Trinity Sunday, June 11th, 2017
Main passage: 2 Corinthians 13:11-end
Also Matthew 28:v16-end…
Swiss Theologian Karl Barth said “Trinity is the Christian name for God.” We reach Trinity Sunday – when our readings reflect upon the community of love, of the Trinity, this love ‘emanates from every story in Scripture’ as we focus upon the One-in-Three. (Thomas McKenzie, ‘The Anglican Way’)
We focus on the epistle. Paul’s words are the only Trinitarian benediction in all of his letters. It is a prayer many of us know very well. It has an unusual order – Son, Father, Spirit – whereas, for example as we heard, in Matthew’s Gospel– we baptise in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit. But the order Paul uses, reflects our Christian experience…
Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
There is the grace of the Lord Jesus…grace shown in the message of reconciliation between us and God – as Paul sums up, earlier in this same letter:
‘God made Christ who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Christ, we might become the righteousness of God.’(2 Corinthians 5:21)
This is a great gift – in fact Paul reminds us, it is a treasure within each of us (2 Cor 4) . Again, in another place:
‘For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake, he became poor, so that you through his poverty, might become rich.’ (2 Cor 8:9)
An acronym for Grace has been described as : God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. We are rich, we have received and know the grace of our Lord Jesus.
Love of God.
And because of this grace. we come to know the Love of God. Before I became a Christian in 1993, I may well have said, ‘God is love’, but you know, only after I embraced the grace of the Lord Jesus did I truly start to come to know the love of God – I feel I know only a drop or two of our God’s incredible love, there is a whole waterfall to discover for each of us! When we come to Christ we then understand deeply the cross – it declares atonement for our sin, victory over the flesh, the world, the devil, but also the cross proclaims the love of God. As Jesus declares – “for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…” (John 3:16). God loved us before the creation of the world, and redeemed us for no other reason, than he loved us; he loved us and he took action – the initiative to save his beloved.
Fellowship of the Holy Spirit
And because of the grace of the Lord Jesus, we not only know the love of God, but also we experience the fellowship of the Spirit. This has a few meanings, we have considered before, across the past weeks. The fellowship with our own spirits – Romans 8 “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s Children” – the Spirit communes, speaks to deep inside us, that we can call God ‘Daddy – Abba Father’ – that we are his children. The fellowship of the Spirit is how our God of love and peace brings people into that intimate personal relationship with himself. But also the Spirit enables us to participate in the life, power, and gifts he offers, in all the benefits of that grace and salvation achieved for us. No one need be excluded, all can participate.
But also there is a fellowship between all believers – a unity – in those whom the Spirit of God dwells. As we experience fellowship with God through Christ, this brings us into fellowship with other believers. I remember in the past years I was struck how I’d meet these men and women in missions, from all over Europe, different part of the globe. And you know, yes in mind, we were united by our common knowledge and acceptance of the grace of our Lord Jesus, we could speak of the love of God, but also deep down, we knew we were family – we were somehow experiencing that fellowship of the Spirit. Our fellowship of the Spirit, means we all participate
So our Christian experience. We come to Christ, we encounter God and then receive his Spirit… However, there is more…
Why would Paul end a letter, in such a beautiful yet unique way – usually he ends in ‘the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you’ why would he pray this for them – is it only to remind them of that experience? I’d suggest more. When we consider the entire letter, it is Paul’s most pastoral most personal letter as he wrestles with, loves, challenges, defends his authority and cares for this congregation… What is he up to?
2 Cor 13:11 – he writes: ‘Strive for full restoration’. It can be translated ‘put into order’. He also says two verses earlier –
‘we are glad whenever we are weak, but you are strong, and our prayer is that you may be fully restored.’ (v9).
Restored / put into order. In the Greek, the same verb is used of James and John when they are ‘mending’ their nets, in Mark 1:19. Another way to translate this is ‘our prayer is that you may be mended’.
You see Paul, as he has wrote, his concern has been about the ‘mending’ of Christian individuals and this troubled Christian community. And by ending in this Trinitarian prayer he reminds the church, their ‘mending’ does not lie with themselves but through the grace of Christ, the love of God and the Spirit’s fellowship. There were issues of aggressiveness, jealously, and bitterness. Some are turning from grace to other theories of being righteous. Others are caught in different forms of sin.
Knowing the grace of the Lord Jesus, removes aggressiveness shown for example in harsh judgementalism – towards other believers – we remember that we are sinners saved by grace. We all continue to fail and continue to need transformation further into the likeness of Christ. Grace was given because they needed it. And it reminds them, there is no other way to be right with God.
The love of God dispels jealously, for we are all equally loved, people may have different gifts, be more mature, or have greater experience or skill or even have more energy for God’s work, yet we are all loved equally.
And bitterness. Bitterness divides a Christian community. The Spirit makes the love of God and grace of Christ real in the life of each believer and in the believing community, and deepens the unity among believers.
