First published 14th June 2022 on the Network Leeds blog.
I preached yesterday on the Trinity – a challenge and a joy. The text was the hymn, Thou whose almighty word we sang before and after to help us get into it. The hymn is a mosaic of biblical words and images, shaped by Trinity.
But how does the sermon stand up on Monday, when I must get on with this blog that will (I hope) be more than waffle?
Every time I preach, these days, I ask myself two questions. Is this a serviceable presentation of the good news of Jesus? And, will it pass the test of Ukraine?
What is that test? It is not simply the local political-moral question of how the UK should act effectively for Just Peace for Ukraine. That question is not to be ducked, but there is more. Bigger questions come out of the darkness of Ukraine: What is humanity, and what are we, and what hope is there for us, when we do so many things to damage one another and the earth – and yet like to think what we are doing is necessary and justified?
Sometimes we are told that people are basically good, sometimes humanistic optimism shrinks to the chauvinism of British natural fairness. Whatever truth is here, can we ignore our human capacity for making silly, if sometimes well-intended mistakes, which do massive harms? Can we shrug off our inability to lament and amend our failures? We pursue miserable fanciful goals by destroying cities, scattering families, and blocking food getting to the hungry? What are we when we find ourselves unable to make urgently needed just and viable peace?
Trinity tells how God lives as creator, redeemer and inspirer gives us being in the earth and travels with us, or rather, takes creatures on God’s pilgrimage. God comes out of immune rest to struggle in and for, and when need arises, against, the world. Determined hope and costly love is God’s incarnated way; it involves bearing futility and disappointment, and brings hope of new life, as the love of God is poured out by the Holy Spirit given to us (Romans 5.5).
Like all the best theology, the hymn is more prayer than lecture. All through its cry is ‘Let there be light’ even in earth’s darkest place. To pray like this is not to find peace in a troubled world by expecting God to do the work alone. Prayer inducts us into partnership with God, in trinitarian service, in and for the world.
Watch the full sermon here.