In a few minutes we shall say the Nicene Creed. In these carefully fashioned words from the fourth century we, together with millions around the world express something of what we believe.
They are words which witness to something Jesus said in our Gospel ‘I have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.’
The creed, unlike the Ten Commandments, was not dictated to Mr Nicene up a mountain to be written on tablets of stone.
Instead in the centuries following Christ’s life and death, resurrection and ascension his followers strive to articulate what they believe about him and how that shaped their understanding of the nature of God.
So for hundreds of years there was discussion and dialogue, discernment and dissent. The truth was tested, some ideas and concepts discussed and then disregarded. Then in 325 in Turkey, at the city of Nicaea, Bishops, theologians and leaders gathered.
What emerged from their time together was a creed that bears the name of where it was formulated, a creed which has become the touchstone of our faith. A creed we say almost every week, part of that creed describes that which we believe and celebrate today, the Holy Trinity.
You’ll be glad though that I don’t intend to bamboozle either you or me with any detailed discussion of what ‘consubstantial’ and ‘co eternal’ means. (Although if you are feeling particularly pious you can test me after)
Rather I want to reflect on that sense that the doctrine of the trinity was fashioned over time, it was if you like a journey to the truth. And as the early church journeyed to reach the truth that underpins how we understand the nature of God, so we continue the journey of truth seeking today.
We seek that truth as the church and as individuals who seek to follow in the way of Jesus who said ‘The spirit of truth will guide you into all truth.’
These words are it seems to me both consoling and challenging.
Consoling to the slaves who dared to believe that one day they would be free.
Challenging to those who needed their labour.
Consoling to those who were or are oppressed through the colour of their skin.
Challenging to those who thought they were better.
Consoling to those whose sexuality saw them excluded from life.
Challenging to those who wanted to lock them up.
Consoling to those who have struggled with mental illness all their life.
Challenging to those who sought to put them in an institution.
‘The spirit of truth will lead you into all truth.’
Last week for Pentecost one of the themes from the readings is that sense of the Holy Spirit not being easily contained or limited, it blows where it chooses. And so it is today.
The challenge for us is to discern where this ‘spirit of truth’ is at work in the world remembering that Jesus never talked about the Holy Trinity, at least not using that language, rather the doctrine was over many years discerned by the early church as being of God.
That same discernment is what we are called to live out here in this time and place. ‘The spirit of truth will lead you into all truth’ are words that speak to our time.
In one way or another each one of us here can see ourselves in the midst of this. For we’ve likely all been challenged by some experience in life, lived or talked of, something that has pushed us beyond our oft narrow secure truths to a richer and fuller understanding of truth.
This can sometimes be deeply disturbing, as we struggle to keep up and cling onto those things where we find security and comfort.
And though sometimes we get it wrong (think of the journey to Nicaea), with an openness of heart and willingness to learn, ‘that spirit of truth’ of which Jesus spoke, will accompany us, inviting us to discover fresh insights into the work of the living God here and now.
So may our hearts and minds ever be open, carrying Jesus’ words with us into the world that ‘The spirit of truth will lead us (you) into all truth’.