04 Jun Archbishop of York preaches in Church of England national online service on 7th June
The Sermon Archbishop Sentamu gave during the service marking his retirement, which was broadcast online.
SERMON Trinity Sunday, 7 th June 2020 The Archbishop of York
Welcome to the Archbishop Desmond Tutu Garden and Orchard, here at Bishopthorpe Palace. Welcome!
May I speak in the Name of the Son, In the Power of the Holy Spirit, To the Glory of God the Father. Amen
I begin my reflection on the four passages of Scripture appointed for this Trinity Sunday with a story. Not about anyone else but me. I was ten years old when I responded to Jesus Christ’s invitation to become his friend and to discover his plan for my present, and my future. To receive life in all its fullness, in the present and to know the forgiveness of past sins, to own my past but not be enslaved by it and to begin writing my future in hope.
Sixty-one years on, I truly know I was lovingly invited into God’s glorious community of love, rooted in faithfulness and friendliness. And throughout my life I have found God in these experiences:
I found union with God, encountering him as the Loving Father, as the Redeeming Son and as the Energising Holy Spirit, ever ready to answer my call as the helper and strengthener.
Not three gods, but One God, present to me in three persons.
I found myself trusting in God with a new lifestyle, a life of obedience to the pattern demonstrated by Jesus of Nazareth who lived it out in the power of the Holy Spirit.
I found myself united with other followers of Jesus Christ because I was, they were, we are, united with the Father, with the Son, and with the Holy Spirit. United in our witness and life together as disciples of Jesus Christ, bound up with the worship of One God in three persons.
As we heard in the beautiful blessings at the end of our Reading from St Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 13: 14), we live together as followers of Jesus Christ because of the Grace, the unmerited favour, of the Son; the Love of the Father and the Fellowship, the Shared Life, we have with the Holy Spirit.
Believe you me, faith, trust, is not a crutch to lean on. It is the very act of leaning. Faith is nothing better than sanctified common sense. It is the most common-sense thing in the world to trust in the incomparable power and majesty of God, in the infinite, unchanging love, and infallible truth of God eloquently portrayed by Prophet Isaiah in our Reading.
To trust anywhere else needs a great deal of justification. But to trust in God needs no apology. For as Gerald Manley Hopkins put it, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God” (Poems and Prose, Penguin Classics, 1985).
No entity in heaven or earth compares to God, and, therefore, none can prevent his justice and mercy to us. The God who created the earth and made the heavens is mightier than the gods we are tempted to worship, money, power, status, ethnic origin, competitive sport. Those gods, after all, are created, not creators.
And the wonder of it, as Psalm 8 sings majestically, God’s Name, character, majesty and power is glorious throughout the world and yet mortal humankind was made little less than divine (Elohim) and adorned with glory and majesty, depicting humankind as God-like as in Genesis Chapter 1 (verses 26-30).
The wonder is that we are loved with a love that is stronger than death by the One who went to hell and back – even Jesus Christ. “Full authority in heaven and on earth has been committed to him”, and he has promised us his power and presence, to the end of time.
Filled with this love and power he sends us out to go and make all nations his friends and learners. He calls us to stand at the intersection where God’s love and human need meet.
Telling others that we are the hungry and the thirsty ones, who have been led to the bread of life and the living water, welling up to eternity.
He also sends us out to become friends of the weak and those who are marginalised.
Jesus Christ is always at the centre, and at the same time encompasses all – present on the circumference with all those who are on the margins.
This awesome God has touched and healed and is healing my wounds by his greatest miracle in me: His constant forgiveness. He has taught me to welcome the person within me who is weak and poor in spirit.
In Matthew 25, Jesus bids us to welcome him in the poor, the sick, the hungry, the homeless, the naked, the prisoner and the stranger. As his followers, this we must all do implicitly, and in a very small way I have given it my best shot.
But, reflecting on my sixty-one years as a follower of Jesus Christ, I have tended to shy away from recognising Jesus Christ in my own poverty of spirit. I have stood alongside those who are in need without at the same time acknowledging the poor and prisoner inside me. I now know it is both/and.
I have learnt , with wonder, to see Jesus Christ in my own poverty, hunger and thirst for meaning and in my deepest needs; as well as all that is “strange” inside me.
The Blessed and Glorious Trinity is beseeching me, beseeching you, to welcome all this and not deny their existence in me, in you, and to accept that they are there. Because on the very ground of our defeat is where we meet the Healer who bears the marks of crucifixion in his body. Discovering the presence of God in these very places of weakness is liberating!
God in Jesus Christ calls us to enter into the pain, the mystery of the Cross and dereliction, forsakenness. Leading us to a compassion like his, so that even in the midst of searing pain, we can focus our eyes on others and their pain and be steadfast in love and care for them.
