Monday, May 19, 2008

Our relationship with God

Exodus 34.4-6,8-9
2 Corinthians 13.11-13
Matthew 28.16-20


These passages, specially selected for reflection on Trinity Sunday, illustrate that the doctrine of the Trinity is not so much an attempt to discern the essential nature of God as to describe God's relationship with creation, including ourselves, and with Jesus - whom Christians believe to be a human being in perfect relationship with God.

The passage from Exodus contains the unpleasant verse about God's wrath visiting the iniquity of parents on their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren, and the editors of the lectionary have chosen to miss it out. However, there is a truth here. We cannot hope that our mistakes will not have implications for future generations. The slate is not wiped clean after things go wrong and we recognise the error of our ways. If we wanted proof of this uncompromising truth we need only think about global warming.

However, people suffering for the iniquity of their ancestors is not the key note in this passage. What Moses discovers in his encounter with God is that God keeps steadfast love with the human race for thousands of generations, despite our mistakes and wrongdoing.

Paul doesn't talk about doctrine when he prays to God as Father, Son and Spirit and this should not surprise us, because the doctrine of the Trinity did not exist when he was writing. He talks instead about grace, love and communion - all ways of expressing God's relationship with us. Because Jesus perfectly understood God's love for us, and was truly 'in love' with God himself, he was prepared to die for us so that we might receive the gracious gift of having our own relationship with God restored, and that loving relationship with God which we now enjoy through the grace of Jesus finds its expression in our inner communion with God's Spirit.

This conviction that we can know God in three ways - as our creator, as the suffering servant who shows the depth of his love for us by dying on the cross, and as the Spirit living deep within each one of us - is such a distinctive part of the Christian message that proclaiming its truth has become the essential rite of passage to membership of the Church. But it is one and the same God whom we are meeting. God encounters us in the universe around us, in the person and work of Jesus and as the source of inner peace and inspiration, but in saying this we are simply acknowledging that the one God is in relationship with us in three distinctive ways that express his steadfast love.

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