The relationship that welcomes us in
As amazing and mysterious as the Trinity relationship is, the most amazing thing of all is that each of us is invited to enter into that relationship. When we pray we’re not outsiders looking in but part of the conversation at the heart of God.
In our last session we explored a few aspects of what the God is like. This Relationship at the center of the Universe is powerful, intimate, infinitely creative, peaceful, servant-like, pure and open, and abundantly joyful. Doesn’t that sound pretty good? Imagine if just one of your relationships was even a fraction as good as that.
Well here’s probably the most amazing thing about the Trinity-relationship. It’s not a closed group. Each one of us is invited to be part of it.
There’s a pretty famous icon (a picture used for religious worship) that was painted long ago by a guy called Rublev. I’m not into worshipping God through icons very much but this one has seriously impacted my prayer life. It’s a picture that was inspired by the story of Abraham meeting the three angels at Mamre in Genesis 18. It’s also meant to represent the Trinity. God, the Father is on the left and with him are God, the Son – Jesus (in the middle), and God the Holy Spirit.
Rublev painted in a bunch of clues to help us figure out who is who (which you can read up on here. But the really cool thing about this painting is the way Rublev uses the lines of perspective. Good artists will use perspective to give an image a sense of depth. Usually that means painting things that are meant to be further from the viewer smaller so that it looks similar to real life – like this one:
This image and more examples here. In Rublev’s icon, the further-off things are bigger and our eyes are naturally drawn along the lines in the image to a point of focus which is in front of the image (look at how the sides of the table and chairs have been painted). The focal point is right where you are!.
Rublev has painted an idea that’s unimaginably crazy. As you gaze on the relationship that is the Trinity, you discover that YOU are where everything is focused. You are included, drawn in and invited to be part of that amazing relationship.
Here’s something that Henri Nouwen wrote about this picture:
As we place ourselves in front of the icon in prayer, we come to experience a gentle invitation to participate in the intimate conversation that is taking place among the three divine angels and to join them around the table. The movement from the Father toward the Son and the movement of both Son and Spirit toward the Father become a movement in which the one who prays is lifted up and held secure … (Behold the Beauty of the Lord: Praying with Icons).
One of the passages in the Bible that expresses this most clearly is in John 14v23:
Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, they will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.’
There are four parts of the verse that are worth unpacking briefly:
1) If anyone …: the invitation to be wrapped up and included in this awesome, powerful, joyful, intimate relationship is open to ANYONE. No matter what you’ve done in your life, no matter what you’re doing now or what state you think you’re in. Nobody is excluded from God’s invitation.
2) If anyone loves me: love is the heart of the invitation because love is at the heart of the relationship. God is love. That’s why Jesus said to know the Father is to have eternal life. Knowing, loving God is what our real life is all about.
3) If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching…: loving God isn’t about trying hard to feel all ‘in love’ with God all the time – like some worship songs try to get us to do. Agape love is about something you decide to do whether you feel like it or not – just like loving your enemies. Really loving God is about deciding to actually do what Jesus says we should do.
It turns out that Jesus’ main command is to … wait for it … love each other! (John 15v17) To enter Life is to love God and to decide to do things to love people around us.
4) … we will come to them and make our home with them.: the best news about the Christian faith is that God is not some far-off God who needs to be dutifully obeyed, or appeased in the hope God will be merciful. The God Christians worship is the God who became one of us, the God who chose to make our own bodies the place where he lives on earth. And when God moves in, God goes about renovating our hearts so that we will become more like him. Part of that work in us is to transform our desires so that we will genuinely want to love, and actually love God and other people better. ‘God I don’t love you, I don’t even want to love you, but I want to want to love you’ is a prayer that God loves to answer too.
You’re invited to be part of the most amazing, life-changing relationship there is. You don’t need to have everything fully sorted in your life to get in. Jesus has taken care of all the sinful baggage we bring – just the smallest amount of faith, the most tentative decision to live differently, the weakest prayer is enough to start a revolution in your life
And when we pray, we’re not shooting off rubber-band wishes into the dark sky above. We are voicing our hopes, fears, needs and worship right into the center of that divine conversation that’s been going on since before the beginning. Isn’t that an awesome thought?
In this tab you’ll find ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Our leaders guide has more info on how to use our Story-based framework.
Download a PDF version of this session here
Which do you have more stories about: doing cool stuff with a group of good friends, or being left out and having to do stuff on your own? How did those times make you feel about yourself?
How has it been for you in recent times when talking to (or maybe just thinking about) God – do you feel you’re in an intimate conversation with God or more like you’re shooting off rubber-band wishes into the dark sky above?
What’s the best kind of connection you can hope for when praying to God?
