Friday, 9 June 2017

Going beyond your reach

Trinity Sunday
Year A  
Genesis 1:1-2:4a                                                                                          Matthew 28;16-20
  
God saw everything that he had made, 
and indeed, it was very good.

Couldn’t we just….?   

It’s a phrase which has dogged me since the beginning of my ministry.  A service with different parts to it:  Couldn’t we just simplify it?

A meal with different components:  Couldn’t we just have soup and bread and then get on to the meeting afterwards a bit quicker or get the children home a bit earlier.  There’s homework, after all.

Couldn’t we just sing verses 1, 3 and 5?

Keep it simple.  Say the minimum.  Don’t wander.  Find a single point of agreement.   Arrive at a lowest common denominator or an agreed-upon consensus.  Contain the chaos.

I’m a fan of minimalist composers – sometimes.  Maybe you are too: Arvo Pärt, Philip Glass, Gavin Bryars, Michael Nyman.  If you don’t know them you can google them - they’re worth a listen.  A skeletal structure – often repeating - with just a little flesh on it.  It’s refreshing.  It appeals to the part of me that likes to see things plainly.  It’s clear - like a well-executed line drawing.  But after a binge of minimalism you positively hunger for something glorious and romantic and colorful - a musical “full monty”. Richness and excess, colour and complexity – they all make sense and accord magnificently with the full range of what life has on offer – in nature, in the multiplicity of peoples and in the cascade of experience which human beings both suffer and enjoy.   Life is rich and complex.  Simplicity is often an escape.  Church is often the place we escape to.

In last year’s reading for Trinity Sunday, Nicodemus was made to understand that the history of God is fuller and richer than what he can fit into his tradition and between his ears.  Like Job, in the Old Testament, he was humbled with the idea that God is abroad – that the Spirit, like the wind, “blows where it will”.  God is not a single point of light to be apprehended and thereby learned, possessed and contained.  At the heart of the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy spirit – there is, above all, love and boundless energy beyond human comprehension and ability.

This year, at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, the disciples are gathered together on a hillside.  Jesus sends them out into a world which is beyond the reach of their language, bigger than them and beyond where they have ever travelled.  “Go”, he says, “…and make disciples of all nations”.  Like Nicodemus and Job of old, the disciples are told that God is already there – abroad as he has always been.  And in the midst of that rich and complex world – the political world, the conflicted and ambiguous world which they may not only speak to but which they must learn the language and contours of – Christ will be with them: And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Prepare your children then – prepare yourselves, in fact – to accept the broadness of God’s horizon and to widen your own.