THE PARISH OF

PORTHKERRY

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Sermons Blog

Welcome to our "Sermon" blog

 

You need never miss another sermon again, as every week they will be uploaded on to this Blog page.

 

And even if you do not regularly attend either of our Churches; in St Peter's Rhoose, or St Curig's Porthkerry, on this page you will find out what we learn each week: About the meaning of our bible readings, how we can better understand them, and how we can live our lives closer to God.

By porthkerryandrhoose, Oct 30 2019 12:26PM

** This sermon series on the 39 Articles gratefully acknowledges Foundations of Faith edited by Lee Gatiss and The Faith We Confess by Gerald Bray for their exposition and reflection of the Anglican Faith.


Who is the Holy Spirit? What do you know about the third person of the Trinity? The Holy Spirit is often side-lined and sometimes overlooked in the church. He forms part of the opening of our service liturgy; we dutifully recite that we believe in him in our creed; and he forms part of the words with which a priest blesses us. But generally speaking, many of us are likely to have a better understanding of God the Father and God the Son than God the Holy Spirit.


Indeed, this may be one of the reasons that we have an Article of Religion specifically about the Holy Spirit. It was added in 1563 to the original Articles of 1553, probably because it was felt that something needed to be said about the Holy Spirit in order to reflect the Trinitarian pattern of the creeds more exactly. The 5th Article states that ‘The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty and glory with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God.’ There are a few things to explore about our belief in the Holy Spirit, which we’ll do, making reference to our readings from Scripture. Firstly, we’ll address the controversy that has arisen over the belief that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Then we’ll explore how the Spirit is both divine and personal. Finally, we’ll address our need for the Holy Spirit both in our lives and in our churches.


Let’s examine the controversy that has arisen over the belief that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. It is the belief of the Anglican church that this is so, as it is mentioned in Article 5 and in both the Athanasian Creed and the Nicene Creed printed in the Book of Common Prayer. It is Eastern Orthodox churches that do not accept that the Spirit proceeds from the Son as well as the Father. The Eastern Orthodox understanding of the Trinity is that the Father is the ‘fount of deity’ and that the Son and Spirit derive their divinity from him. Western doctrine on the Trinity from Augustine teaches that God is a Trinity of love. The Father loves, the Son is the Beloved and the Spirit is the bond of love which unites them. This love is perfect and equal – else the Father’s love for the Son would be unrequited. So the Spirit who proceeds from the Father as his love for the Son must also proceed from the Son in his responsive love for the Father. As our readings from John’s gospel and Galatians show us, the Holy Spirit is also an outpouring of God the Father and God the Son’s love for us. Jesus said in v16 of John’s gospel ‘And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.’ In v26 he goes on to say that the Father will send the Spirit ‘in my name’. And Paul tells the Galatians that ‘because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out “Abba, Father.”’


These passages indicate the common belief, adopted in the Council of Florence in 1439 that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. Any doctrine that suggests that access to the Father directly through the Spirit with no reference to the Son must be resisted because it removes the atoning work of Christ on the cross from the central experience of the believer. We need only look back to our readings today to know that God sent his Holy Spirit after we were redeemed by the death and resurrection of Jesus. Galatians 4: 4-5 reminds us that ‘when the time had fully come, God sent his Son … to redeem those under the law, that we might have adoption to sonship.’ And as we may remember from our recent study of John’s gospel, Jesus’s words to his disciples in the passage we have read today are part of his reassurance to them that they will not be left alone when he returns to the Father. As he says in v18 ‘I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.’ Without the saving work of Jesus, we could not have the Holy Spirit with us and in us – our sinful nature would prevent this intimacy with God.


For that is indeed the nature of the Holy Spirit. He is fully divine and fully God. As the second part of the Article declares, the Holy Spirit is of one substance, majesty and glory with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God. Sadly, this is not always recognised by our churches. Some of the things that have been said about the Holy Spirit include that he is the candle lighter that the Father and Son use in the world, or that he’s like a currency that the Father gives his children to use in the world. We should resist this kind of thinking. As the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is truly and wholly God. In God’s words to Ezekiel in our passage this morning, he says in v27 ‘And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.’ This is not some third-party power but God himself. God doesn’t say ‘I will put my Spirit in you and he will move you’. No, his words are one continuous action. It is God who both puts his Spirit in us and moves us to follow his decrees because the Spirit is God.


