Diocese of Hong Kong IslandDiocese of Hong Kong Island   Hong Kong Sheng Kung HuiHong Kong Sheng Kung Hui   St. John's Cathedral, Hong KongSt. John's Cathedral, Hong Kong

 

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Grace, Love, Fellowship and Hobbits
7-June-2020

Grace, Love, Fellowship and Hobbits

Sermon for Trinity Sunday June 7th 2020

On this Trinity Sunday our attention turns to the Trinity: tri, meaning three, as in tricycle, plus unity, and tri-unity becomes Trinity, three in unity. God in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Not three gods, but one God, revealed in three ways. St Paul, in our second reading, says it like this, in the words we know as the Grace: ‘The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all.’

Grace, love and fellowship, three ways in which God is revealed to us; three ways in which we can reveal God to others.

Let’s begin with love, the love of God.

St John writes ‘God is Love’, and for me everything flows from those three words. If I didn’t believe that God is Love, I would not be standing here as your priest, and I would not try to put that love into action in what I say and do, and the way I try to live. If we are not striving to put compassionate love at the centre of our lives, I really don’t know what we think we are doing as Christians. It’s the one command Jesus said is the most important: Love God, and love your neighbour as you love yourself. We are commanded to love. St Paul said it too: ‘Faith, hope, and love abide; and the greatest of these is love.’ God is love is the rock I build on; and when I lose my way, God is love is the guiding star I look to that will set me on the right path again.

Second, Grace.

What is grace? Grace is unconditional love, freely given. We say ‘The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ’, so we may look at some examples of grace given by Jesus to see what grace is like. Some gospel stories come to my mind. One is the story of the madman cured by Jesus. In the language of the bible, he was possessed by demons; he was an outcast, shunned and feared by his fellow villagers. He refused to live in a house: instead he lived among the tombs, attracted to the dead more than the living; he refused to wear clothes, when people tried to clothe him, he tore the clothes off, another sign of rejecting his fellow human beings; he gashed himself with stones, self-harming, expressing his self-hatred; and when they tried to chain him and restrain him, he had the strength to break his chains and go back to his poor, tormented existence. Until Jesus comes into his life, and with Jesus comes that unconditional love, freely given, the grace that breaks the chains in his mind, the chains of fear, the chains of self-hatred and self-rejection, the grace that restores a child of God to his right mind.

The second story of grace is the story of the woman taken in adultery, dragged before Jesus by an angry crowd of men ready to stone her to death for her sin, so angry that they want to kill her because she has broken the rules. Adultery threatens the whole established order, because it unleashes passions, and passion undermines order just as emotion undermines reason. In order to preserve an ordered society, any tendency to passion must be destroyed, and so the woman must die. Isn’t that right, Jesus?

But Jesus isn’t interested in rules and order; in fact, he has come, in one sense, to break the rules; but in another sense, to move beyond the rules. Jesus lives by grace, not by rules and laws. And in this situation it is by grace that Jesus saves the woman’s life – as he saved the life of the madman; with unconditional love, freely given.

There are other stories of grace in the gospels: the Prodigal Son receives unconditional love, freely given by his father, rather than condemnation and shame; the workers in the vineyard who worked only for an hour, receive grace in the form of a whole day’s wages; the pages of the gospels are overflowing with examples of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, culminating in the unconditional love, freely given on the cross, to those who crucified him, to the repentant thief, to his mother, and to the world.

Grace, love, and fellowship: the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

Fellowship is such a churchy word. But we know that word in a different context: the Fellowship of the Ring. In Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’, the Fellowship of the Ring is a company of people bound together by a common purpose: recognising the potential for evil that the Ring of Power holds, they will go together, bearing the Ring to its destruction. The Fellowship of the Ring is an unlikely company of dwarves, elves, humans and hobbits, and a wizard, sometimes fractious, suspicious, or jealous of each other; and as varied as a church congregation. Yet they are companions, on a journey together, sharing the same goal, the defeat of evil.

Perhaps we can think of ourselves in the same way. We are not alone on our spiritual journey; we are in company with each other. We are companions, a word which literally means ‘people who eat bread together’. We are the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit, bound together by a common purpose: inspired by the love of God, nourished by the Bread of Life, we journey together, bringing the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to each other; to those around us who are chained, hurting, sad, or lost; and to a city, a nation, and a world that sometimes seem so confused, and dark, and loveless, bearing that unconditional love freely given, the healing power that brings the gift of new life.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God be with us, for we most certainly need them in our own times of trouble and weakness. And may they inspire us as we journey together, in company, to defeat evil within us and around; may we be the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit, overcoming difficulties and divisions, united in a common purpose to bring closer the Kingdom of the God of love and peace who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, God in three persons, blessed Trinity.

Amen.