June 7, 2020 – Trinity Sunday
A message from the Rev. Helen Smith
it has been a very hard week. For those of us who are seeking to follow the One who calls us to love our neighbour, I have a T-shirt which helps to spell this out for me. It reads –
“Love Thy Neighbour: Thy Homeless Neighbour, Thy Muslim Neighbour, Thy Black Neighbour, Thy Gay Neighbour, Thy White Neighbour, Thy Jewish Neighbour, Thy Indigenous Neighbour, Thy Transgendered Neighbour, Thy Christian Neighbour, Thy Settler Neighbour, Thy Atheist Neighbour, Thy Addicted Neighbour, Thy Racist Neighbour.”
I pray for God’s help as we seek to fulfil this calling. And as always, these resources are offered with the prayer that while we are physically apart, by the power of the Holy Spirit, these resources will bring us together.
Rev. Helen Smith
Book of Praise – 299 “Holy, Holy, Holy”
- video with on-screen lyrics; words as in the hymnbook
- Words by English bishop Reginald Heber (1783–1826); music (tune: Nicea) by English clergyman John Bacchus Dykes (1823–1876)
- recorded on May 31, 2015 at First-Plymouth Congregational Church;
Prayers of Approach and Confession, Lord’s Prayer
Eternal God, Source of love and life, you reveal yourself to us as the one who creates, who redeems, and who renews. We sing your praises. Help us as we come to worship to know you in old and new ways and to rejoice in your glory.
God, you invite us to come to you in our worship, and yet we know that we cannot withstand the fullness of your glory. Our lives are faulty and frail. We do not always live in holiness, but rather, in brokenness. When we try to live rightly, we often fail. More often we do not try at all. We have failed to love our neighbour as we love ourselves and to love you. How will our lives ever fulfil your calling of us? How can we ever be free? But you are a God full of mercy. Cleanse us, forgive us, set us free by your grace. Fill us with your Spirit and so equip us for the service of Christ.
We pray through Jesus Christ our Lord, and continue to pray as he taught, saying:
Our Father, in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those
who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours
now and forever. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon
The words God speaks are the life and sustenance of all that exists. The life Jesus gives is the re-creation and renewed birth of all that is broken and worn.
The Spirit’s stirring in our souls is the inspiration for creativity, compassion, joy, and community. Thanks be to God for life and for new life.
The Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
This week, Christian Education Coordinator Laura Alary speaks about and reads from “God’s Dream” by Bishop Desmond Tutu.
In the curriculum it is called The God Game.
It is one of the first things I used to do with a new member’s class.
We would show how we are all theologians.
We would talk about God.
Here’s how the game goes:
The students are asked to look at a lot of statements about God,
each one written on a little square of paper
and then pick out which they think are the best and the worst.
God is love.
God stirs things up.
God is far away.
God is like a shepherd.
God is like light in the darkness.
God is like a computer in the sky.
There are some blank squares of paper too,
if the students want to add other statements.
They make their choices, and the discussion that follows is always pretty lively.
Sometimes, maybe with a phrase like, God stirs things up,
we find it showing up on both lists, good and bad.
And maybe they’re both right.
To a person whose life is in turmoil
who feels they’re being pulled in all directions at once
and have no sense what they should do,
the image of a stirring up God is maybe the last thing they need.
But to someone living under a repressive government
or in an abusive marriage
a God who stirs things up might be their only hope.
To speak about God is a complicated business.
Maybe the fact that scripture gives us three persons
who form our picture of the God who is one,
tells us that one picture of God is not enough.
We will look in vain in our Bibles for a fully formed doctrine of the Trinity —
that didn’t begin to appear for another three centuries or so
after the life of Christ —
In fact, we will look in vain in our Bibles
for even a single mention of the word “Trinity”.
What the Bible does give us
is a record over ancient history of people’s experience of God,
and out of that experience comes God — three in one.
The first few verses of the creation story in Genesis 1
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
This is where it all begins.
Before this there is nothing, except God.
The God of creation speaks into that nothingness and things happen.
This is not science but faith,
not evidence for an argument but worship.
