‘In the name of the Father’

2 Cor. 13: 11-end/ Matt. 28:16 – end.

I spent this week with the sisters of St Clare in Freeland, just outside Oxford. It’s an Anglican Convent with some lovely feisty Sisters! It has always fascinated me that when they say the gloria, they don’t use the words that we are used to ‘Glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, instead they give glory to God in these words. ‘Glory to God, source of all being, eternal word and Holy Spirit. I’ve never asked, but I suspect that this is because they are ardent feminists and don’t like to call God ‘Father’! Nor are they happy about Jesus being a man! I happen to agree with them. Identifying the Godhead as male has had a profound and mainly negative impact on Abrahamic faiths and societies.

The painting ‘Young Virgin spanking the infant Jesus in front of three witnesses’ is another expression of this unease with the idea of God as a male father figure. Max Ernst painted this image in late life in retaliation to what he saw as the oppression of his father and the catholic church in his early life. Ernst grew up looking to his father as a role model, and started to paint as this was his father’s hobby, but  this relationship changed rapidly with the death of his sister which he blamed on his father and by association the catholic church. This anger shut down his ability to express himself artistically and it was only much later that he was able to deal with these frustrations through such paintings as ‘Young virgin spanking the infant Jesus’.

You’ll notice that Mary still has a halo around her head although she is administering a pretty savage beating to the infant Jesus. Notice too that Jesus' halo has fallen to the ground.

He’s not the perfect role model we thought we knew, according to Ernst! Another detail that is worth mentioning are the red bruise marks on the legs and bottom of the infant Jesus. This painting shakes the foundations of religion by depicting Jesus as an imperfect child who must be disciplined. Ernst is wanting to challenge us to reevaluate long held traditions of an authoritarian father God. 

Sometimes the beginning of our worship and on many other occasions – ‘In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. What difference would it make if we were to use the doxology of the Sisters of St Clare? I want to experiment by using the Sister's doxology to speak of the Trinity.

In Matthew’s gospel Jesus commissions his disciples to go into the world to bring the nations to faith, ‘baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’

Dicipleship: Baptism is to be the start of a new movement. A movement that starts with the ‘Source of All Being’ as he sends ‘The Eternal Word’ into the world as he did at creation

 “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me” Matt. 28:18

The movement from ‘The Source of All Being’ is to be continued as the Holy Spirit leads these first disciples into the world. The flow of God’s love is to be always outwards through the Bride who is the Church, embracing those who are separated from the 'Source of All Being'.

Worship: Baptism is also to be the sign of a longing to return love to ‘The Source of All Being’. Matthews records that despite the doubts and fears of the disciples, they ‘worshipped him’ Acts 28: 17. Just as Jesus had listened to the voice of God:

‘Doing only what the Father showed him’ so the disciples are to go into the world “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”. Matthew 28: 20. 

The flow of love is to be upwards as well as outwards as the Holy Spirit brings us to ‘The  Source of All Being' through Jesus, who is ‘The Eternal Word’. 

Community: Baptism makes us a member of God’s family, a community of adopted children of all shapes and sizes, shades and colours, sexualities and identities.

 “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” Acts 28: 20.

As children of God we share in the love that flows from the ‘Source of All Being’, through the creative and Eternal Word in the power of the Holy Spirit. We are members of a community bound together by a love that flows outward from the Source, embracing us through the Word and leads us upwards into the Godhead by the Holy Spirit 

Baptism is the gift that keeps on giving, from the ‘Source’ who has given us all authority in heaven and earth. Through the living witness of the Eternal Word who has taught us. Our baptism fills us with presence of the Holy Spirit who goes with us on our journey of discipleship.

As we celebrate Trinity Sunday we are joined not only to a worldwide Church but to the ‘Source of All Being through the Eternal Word by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Rev. Simon Brignall

Prayer for Ukraine

God of peace and justice we pray for the people of Ukraine today, and the laying down of weapons. We pray for all those who fear for tomorrow, that your spirit of comfort would draw near to them. We pray for those with power over war and peace, for wisdom, discernment, and compassion to guide their decisions Above all, we pray for all your precious children at risk and in fear, That you would hold and protect them. We pray in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Amen

Best wishes, Simon Brignall

I am contactable from Thursday to Sunday