Moreover, the Spirit is not merely a powerful force. He is a person and we can be in relationship with him, as we can with the Father and the Son. Jesus gives him a personal title: he is the Advocate. Elsewhere, he is referred to as the Comforter. He intercedes for us, as Paul explains in Romans 8:26-27: ‘In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.’ The Holy Spirit speaks to us and sets people apart for ministry. Acts 13: 2 records: ‘While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’’ And v4 records that the Holy Spirit sent them out. Having the Holy Spirit living with us and in us is a very real relationship. He is our Guide and our Enabler. He spurs us into action for God.


This brings us to our final point. We need the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our churches. Taking words from our Ezekiel reading, it is the Holy Spirit who keeps our heart as flesh. God’s words through Ezekiel show us what we are like without him. As he says in v26: ‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.’ Without God, we are uncaring and selfish; with God we have hearts of love, like his. We speak often of spiritual gifts – particular strengths the Holy Spirit has given us to use in God’s service – and these should of course be cherished. But we should not forget to seek out the Spirit as he is and for what he is – truly God, equal in majesty and glory – rather than simply for what he offers us. Through the Spirit we can encounter Jesus. As Jesus told us in v26 of John’s gospel: ‘But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.’ The Holy Spirit always points us to Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross and he gives us his gifts so that we can proclaim Jesus to the world.


So, let us not be guilty of sidelining the Holy Spirit. Let’s not give him the minimal responses and worship. Let us embrace the relationship he offers us and let us ensure we never lose sight of the glory, the majesty and the divinity of the person of the Holy Spirit.



By porthkerryandrhoose, Oct 24 2019 04:05PM

Over the years, many high profile church leaders have denied the

resurrection, or have watered it down, saying Jesus'; whole body didn't

rise, it was just a kind of spiritual resurrection. Probably the most

famous was David Jenkins, the former Bishop of Durham, who may or

may not have been misquoted in his original sermon, but was

nevertheless slow to affirm that Jesus rose. But he certainly wasn't the

last. In fact in a survey of 2000 members of the clergy in the Church of

England in March of this year, a third said they didn't believe in a

physical resurrection. A third. And who knows what the proportion

would be in Wales where the church tends to be even more liberal. Yet

the resurrection is at the heart of what we believe as Christians. It's there

in the creeds that we say, in the shape of our church year were Easter is

the pinnacle. It's there in our initiation rites, as the person being baptised

goes under the water, symbolising death, to emerge filled with new life.

And it's written into our Articles of Religion. Article 4 in our study

reads: "Christ did truly rise again from death, and took again his body,

with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of Man's

nature; wherewith he ascended into heaven and there sitteth, until he

return to judge all men at the last day."


So did it happen? And what difference does it make?


Did it happen? Our gospel writers are very clear: yes it did. All 4 of

them record a very dead Jesus being buried in a stone tomb and a stone

being rolled over the entrance. Matthew adds that the tomb was sealed.

The burial was witnessed by at the very least Mary Magdalene and the

other Mary, along with Joseph of Arimathea whose tomb it was. Then on

the Sunday morning all four writers record that the stone had been rolled

away, and Jesus' body was gone. Luke and John tell us that Jesus'

graveclothes had been left behind. And all except Mark record Jesus

appearing to his disciples and other people, until he eventually ascends

into heaven 40 days later. The preaching of the early church was centred

around Jesus' death and resurrection, with both Peter and Paul making it

the main focus of their teaching, at a time when people were still around

who could have proved if they were lying. Scripture is clear. And if we

believe that we have a God who is all powerful, then it follows that he is

able to raise someone from death. If you need more convincing then

there are plenty of books out there to help you. Let me recommend Lee

Strobel 'The Case for Christ'; who looks very carefully at the evidence

and the various arguments and objections in a way we don't have time

for in a short sermon. Especially if we want to get on to the rather more

interesting question of 'What difference does it make?' And this is

really important because it goes to the heart of our Christian hope.


Every few years there's a news article where someone claims to have

found the body of Jesus. The most recent one I could find was in 2015

where Dr Aryeh Shimron repeated his earlier claim to have found Jesus'

bones in a ossiary in East Jerusalem. Following a claim like this, there is

usually a series of responses from Christians ranging from those who

refute the claims vigorously to those who say it wouldn't matter to them

if the bones did belong to Jesus because it wouldn't change anything. I

have to confess that for a long while I wasn't sure of the actual purpose

of the resurrection. Jesus had died. He'd taken the punishment for my

sins. Job done. What did it matter what came next? As far as I could

see, all the resurrection did was show that Jesus' efforts had been

accepted by God.


