Monday, July 20, 2015

"A God who adopts us rather than a religion we adopt"


I was told that Trinity is the obscure and difficult bit of the Christian faith. Rather embarrassing because we can't really understand it. I was told: don't read John's gospel with your Muslim friend because that puts Trinity centre stage.

That'd be news to Mark (Matthew and Luke too), as Mark begins by declaring that it is good news that Jesus is the Christ (anointed by the Father with the Spirit) and the Son of God (Son of the Father).
And it's not long before Mark is showing us the Father's delight and love for his Son, conveyed by the Spirit at his baptism. And the Spirit is seen driving Jesus into testing - a foretaste of his suffering - before he announces the nearness of the kingdom of the Triune God.

There's a Western fear of Trinity. One of the classic Systematic Theologies of this generation finally gets to Trinity on page 227 having covered a lot of ground on other subjects. Given Jesus says (Luke 10:20-22) that the only way the Father gets known is by the Son revealing him, God isn't someone you figure out from creation - though the created world is singing about who he is.
Trinity ought to come sooner. Like on page 1?

Our problem may be in part that we build our theology with a strong dose of Greek Philosophy which means we're big on there being one big God who can be described by strings of big God words (omni-this-that-and-the-other) which are probably true, but then Trinity comes in down the line. Here we have One God in Three Persons.

The East (for all its foibles) would rather tell us about Three Persons who are United in Love. There is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And we can look at the way they relate to one another - as observed above in Mark's gospel. Their dance tells a story.

The Father loves his Son.
The Father delights in his Son.
The Father gives all to his Son.
The Father rests everything on what his world does with his Son.
As Donald Fairbairn writes: The heart of Christianity is the Father's relationship with his Son.

A story into which we are invited to participate. As Paul writes to the Galatians, we can be baptised into Christ, putting him on as a garment which means we stand as him. We are him to all Trinitarian purposes. We come to the Father in the Name of Jesus. Jew or Greek, Male or Female, Slave or Free, all united IN HIM. Before the throne of God above...

And moreover, the Father who sent his Son into the world also sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts so this is not just skin-deep acceptance but all the way to the heart. And the Spirit cries out Abba Father.

Which is to say: when the Father turns his eye to those who believe in Jesus he sees his Son.
And: when the Father turns his ear to those who believe in Jesus he hears his Son.
Whatever my story, whatever my social background: he'll treat me as he treats his Son. .

And we can join in by the Spirit making us fruitfully more like Jesus, and we can join in and pray as he prays. Which is the point of 'Abba' praying - it's not a question of whether that's a childish or mature 'Daddy' but rather: this is how Jesus talks to his Father. Come and join the divine conversation.

We have the opportunity to line our lives up with who we are if we've entrusted ourselves to Jesus. There's nothing to earn, deserve, or be disqualified by. It's all free. All gratuitous. All gift. Which is thoroughly mind-blowing and awe-inspiring and love-filling.

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