Saturday, 29 May 2010

Understanding the Trinity: a story

JOHN 16:12-15

I’d like to tell you a story.

It is the story of an exiled Leader, and a land occupied by a cruel and oppressive ruler. The exiled Leader is the rightful ruler of this land. He was immensely powerful, and a good and loving leader. He gave everything to his people. He provided the best for his people. But he also allowed his people the freedom to say no to him. Some say he shouldn’t have done that. But because he loved them, he gave them the freedom to choose to love him and obey him.

Was it inevitable? We don’t know. But there was the Great Rebellion. Even though he had been so good to them, a million people said, ‘No. We do not want you to be our leader; I want to be the leader’.

But of course that cannot work. You cannot have a million people each wanting to be leader, without chaos. And in the confusion, a cruel oppressor began to rule (John 14:30). His name was Smert. He was evil, and he ruled from the shadows. He began to whisper to each person, “Of course there is no other Leader. You can be the Leader – but if you want to be the Leader, you have got to believe you are better than the others, you’ve got to show the others that you are bigger and stronger and more important than them, you’ve got to have more stuff than them; you need to realise that people are dispensable; you need to be self-reliant and hard and make the tough decisions”. And then Smert sat back and watched, and as the battles raged across the land, and the strong got stronger, and the rich got richer and the poor got poorer, and as the powerless were crushed, he laughed and he laughed and he laughed.

The exiled Leader now lived beyond the sea. Even though his people had rejected him, and he was grieved and angered by their rejection of him, yet he still loved them. He looked at what was going on in his land, and he hated Smert with a fiery fierce hatred. He resolved to win back the land, and win the hearts and minds of his people.

So the Leader (no one knew his name - he was bigger than a name) sat down with the two other people who made up his government: Soter, his Commanding Officer and Dushina, his Communications Officer, and they came up with a plan, a Great Plan. They realised they could not simply invade the land as it was. They were too powerful. The people would resist and they would be wiped out. So they decided that Soter, assisted by Dushina, would go across the sea to the land, that he would tell people of the Leader over the sea, that he would show people what the Leader was like, and that he would challenge Smert to a duel. Then, when enough people freely chose to follow Soter and the Leader, the Great Invasion could take place.

Now I need to tell you something about the Leader and Soter and Dushina. They are all in the government. I guess it is a sort of coalition. They are old, but they look young. They are so old that no one actually knows when they were born. Soter is the Leader’s son (John 3:16). And Dushina: no one quite knows her relationship to the Leader. She is not his daughter, but she says she comes out of him (John 15:26). Their relationship is a bit of a brain-bender, especially as they are all the same age and, it is said, they were there at the beginning of time (John 1:1).

What we can say of these three is that they love each other (John 17:24). They are totally united. They are so close that if you cut one, the others bleed. They think and feel in the same way. They are one in heart and mind and ambition and purpose and love. You cannot separate them from each other. They’re like triplets. If you look at one, you know it is the one you are looking at, but you could also be looking at the other two. If one of them answers the phone, you can’t be quite sure – at least at the beginning – who you are speaking to. Their greatest joy is each other. They live for the glory of each other. Soter prays that people will give glory to the Leader (John 12:28). The Leader delights when people glory in his commanding officer (John 17:1).

If you think of the Leader, you have to think of Soter and Dushina. If you think of Soter, you cannot mention him in one breath without mentioning Dushina and the Leader in the next breath.

But even though they are united, they are different. You can’t confuse them.

The leader is the Leader. It is his land and people who have been lost. He is definitely the main man. He loves Soter and Dushina (John 15:9,26). They know that the Leader loves them, that everything they have comes from him, and they in turn love the Leader and trust the Leader absolutely. So they listen to him and they obey him.

Soter, the Commanding Officer, the one who calls the Leader Father, and who loves the Leader (John 14:31), is the man of action. He is the one who is to go into the occupied land, put the plan into action and then come back (John 16:28).

Dushina, the Communications officer, is unlike any Communications Officer, or Press Officer, you have ever come across. She is seriously into winning hearts and minds. She loves the Leader and the Commanding Officer. She has this ability to be everywhere and somewhere at the same time. She is with Soter and the Leader over the sea, but she has also been, at the same time, in the occupied territory, from even before the Great Rebellion. She is totally unpredictable and absolutely safe. She is never seen, but she is felt. You know when she’s been around (John 3:8). She’s particularly attached to Soter; she loves him with a love that is stronger than a lover has for their beloved. She loves speaking about Soter (John 15:26), and retelling his words (John 14:26). And that is useful, because her task is initially to prepare the land for the time when the Commanding Officer goes over the sea to the land.

So, at the right time, the Commanding Officer goes over the sea to the land. He tells people that there is one Leader, who is loving and good. He also carries out the Leader’s instructions (John 5:19), does the Leader’s work and speaks the Leader’s words (John 12:49; 14:10); he declares the Leader’s judgements (John 8:16). Some people believe him and follow him. Many don’t (John 1:11).

Smert is scared. He does everything he can to get rid of Soter. He tries his usual tactic of telling Soter, "You can be the Leader", but Soter doesn’t buy that (Matthew 4:8-10). So he whispers to those who are pretending to be the leader that they have to get rid of him, if they want to continue to be leader. Eventually Smert comes out of the shadows and challenges the Leader’s Commanding Officer in a fight, man to man, to the death. It is an awful duel, completely one sided. Soter didn’t stand a chance – and yet, it was strange. People thought Soter was much more powerful, but it seemed as if he had given up from the very beginning; it seemed as if he had chosen to lose and to die (John 12:27,32). And so Smert triumphs and he and his followers party (John 16:20).

