A Relational God

Trinity Sunday 2009

John 3:1-17                                                                                                                                                                  Marian Free

In the name of God, Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. Amen.

While it is not explicit, the second story of creation creates an picture of God and Adam as intimate friends walking and talking at the evening of the day. It is an image of relationship and of intimacy. It describes a God who is not removed from creation remote and distance in the heavenly realms but who instead draws near to God’s people in friendship and love. God’s choice is to be closely involved with those whom God created.

That this is true is demonstrated throughout the Old Testament. Even though God’s relationship with Adam is irrevocably damaged when Adam chooses to share God’s power, God continues to build close relationships with humankind. For example, God’s relationship with Abraham is, in places, that of a confidant. God speaks directly to Abraham and goes so far as to include him in decision making. God is equally close to Moses. On Mount Sinai, God speaks directly to him and God takes notice of what Moses has to say about how God should behave. The Old Testament is the story of God continually reaching out to God’s people, seeking to restore and to rebuild a relationship with them which is intimate and authentic and which includes them in the work of salvation.

This action of God comes to a climax when God enters human history as a human being. God as Jesus attempts once for all to rebuild the connection which God so desires. In Jesus God makes friends with us, as one of us. He eats and drinks with us, laughs and cries with us. Imperfect as we are he invites us to share with him in the task of salvation. Having shared our lives so intimately, God does not withdraw into heaven from where he can maintain the friendship at a distance. Instead God remains as a real presence in the world and in the lives of believers in the form of the Holy Spirit.

We see that intriguingly, not only does this relational God seek to connect intimately with humankind, but that God contains within himself the most marvelous relationship – Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier, Father, Son and Holy Spirit – demonstrating in the very nature of God, the nature of life and faith. The relationship which God desires with us is revealed in the relationship which is found within God – a relationship which is so close and personal that there is no distinction between the members. So strong is the inter-relationship that for us to know one person is to know all three, for us to experience one person is to experience all three.

The nature of God has always been a complex relationship of equals. God did not divide into two at the point of the Incarnation and then into three on the day of Pentecost. In the beginning the creation was set in trail by God the creator, working hand in hand with the word of God or the wisdom of God as the spirit of God breathed the world into being. God has always been incarnate in creation, the divine has always inhabited humankind and been present in the created world. Throughout the Old Testament God’s spirit has enlivened, challenged, empowered and encouraged both the ordinary and extraordinary people of faith. The wisdom of God and the spirit of God are in evidence in a dynamic relationship with the God the creator and with God’s creation. Throughout history Father, Son and Spirit act as a unity to build and rebuild the people of God.

When we recognise the relational nature of God, we understand that to separate or divide the unity Godhead does violence not only to the nature of God, but also to the relationship of God with us and the relationship of God to the history of humankind. Each person of the Trinity represents each other person, they do not stand alone. Jesus is not separate from or distinct from the Father, nor is he separate or distinct from the Spirit. The Father is not separate from or distinct from the Son, nor is he separate or distinct from the Spirit. The Spirit is not separate from or distinct from the Father, nor is he separate or distinct from the Son. The nature of God is to be in relationship, and God that is not in relationship is not the God in whom we believe.

A relational God tells us about ourselves and the way in which we should live with one another and with all creation. A relational God helps us to see the inter-connectedness of all things and challenges us to live lives which recognise the impact that we have on one another and on the world around us. A relational God teaches us how to respect and value one another as equals and how to set each other free to reach our full potential. A relational God forces us to recognise the presence of the divine within.

The Trinity is not an abstract, academic construct designed to alienate or confuse, rather it is an expression of the God who from the very beginning sought to be intimately engaged with his creation and to be in a relationship of equals with those whom he created in his image. The Trinity reveals the nature of a relational God and at the same time reveals the nature of humanity as those in whom the presence of God is known and found. The Trinity is an exciting, living, energizing description of the God who continually seeks us out and restores us to a relationship with him.

God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit created us.                                                                                                       God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit redeemed us when we turned away.                                                     God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit fills us with the presence of God.                                                                    God the Trinity longs to be our intimate companion and friend.                                                                                           It remains for us to open our hearts and lives to the relational God who desires to be in relationship with us.

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