Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sermon preached on Trinity Sunday

May I speak in the name of the Triune God ... Father Son and Spirit. Amen.

We have now reached about the mid-point of the Christian Year, which began way back in November with Advent, we have progressed through the major festivals Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and Last Sunday we had Pentecost. Today gives us a chance to pause and reflect on God being God.

Today as we have heard is Trinity Sunday - is a time when we reflect upon the mystery and the uniqueness of the God we worship.

God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit -

St Patrick’s Breastplate describes trinity as

Three in one and one in three.

Yes it is a Christian Doctrine, A key piece of our theology

it shapes our worship, it is fundamental to our creeds and prayers, it impinges on how we know anything about God. It separates Christianity from any other religion, and it is a complicated theory but actually it lies at the heart of our faith.

Trinity ensures us that we cannot put God in a Box, we cannot describe him adequately, nor can we comprehend all that God is. We need the trinity to sum up all who God is and all that he does.

Christianity is full of paradoxes due to how God acted in the past and continues to act today as trinity. Christians proclaim God as Holy (set apart) yet through the incarnation his is accessible, God the father is creator yet through the son became created, God is all powerful yet is able to dwell in our hearts and lives.

Many Illustrations have been used over the years to describe the relations of the trinity one in three and three in one

St Patrick as we know used a shamrock, others I have heard include water, ice & steam, triangle. Artists over the years have tried to depict the trinity in various ways.

We must remember that the term “trinity” does not appear in the Bible but it comes out of studying scripture, from what Jesus said, from passages throughout the Old and New Testament. The Trinity is foundational to our understanding of who we worship.

We do not worship 3 gods - “Hear O israel the Lord your God is one”. Our creed says “We believe in ONE God” ,three persons.

To make sense of this it might be useful, instead of thinking about you as a person and me as a person of thinking of relationships. For example to my mum I am Son, to my sister I am Brother and to my gran I am Grandson. One person 3 relationships. This is of limited use.

However it does show us that there is one individual but various roles. At the end of the day the Holy Trinity is the deepest mutual relationship possible -

Great Christian Thinkers like Augustine have concluded is a mystery and the more I think about it I am quite content in allowing the relationship of Father, Son & Spirit to stay mystery as long as we know that the wholeness of God is more than the sum of its parts

Individually we know about God the Father what he did in creation, in loving us, of being the source of everything and still working in the world today

Individually we know about God the Son Incarnation, ministry, death resurrection & ascension

Individually we know about God the Holy Spirit, Gifts, empowerment

We know that they are all completely working together for the building up of the church and the fulfilment of all things. and also to say that it is essential that we do believe in the equality of the trinity - anything less and we are in danger of falling into false teaching and our faith will be skewed.

But let us turn to the Gospel passage this morning and see this relationship worked out - as examples are always good for demonstrating theories.

Our Gospel passage is one of the many, many examples of the Godhead working together in Scripture

Jesus is talking to his disciples and he is showing them the working out of the plans of the father

we see that Jesus is unconcerned that is earthly ministry is limited...

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth;

he knows that once he has died, raised and ascended the Holy Spirit will come and will continue to guide.

God is a God who doesn’t teach us everything immediately, he is a God who is with us for the long haul. The life of the disciple is one of learning on the job, of trying things out, of allowing God to teach us as we go on living. None of us (i am pretty sure) know everything, none of us can say I don’t need to learn anymore.

In our lives we need to know the fathers love and care, we experience that love through the Holy Spirit, we learn through the Holy Spirit and see Jesus’ Life as an example of the three persons of the trinity together.

Impact of the trinity today

As we look around our parish everyday we see people who are hurting, people who have been bereaved, people who have questions, people who are facing uncertanties of life. I am sure that each person here can identify those known to them who are those everyday people.

The Triune God is the only God who can adequately speak into all of our lives. Into places of hurt, grief, despair as well as happiness and joy.

When the major themes and questions of life are thought about only God who is creator, redeemer, sanctifier come together does life have creativity and meaning. There is absolutely nothing more creative, nor is there any other philosophy which makes any sense compared to what trinity does in relationship.

Yes, at the end of the day it is a mystery as to how it all happens but actually when we see the creativity and the meaning produced when father son and spirit get together then we realise why we are worshipping father son and Holy Spirit.

Let us pray


Sunday, May 02, 2010


Well! the Marathon seems to be happening tomorrow :-/ periodical updates available via the st columbas youth website - twittering and google

below are may hopeful times ... wether I stick to it or not is another thing but we will see :-)

Roberts Marathon Times ! Theory!