But they party too early. They have forgotten just how powerful the real Leader is. Although the cost to the Commanding Officer was his life; although the cost of the death of his Son hurt his Father like hell, it was all part of the Great Plan. Three days later the Leader brings the Commanding Officer back to life. Soter shows himself alive to his followers (John 20:16, 19, 26; John 21:4), but before going back overseas to the Leader, Soter reassures his followers: he tells them that he is going away (John 16:5) but that one day he will come back (John 16:16) with the Great Invasion. And he promises that until then, they won’t be on their own. He will send them someone else (John 14:16-17), someone who will be like him, but different, who will speak his words and continue to do his works (John 16:13). He is, of course, talking about dear Dushina.

Meanwhile Smert is mortified. When Soter died he thought he had won. But he knows now that he is defeated (John 16:11). It is only a matter of time. He knows that the numbers of people who will follow the Leader will increase and that the Great Invasion is coming, and there is nothing he can do about it. But because Smert is evil, he decides he is going to make hell for as long as he can make hell. He is going to oppose the Leader to the bitter end, and he is particularly going to target the followers of the Leader’s Commanding Officer (John 15:18,33).

Smert rules through telling lies (John 8:44). He lies about the Leader and the Commanding Officer. To some he says that there is no land over the sea, and no Leader over the sea, and that the man who pretended to be the Leader’s commanding officer was a good, but deluded, man. To some he says that there is a Leader over the sea, but he is cruel and hard, that he doesn’t care, and he doesn’t want people to be free. To others he says, that there are many rulers over the sea who claim to be the Leader, and since no one can decide who is the true Leader, then whoever wants to be Leader can be Leader

Dushina, however, always speaks the truth (John 16:13):
• She speaks the truth about the Leader: that he really is the Leader and that he is good and loving (John 3:16); and she speaks the truth about the Commanding Officer, that he lived and died and rose again.
• She speaks the truth about Smert: that because of what the Commanding Officer has done, he is defeated (John 16:11). She says, "You do not need to listen to his lies any more".
• She speaks the truth about the land. She says, “It all belongs to the Leader: the stars and the sea, the mountains and the sky, people and animals, the natural resources, the rivers and streams, music, art, laughter, friendship, possessions, love and life. It all belongs to the Leader. And the Leader has given it to the Commanding Officer, to his Son (John 3:35; 16:15). You can live as if it belongs to Smert, you can listen to his lies, or you can live as if it belongs to the Leader and his Son”.
• She speaks the truth about the future (John 16:13): about how there will be great trouble for people who follow Soter and put their trust in the Leader while they remain in this occupied land (John 17:14-15), but that one day the Great Invasion will happen. The Leader and his Commanding Officer will return. Nothing will be able to stand in their way, but because of what Soter has done, there will be many people ready to receive him and acclaim him as Leader. And he will establish his kingdom.

And although you cannot see her, you know when Dushina has been around, because hearts and minds begin to change.

• People who have been fighting to be the Leader, become aware that there already is a leader, the Leader, over the sea, who is powerful, good and loving.
• They begin to become acutely aware that they have rejected that leader, that they have listened to Smert and they have believed his lies - and they begin to feel a deep sorrow for that (John 16:8-10).
• They hear about the Commanding Officer, and they say, ‘Yes, he really did come from the Leader. He came with the authority of the Leader. He was the Son of the Leader. And I now choose to join the cause of the Leader and of his commanding officer’.

And as the followers of the Commanding Officer listen to Dushina (John 21:22) they discover a new power and authority in their living and in their speaking .

How does this Communications Officer speak? Like many things with Dushina, you can’t pin her down. She speaks in many ways; but mainly there is a book. It is subversive literature in this occupied territory (sometimes they ban it; more often than not, they just diss it). But it is about the Leader and the Commanding Officer. It tells of the Great Rebellion and the Great Plan and the Great Invasion. Basically it contains everything that people need to know if they want to sign up with the Commanding Officer. And as people hear the stories of the book, or listen to the book, or read the book, Dushina helps them to understand what they are reading; it is as if she is speaking directly to them.

But Dushina also speaks to the heart. She says that when someone accepts the Leader’s Commanding Officer as their commanding officer, she will be the link between them and Soter, who is now with the Leader overseas. She’ll not only be a messenger between them, but she will be like his presence beside them (John 14:17). And she will help them to get to know Soter not just as their Commanding Officer, but also as their friend. And even more amazingly, as he calls the Leader ‘Father’, so she will help them call the Leader, ‘Father’.

But the Great Plan does not finish with the Great Invasion and the final destruction of Smert and the return of the Leader and his Commanding Officer to the land. The Great Plan is much bigger than that. Because the real purpose of the Great Plan is not simply that the Leader, and his Tri-unity, might once again reign in his land, but that the people will become part of the coalition government themselves (John 14:23 cf Ephesians 3:19; 2 Peter 1:4). It is the plan that just as the Leader loves Soter, and Soter loves the people, so the people of Soter will know that love of the Leader for them (John 14:21 cf. 1 John 4:9-11) and that they will love each other (John 13:34). But even more than that, it is the plan that as Soter is part of the Leader, so the people will be part of Soter and he will be part of them (John 14:20). And the person who makes that happen is Dushina (John 14:17).