But as I thought about it a bit more deeply, I realised that Jesus' bodily

resurrection is far more than a "ta da!" moment from God. It teaches us

about our future too. In the course of my ministry I inevitably meet

people who have lost loved ones, and are asking questions about what

happens when we die. There are a lot of half formed ideas floating

around about our spirits and souls and what sort of place heaven might

be, if it exists. But Jesus is quite clear: those who love him go to be with

him forever. John 14:1-3 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You

believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many

rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to

prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will

come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."

And just in case there might be confusion, Jesus goes on to say in v19


"Because I live, you also will live". Because Jesus is alive, so will we

be. Paul makes matters even clearer in 1 Corinthians 15. We read a

little bit of it earlier, but the whole chapter is about the difference the

resurrection makes. Let me share a few verses (v17-22)

" And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your

sins. 18  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19  If only

for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be

pitied.

20  But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those

who have fallen asleep. 21  For since death came through a man, the

resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22  For as in Adam all

die, so in Christ all will be made alive."

Jesus died our death so that we could be raised with him. Just as Jesus

rose from the dead, so will we. And just as Jesus' resurrection was a

bodily one, so will ours be. The rest of the chapter goes on to describe

what this body will be like: it will be physical, but perfected. No longer

the moral body which has aged and weakened and in the end succumbed

to disease or trauma, but a new body that will never die again. Death in

all its forms, defeated. Our longing to be like Jesus will finally be

fulfilled, completed. This is the future for every Christian. This is your

future, if you're someone who trusts in Jesus. We don't have to wonder

and hope for the best, fingers crossed. Jesus has defeated death and then

he rose again, as the first fruits of redeemed humanity. Even Job, long

before Jesus came to earth the first time, could look forward to this. We

heard it in our first reading:

I know that my redeemer lives,

    and that in the end he will stand on the earth.

26 And after my skin has been destroyed,

    yet in my flesh I will see God;

27 I myself will see him

    with my own eyes – I, and not another.

    How my heart yearns within me!

What a blessing to know that that yearning will one day be fulfilled.


But the resurrection brings even more than this. Because it';s not just

about the future. It's also about the now. Jesus rose and that means he is

alive today. On his throne. Interceding for us. As Paul says in Romans

8:34 "Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is

at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." Because Jesus is

alive, it means he's at work, now, in the present. And he is praying for

us. I wonder how often you think about that? When you're struggling

with pain, and the way ahead seems impossible: Jesus is praying for you.

When your heart is filled with grief and everything is dark: Jesus is

praying for you. When you feel inadequate for all the responsibilities

you have set before you: Jesus is praying for you. A dead teacher can do

nothing, but a risen saviour walks with you and brings all the power of

God.


And there's even more. Because he is alive, Jesus can and will return.

As Paul told the people of Athens in Acts 17:31 "For God has set a day

when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed.

He has given proof of this by raising him from the dead." The wrongs

we long to see righted, the injustices which make us weep, will all be

ended when Jesus returns as judge and brings in the new heaven and the

new earth. We are not just wandering aimlessly on this earth, nor is it

rolling ever more rapidly to a frightening and chaotic future. Jesus is

alive. He is on his throne, and he will return to gather everything up, to

set things right, to restore and renew Eden.


So take heart, my friends. We have a risen saviour who has conquered

death, who lives and intercedes for us and who will return to judge and

renew the earth. As we trust in him, we will be a part of that, as our old

tired bodies will be changed and made new, fit for our future with Jesus.

What a blessing it is to have a living Lord, a risen saviour.


By porthkerryandrhoose, Oct 7 2019 03:50PM

I'm going to begin by asking you a question. What was Jesus doing the day after Good Friday? Where was he? It is a perplexing question, and one which Christians have pondered over the centuries. As Anglicans, we benefit from the results of these discussions in our third Article of Religion. It answers the question we began with: where did Jesus go between his death and resurrection? It reads 'As Christ died for us and was buried, so it is to be believed, that he went down into hell.'. We also get this answer in another of our foundational documents too, the Apostles' Creed, which we say at morning and evening prayer. It reads:

' And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit

Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Was crucified, dead, and buried:

He descended into hell;

The third day he rose again from the dead;'

So our answer's there: Jesus went down into hell. Yet I expect that answer raises even more questions in your minds. Does hell even exist? If it does, what evidence is there that Jesus went there? And does it actually make any difference?


