Friday, June 27, 2008

Sermon for Trinity Sunday 2008

It’s a mystery

Some of you may remember the line that is repeated over and over again
in the movie Shakespeare in Love.
The line is this:
I don’t know. It’s a mystery.

When the character Philip Henslowe is asked what someone should do
or why something has happened
or how something worked out as it did,
Philip Henslowe simply replies:
I don’t know. It’s a mystery.

Perhaps the character in this film just uses the line
to slip out of sticky situations,
but in truth it is a very good line,
an absolutely honest response,
that often describes parts of our faith journey.

In our reading from Genesis we have the magnificently beautiful account
of God creating the world.
Is this story true? Did it happen just this way?
I don’t know. It’s a mystery.

People of faith and people of science,
people of no faith and people of imagination,
have struggled and continue to struggle with how the world began,
with how we as human beings began, too.
Does anyone really know?
It’s a mystery.

In our reading from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians,
we get a small but pungent helping of advice
on how to say goodbye:

Put things in order, listen,
Agree with one another (ooh! There’s a hard one!)
live in peace.

Good solid advice.
But brother Paul, how on earth are we supposed to do
even those few things?

Now Paul is not a person who is likely to ever respond,
I don’t know--
but he certainly understands mystery
as part of his own faith journey.
Try to rationally explain how a rock-hard, full of hate heart
belonging to a man named Saul
could be so transformed into the compassionate Paul.
It’s a mystery.
God’s mystery.

And then we have Matthew’s gospel.
We are told that even though they show up for worship,
even though they have been the eleven faithful disciples,
even though they have seen Jesus face to face, broken bread together,
followed and followed and followed…
Even so :…some doubted.

Jesus does not step in and criticize their doubts.
Jesus steps in and tells them what to do right now, right in the moment.
Not what to believe,
but what to do.

Go and make other disciples.
Go and baptize.
Go into all the world.
Go in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Go with your doubts.
Go with your enthusiasm.
Go with your belief and your unbelief.

And one last thing, Jesus says.
Remember I am with you always, to the end of the age.

How is it possible that you, Jesus, will be with us always,
the doubters question?
Doubters are not bad people, friends.
They are honest people who are not afraid to ask questions.

When the news is of devastation and destruction and disease—
cyclones, earthquakes, floods, wars, cancer--
when good and innocent people die—
sometimes by the thousands,
doubts bubble up,
we may discover ourselves asking: “Where is God?”

It is so easy to see God in the face of a newborn baby.
It is so easy to see God as the sun rises over the mountains
on a Spring morning.
It’s so easy to see God when everything is zipadee doodah
and going our way.
When our checking account is full,
when our children and our parents are all well and happy,
praise for God just flows from our tongues.

But we must remember:
God is present in terrible things, in horrible times, too.
Not as the one who causes these things,
but as the one who urges us to go and to come and to remember.

Go and help.
Go in person.
Go in your checkbook.
Go in your prayers.

Come fall into the arms of God.
Come fall into the arms of a friend.
Come to God in your prayers.

All the help that comes when a disaster hits--
either in the world or in our own lives--
is the living reality of the love of God.

We are all created in the image of God,
so how can our actions be anything but the work of God?

Why do terrible things happen>
I don’t know. It’s a mystery.

Why do people reach out and help people they don’t even know?
I don’t know. It’s a mystery.

How is Jesus with us even to the end of the age?
Look in the mirror.
Listen for God’s voice calling your name.

Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer.

No matter the words we choose,
we as Episcopalians believe in a Trinitarian God.
And yes, how exactly God can be three in one and one in three
is a bit of a mystery, too.

No where in the Bible do we find the word “trinity,”
yet there is a strong and pervasive pattern
throughout the New Testament.
of a trinitarian god,
both in how God is revealed
And in how God acts in the world.

The Bible affirms, both in the Old and the New Testament,
that there is but one God.

Yet in the New Testament,
three distinct centers of God’s activity come clear:

The love of God originally comes from the one called “the Father”.
The love of God is then humanly enacted for the world
by the one called “the Son”
And finally the love of God
becomes a present, right here and now, reality
by the one called the Spirit.
Three in one. One in three.

A God who is not a lone ranger,
But a God who is the essence of community and relationship.

A God who is not simple
but wonderfully complicated and multi-dimensional.
A God who is not easy to understand
but infinitely more complex and immense
than we can ask or imagine.

What exactly is the Holy Trinity?
It’s a mystery.

A mystery that celebrates community, relationship, and love.
The power of the triune God is not force, but love;
not coercive but creative.
The Trinitarian God does not dominate others
but shares life with others.

It is not the differences between Father, Son and Holy Spirit that matter.
It is the sameness, their interconnectedness
which binds them to one another.

It is not our differences that matter.
It is our sameness, our relatedness,
those holy places in our selves, our lives
that we share, that are morphed together into one.

Theologican Daniel Migliore defines the Trinitarian God as
“self-sharing, other-regarding, community-forming love.”
The New Testament puts it far more simply:
God is love.

Father, Son, Holy Spirit—
No matter which direction we turn--God is love.

Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer—
No matter where or when or even if
we dive into the holy mystery--God is love.

God’s love is with us always—even until the end of the age.

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