This week, it is a delight to welcome Revd Dr Andrea Russell – friend of Castle Square URC and St. David’s Uniting Church – as our guest preacher
Andrea and Phil became friends whilst studying for a theology an undergraduate degree at Nottingham University. She currently trains Methodist and Anglican ordinands at Queen’s College, Birmingham and was due to visit Pontypridd this month – to enjoy an area she loves and lead us in some reflections. Seeing as she can’t come to us, we go to her in this week’s video…the original script of which is included for those members not online. Thanks for your time, generosity and friendship Andrea!
Hello everyone! I was so looking forward to coming and being with you again and I am so sad that this pandemic has prevented that. But as I always visit you and you haven’t had the chance to visit me I thought I would send you a photo of Queen’s – the College where I work as a tutor, training those who are entering ordained ministry in the Church of England and Methodist Church. And here is our Cross – quite a feature of Queen’s life. It is our focal point – we often speak of meeting at the Cross – and I am afraid this is not a pious statement but rather a practical one – this is where we gather when we go out!
But in a sense, it is very much our implicit commitment: we meet here as a very broad community, we have different Christian beliefs and traditions but somehow, we manage to be a community together and, in a sense,, it is this focus upon the Cross that does this for us.
Now, that also may not mean exactly what it seems! As a child I belonged to the Salvation Army Sunday School, and as well as enjoying the tambourines(!) I was, even then, aware of the focus upon the Cross – the blood of Jesus shed for me. For many this sacrifice of Christ is what holds us together – but at Queen’s there is no one view about the Cross, the death of Jesus, this is understood in a variety of ways. So, what do I mean?
I think that here there is an acceptance that the Cross is not simply about death but about life; not simply about the death of Jesus, but about his birth, life; resurrection and ascension.
And when we talk of Jesus, we know we aren’t just talking about Jesus! We know we are also speaking about God – about the God who creates, redeems and sustains. About Father, Son and Holy Spirit. About love unimaginable and without end, without limits. We know we are speaking of mystery. We are entering a place where words are stretched almost to breaking; where meaning is glimpsed from the corner of our eye rather than grasped and held with certainty.
And we are acutely aware that there are other views.
And in a way the Cross at the entrance to Queen’s says all that because it speaks in so many different ways. I wonder what you see? Which ‘side’ do you think is the ‘before’ and ‘after’? Is this about brokenness being restored or our rigidity being gloriously and dazzlingly fractured so that we can see the light streaming through? Is the broken side something about our sin or is it the effect of the resurrection- bursting forth from the sealed tomb?
It speaks in so many different ways to so many different people…and it draws us in. I wish you could come and feel it. We have a student with us a t them moment who is blind and we watched as he shared the Cross with his blind friend…they embraced it, touched it, followed the contours…I have done the same now and it has made me think again about this amazing image.
And so this Cross doesn’t just speak about Jesus…it calls us into the mystery of the fullness of God and of ourselves. And today, Trinity Sunday, we become only too aware that our faith is not a neatly packaged bundle but a gloriously complex and yet simple cry of love and belief: we believe in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. One in Three and Three in One. This is not a mathematical puzzle but rather a mind-blowing, heart transforming cry that this God, this God who has made herself known to us, is beyond our words, our thoughts, our images, our hopes and our dreams.
And at this point you may be thinking – oh Andrea- why oh why are we speaking about the Trinity when our world is trying to live through a pandemic and we watch speechless as a defenceless black man is killed by a white police officer in broad daylight and the leader of the free-world poses in front of a church with a Bible after having the area cleared by tear gas…
Because this – this belief in the Trinity is not some academic theory to be debated. This is a belief in a God who calls out us – who came to us and lived amongst us, who is still present with us – this is the God who draws us to herself in love and compassion; calls us to each other in community – aware of all the ways we differ – even in looking at a simple sculpture. This is the God who invites us, pleads with us, to speak to each other; to care for each other; to share when we agree and when we disagree… and to keep opening ourselves to the God who is beyond us and with us; that’s what the Trinity points to – God whose very identity is about relationship and community.
In these heart-breaking days we need to receive and make peace with God and each other – that is the heart of the Gospel; not an easy peace that glosses over the cracks. We need to be clear about different views and learn to respect them. But there are boundaries. Racism, sexism, homophobia, classism – these are not different viewpoints to be embraced – these are sinfulness that need to be forgiven and healed and transformed – brought to the Cross if you like. We need to do this humbly and compassionately. We need to be as aware of this in ourselves and not just in others; in our relationships in our families and our churches and our communities.
The Trinity declares to us not a God in the sky but a God who showed us God’s face…lived amongst us in this unjust and messy world in which we constantly wrestle with ambiguity and powerlessness and abuse of power…the Trinity is about relationship- at the heart of God and at the heart of being human…
That is the invitation that today, Trinity Sunday, offers us. And maybe in response we might want to declare (and you may even want to sing loudly!):
Holy, holy, holy!
Merciful and mighty
God in three persons
Amen. A Haiku for Trinity
once a man in Galilee,
now in you and me.