We're going to look at those 3 questions in turn. Let's start with 'does hell exist?' because if it doesn't, there's no point moving on to the other 2. This was a question we looked at 3 years ago when we did our Big Questions series. This is what we discovered:

If you do a quick search of the Bible, you will find the word 'hell' mentioned 13 times. Anyone know who speaks about it the most? It's Jesus, 11 of the 13 times. The other two times it's James and Peter. There is an equivalent word: Hades, and that is mentioned 8 times, all by who, do you think? Jesus, either in the Gospels or in the book of Revelation. This fact alone should cause us to sit up and think. The one who tells us the most about hell is the most loving person who ever lived, Jesus.


What does he say? Mark 9:43-48 is a key example " If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where

‘“the worms that eat them do not die,

and the fire is not quenched.”

The word Jesus uses for 'hell' is Gehenna, which was a valley in which piles of rubbish were burned daily as well as the corpses of those who didn't have families who could bury them. In v48 Jesus speaks of a person going to "hell [gehenna], where 'their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.' " Jesus is referring to the maggots that live in the corpses on the rubbish heap. When all the flesh is consumed, the maggots die. Jesus is saying that the spiritual decomposition of hell never ends, so 'the worms that eat them do not die.' It is a terrifying picture. But it's one we need to take seriously because of the one who tells us about it. If we trust his words about salvation, then we need to trust his words about hell too. It is real.


In our gospel reading for today Jesus uses the word Hades, but it's the same place. Though it's a parable, he uses the same idea of hell being a place of torment. The rich man in the parable dies and then v23 (of Luke 16) "In Hades where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him "Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire." So as far as Jesus is concerned, hell is most certainly real. So if we say we are people who believe in Jesus and his teaching, then we need to believe hell is real too because there's no distinction between his teaching on that and on loving one another, for example. The only difference is how we feel about it, and that says more about us than the truthfulness of the text.


So, we've established that hell is real, but did Jesus actually go there? Now there is no one Bible passage which tells us categorically that he did, but there are many that hint at it. Our Old Testament passage was from a very famous section of Isaiah, understood by most Christians down the ages to be prophesying Jesus. It says in 53:9 "He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, although he had done no violence nor was any deceit in his mouth." This 'grave with the wicked' usually means more than the simple place of burial. It has with it the overtones of judgement and punishment. Or you could go to Acts 2:24-27 where Peter quotes Psalm 16:10 "But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him "I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices my body will also rest in hope, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay." Or if you want the words of Jesus himself, you could go to Matthew 12:40 "For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth". There are other passages you could go to. On the one hand you could say that they are not clear so we can't really know, but on the other hand, when we look at what the Bible says about where we go when we die, there are only two options: eternity with God or eternity in hell. There isn't anywhere else (as we'll see when we look at the article about purgatory). And since Jesus died to take the punishment for our sins, it stands to reason that he took the full punishment, including hell. If he was taking a mini break back to heaven, it would hardly be drinking the full cup of God's wrath as he said he was doing.


And this brings us on to why this is so important. It goes to the heart of our hope and our assurance in Jesus. Often people, whose sin weighs heavily on them, say to me 'How can I know God has forgiven me? I can't forgive myself, how can I know God has forgiven me?'. We know because Jesus took that sin, and all the others, and bore the full punishment of God for them. He died the death we should have, and he experienced the hell that is our due, not his. And he did it all. This is how much he loves us. It's not a superficial or a shallow love, only going so far. "In the weakness and humiliation of the cross the sovereign God triumphed over it all and has left no aspect of it intact. God is completely and utterly our saviour." (p32 'Foundations of Faith'). This brings us amazing assurance and comfort, especially when we feel our sin and failings so strongly. "There is no aspect of what faces us that [Jesus] has not experienced and emptied of power. Those who belong to Jesus have absolutely nothing to fear. Jesus has the keys to death and Hades."