Get the conversation started …
Get everyone to read one or more of the WordSpace posts from this week on their phones or from a printout (you’ll find them in the third tab on this page.)
o Is there a post that stands out for you? Why so?
o Are there any posts that you disagree with or are not sure about?
o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend, which one would it be?
Read the post in The Story tab.
Here’s Brad Fish exploring intimacy through prayer … Link here
There’s been some pretty amazing and probably quite hard-to-believe stuff in this session.
Some questions to help you replay your story …
o What one thing stood out for you most?
o Are there any parts that seem like really good news? Anything that’s hard to believe?
o Has your past experience with being excluded (or your fear of being left out) from friends or whoever left you feeling angry or reluctant to trust people or even God? How could what you’ve heard in this session help you with that?
o Imagine if all of what you’ve heard was true for you and could start happening in your life right now – what would be the main impact on your life be?
Re – draw your picture of Jesus
Jesus wants nothing more than to be able to draw us into the life he shares with his Father and the Spirit – by moving into our lives! But for that to happen, Jesus requires us to demonstrate our love for him by obeying his command to love God and other people.
How does seeing how being part of a loving community is so important for Jesus shape the way you understand what Jesus is like?
What practical action, response, thought do you want to take into the week?
Have you encountered something in this session that makes you want to say to God:
‘wow, I’ve totally got that wrong in my life, sorry! Help me see how to think or act differently from now on’ ?
Jesus invites us to repent often and with freedom. It’s a real gift from God – go for it!
Some questions to help you remix your story …
o How could knowing that you are invited to be part of the intimate relationship of the Trinity change the way you pray? Could it give you more boldness, or help you become more vulnerable with God?
o ‘Loving God is about about deciding to actually do what Jesus says we should do – whether we feel like it or not. Is there something you need to do to love and obey Jesus a bit more this week?
From the WordSpace
Here are five posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic:
Are you trusting God for something really huge at the moment – and kinda stressing out too?
Here’s a thought: God can fling stars and part the Red Sea. What you’re trusting him for is not too big. His power is infinite.
And the best news is that he’s not just a powerful God. He’s a powerful God who LOVES you. Zephaniah 3v17 says, ‘For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty saviour. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.’
Spend some time today talking to him?
Zephaniah 3 here: http://bit.ly/1neCIVH
Jesus must have felt like one of those guys who always gets in trouble for something. A lot of the things Jesus said and taught were so revolutionary for his time. It’s almost as if he were trying to get the religious leaders upset.
Like the time when he started his most famous prayer with the words ‘Our father’ (Matthew 6v9 http://bit.ly/1hltVNh). In a time where people were used to approaching God through a priest in a temple, Jesus invited his followers to draw closer with the words ‘Abba Father’ or literally ‘daddy God’
We also get to approach God directly when we pray and he loves it when we do.
Cos God is a relationship – and you’re invited in.
Here’s some good news for your Wednesday. The Trinity – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – is the most amazing, life-changing relationship there is – and you’re invited to be part of it.
You don’t need to have everything fully sorted in your life to get in. Jesus has taken care of all the sinful baggage we bring – just the smallest amount of faith, the most tentative decision to live differently, the weakest prayer is enough.
And when we pray, we’re not shooting off rubber-band wishes into the sky above. We are voicing our hopes, fears, needs and worship right into the center of a divine conversation that’s been going on since before the beginning.
Isn’t that an awesome thought?
Read John 14v23 here: http://bit.ly/1tkgrae
Ever get tired of praying for something that doesn’t seem to change? Ever get furious at injustice and corruption? How about sickness and suffering? What drives you to pray?
At Nelson Mandela’s 46664 charity concert in Cape Town in 2003, Bono, The Edge, Dave Stewart, and Beyonce sang:
‘Hold on, hold on / Let’s not get tired / So kick at the darkness / Make the lights brighter’
Both the Psalms and the New Testament call us to persevere in prayer against things that are unjust. Don’t give up, keep praying, get angry, kick at the darkness.
Want to hear someone getting seriously angry in prayer? Read Psalm 58 in The Message here: http://bit.ly/1nQOPbS
An old TV series which was a favourite of mine had this scene where a woman is praying in a chapel and this guy approaches her and asks what she is doing.
‘I’m talking to God!’, she responds.
‘You mean the all-powerful Creator? Ruler of the Universe?’ he asks. ‘Then why are you doing all the talking?’
If you suddenly found yourself in a room and the Trinity appeared visibly in front of you, what would you say?
Maybe it’s not a bad suggestion to start with silence? Try it now. Spend 2mins (or more if you dare) being silent before God. What did you hear?