On Thursday of last week the Scottish Episcopal Church decided to make provision for Same-Sex marriage within some of its churches. Despite today being Trinity Sunday and hence one of the Churches festival, such a decision can not be left to just hang there without comment, especially as I believe it has been given a rather unhelpful twist by the media. Below is today’s sermon, well as close as it will ever be to what I said as I don’t preach from a completed sermon in front of me, as several people asked for a copy. Please remember this was meant to be heard not read.
Down through the years there have been countless attempts to explain the Trinity, from the early creed writers to this year’s new kid on the block using the craze of fidget spinners to try and make sense of the mystery which is Trinity. Water, chair, shamrock or an apple. Maybe one of those speaks to you, maybe none if them do. The Trinity is something we need to experience to fully understand, and each of us will experience the revelation of God in our lives in different ways.
In fact I would go further. At times St Patrick and his shamrock may seem lacking while H2O reasonable. At a different time, the inconsistencies of water, ice, steam may speak volumes of the Trinity while St Patrick seems over simplified and lacking in substance, mystery or majesty. God is a continuing and continual revelation, we fail God and ourselves if we claim we know all about God and God’s ways. None of us, in this lifetime at least, will ever fully understand God and what God wishes of us, all the countless attempts to explain The Trinity have fallen short, not through lack of faith, but rather because of our faith. We can not put either God or a definition of God in a box, God can not be defined by or limited to our human understanding, for God has still to be fully revealed.
There has been a bit of a hooha during the past week over Thursday’s vote. Not the one that concerned Larry the Downing Street Cat as he wondered who would open his Cesears pouches (other cat food is available) on Friday morning. No the one in Edinburgh which has been variously reported. It has been reported one way by some, with a different emphasis by others, and as if the sky has fallen in by others yet. So let me clarify some points. What the Scottish Episcopal Church, the church to which you belong, did on Thursday was, make provision for same-sex marriage to take place within some of its churches. SEC still believes that marriage is a life-long union between one man and one woman. The SEC also believes that we don’t fully understand God, that God is love, and where there is love – not lust, or wantonness, or infidelity – but love. Where there is love there is God and love is not restricted to only some. Therefore, the SEC also believes, marriage can be between two men or two women. This does not detract from it being between one man and one woman for life, rather it enriches marriage. The SEC also believes that God is forgiving and merciful, that God understands our frailties and can and will bless those being remarried after divorce something we have been doing for over 30 years.
Just like the Trinity we have different understandings of marriage according to our own experience of love and of marriage. There are those beyond these walls, or maybe even within them, who don’t believe in marriage at all because of the violence, or hate, or deep unhappiness, they witness in their own parents marriage. Indeed there are probably as many views of marriage in this congregation as there are individuals. Some things will be common to most if not all, others will be more personal. But what about the Bible I can hear you ask.
Biblical marriage, such that it is, is not one of fidelity and it is fidelity that often today is marked out as one, if not the, vitally important part of marriage. It isn’t about procreation either despite what is often said. In the Scottish Episcopal Church we marry those who cannot have children of their own, those do not wish children of their own, and those have passed childbearing age. Marriage is no longer about children, indeed most people getting married today have already had their children and the fruit of their union rather than being something yet to happen are present at their parents wedding.
In Old Testament times, not an eyelid was batted over Abraham lying with Hagar, or Solomon having concubines, or women being stoned. While in the New Testament Jesus says looking at another lustfully is adultery, for it is in the heart such acts are committed. It may surprise you to hear that most of what we would refer to as marriage, in the Bible are pretty sorry examples. Relationships are complex things and The Trinity is a relationship, the ultimate relationship. It is no wonder that we struggle to understand it because our own relationships are so complex and while often wonderful are also often beyond understanding or explaining. Who hasn’t looked at their partner in bemusement over why they do a particular thing, yet we love them just the same. So if we struggle with our own relationships, if we struggle with the ultimate relationship within the Trinity then just who are we to judge the relationships of others.
You might be unhappy with the decision the SEC took on Thursday, you might be delighted, or maybe you are one of those who is thankful that years of talking have come to an end and a decision, any decision has been made. God loves us regardless of our viewpoint, God blesses our relationships regardless of whether we think the right or wrong decision has been made. It is not our place to judge, it is our place to share the love, grace and mercy of God, to and with all. For as Paul wrote. Now we see in a mirror darkly and know only in part, only then, only when we are face to face with our Lord will we fully know as we ourselves are fully known, inside and out. Only then will we fully know and understand the Trinity, only then will we fully comprehend the full height and breadth and depth of God’s love. Amid all the uncertainty in today’s world, there is one thing we can hold fast to, God is love, and from that love, wonderful, unexplainable, incredible things can, will and do grow. We don’t need to understand it all, what we need is faith, faith in the power of the Love of God.