, earthy, physical world as a community of faith. And this does indeed oblige us to pay attention to the news headlines!