Today combines Trinity Sunday with Father’s Day and just in case the girls were unsure what to buy me, I ordered Bruce Springsteen’s new album as a gift. It is called Western Stars and contains a number of sweeping orchestral melodies that in Springsteen’s hands tell the story of characters who have known shattered dreams and failure, but also maintain some hope for the future.
One of my favourites is a song called “Hello Sunshine,” which captures how I feel when going on a like bike ride.
"You know I always loved a lonely town
Those empty streets, no one around
But there is a danger he recognises that if you spend too much time on your own:
You fall in love with lonely, you end up that way
Hello sunshine, won't you stay?"
In the St Mary’s film club we watched Into the Wild the other week. It is a true story of a young man called Christopher McCandless who turns his back on his family and sets out to live wild in Alaska. The journey to Alaska starts in Atlanta and it takes nearly two years for him to arrive.
On his journey he meets a variety of characters, with some he builds close friendships, but his goal is to live in isolation.
Those he comes close too he seems to push away.
Ron Franz: I'm going to miss you when you go.
Christopher McCandless: I will miss you too, but you are wrong if you think that the joy of life comes principally from the joy of human relationships. God's place is all around us, it is in everything and in anything we can experience. People just need to change the way they look at things.
However, by the end of the film and after weeks of isolation in a bus an abandoned bus in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness his perspective has changed. He writes in his journal; Happiness is only real when shared.
I know people who don’t mind being on their own, some who have got used to it and others who can’t stand it. One of the problems that we face in today’s world is the issue of loneliness and one of the important pastoral roles of a church is to provide a place where we can come together and get to know different people.
Churches can bring all ages together and it is a place where we can care and look out for each other and for those in need in the world.
On Trinity Sunday I think that focusing on this idea of sharing and relationship is very important.
It says something integral about the God we come together to worship.
When you read a book about the churches teaching on the Trinity it can seem a bit obscure and confusing.
The television programme Rev had an episode where the Vicar goes to pay a visit to the local mosque and the Iman suggests that if he has a problem, he should ask one of his three God’s to help him. Slightly flustered he cannot find the right answer in response.
Sam Wells in one of his books puts it like this: “One could say that the doctrine of the Trinity is how the church celebrates the power, importance, indispensability and everlasting quality of relationship. The Trinity celebrates that God is three persons in one substance.”
The key word in that is relationship.
“In other words, God isn’t a thing, and achievement, and edifice, a piece of technology, an impressive sight, even a dazzling light or a blazing fire. God is a relationship.”
“God is a relationship of three persons, so wonderfully shaped towards one another, so wonderfully with one another that we call them one, but so exquisitely diverse and distinct within that unity that we call them three.”
But that shape has a direction, a fixed purpose, an orientating goal. The life of the Trinity is so shaped not simply to be in perfect relationship, but to be in relationship with us.”
This is saying that is God is not a remote closed circle, that is inaccessible, but open and dynamic, inviting us and calling us in.
A good place to start is the Gospels to get a sense of this. Jesus does not go about on his own telling people about God, remote and isolated. He calls men and women to be his followers, to journey with him, share experiences and be in relationship with him.
We are told that he periodically spent time along in prayer, but he always come back to his friends and values their company and insights. Although Trinitarian language can seem very obscure and even like an impenetrable foreign language, at heart it is very simple. The very essence of God is love and that love is not self-contained, but open and inviting.
Those who are with Jesus in the Gospels ask questions and are confused by the answers. The good news of Trinitarian language is that it is okay to be a follower of God and not know everything.
We don’t need to start our Christian journey by understanding all there is to know about God and goodness. There is no exam that we must pass in order to be declared good Christians.
I was reading this week a description of what this means:
“What we get instead is the invitation to continue on the journey, to continue in our vocation, to expose ourselves again and again to God’s presence in our lives in ways as tangible as a person or as uncapturable as the wind or as transcendent as what happens when we stand in a holy place.
This church is a place of beginnings, not of endings, a place for amateurs, not professionals, a place where we don’t stay where we are, but where we journey forth in full confidence that someday we, and the world, will come to know more what the kingdom of God looks like.”
The most important thing together is that we don’t do this in isolation as we are all in this together.