Through the fellowship of the Spirit, the grace of Christ and the love of God is made real and a troubled church and trouble individuals become mended. It is not by Paul they will be healed, it is through ‘Trinity the Christian name of God’ that mending comes, through Father, Son and Spirit.
And for me, this phrase of mending, fits what we begin today, to offer prayer ministry two Sundays a month, after our corporate worship has ended. In a few minutes we will commission Ninke Ron and Nienke, and next week Andrew and Marianne.
Paul’s desire – that people are mended is a big part of what prayer ministry is about. It is about enabling yourselves to encounter the grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God and the fellowship of the Spirit. It is two people who will listen as you share perhaps where you feel you need mending, and then pray with you and for you. Mending can take many forms. There are huge challenges, difficulties and pain. But there are also other smaller things. Anxiety about a work or company issue – our peace is disturbed. Whether to apply for a new job – wisdom to see, a sense for God’s guidance. Perhaps someone you just do not like at this church or someone at your school or someone in your family – you cannot just love them as Christ does. Perhaps it is a word said by a friend a parent which you just cannot let go… You can see this is an opportunity to share with two people who will pray with you and for you.
Mending, but also growth or discernment…
Of course, when you come to ask for prayer, it does not need to be about mending. It can be about anything tiny or large… It can be about growth – perhaps a person feels they are ‘stuck’ spiritually, or the fire does not burn as it once did – we can all feel that way at times. An opportunity to ask people to pray with you to grow further or to begin growing again spiritually…
Perhaps in a service such as this you have had a sense of God speaking to you – maybe a line from a hymn struck you, or a verse from a psalm we read. A prayer team is a great way to come and say –‘ I’ve had this or felt that – can you pray for insight from the Lord what it means or what I am to do.’ For we acknowledge that in this place we gather to talk to God, he also longs to talk with us!
Practicalities for Prayer Ministry
The prayer ministry will take place near the baptismal font – you will be able to see if the prayer team are praying with someone, and so you will see when it is over. It is confidential with a BUT. What you share does not come back to me.
However. Due to Church of England rules, if anything shared suggests to the team that a person is danger to others or to themselves, or issues are raised relating to children – an offence against a child or young person, a concerning attitude towards a child or young person, or if something occultic demonic is raised – then the team may say with that person, they will need to chat with me to seek wisdom and guidance. Important you know that as a church. But it does mean that in nearly all cases, what is shared remains confidential in that prayer time between you and the two individuals.
What is happening is that they want to pray with you and for you, to experience that grace, that love, that fellowship, to know the God of love and peace is with you. They will not counsel you. You will not need to say anything more than you want – you can approach the team and simply say, ‘pray for me’ if that is all you would like to share. And this team – as will be later commissioned – is under my authority, I will ask God’s blessing upon them and anyone who enters this ministry, will have been trained as the people commissioned and authorised today.
Does this replace what I do? No. If someone would like to talk privately with me, for me to hear their confession, for me to pray with them after a service or anytime, that continues as always. This is just another opportunity because, to be honest, at times, in my life, I’ve had issues or concerns and I’ve not felt I needed to speak to a priest about it, but I appreciated sharing it with fellow believers and a couple of people saying a few prayers with me and for me…
So as you meet with the team – it will always be a pair, one man and one woman – they will ask what you would prayer for. In prayer, they will ask the Spirit to come and minister to you, they may ask if they can place a hand on your shoulder as a sign of human care – as Jesus touched the leper when the leper asked him to heal him, (Mark 3). The Bible – in the example of Ananias in Acts 9 (v11-19) with Saul – shows someone not an elder, apostle, prophet, bishop, priest –laying on hands on Saul to pray for his healing and to pray he would be filled with the Spirit… And the team will pray for you and to be honest their role is being sensitive to God – they may be silent at times – and seeking to follow God’s promptings, to allow God to minister grace, love, peace, fellowship.
I believe God uses all our prayers. And that means, at times, in that moment, in that place, we may know more of that grace of Jesus – aggressiveness washes away, we are reminded we are accepted by Jesus – we may know more of the love of God – it fills our hearts afresh as the Spirit pours it into our hearts – or we may know more of the Spirit’s fellowship – knowing we are not alone, that he is with us to the end of the age, perhaps his quiet voice, an encouraging memory comes back. So I encourage us to be expectant. And also, in the week ahead, be sensitive to perhaps how what you came to receive prayer for, has become easier or answered in that week. How you have been mended?
And can I say, in those cases, please tell the folks who prayed for you. We give glory to God, Father Son and Spirit, but we read how Paul’s spirit is refreshed by those who visit him when they tell of what the Lord God has done (eg see 1 Thessalonians 3:1-9). It refreshes the people who have prayed, knowing the Lord has answered or is answering prayers, which in turn brings further praise and thanks to God, from the prayer team…
So prayer ministry – following Paul’s writing – is much, but not only about mending people, but also about simply helping people to encourage or know more of the grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Spirit.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.