Romans 5:1-5 TRINITY Past – Present - Future
5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
On the threshold.... On the diving board..... Into the unknown.....
Baptism is a welcome – and a launch – don't be like Mr Bean! Start off full of enthusiasm and bravado and then, when you look into the depths – Aargh! This promise to follow Jesus as part of His Church is binding – and it is a blessing. But new experiences are challenging. You have to change – CHANGE!!!!
The Christian faith is about change. It is based on experience of historical events that changed hearts and minds. The Trinity is something discovered through experience, not taught by Law. Our future is something we have to discover and forge. It always involves change. Change can be challenging. And exciting. Change for Orla and her family – but also for us as a church in Allesley – and for me and my family.
Today I am announcing that, after 14 years as Rector – brilliant for me and (I hope) not to bad for you, I will be retiring at the end of September. It is a big change and I feel a bit like Mr Bean this morning! But I have peace about it. And that's not blind faith or wishful thinking or chirpy optimism – its based on experience; experience of God's love. We can look into an uncertain future from a firm foundation.
God of the Past: “we have been” v1 - something accomplished already. Justified. The Love of God who saved his people from slavery. Carried them in his arms. Protected, punished, restored, Fathered them. : “We have been” - e.g. Pilgrimage: The Hospitality, the Churches, The Footpaths, The signposts – all speak of those who prepared our way. Our Church – Margaret, Eddy, Dorothy, Renee, Ken, Mike.... they have made a pathway for us as they walked before us. The great cloud of witnesses. Signposts to the love of God. You will have your own fore-runners of faith, as do I. They speak of the Love of the Father for all his children. And that is the form foundation on which we stand. Our launching pad. God is not judgemental, he is not angry, he's not even “disappointed” - He is at peace with us. When he looks at you he says “Ahh!”
God of the Present: “we stand” v2 - this is where we are now. Firmly established. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Those disciples saw the power in Jesus, the compassion, the victory over sin and death, the authority of wind and waves, the love for the poor and helpless, the sins forgiven, the eyes opened – and they recognized the presence of God: “My Lord and My God” said Thomas (in the end). Father and Son. Present: “we stand” - The company of pilgrims who you get to know, share thoughts and feelings with but also food, knowledge, clothing, equipment. We share our strengths and weaknesses. All Saints is a great place to learn to serve. We love to say “yes” to those who have an idea and some energy to try. I meet with so many vicars whose complaint is “no one will do anything – there are no leaders”. Here, we stand in Grace: God's Riches At Christ's Expense. We know that what we have comes from Jesus – and is given to us simply to serve others. We know we're not perfect. We know we don't deserve it. We know we might mess it up, but we'll give it a go. We are among friends, after all.
God of the Future: “we ...hope” v3 – where we are called to.. The fellowship of the Holy Spirit. The unfathomable promise of Jesus.”You will receive power”, “He is with you and shall be in you”. Then they experienced the gifts of the Spirit in power, sinners saved, eyes opened, compassion and unity and they knew “This is God's Spirit”. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. One God. Three “persons”. And Father, Son and Holy Spirit sent them out. “Go!”
“the hope of the Glory of God” - this is what we are moving towards, what we will see either through death, or if the Lord comes first, and anyway in the new life that God will bring into being all around us. We're not the finished article “Be patient! God isn't finished with me yet.” Ru and I have really enjoyed living here, being part of this church, learning so much from you, growing together. We have so much hope for this Church. Not because you are all brilliant (which you pretty much are!) but because we know that God's love is being poured into your hearts through the Holy Spirit.
At the end of a pilgrimage you have to stop. The only question is “where to next?”. You never stop being a pilgrim. And that's where Ru and I are now. With children and grandchildren around the world we want to make sure we can travel to see them whilst we are still fit. We want to see All Saints with fresh and vibrant loving leadership. So it is with mixed emotions that I have decided to join Ru in retirement at the end of September. There will be lots of time to plan and to celebrate together. Lots of work to do before then.
Today we think about the Trinity of Love – past, present and future.
All that we have been, the place where we stand firm, and the hope to which He calls us all.
The Glory of God.