Martin Fletcher's Sermon, 11 June 2017

Trinity Sunday
11 June 2017
(Isaiah 40:12-17, 27-31;  2 Corinthians 13:11-13;  Matthew 28:16-20)


The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.


This time last year I was on my Land’s End to John O’Groats bike ride – and still in only the first week of my sabbatical. Happy days! On Trinity Sunday I visited Holy Trinity Church in St Austell, Cornwall – where sculptures set in to the outside walls of the tower depict the Trinity. I knew that Adela would be referring to these sculptures in her Trinity Sunday sermon, and in actually seeing them for myself as she did so I felt closely connected with you back here at home.


An appropriate prayer for me to use at that moment was what we call the ‘Grace’: the conclusion to St Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians and our second reading today. Whether in saying that prayer we follow ‘The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, [and] the love of God’ with ‘the fellowship’ or the ‘communion of the Holy Spirit…’, the deep truth being expressed is clear. The Holy Trinity is about loving relationship – between Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and the mutual joy of that relationship is something in which we are all invited to share, for ‘evermore’.


We might recall here that the word ‘communion’ is shorthand for ‘common union’. And what the ‘common union’ of the Holy Spirit brings us is fellowship – connectedness – with each other and with God. In that moment of connectedness on Trinity Sunday last year, I felt connected with you just as we all felt connected with God.


And that connectedness is not occasional but continuous – and dynamic, as this paraphrase of the Grace makes clear: ‘The love flowing from God is manifest in the power-laden grace given by Christ, which creates the common union of the Holy Spirit’.

For more on ‘power-laden grace’ simply refer back to our first reading today: ‘The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary… He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless…’


St Paul is uncharacteristically succinct in his letter to the Galatians where he expresses his thinking on connectedness in these simple terms: ‘We are all one in Christ Jesus. We belong to him through faith, heirs of the promise of the Spirit of peace.’


Now, in this post-election period of uncertainty I am not going to fall in to the trap of straying in to political milieu! But I will borrow a sound-bite from that world which expresses St Paul’s thinking even more succinctly: ‘we are all in this together’.


God, who is mystery, has revealed himself to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God, who is mystery, created the universe – with human beings as the crown of his creation – so that he could invite us into loving relationship with him. God, who is mystery, invites us to become co-creators together with him in completing his work, empowering us to draw the whole world to himself.


And one way he draws the world to himself is through the growth of his Church. Our gospel reading today is the Great Commission from the end of Matthew’s gospel. Here, Jesus commands his followers – us – to ‘make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. In doing so, he assures us that he will always be with us ‘to the end of the age’, empowering us to carry out his command.


So he calls and equips us to draw others in to the ‘common union’ which overflows from God the Holy Trinity himself – a fellowship of love and joy and peace. What a contrast this common union is to the ‘democratic union’ a minority government is forced to enter, making deals that can only bring compromise, anxiety, and strife.


If the growth of God’s Church is our aim then our focus must be the growth of the church to which we belong: our church of St Peter in Hersham. So how do we respond to the great commission of Jesus, to make disciples of all nations? Clearly, we start where we are, here at St Peter’s. So in this week’s News Sheet I have written a summary of the recent PCC Away Day, when our representatives on the governing body of our church set out a framework of priorities for the next few years. These aims will be built in to a new Mission Action Plan for our church, and this plan for growth is something in which we will all be involved.


The primary aim of our Plan will be to establish a network of Home Groups, the purpose of which is two-fold. First, through regular study in small groups of God’s word we ourselves will grow in our knowledge of God and of his love and purposes for us. And then, through the fellowship of our small groups – relaxed and joyful fellowship, modelling that of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! – we will get to know each other better, and feel more connected. The ‘common union’ overflowing from God himself will encompass and involve us: we will discover new gifts in each other and encourage each other in using these gifts in God’s service and to God’s glory.


Our recent Lent Course reminded us of the immense value of home groups. Our aim is to find a way for more of us to experience this in ongoing and sustainable ways. Please be thinking and praying about how you could become involved. And please take heart from the example of a home group which I mention in my News Sheet piece: the ‘Monday Night Group’ which has now been running for nearly five years.


‘Joyful fellowship’, then, is what defines home groups, the relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and our connectedness with God and with each other. And this is beautifully illustrated by a saying I came across towards the end of my sabbatical last year, this time in Yorkshire. It is a description of the Trinity, based on the thought of the medieval theologian Meister Eckhart. ‘The Father laughs with the Son; the Son laughs with the Father; and the laughter is the Holy Spirit.’


For laughter and all his gifts may God’s holy name be blessed and praised. Amen.