As with any time of uncertainty, there seems to be a variety of ways of looking to the future. First, we could be idealistic. I have enjoyed thinking about how we might all have learned important lessons during this time about valuing creation and one another. Perhaps this includes also being more aware of the presence of God. The problem with idealism of course is that it assumes that a few months of lockdown will have changed our world. I doubt that we are all ready to accept a radical change of lifestyle though. There could be some small changes even so, such as a willingness not to let busyness overwhelm us or perhaps to be a bit more aware of the people and the world around us.
Another response would be to take a pessimistic view and to imagine our world changing for the worse. Some might perhaps imagine that our human nature is so bad that we have earned this situation. Well, undoubtedly we are not all free from fault and there are many lessons to learn. As far as punishment is concerned though, it seems very unlikely that this has happened to give us our just deserts. That image of God is very much at odds with the God of compassion revealed to Moses in the book of Exodus; the God who, in the words of Moses, has mercy on a headstrong people, who forgives faults and sins and adopts this wayward people as God’s own heritage. The way forward will not be easy, but God does not intend destruction for the world or its people.
A third response would be to think that nothing will change, that we just have to get on with things and that it will be business as usual. This assumes that God has no part to play in our lives or that transformation cannot happen. Even those who are people of faith can sometimes have an idea of God that resembles an absentee landlord. We have been left just to struggle on as best we can as things fall apart or as we cause damage ourselves. There will be a time of reckoning, but in the meantime it is all up to us just to get on with things. Again, this image of God is very far from the one portrayed by St Paul, who uses the words of what we now know as The Grace to describe God’s relationship with us: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
Grace, love and fellowship: a beautiful description of God’s engagement with us. This feast of the Most Holy Trinity reminds us that God is revealed to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit: not three Gods, but one eternal God who has become known through Scripture and experience in three particular ways. First, as the Father, who has created the world and its people out of nothing in an act of pure love. God is the creator of all and the giver of all life. His will for us is life and not death or destruction. As Jesus says to Nicodemus in St John’s gospel: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.”
So God is revealed as Father, but also as Son, as we think of the grace of God. Far from being like an absentee landlord, God dwells among us. Jesus came among us – the Word made flesh - to show that God is with us, that we matter to God and that we have a destiny of everlasting life. Christ became present in our world without leaving his Father behind because in Christ we see the very presence of God. Through prayer, that relationship of Father and Son was maintained during the earthly life of Jesus. The good news is that we are invited into that relationship to be God’s beloved sons and daughters.
Relationship is at the very heart of God, which is why St Paul speaks about fellowship. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinct, but not divided. In a world where divisions, bigotry and hatred are all too visible, we see a better model for human life. Jesus promised the gift of the Holy Spirit, to be received by all who are ready to accept. The Holy Spirit breaks down the barriers that divide us, makes possible the forgiveness of our transgressions and draws us into community. We may differ about many things, but these should never be a cause for hatred. Our belief in the God who is revealed to us in Christ enables us to receive that Spirit through whom we are brought into fellowship with God and with one another. What a wonderful gift this is!
I think that in the days ahead it would be best not to trust either too much or too little in human nature and human strength. The best we can do is to look to the God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the Holy Trinity whose grace, love and fellowship comes to embrace us. Despite our shortcomings we can share the hope of a better way forward. We do not have to walk into that future alone, but in the presence of Christ who draws us into unity with God and with one another.