As we grow in trust, we learn to wait in hope and open our lives to the tender love of God and hear him in the lament of his world.
God, the Holy Spirit, like a parent to their child, is a comforter to each one of us. He interprets our deepest unuttered cry and draws us out of our inner prison of fear. God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is compassionate and gentle of heart. Therefore, we will not be afraid to open our wounded hearts to him. Let us go to him for wholeness and healing as we put our trust in him. Come! Come! I will go with you.
The Archbishop said, “I am pleased to have this opportunity for the second time to take part in this online service on what will be my last day in office. Like many of us, I too, am missing being able to worship alongside others. I hope that many will join us on 7th June as we continue this way of worshipping. We know that these times will pass and change will come, but our Lord and Saviour, King and Friend never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and for ever – and deserves our never-ending praise! ‘Come let us bow down, kneel and worship the Lord our Maker.’”
Thanks to the Diocese of York on my Departure
Dr John Sentamu retires as 97th Archbishop of York on Sunday 7th June:
As I watch the strangely quiet River Ouse from our apartment at Bishopthorpe Palace, my mind is taken back to a day in 2005 when the river was far from quiet!
Many of you will remember my arrival by boat at York Minster on the day I began my ministry as Archbishop here, a day full of life, noise, celebration and excitement. A bitterly cold day, I decided not to release the seven doves of peace – they could not get to Wigan safely.
There is much talk of change at the moment. What has happened in the last few months is, as has been said so often, unprecedented, and what will happen over the coming months still uncertain. In the midst of these unwelcome and sudden changes, may I encourage you to reflect on a different kind of change – the gentle, constant and yet life-transforming change brought about by God’s Spirit working through his church to bring love, joy, peace, power and salvation to us and to all who will receive God’s generous gifts.
In nearly fifteen years as Archbishop of York, I am humbled and filled with thankfulness when I consider the changes God has brought about in me and in this Diocese. Through God’s generosity and through yours, through God’s limitless hospitality and through ours, and most of all through God’s strong and saving love poured into our hearts and shaping us together into the likeness of Christ, I have been blessed and privileged to see our generous churches making and nurturing disciples, our relationships, our prayer and our witness transformed, becoming more and more a reflection of our calling to be the embassy of heaven on earth.
There are too many highlights to mention them all here – outdoor baptisms outside York Minster, the change to Free Will Offers, my Pilgrimage of Prayer, Witness and Blessing, the Deanery Missions, Come and See… the list would never end! Friends, thank you for allowing me to become part of you – loving each other into holiness, bearing each other’s burdens, and of course becoming Yorkshireman of the Year in 2007!
It is in many ways hard to leave now, when we are all in such need of leadership and of care. But I leave without fear, for the Lord our God is with us – God our loving Father, God the Son, Jesus Christ our eternal friend, and God the Holy Spirit, the giver of life. He is the same yesterday, today and for ever, and I am thankful to him for all that he has done in and through me during my time as Archbishop, for all that he is doing in these troubling times, and for all that is yet to be, for myself and for the Diocese of York. The Best is yet to be.
With love and prayers
Thoughts about the Trinity from Roots
The understanding that God is Holy Trinity means that God lives as a community, with Father, Son and Spirit in loving harmony and interdependence, each being distinct and doing distinctive things. We are made in God’s image; and so we too are made to be in community and are only truly ourselves as we live that out. This challenges the notion that faith is solely a personal matter. We have to live out our faith together with our fellow-believers. In the same way, we need to seek unity in diversity in our domestic and social lives. This also challenges the individualism that dominates our culture in the West and that needs to be replaced by an understanding that what is good for everyone is also best for the individual.
The understanding that God lives as community also means that God is dynamic – that within the Trinity there is constant movement and change. Some theologians describe this as being like a dance; the three persons of the Trinity affect and change each other like partners in a dance. And as we are made in God’s image, movement and change will always be part of our lives too; as individuals and as the Church, we develop and grow. Change is both desirable and inevitable and we are called to play a part in it. And in society, we are part of a flowing stream of change and have hope for the future.
A personal prayer
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be my strength, wherever I go; may the love of God be my joy, whatever my circumstances; and may the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be my inspiration, whatever I do. Amen.
Archbishop Sentamu says: ’We know that these times will pass and change will come, but our Lord and Saviour, King and Friend never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and for ever – and deserves our never-ending praise! ‘Come let us bow down, kneel and worship the Lord our Maker’ ”.
Prayer on the announcement of the Archbishop of York Designate
Generous God, we give you thanks: you have heard our prayer, guided your people and raised up Stephen to serve as the next Archbishop of York. By your Holy Spirit, grant to him good counsel, holy insight and joy in the gospel, through Jesus Christ our Lord.