Stage 1
Donegal Sq East - Holywood Arches Library (30mins) 2 MILES
Holywood Arches library – Sydemham Bypass corner (30 mins) 2 MILES
Sydemham Bypass Corner – Victoria Park 20 mins 1.5 Miles
Victoria Park – Bridge end 10 mins .5 mile [RC 1]
6 mile
1.30 Hrs [10.30]

Stage 2
Bridge End → Crawfords Shop 15 Minutes 1 Mile
Crawfords → Clondard Street 20 mins 1.5 Miles
Clonard street → Tennent Street 20 mins 1.5 Miles
Tennent St → Hillview Road 10 mins .5 Mile

9.5 miles 1hr 10 mins [11.40]

Stage 3
Hillview road – Westland Rd 15 Mins 1 Mile
Westland road – St Peters Antrim rd 25 Mins 1.5 miles
St Peters – Floral Road 40 mins 2 miles (xt)
Floral Rd – Gideons green 30 mins 2 miles

1hr 50 mins [1.30pm]

Stage 4
Gideons Green - CMSI 40 mins 2.5 Miles (short)
CMSI – CorporationSt 20 mins 2 miles (short)
21.9 miles 1 hr [2:30]

Stage 5
Corporation St – central Station 20 mins 1.2 miles
central station – ravehill road 30 mins 2 miles
Ravenhill road – Ormeau pk 15 mins 1 mile
1 hr 10 mins [3:40]

Aim to be finished by 3:40pm

The cost of prayer

A sermon preached in St. Columba's at Choral Evensong 2nd May 2010 - Text Daniel in the Lions Den - Daniel 6

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be now and always acceptable in thy sight O lord our strength and our redeemer – Amen

I wonder if you have ever thought of what we do sunday by sunday as having a cost?
Of our christian faith having a price?
I wonder How much would you be willing to sacrifice to keep praying to God?
Could it be accounted in monetary terms? Or in terms of time, in term of what we would risk loosing?

In the well known story from the Old Testament we have heard how Daniel was willing to risk paying the ultimate price for simply praying to God …

Daniel was appointed by the new king darius to be one of three administrators who would look after the sattraps (the area rulers) everything would be run past him to ensure that the King would not lose anything as far as taxes were concerned. Daniel was indeed a man of great integrity and authority and no one could find fault with him.

He was also a man of faith – praying at his window 3 times a day. Those plotting his downfall knew that that was the only way they could legitimately get rid of him. By Outlawing prayer.

In verse 10 it states
Although Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he continued to go to his house, which had windows in its upper room open towards Jerusalem, and to get down on his knees three times a day to pray to his God and praise him, just as he had done previously.

Nothing would stop Daniel from prayer & praying publicly.

We know today how the story ends, we know that it does have a happy ending for Daniel

The cost of prayer for Daniel, meant that his life was put at risk, his job was certainly at an end. But he was prepared to take that risk, to remain faithful to God.

We also must remember that Daniel was in forced exile in Babylon so his praying at the window would have been a witness to other Jews around about that someone in the upper echleons of government was praying to the God of their ancestors.

Last Night in St. Annes Cathedral various groups which support the percecuted church held an information evening after a day of prayer for the persececuted church.

This day highlighted that throughout the centuries there has always been some friction between God's followers and the rulers of the day. And even today the threats continue, the risks are real.
Some of our Brothers and Sisters in Christ tonight are facing torture and even death for believing in God, reading the Bible & doing what Daniel did – praying .

We just have to look at the israelites under pharaoh in egypt, daniel, the first christians and their percecution in the Roman coliseum right down through the centuries to today. The cost of faith, the cost of prayer is as real today as it has been for those in centuries past.

Thankfully in St. Columbas, for an evening prayer service we are not having to worry about police coming in and arresting us, or a mob ransacking our houses looking for Bibles. The fact that we live in a country where there is peace, where freedom of speech and religion is enshired in law we should be so thankful for.

Imagine for a moment things were different and the decision you took to come to church tonight, which you knew is where you should be risked you being sent to jail and perhaps even loosing everything.

Belief in God is risky, faith in God and living out his gospel has never been without Cost. During the week I was listening to a speaker talk about the first disciples as they were sent out to preach and this speaker asked the question:

Do you think those first century preachers mentioned in their sermons that the life of a disciple was a risky one? That it might mean ultimately death? He was sure that they would have done.

For people today in many nations that is the case – to become a christian may cost the convert everything. Loosing their family, perhaps imprisonment & in extreme cases death. That is the reality for some.

In our OT testament reading

What did Daniel risk by praying?
Daniel risked his career & ultimately his life

What did he gain?
Knowing that God was with him
Example for the other exiles
Ultimately changed the religious environment as the king turned to Daniels God

How about us – you and me – what do we risk by praying?
Day by day, if we are honest here in Belfast – not too much!
Perhaps we might loose 15/20 minutes of TV or extra time in bed
Perhaps we might risk loosing a bit of street credibility if we offer to share our faith or to pray with someone

What do we gain by praying ?
Knowing that God knows our problems
Knowing that we are setting an example for our children / family
Knowing that it will Change things

One of the great things about our Book of common prayer is that within its covers are things for use every single day and as such it can help us to live out the teachings of God … turn with me to page 139 you will see outlines of things to pray for each and every day under various headings

We are all called to be like Daniel, we are called to be people of prayer – men and women who do pray for the needs of the world, people who pray risky things and then also people who work with integrity and truth, putting God's law into practice.

Today 200-250 million Brothers and Sisters in Christ are facing persecution simply for praying to God and sharing their faith in him with others. There are a couple of challenges

  • Firstly like Daniel are we prepared to pray daily to God, to build our relationship with him
  • Then, are we prepared, whatever the cost to stand up for God -unafraid of the consequences
  • and are we prepared to find out about and speak out for our Brothers and Sisters who are locked in prison and facing hardship simply for declaring the name of Jesus?
Pray to end