Sermon preached by Revd Hazel White, 11 June 2017

Trinity Sunday, St Mary’s Moseley 10:00 a.m.

Isaiah 40:12-17;27-end; Matthew 28:16-end

Last week I was invited to attend an Iftar at Bishop’s croft… I’m sure most of you will know that this is the meal Muslims share together at sundown during Ramadan when they break their fast. I’ve always been impressed at the discipline of Muslims who fast during Ramadan from sunrise to sunset, especially when it falls at this time of the year when the days are almost at their longest.

What was fascinating though, was hearing some Muslim women reflect on what the experience of fasting during Ramadan meant to them. One spoke of the benefits of living a little slower, presumably because she has less energy… but she felt that time takes on a different quality during Ramadan, and that without the distractions of food, and time spent preparing food, there is more time to focus on important things, such as time with family and friends. Another young woman spoke of a sense of a deepening awareness of God, and of becoming more her true self. Another spoke of growth in relationship with God and with others.

There was something very special about the quality of that conversation, and what was shared: there was a depth to the experiences of these women, and an integrity about what was spoken, that was quite different from the level on which most conversation operates, even conversations amongst Christians. There was somehow a sense of divine connection in the room: it felt like an encounter with the mystery of God, whilst at the same time a sense of connection was forged between those of us who were listening to the reflections. It felt as though we were on Holy Ground.

It’s that sense of mystery and divine connection that I think Trinity Sunday invites us to enter into. One Christian has put it like this:

The God whose very Being is Love, whose Trinity of Persons flow together in mutual self-giving and love, invites us to participate in this Divine Love, to become one in the reciprocal self-giving, love and joy of God’s Triune Self.

[Br. David Vryhof, Society of Saint John the Evangelist]

All our attempts to define God and describe God, whether in liturgy, or the inherited doctrine of the Church, inevitably fall short, because we worship a God who cannot be contained in human language and experience.

But the life of faith invites us into something much more profound than signing up to particular beliefs and doctrines: the life of faith invites us into participation, and connectedness: with God, with others, and with our true selves, as my Muslim friend put it. It’s this participation and connectedness that we see and experience within a Trinitarian God, and it’s participation and connectedness that we are invited to nurture within our own lives as followers of Jesus Christ.

It’s worth noticing that amongst the last words spoken by Jesus and recorded by the writers of the Gospels, is the command to go and make disciples; it’s not a command to establish a church, or write creeds, or formulate doctrine, it’s a command to seek out people, and help them learn what it means to follow Jesus. It’s to be done with the awareness of the promise of Jesus to be with us always.

In the Christian Calendar, after Trinity Sunday, we keep most Sundays as what is known as Ordinary Time: we have been through the seasons from the Kingdom Season, through Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week and Easter, and Ascension and Pentecost. We now have ordinary time, until the autumn when the cycle begins again. But there’s a sense in which, viewed through the lens of faith, ordinary time is anything but ordinary.

The mystery of God, and our participation in that mystery, our connectedness with one another as disciples and those seeking to fashion our lives according to the life of Jesus, and our openness to discerning the presence of the Holy Spirit within and around us, and then reaching out to others empowered by the Spirit: these are the things that, when we glimpse them, enable us to gain that sense that we are standing on holy ground. As the poet Elizabeth Browning wrote:

Earth is crammed with heaven, and every bush is aflame with the glory of God. But only those who see take off their shoes; the rest just pick the berries.

We may not be called to fast from sunrise to sunset, but perhaps there are other things we might need to let go of in order to be able to truly see: what distractions stand in the way of our deepening awareness of God? How might we cultivate the inner attentiveness needed in order to live within the mystery of the triune God? How might we become more our true selves, in relationship with God and with others?