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In The Power Of The Spirit And In Union With The Son Let Us Pray To The Father: Chris Fewings


(Take this as some sort of prose poem, not a sermon. I have no theological training.)

The trouble with the trinity is the numbers. Three into one won’t go, yet some preachers still attempt the maths. People sometimes say that the New Testament only hints at the trinity, and the doctrine itself was developed later. The truth is that the New Testament tells us all we need to know about it:

“God has sent the spirit of sonship into our hearts, that we may cry Abba, Father.” (Gal 4:6; cf Rom 8:15)
“Jesus breathed on them and said, Receive the holy spirit.” (Jn 20:22)

Later formulations run the risk of reducing the living God to a formula.

We are not called to understand the trinity, still less to define it: we are called to live it. The spirit isn’t some abstract person or construct: the spirit is the life of Yeshua living in us, the breath of Yeshua breathing in us, the death of Yeshua expiring in us, the resurrection of Yeshua exploding in us. We are his body. We’re a living body because Yeshua breathes in us.

The day of Pentecost is simply the working out of the resurrection, which is the glory of the cross. God dies on Good Friday. The breath goes out of him. The sky goes black. Why doesn’t the universe just disappear? Because this is a death freely accepted in the agony of the garden.

“Don’t torture me. Anything but this. But I’m not going to turn away from your will, your overwhelming desire. The life in me has worked miracles, healed people, touched people, disturbed people, transformed people, because I’ve let it burst through even when it flatly contradicts religious principles. I’m not going to fight and I’m not going to turn and run. Life itself, the creative force of the universe, drives me on. The desire to reach out and touch others, and to let them touch me, is overwhelming. I’m going to stand and face them, terrified, sweating blood, with one simple assertion. I am he. I am who I am, no more or less.”

Nails and spears can’t kill that sort of life. The body gets ripped apart by pain and gives birth to a new creation, a risen body of ecstatic believers on the day of Pentecost, centred on the chalice, facing their fears and finding a whole new life which is not limited by religion, death, illness or anything else. Surely this is why Trinity Sunday sits between Pentecost and Corpus Christi. We have ourselves to offer, fruit of the womb and work of human love. In him we become the body of Christ.

God becomes a zygote; a foetus labouring through the birth canal, soft skull distorted; a baby at the breast; a playful child; a pretentious twelve-year-old; a carpenter’s apprentice; a homeless guru and a wandering miracle-worker; a threat to religion; a corpse, and then:

An empty tomb, an elusive presence, a burning and yearning within us, a farewell, an absence, a rush of mighty wind, a breath of fire, a body of believers struggling to express an overwhelming experience in human language and art and organisation through twenty centuries, a piece of bread.

God has sent the spirit of sonship into our hearts, calling us to gatecrash that father-son relationship. The trinity is God calling us into himself, calling us to be Yeshua crying out Abba! Daddy! Crying for the breast, calling for Mummy or Daddy to come and play, calling for Dad to help sort out the carpentry or the homework, calling on his father’s healing power, calling on God in the agony of the darkest moments of doubt, fear, pain, betrayal and abandonment.

Yeshua is Yeshua because he’s the son of his father, the son of life and love, everything and nothing, the child of the creative void. We are his if we let his breath in us call out to the same father, if we let our weight fall back into the everlasting arms, if we give him our last gasp. We have no other life.

© 2008

See other posts by Chris Fewings on Lay Anglicana

The image is Rembrandt van Rijn’  The Return of the Prodigal Son (detail) c. 1669 Oil on canvas, The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, via Wikimedia

1 comment on this post:

Chris Fewings said...

As far as I know there’s nothing at all new about this approach to trinity (apart from some of the more florid language) – climbing inside it, as it were, and praying with the son to the father – after all, anglicans often use the sentence “In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, let us pray to the Father” to introduce the intercessions. So I’m surprised that I never seem to hear it from the pulpit. Maybe Eastern Orthodox Christians would be more at home with it than Western, just as they seem to be more at home with our becoming “partakers in the divine nature”.

I think I first came across it in a little book called Prayer by Abhishiktanda (Henri Le Saux), a Benedictine monk who made a deep exploration of Hinduism. In writing about praying with a mantra (a repeated phrase), he suggested that “Abba” might be the ultimate christian mantra because it ones us with Christ in the spirit of sonship.

The bit about the agony in the garden shows the influence of another Benedictine, Sebastian Moore – I read his The Contagion of Jesus that year.

27 May 2013 14:49

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