This is not a factual report of what happened,
but praise for the one by whose love and power
the creation came into being,
There is a hint of plurality (Trinity?) here — V. 26 —
God said, “Let us make humankind …”.
Today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 28
gives Jesus’ great commission,
his last words, according to Matthew,
to his disciples before leaving them.
And it is not just what he says
but who it is that says it.
This is Jesus,
whom John describes as the Word made flesh,
who was in the beginning with God,
Jesus, whom Paul describes in Colossians 1 as
“the image of the invisible God,
the one in whom the fullness of God
was pleased to dwell.”
This “image of the invisible God” charges the disciples
with the mission to go, baptize and teach —
the baptism is in the name of the triune God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
And note the wonderful promise
with which Jesus leaves them,
“And remember, I am with you always
to the end of the age.”
God’s continued presence among us in the church
provides us with both a job to do
and the assurance of support.
In 2 Corinthians 13,
To a troubled and divided churchPaul’s closing words are gentle and kind,
inviting them to be good to each other.And here again, we find a Trinitarian blessing,
which brings Father, Son and Holy Spirit
together in one sentence,
in terms of how they are experienced in our lives:
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
the love of God
the communion of the Holy Spirit.
be with all of you.”
It is by the grace of Christ — grace that meant the healing of lepers,
the befriending of tax collectors,
eating with undesirables.
These demonstrations of grace
that led to his death,
that in following we find life.
It is by the grace of Christ
that we can know the love of the Father,
in love, giving us life
And it is by the power of the Spirit
that the fellowship (communion)
of the church is formed and maintained.
From early in its history,
the church has used this blessing from 2 Corinthians
at the beginning and/or close of worship
to identify for all
the wonder and the gift of God
who is worshipped here.
Jesus at the end of Matthew
and Paul at end of 2 Corinthians,
both name in one breath the three persons of the Trinity.
But they don’t seem to get hung up like the church did later
on explaining their exact relationships,
or the distinctions in their functions.
This was not a concern to those in the first century.
Again, they were just describing the wonder
of their experience of God.
So, where do we go with all this?
As believers we try to understand
the person and nature of God,
and to live, by grace, as God calls us to live.
But we need to get comfortable living with the questions,
remembering that there are insights
that will constantly reward our exploration
while the whole picture
remains ultimately unknowable to us.
God will never be reduced to a slogan,
and every name or image which we give to God
is at best a kind of metaphor.
Many find that the mystery of the Trinity
can be opened up to them
by thinking of different names
that describe nature or activity.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Becomes Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer;
or, Sender, Sent One, Power of the Sending
or Speaker, Word spoken, breath behind the speaking
or Singer, Song, breath behind the singing
or The One beyond,
the One among,
and the One within us.
And God, whom these words describe, is one.
Frederick Buechner, talking about the Trinity
and wanting to stress the oneness of God, says,
“Father, Son and Holy Spirit mean that
the mystery beyond us,
the mystery among us,
and the mystery within us
are all the same mystery.”
Now all of this may leave our heads spinning just a little.
But let me assure you,
we have only barely scratched the surface of this topic.
There has been more written on the nuances
of the doctrine of the trinity,
more heresies fought over its interpretation
than you can imagine.
(Just search on the web for “Arianism” and see the difference one iota makes.)
But it is a gift of God’s grace
even to be able to dip our toes into the mystery
of God and God’s dealings with us.
If God had not spoken out in words of promise
to Abraham and Sarah,
or declared the divine word through the prophets,
or reached out to us in Christ,
or come to us in the Spirit
we would scarcely be able to speak at all about God.
The idea of the Trinity attempts
to give expression to all of this,
It is a kind of shorthand
for the human mind and heart
when we try to conceive of and talk about
the nature of God.
In the end we realize that
all our mental pictures of God;
all the beautiful words we can string together to describe God;
all the images that we can dream up to articulate
how God is God to us,
all the distinctions we can make
about how the persons of the Trinity
relate to one another —
in the end they only scratch the surface of the mystery
which is the character and nature of God.
