Holy Trinity 2010.
May 30, 2010
Ocean Forest

Life is better in community

Friends, this is the only Sunday dedicated to a doctrine of the church. Holy Trinity is a focus and celebration on the biblical reality of God being Father, Son and Holy Spirit; the one and only ‘Triune God’.

Why celebrate a doctrine? The famous philosopher, Immanuel Kant, probably spoke for a lot of people when he said, ‘even if one claims to understand it, the doctrine of the Trinity provides [us with] nothing, absolutely nothing, of practical value.’ He said that we need to face the fact that it ‘offers absolutely no guidance for conduct.’

Many might agree…..Doctrine is not practical. The doctrines of the church are the things that hold us back spiritually. The doctrines of the church are just human constructions anyway. They have been used to control people instead of encourage and focus people spiritually.

Keeping the church’s long-held doctrines at a distance from my spiritual life may serve some purpose for some people, – until the chips are down and we really need some clarity about who we are, who God is and how he says he works, what the world is and where we are all going. It is then all of sudden very relevant to talk about what the church actually has taught, what doctrines it has upheld and for what reasons.

After all, doctrines don’t have to be seen as a big set of sticks used to keep all of us on the straight and narrow or some thing that leaders use to control our thinking. Neither do the great doctrines of the church come from thin air – they come from rigorous, long-term dialogue with the biblical witness.

The doctrines we have arrived at from the bible, like, what grace is, what the church is, who God is, what sin is and etc…. are God’s stuff. He reveals himself in this Word he has given. Doctrine can be seen as a dialogue with God and each other – not for limitation but for the care, shaping and making of people – God’s loved people.

Leonardo Boff, the Latin American liberation theologian, spoke for millions of poor people in base church communities around the world, when he said that the ‘divine society’ was their ‘permanent utopia’ – the true social program for any human society seeking participation, equity and equality.

I am with Boff. God is Community in perfect unity and harmony and his way of being communal is there for us to live together. God three and yet God is one – an unfathomable mystery which is only grabbed hold of by faith, each “person connected in love, sacrificial giving, intimate conversation, close understanding, mutual submission, deep concern…….

So, contrary to the popular view, I am into doctrine because I trust that God is God, and the church is not only an institution, but a community of people who have struggled and dialogued and suffered for clarity on this life of faith we are called to live.

“Guard your doctrine (or teaching) carefully, says Paul to the young Timothy. “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise but as wise people”, encouraged St Paul, “so that you are not tossed about with ‘every wind of doctrine and listen to what itching ears want to hear’, but seek the teaching of God and discern his will in his Word”.

So, this Sunday dedicated to a foundation reality is okay by me. In fact, I wonder if it gives us a way of viewing ourselves that the world just cannot give us?

(Comments by Dave Andrews, Australian author and thinker…../)

See, “everybody loves ‘community’.

According to sociologists Colin Bell and Howard Newby, ‘everyone – even sociologists (who usually like to sit on the fence) – want to live in community.’

Aussie commentator, Hugh Mackay, says that human beings are like mobs of kangaroos, because – like them – ‘we are creatures who thrive on our connections with each other. We are at our best when we are fully integrated with the herd; we are at our worst when we are isolated.’

In his book, Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam observes that
1. We are most healthy when we are most connected., People who are connected are less likely to suffer heart attacks, strokes, cancer – even colds! They are also two to five times less likely to die prematurely.
2. We are most happy when we are most connected. The best single global indicator of happiness is connectedness. Those who have strong relationships with family and friends are much less likely to experience loneliness, low self-esteem, eating and sleeping disorders, and sadness and depression, than those with weak relationships.
3. We are most honest when we are most connected. In relationships, long-term credibility is worth a lot more than any gain from short-term treachery. This explains why there are a lot fewer unreliable used cars returned to second-hand dealers in small town communities.
4. We are most generous when we are most connected. The most common reason for giving is being asked. The most common reason for not giving is not being asked. People are more likely to be asked if they are in contact with others. Thus, people in clubs and churches are ten times more likely to give help than those who are not.
5. We are most prosperous when we are most connected. When people know one another, they are much more likely to share access to jobs, promotions, bonuses, and other benefits. Moreover, when people trust one another, there is a significant reduction in expenses from the cost of security to insurance.
6. We are most safe and most secure when we are most connected. The willingness of neighbours to look after one another, and to actually intervene to protect one another when someone causes trouble, can reduce all kinds of crime in a neighbourhood. A local neighbourhood watch can reduce graffiti, muggings, even gang violence”.
For me, this teaching called “Holy Trinity is all about being connected – connected to God and to each other in God – who himself is a connected communal being. Holy Trinity is Community. Being at home in God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit with all you mob brings to my spiritual life the gifts of health, happiness, honesty, generosity, prosperity, safety and security.

God, the Divine community – Father, Son and Spirit, as the New Testament names God, is surely our permanent utopia – our permanent goal, hope, direction and belonging, from which we draw all those good things mentioned.

Because, by virtue of God’s grace poured out into our very being in baptism, we are in community with the Divine community. We experience very good things;
We have a Divine community from which we all can draw health, happiness, generosity, honesty, prosperity, safety and security in our identity as God loved as accepted people.

This is very good news for anyone who is experiencing ‘unhealth’ or a who may be a long way from being happy with their life. There is Somewhere to go to be re-connected and regenerated – our God, the only God, the communal God who loves us to be with him in community.

Trusting God as a deeply communal and welcoming God is such a relief when we desperately need to be honest and generous. The sense of thankfulness that comes from receiving everything we own and enjoy from a communal God who gathers us and gives to us constantly re-shapes our lives into lives of prosperity but also generosity with all we have been given.

Tell me how good it is to return to a safe place when you have been in dangerous territory. This is the Holy Trinity- this is our God – a community of belonging and safety and a trustful future.

Maybe we could view our God in his communal character as home? Like, when I am out on my motorbike of mountain bike a long way from home in the wind and rain. It is dangerous in these conditions. I must be very careful and be very alert and disciplined. There is fear. But then I think of home and that my future (God willing) is home. I will come home and be safe. I can drop my guard, talk about the journey, rest, enjoy, love and be loved….

That’s our God. That’s the Divine community for all of our life – in the dangerous borderlands of faith and in the bosom of the church- the people of God. We go out and we come in surrounded by and fortified in our spirit by the reality that we belong, we have a place, a home, a community – we are people of the Divine Community, the Holy Trinity. We are ever being drawn deeper into this community of perfect unity and love and one day we know in full what we only now glimpse.
All praise be to God, the Father, Son and Spirit, our home, our place, our community of love.

Life is definitely better in community!