So, a fairly obscure point of doctrine at first glance, holds in it wonderful truth and hope for the Christian. Jesus loves us so much that he was willing to go to hell for us, and in doing so he broke its power over us. Every single man, woman or child who comes to Jesus in faith and trust has their sins forgiven. Every last one. And as he went down to hell for us, so we will rise to eternity with him, as God's precious sons and daughters.



By porthkerryandrhoose, Oct 6 2019 11:28AM

I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with the Pirates of the Caribbean films. There is a central character, a pirate called Captain Barbossa, who lives by the “Pirate Code”. However, he often uses the code to his advantage. So, when entering supposed honourable terms of parley under this code. He takes Keira Knightley who plays Elizabeth the daughter of the Governor of Jamaica hostage. When she quite rightly questions his honour and integrity under this Pirate Code his response is:

“Arrr… The pirate Code, they aren’t necessarily a code to follow but they are merely a set of, well Guidelines.”


This quote has gone down in history as being paraphrased on Anglican and Episcopal Social media as Captain Barbossa referring to the 39 Articles as “well Guidelines”. This did make me chuckle, laugh and hit the share button. However, it is by this action I took to re-examining this and made me question. If we as Anglicans are going to refer to the foundational doctrine, creeds and articles of faith in God and our church as mere Guidelines, then has something somewhere gone wrong?

Central to my sermon is that I would like to re-iterate that Article number two is the belief in Christ or

“Of the Word or Son of God, which was made Very Man” Belief that Christ is the son of God and Faith in the Holy Trinity which Rhiannon preached on last week should not be mere Guidelines but fundamental to our Faith. This is a Creedal truth that all main denominations of Christianity believe.


The first verse of the Hymn we sang earlier…

“The church's one foundation

is Jesus Christ, her Lord;

she is his new creation

by water and the Word:

from heav'n he came and sought her

to be his holy bride;

with his own blood he bought her,

and for her life he died.”


This old Hymn sums up who Jesus really is, why he came to earth and why He died for us.


In this sermon I will cover the three essential things we need to know about Jesus Christ.

1. Jesus is Truly God

2. Jesus was also made Truly Human

3. Jesus is Truly our Saviour


It is through the Truth, the Word and the power of the Gospel that we can understand the divine nature of Christ, the humanity of Christ and his everlasting Salvation. The opening of the Gospel according to Saint John states:


“1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”


John makes it clear that through God and the Word, Jesus is not only divine, but he is also eternal. Jesus is the Word of God and it is through the Word that God accomplishes all his acts of creation and his will throughout all of creation. This also shows us that Christ was present at the beginning of time and has been present through the ages before birth in Bethlehem. It is through his birth, his life, his ministry, his death and resurrection that Jesus is the light of the world.


Christ was Truly Human so that we may have a real personal relationship with Him, Christ the living God. Though he was born a man through the blessed virgin Mary. It is by God’s word that his Son on earth still encompassed both the nature of Man but also the Nature of God and his power. Jesus is the purpose of God’s work here on Earth. Those that follow Christ are witnesses to the light. In the example that John (who was a man) sets in John 1: 6-9 by being sent by God to testify to the Truth that is the light of Christ.

As Anglicans we all have a duty to follow not only the example of John, but we are to strive to walk in the footsteps of Christ. To tell his creation of his Good news and make disciples of all nations.


Having brought together the two natures of Christ perfect humanity and divinity we now look at how Christ is our True Saviour. In John 1: 10-14 we know that Jesus was in the world and we know that the world did not recognise him. They even rejected him and nailed him to the cross of crucifixion. The holiest ground of our faith is seen in His sacrifice so that all may be saved. A death that would violate his pure holiness, ensures that all who may believe in him will not die but have eternal life. His salvation was there in creation, it is here now and it will remain always.


The great reformer John Calvin reminds us that all Scripture points to Christ and his salvation given to us by his death on the Cross. His Salvation was present with Noah on the Ark during the flood, Salvation stayed Abrahams blade with Isaac, Salvation was present when the angel of death spared the first born of Israel, Salvation guided David’s hand against Goliath, Salvation was with Jonah in the depths of Sheol and Salvation was with Nineveh; Spared from the wrath of God. Salvation is in the promise of Emmanuel in Isaiah chapter 7. Salvation was fulfilled in Christ’s birth, ministry, death and resurrection. Christ finality of Salvation and Supremacy will be fulfilled when he comes again in glory.