There is something in the humility and reverence
of our more orthodox Jewish cousins,
where they will not even utter the name of God
in the reading of Scripture.
There is a God-given hunger in each of us
that having tasted faith,
we would seek greater understanding.
But as we seek, we acknowledge
that what we want to know,
in fact our minds cannot contain.
Where it begins is with God,
and beyond that,
we are left to wonder at the mystery of the One
who made us
who reached out to us in love
and who is as present to us as breath itself.
In the beginning, God.
In the end, God.
In the living of each day, God.
In the beauty and complexity of creation,
the gracious gift of life, God.
In our redemption from our brokenness, God.
In the fellowship of the church, God.
Above us, God.
Among us, God.
Within us, God.
Thanks be to God.
Based on Hymn 255 “Now let the vault of heaven resound” in the Book of Praise hymnbook (pp 326–327, Presbyterian Church in Canada, 1997). Music: Tune “Lasst uns erfreuen”, from the “Auserlesene Katholische Geistliche Kirchengesänge” (Cologne, 1623); harmony by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958), © Oxford University Press, used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A. This arrangement: copyright © 2020 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church.
Music recording, copyright © 2020 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church.
We remind everyone that we must continue to pay our bills; in the absence of Sunday worship, you may sign up for pre-authorized remittance (PAR), donate online via our CanadaHelps page, or drop off your offering envelope in the mailbox at the church. Do not leave a cash donation unattended in the mailbox; instead, please call the office (416.261.4037) to ensure someone will be there to receive it. The building will be checked daily for mail and phone messages. If you are not comfortable leaving an envelope, you are welcome to contact the office (once again, 416.261.4037) and someone will pick up your offering.
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Hope
Gracious God, we pray in thanksgiving for the whole created world, for those who journey in hope, for those who rebuild where things have been destroyed; for those who fight hunger, poverty and disease; for those who have power to bring change for the better and to renew hope. We pray with thanksgiving for those who work in essential services, for health care workers, cleaners, shopkeepers, truck drivers, all who risk their own health for others.
We pray for our country, and those who govern us; who frame our laws and shape our common life; for those who are charged to keep the peace and administer justice; for all who serve the community. Guide us in our choices, and may those who are elected exercise their power with justice and fairness for all.
This was a hard week. Today we remember particularly those who are touched by violence and tragic death. We pray for families, for the family of George Floyd, for all families shattered and bereaved by racist systems, racist actions. Help us to confront our own racism. We pray for justice. Help us to bring your love where there is hatred. Help us to truly love our neighbour.
We pray for those whose lives are clouded by death or loss, by pain or disability, by discouragement or fear, by shame or rejection. Be present to bring your peace and your healing to any who are sick or hospitalized, those who are separated by the miles or by family tension, those who are grieving.
We pray for those in the circle of friendship and love around us: children and parents; sisters and brother; friends and neighbours; and those who are especially in our thoughts today.
We pray for your church world-wide, in its stand with the poor, its love for the outcast and struggling, its service to the sick and neglected. During these times of physical distance, keep us open to the movement of your Holy Spirit in our midst, so that we may be your faithful disciples, and others may see your light in us, and give you glory. Fill us with the vision of your glory, that we may always serve and praise you, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Book of Praise – 295 “When long before time”
- video with on-screen lyrics
- Video of GCPC music director Rachelle Risling playing the grand piano in the GCPC sanctuary, recorded June 5, 2020. Vocal parts recorded virtually: Soprano (Carolyn Glasgow); tenor (Robert Quickert); bass (Arthur Vivendi)
Hymn 295 “When long before time” in the Book of Praise hymnbook (pp 378–379, Presbyterian Church in Canada, 1997). Words: Peter Davison (1936–); © copyright Peter Davison 1981.
Music: Tune “The singer and the song” by Peter Davison, © copyright Peter Davison, 1981; arrangement by George Black, © copyright George Black, 1981.
Words: by Peter Davison, © copyright Peter Davison, 1981.
Music recording: by permission of One License, license number 722141-A, copyright © 2020 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church.
Commissioning and Benediction
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. (2 Corinthians 13: 13)
© Copyright 2020 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church