Tag Archives: Spirit

The Trinity: Why Stick With A Bewildering Doctrine?

Welcome to this morning’s service at St Augustine’s. We are delighted to have you with us.

Today is Trinity Sunday. The Trinity is definitely one of the more tricky Christian doctrines, and so this is one of the more complex pew sheets for the year!

  • Not three Gods, but one God: Father, Son and Spirit.
  • Not one God who changes from Father to Son to Spirit depending on what he’s doing. Rather, God who is Father in relationship with Son in relationship with Spirit in relationship with Father.
  • Not one God with three different heads that pop up at different times. Instead, the Triune God.

Is this supposed to make sense? And how do we make Christian belief simple and easy to communicate to a desperately needy world if we insist on doctrine that seems to contradict itself?

Interestingly, the Trinity is not explored or even mentioned in the Bible. What we do find though are these sorts of things:

  • From today’s OT reading, Deut 6:4, “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (“oneness’ is a key concept).
  • Psalm 24:10… who would the King of Glory be, entering Jerusalem to defeat God’s enemies? Yahweh Almighty himself! (yet it is Jesus who comes).
  • Jesus is described as God in numerous ways (e.g. “The word became flesh”, “The exact representation of God’s being”, “The Lord of Life”, “The [visible] image of the invisible God”.
  • Jesus refers to God as The Father, and himself as The Son, and talks about himself as having come from the Father’s side (John 17:5). And he promises to send the Spirit once the Son has gone… so in some way God is relational, even though there is only one God.

Yes this is complex. But why do we want God to be simple? What makes me want to explain everything about him, or draw a diagram to depict him?

God wants us to seek him. And he has made himself seekable in the pages of Scripture. But the Bible’s picture of God describes a glorious, unapproachable, incomprehensible, eternal being, who is the source of all life and wisdom. Put simply, I am merely a created being, and my wisdom is therefore limited. The doctrine of the Trinity is the best attempt by theologians to explain how God describes himself in the Bible. And in fact all the doctrine can do is show us what we can and cannot say about God.

So rather than leading us to speculation or cynicism, may the doctrine of the Trinity lead us to humility and worship!

Archbishops Old and New

Good morning! It is a great pleasure to have you with us today. Please let me know if there is any way I can be a help to you, or if there is any information you would like.

In the church calendar, last Friday was the feast day of Augustine of Canterbury, missionary and bishop (died 604). Augustine was a Benedictine Monk sent on a mission from Rome in 597 by Pope Gregory the Great to Britain, with the task of Christianising the land. An opportunity for mission had arisen with the marriage of King Ethelbert of Kent to Bertha, a Christian, who (it was hoped) would be able to help persuade Ethelbert to convert.

On the one hand, the mission was a great success: Ethelbert became a Christian, and so did thousands of others in a very short space of time, perhaps through the influence of a newly converted king; perhaps through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Augustine became the first “Archbishop of Canterbury”, a role that predates the existence of the Church of England, but which today is the highest office in the Church of England, and in the Anglican Communion worldwide.

However, it turned out that there were already many Christians in Britain before the arrival of the official party from the Church of Rome. It’s a reminder to us that we are all servants of one higher than any popes or archbishops. We are servants of the One who is building his church in both visible and invisible ways through the unstoppable power of his Holy Spirit.

In light of this, I was greatly heartened at Clergy Conference this week to hear from the brand new Archbishop of Adelaide on this very topic of growth. Archbishop Geoff Smith talked about a 4-fold growth that he is hoping to see in our Diocese: growth in numbers, growth in faith, growth in serving, and growth in generous giving.

But it wasn’t just a motivational speech telling us all to get busy. He has perceived a certain air of defeat in our Diocese… a fear that our church is slowly declining and there is not really much we can do about it. In contrast, he urged us to remember that God can provide all the necessary resources for growth. He said, “God will lead us if we are prepared to follow and to trust.”

There are many steps to this. But Archbishop Geoff was adamant that the first step is prayer. Start praying for growth (if we haven’t yet) and confidently expect God to answer these prayers.

So as we reflect on the ministry of the first Archbishop, let’s take the lead of our own Archbishop and commit our Diocese to prayer; then eagerly work for and expect God to flourish the ministry of the gospel in our city.

 

Invisible baptism

Welcome to St Augustine’s! We hope you enjoy your time with us.

Today is a very special day: an opportunity to baptise Stella Mak. In the service, we will find out more about Stella’s background and longstanding desire to be baptised. It is an honour for us to share in this significant day for her.

Like Holy Communion, baptism is a physical sign of a spiritual reality. The water just comes from the tap, and it doesn’t make a great deal of difference whether it is sprinkled over someone or whether they are submerged.

When a person becomes a Christian, he or she puts trust in the promises of God and appropriates them personally. It is the difference between knowing that Jesus brings salvation and calling out to him to be my saviour. It’s the difference between facts about Jesus and relationship with Jesus.

When you ask Jesus to save you, an extraordinary thing happens. The Holy Spirit connects you with Jesus. It is an invisible connection – you may or may not feel it – but one that immediately changes the entire trajectory of your life. Instantly, Jesus becomes your representative. His death on the cross becomes a death that pays for your sin. His burial in the tomb enables you to be counted as having been buried for your sins. And, wonderfully, his resurrection becomes the guarantee that one day you too will be resurrected… raised from the dead to be with him for ever. And yes, this connection with Jesus is called … your baptism. In Romans 6, Paul puts it like this:

Don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.

What a joy this is! It calls for a visible symbol to help us celebrate. And Jesus chose water baptism to represent visibly this hidden spiritual baptism: an outward sign of our inward cleansing and preparation for eternal life with God. Thanks be to him!