Summary: Use of Jeremiah, John, and Luke, to bring out three persons of the Trinity, and an analogy with TV programme Dr Who - different faces and mystery.
As a child, I always enjoyed Dr Who on a Saturday teatime. For me, Tom Baker was the doctor - the others who came after weren’t quite the same. Perhaps, for you it was Jon Pertwee who was the doctor, or Patrick Troughton, or William Hartnell; or perhaps it was even Peter Davison, or Colin baker, or Sylvester McCoy.
Or may be you don’t know what I’m talking about? Perhaps if you’ve never watched Dr Who then you don’t know what I’m talking about? The point is that the character of the doctor has been played by many different actors over the years, and this is explained in the programme as when the doctor’s physical body wears out he regenerates into a new body, and so the character continues, albeit in a new physical form which is possible because the doctor is an alien, not a human.
Of course, that means that the doctor is a bit of mystery - he looks human, and is around quite a bit on planet Earth, of which he’s very fond, but his body works differently, and he’s actually hundreds of years old. Trying to make sense, then, of Doctor Who, is a tricky business. As Hamlet said, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”.
If you’ve been watching Dr Who in recent years, since the series was revived, the storylines have become much more complex, and the most recent series even more so. Even if you haven’t been watching it, you probably know that the doctor’s arch-enemies are the Daleks, and in a recent episode the Daleks were re-programmed so that they couldn’t remember the doctor, and the episode ended not with the Dalek’s usual cry of “The Doctor - exterminate!”, but with “Doctor? Who?”
And if you watched the recent series conclusion last weekend, you’re probably utterly confused as to what’s going on. Judging by what people are saying and writing it seems no-one knows what’s going on. Who is the doctor?
I don’t for a moment want to equate Dr Who with God - Dr Who is not God, but I think it does offer us an insight into the mystery of God. As Dr Who has different faces at different times, so God is known in different ways in different times and places. Likewise, the more you look into Dr Who, the more of a mystery he is, and that’s also true about God. The more you study things, the more you read and think, the deeper you delve, the more mysterious God is, and the more most of us realise the idea of understanding everything about God is an increasingly ridiculous notion.
There may not be answers to everything, but neither are we left with nothing. A God whom we meet in different guises at different times and places, a God who is increasing mystery, does not leave us nowhere. Today is Trinity Sunday, when focus upon a doctrine, that of who God is, rather than things that God does.
Rather than trying to offer you a theological lecture, I want to try and look at the nature of God in a slightly different way this morning. We’ve already established that God is manifest in different ways at different times and places, and that God is mysterious. If we think of our scripture readings today, I think they have something to say to us about the nature of God, and how that speaks to us and to our world.
Jeremiah does come across, on a casual reading, as rather mournful and miserable, something of a pessimist, perhaps the kind of friend who makes you feel you might be better off with your enemies. To make any sense of it we need to know that Jeremiah was writing in six centuries before Christ, and the people of Israel - the whole nation - had been captured and taken into exile in Babylon. Morale was low, as low as it could, the nations seemed far from God, and it felt as if everything was going wrong.
I think it sometimes feels like that in our world today. We heard of tornados in the USA, and the horrific murder of a soldier in Woolwich this week. It was also revealed that police in Essex removed sleeping bags and food aprcels belonging to rough sleepers, because they didn’t like how it made the place look. It seems to many of us that morale is low, and our world seems far from God. Even in Farnham, this week’s Herald told the story of lady who lay in the street having broken her leg, and people stepped over her, rather than stopping to offer help. Jeremiah may have been writing to a nation in exile twenty-six centuries ago, but his context stills seems relevant to us today.