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Sermon for 11 June 2017


Trinity Sunday - 11 June 2017

Isa 40:12-17, 27-end, Matthew 28:16-end

I want to explore some big ideas today and over the following 2 Sundays - some big theological ideas. And I’m going to start today at the biggest level of all by talking about God, before moving on next week to talk about the church, and then ending at the personal level, by talking about life.

And the theme that will link up these three sermons is mission.

Mission-shaped God; Mission-shaped church; Mission-shaped life

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘mission’?

Missionaries in far flung places? A company’s ‘Mission statement? Tom Cruise off on Mission Impossible, or James Bond on a Secret Service mission? Perhaps Billy Graham or another evangelist bringing a ‘mission’ to a town or city.

And how do you feel about the word, especially in a Christian context?

For some, I guess it will be a very positive word. Sharing the Good News of Jesus with those who have not yet heard it. For others perhaps it’s a bit domineering and arrogant and something you’re a bit wary of.

The word ‘mission’ literally means ‘to be sent’. To be a missionary is to be someone who is sent off to do a job. And the gospel reading this morning makes it clear why the church has held the word so dear. With his very last words, Jesus sends his disciples out to the nations, to call people to God, to baptise and to teach. 

The trouble though, is when ‘mission’ becomes a task for specialists. For people who have the very specific calling to be a missionary in distant lands. Or for those with a particular and special gift - Billy Graham or someone really good at telling people about God. And anyway, haven’t we moved on from the Victorian days when we believed that we, in the West, had something special to go and take to the poor, ignorant unbelievers of Africa and Asia?

But what if being a missionary - or being missional - is just part of being a Christian. Not because we’re all meant to head off to other countries, certainly not because we’re meant to arrogantly tell others what they should think, but because our calling - for all of us - is to try to be more like God tomorrow than we are today - to do things as much as we can, in the way God does things. And his way of doing things is all about mission.

Let me explain.

Today is Trinity Sunday - a reminder that the God we worship isn’t off on his own, lonely and glorious. The God we worship is a relationship, a community. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are caught up in a glorious relationship of mutual love, which we are invited to join.

There is an ancient image for the Trinity as a dance, in which Father, Son and Holy Spirit make space for one another, following the rhythm together, always perfectly in step, each with their own movements unique to them, but each of them also entirely in time with the others, a dance that is gloriously beautiful and utterly compelling. As they dance they are entirely inseparable and yet clearly distinct. They never miss a step or tread on the others toes, none of them is in charge and what impels them and flows between them above all is love. An entirely abandoned, trusting love. 

It’s impossible to capture fully in words what this love is like - but imagine those moments when you have most completely trusted another person, go back to a time when someone placed their life in your hands and you knew you would give anything for them. Perhaps when you held your child or grandchild for the first time, perhaps as you said your wedding vows, perhaps when a group of friends, late one night made a commitment to one another that endures even today. Maybe you have known God’s love for yourself - a moment of overwhelming acceptance in which you knew that you were caught up in something so good, so completely true, that your life was no longer your own but the Lord’s.

These experiences are just a taste of the love that flows between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Just the distant beat of the music of their dance. But that’s enough, that’s plenty. Maybe more would overwhelm us. 

And what makes God truly loving is precisely that we can hear and know that love. That Father, Son and Holy Spirit have not kept their love to themselves, but have opened up their dance and invited us to join in; because they could not keep their love for one another to themselves, the Father created life and love and goodness - a Universe in all it’s incredible, mind-bending massiveness. And because true love is always selflessly given away, the Father sent the Son to join us, to live a life like ours, to know happiness and laughter, tears and sorrow. And because really true, divine love never gives up and does whatever needs to be done to restore and heal and to make whole, he was willing to take all the mess and cruelty and sin of the world onto his shoulders and to carry them to the cross.

And because true love, God’s love, is greater even than evil, stronger even than death, more powerful even than sin, the Father raised the Son to life again.

And then, because the dance needs to grow and to get bigger, and because Father and Son want us - their people - to join in and to know what it is to be loved and forgiven and made whole, they sent the Holy Spirit to the world. And now here we are. A community, a people, a church - created by God the Father, saved by God the Son and sustained by God the Spirit - and invited to share the dance of love with the world. 

Because God really loves us, and because real love means real trust, we are invited to join in - to be part of that constant movement outwards towards the needs of the world. And that’s mission. 

To join in with God’s mission - to share God’s love with the world. 

We don’t go to the world to give people information about God; we don’t go to persuade them that we’re right and they’re wrong - we go to share what we have come to know. That God longs to draw all people to himself, to invite everyone to join in the divine dance of love. Someone has said ‘Mission is not something that we do for God, it’s what we do when we become like God’. 

When we share the goodness of God with people, we are being missional. When we dare to tell someone that God loves them more than they can imagine, we are doing exactly what God does. We are joining in with his mission. 

God’s great mission is to draw creation to himself and to heal what has been broken and rejected, to make whole what is divided. God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit share the same deep desire - to restore creation to its original state, in which Adam and Eve were able to walk freely in God’s presence, totally trusting in Him, entirely at ease with him. A state in which there is no suffering or tears, in which there is no illness or pain, no injustice or violence. A creation which is filled with joy and overflowing with goodness. Jesus had a short hand word to describe this way of being - he called it The Kingdom of God. 

God’s mission is to establish his rule over a restored kingdom.

And our mission? Our mission is to join in with God’s mission.

Next week I’m going to talk about what all that means for the church - and you might like to start thinking about what a church shaped by a missional God might look like - but for now, this is what I would love you to take away:

God is love - not distant, theoretical love, but the glorious, mutual love of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And because real love is always generous, and has to be shared, the whole of creation is invited to join in with that love. That is God’s mission. And our mission is to be godly, to be more like God tomorrow than we are today - and so we too are caught up in that movement, that dance of love, and that means sharing God’s love with the world. 

Our mission is to join in with God’s mission.

Our mission is to be part of the overflow of love that we have been caught up in.


Posted: 11-06-2017 at 20:21
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