Jesus shares God’s eternity, Jesus was eternal with God and Jesus is one with God. Jesus his Son, Jesus his Word. This is something we as a church often take for granted. I wonder if we in society have betrayed this and lost sight of it. We have lost sight of what the true foundation of the church is and why we as Christians are here on earth. It is from this example that I wonder if we as Christians and members of the Church in Wales have lost sight in Christ. Have we become too afraid to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord? Our church today is a far cry from the church that ignited itself with the fire of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost. We find our church divided, faced with criticism, apathy and the competition of rife secularism from the modern world.


Are we as God’s children going to cower in the corner afraid and ashamed to proclaim Gods message? Are we embarrassed to be open and discuss not only our short comings but also our beliefs in public without fear of causing offence? Now as God’s Children the physical body of the church we have two options. One, we dampen ourselves and we as a church continue to shrink into a puff of worldly IRRELEVANCE to be blown away by the wind of time. Or two we remind ourselves of our reading from Hebrews 2: 14-18


“14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them,[a] fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”


As God’s Children and by the power of his body and blood we re-ignite ourselves in the Spirit of Pentecost rebuilding the scaffolding and reinforcing the foundations of the Church. Set securely in the knowledge that Christ the son of God is King and has authority over all things. Eternal Christ the King is the one true foundation of our Church. We the people of Gods kingdom here on earth are the scaffolding which holds the true Church up. With Christ as the unmoveable foundation in which the true Church is built ensures that the gates of Hell will never prevail against it.


With this knowledge secured we can go out into the world and proclaim God’s message. A message of good news. A revolutionary message, a message of love that transcends all love. A message proclaiming the True God, a message of Christ who was perfectly divine and truly Human, a message of our true saviour, undertaking the ultimate sacrifice for our redemption and forgiveness of our sins. A message telling all in the world about the truth of Christ: Christ who was, Christ who is and Christ who is to come. The Word made Flesh.



By porthkerryandrhoose, Sep 23 2019 07:38PM

What descriptions have people used to explain the Trinity to you in the past? Have you found them useful in helping you understand the three-in-one nature of God? I’ve variously heard the Trinity explained as being like a shamrock (three leaves in one leaf), the three states of water (ice, liquid and steam) and a candle, flame and smoke. Whilst these may be reasonable visual analogies, they don’t really tell us anything about who God is, or the nature of God.


Perhaps you remember this phrase from the Athanasian Creed, or similar phrases from your confirmation classes or RE classes in school: ‘For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son: and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one: the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal.’ Three persons, all equal, none lower than another, but one God. The Athanasian Creed places belief in a Trinity in unity at the heart of our salvation: ‘So that in all things, as is aforesaid: the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved: must thus think of the Trinity.’ The core of this faith in the Holy Trinity is set out in the First Article of Religion agreed by the Anglican church. It says:

There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

This statement raises questions about faith in the Trinity in unity that Christians through the years have attempted to answer. Firstly we’ll look again through our Bible passages this morning to see how we can know from Scripture that God is indeed three-in-one. We’ll then look at some of the questions that this raises: What are the most important attributes or characteristics of God? How can the Son and the Spirit be equal to but different from the Father? Can God suffer? If so, in what sense?


Let’s look again at our reading from John’s gospel. Here, we see Jesus name each person of the Trinity and show how relationship between God and humans requires each person of the Trinity. Our access to God the Father is through Jesus, God the Son, through, as we see in v12, believing in Jesus and doing the works he has been doing. These works include proclaiming the good news that God will save his people, healing the sick and feeding the hungry. And Jesus promises in v13, ‘And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.’ This is the most important thing – that God is glorified through the works that Jesus and those who believe in him will do. As well as access to the Father, Jesus promises to send the Spirit when he returns to the Father. As we see in vv16 and 17, Jesus says: ‘And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.’ Just as the world failed to recognise Jesus as Saviour, so it also fails to recognise God the Holy Spirit. But those who believe in Jesus will recognise the Spirit as coming from him – God always with us.


Paul also demonstrates in our reading from Ephesians that our relationship with God is through each person of the Trinity, as he writes in v18 ‘For through him (Jesus) we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.’ Paul goes on to explain how Jesus binds us to each other too, calling us ‘fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundations of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.’ (vv19-20). And he reminds us that we have God within us in v22 ‘And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.’ So, we can know that God is indeed three-in-one because Jesus himself has told us. We can believe and trust in him because as John records Simon Peter’s words in ch6 vv68-9 of his gospel, ‘You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.’


