REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.
Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 19: The Trinity makes all the difference!
With this coming Sunday designated Trinity Sunday it may be helpful to consider the difference this wonderful truth of Scripture makes in living faithfully through the pandemic, or any other challenge beyond our control to control. Perhaps the prayer for Trinity Sunday from the Prayer Book is a good place to start.
Almighty and everlasting God, you have given us your servants grace by the confession of a true faith to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and by your divine power to worship you as One: we humbly pray that you would keep us steadfast in this faith and evermore defend us from all adversities; through Christ our Lord.
The Trinity doctrine is a gift of God’s grace. It is not something we would have dreamed up or discovered by our own intellect. Wonderfully it is the way of understanding the grace of God as His people experienced His power and presence in their lives. David Hewetson put it like this: the doctrine of the Trinity was not a puzzle, but a solution. It was the early Christians’ way of expressing who God really was and how they experienced him.
The first hints that the one God might exist in a Triune fellowship is in Genesis 1:2 with the mention of the Spirit of God hovering over the waters and in 1:26 let us make man in our image. These hints are confirmed and clarified as the Scriptures ascribe the creation to Father, Son and Holy Spirit working together (Ge 1:1-2, John 1:1-3, Col 1:15-16, Heb 1:2). The Colossians passage reminds us that Jesus was not only active in creation but continues to sustain the universe. Covid-19 has not taken Him by surprise nor is it outside of His loving purposes. The assurance that this brings to believers is heightened by the truth that God is love (1 John 4:8 and 16). This implies that He exists in unity and is seen in God the Son’s propitiatory death (4:10) and the lavish love He has for believers (3:1). God did not create or redeem the world because He needed something or someone to love, but because He is love. There has been an eternal love triangle between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit from eternity. Whose love we are invited to experience. No pandemic or disaster or sickness can ever separate the believer from this love as Paul eloquently expressed, and clearly experienced, in persecution and suffering (Romans 8:31-39).
Paul’s conviction (38), is based upon the twin realities of no condemnation through faith in Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, who brings us to Christ, dwells within us, giving us a new control centre and assurance that we can call upon God, not as a distant deity, vague philosophy or impersonal force, but as our dear Father (Rom 8:1-17). This is as stunning as it is unique. And it is a reality, only because of the three persons of the Godhead, who exist and act as one. Were Jesus not fully God there could be no atonement. Only God the Son could discharge the demands of His Fathers justice on us sinners. If Jesus was not fully God the penalty for our sin could not have been dealt with once and for all, as it has been. Nor would the Holy Spirit have been able to enter into our sinful lives without the work of grace, bringing us to trust Christ, and crediting His righteousness to our account (Rom 4:1-8). Were the Holy Spirit anything other than fully God, we could not be transformed or helped, so thoroughly and effectively. We would still be trying to earn our salvation, frantically or proudly, doing our best to pull up our socks through religious exercises or good works. With this Triune God at work in and for us, we can be confident that any and every trial, including pandemics, and temptation can be faced, not arrogantly, but with the humble confidence of a welcoming Father, an understanding Saviour and the ever present Holy Spirit dwelling in and among us (Ep 1:13/4 &2:22).
What we call the doctrine of the Trinity describes the experience we have of God daily. It is the primary doctrine of grace, because we know that God’s Riches are ours At Christ’s Expense. At our Lord’s baptism (Matt 3:13-17) we see the three persons: the Father in Heaven and the descending Spirit, both affirming the Saviour, the beloved Son, who alone could fulfil all righteousness through His death on the Cross (2 Cor 5:21). Mercifully it is the Holy Spirit who completes the purposes of the Godhead by His sin convicting work in us (John 16:7-11), thus giving us the power to be born again (1:12-13 and 3:3-8). This is at one with these two great Trinitarian passages: our Lord’s great commission of making disciples in the one Name, of Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt 28:18-20), with the twin reminders that we have a work to do, and that He will always be with us. The pandemic must not keep us from the former nor rob us of the latter. The second is the familiar greeting we call the grace from 2 Cor.13:14 may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Life together in our churches after covid-19 will bring us joys, but given our sinfulness, challenges. With these Trinitarian words ringing in our ears we will be more likely to find, and be a blessing to each other. Paul Barnett’s words are timely: The grace of Christ removes aggressiveness, the love of God dispels jealousy, while the fellowship created by the Spirit destroys bitterness. Allowing this Triune God to transform us, can only enrich our evangelism and our fellowship.
Peter Brain 2nd June, 2020