And so we come to our questions. Let’s think firstly about the most important attributes or characteristics of God. We can take some characteristics from the words of the First Article. God is the maker and preserver of all things both visible and invisible. We have a creator God, who created the universe and everything in it from nothing, not making it out of something pre-existing. The language of the Article places the Son and Spirit, as well as the Father at the heart of creation – we know from Genesis ch1 that the Spirit of God hovered over the waters at the moment of creation and John’s opening chapter of his gospel states that the Word – Jesus – was with God in the beginning. God has infinite power, wisdom and goodness. God’s infinite power means that he has sovereignty over all things. It’s impossible to escape God’s rule – and sometimes we try hard to do so. The writer of Psalm 139 recognised this as he questioned God: ‘Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?’ So how is God’s power different from the corrupt power of this world? It is because God’s power is exercised in both wisdom and goodness. God’s wisdom and goodness ensure that his power is used for what is right, what is good and choosing and using the resources at his disposal – including us, the people who believe in him – to achieve this.


Our second question ponders how the Son and the Spirit can be equal to but different from the Father. Father, Son and Spirit are equal because they all share the substance, or being, the power and the eternity of the one God. God reveals himself as I AM – the ultimate and absolute being. God can act anywhere and at any time because his substance allows him to do so. But the persons of God don’t act independently from each other, because there is only one God and the three persons can’t be separated from each other. As Jesus said in John’s gospel, ’Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.’ (14: 9) and in 10: 30, ‘I and the Father are one.’ Yet, the three persons of our one God are distinct. The Son and the Spirit derive from the Father. God the Son, in his earthly, human form, sent by the Father as John records in v14 of his opening chapter, ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.’ And God the Spirit proceeding from the Father, as we heard in our gospel reading today in v16: ‘And I will ask the Father and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.’


Then we have the question of whether God can suffer. This may seem an odd question to arise from looking at the Trinity. It comes about when we consider the phrase in the First Article: ‘one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions. The first thing to remember here, is that we are talking of the divine being of God. A body has parts that can be separated or divided, or suffer harm in other ways. Neither of these things is true of God, so in saying that the divine being of God has no body, then by consequence he is also indivisible and impassible. It is this impassibility of God that has been questioned, perhaps more often in recent times – the notion than in fact must be able to ‘feel our pain’, to suffer alongside us. Anything else would make God cold and remote, according to this argument, not the loving Saviour Scripture has revealed to us. Yet, the impassible nature of God does not make him remote from human concerns, rather it insists that his power and sovereignty cannot be diminished by suffering inflicted from outside himself. God cannot be weakened by anything that might call into question his power to save us, or deflected from his purpose by knee-jerk emotional reactions. Additionally, it is wrong to assume that a Saviour must share the suffering of the person being saved. After all, a doctor does not have to have the patient’s illness in order to cure the patient. No, God alleviates our suffering, overcomes it and will eliminate it, caring for our pain without having to endure it himself. This is what makes him our Saviour rather than a fellow sufferer. But, you might say, Jesus came into the world to suffer and die for us. Yes, that’s true. But it was because his divine nature cannot suffer that Jesus took on human form, making him capable of experiencing pain and death. We believe that the divine person of the Son of God suffered and died in his human nature and so it is in that sense that we can say God suffered and died on the cross. Remember that Father, Son and Spirit share the divine being and the Father and the Spirit did not suffer and die for our sins. Core belief in God’s impassibility is not meant to obscure or diminish God’s compassion, rather to safeguard his ability to bring victory out of suffering and new life out of death.


We meet our three-in-one God as three distinct persons in the scriptures, which reference Father, Son and Spirit, yet in those same scriptures we see how the three work in unity as one divine being, none separate from the other and none less divine or powerful than the other. We see our God who creates and sustains life, who has infinite power, wisdom and goodness. And we see a God whose divine nature cannot suffer, yet in his love for us he took on human form to suffer and die so that we could be saved from our sins. Finally, we can be in relationship with this God through each of his persons: children of the Father through belief in the saving power of the Son and obedience to him, with the Spirit with us and in us forever.



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