Sermon

Trinity, Year C

 

Glory to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The trinity.  A concept which separates Christian churches from other faiths.  A concept that was so important that learned men struggled to put it into words – they fought bitter battles over the make-up of creator, redeemer and sustainer.  It stemmed from the arguments that established that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine.  Fully man and fully God.  You can see why it wasn’t going to be simple.  But in order to define our belief, our doctrine, in order to differentiate it from other existing religions, the bishops in the 4th and 5th centuries had to be able to state that Jesus of Nazareth, a man who suffered as we suffer, was also Jesus the Christ, the anointed one, the messiah, the Son of God.  And then as we hear in our readings this morning, there is one more being – the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit was also with God during creation, from the beginning.  Wisdom literature refers to the Spirit as she.  There was a book that was very popular several years ago, “The Shack”, which has an interesting take on the trinity.  The Spirit is feminine, Jesus is male, and God…well let’s just say the character was not depicted as an old, white guy.  It is an interesting book, but it doesn’t explain the doctrine of the Trinity.

The best I can do is give examples of what it is like, so we might just catch a glimpse of the concept.  Like the concept of God, it really can’t be defined or quantified because we are only human and don’t have the correct language or understanding.  This is something that we accept.  Trinity, three beings in one person.

Examples that have been used are the three leaf clover or taking three colors of play-do and braiding them into one piece.  The play-do model is very visual.  The one that helps me is from science – two hydrogen atoms bonded with an oxygen atom.  This molecule is the same substance, but can take three different forms – solid, liquid, gas – as ice, as water, as steam.  Very different in appearance and properties, but it remains the same molecule.

Why do we need this Trinity today?  How does God as Father, as Son and as Holy Spirit help us in our lives?  That’s what you need to answer for yourself, based on your life experience.  I was shocked to learn that for some people the language God the Father was repulsive.  It was calmly explained to me that if you had been abused, abandoned, mistreated by your father, than the church telling you “God the Father, is love”, would send you running away.  Ohhh.  But to that same person, God might be accessible through Jesus who is like our brother, or through the Holy Spirit, a feminine being that lives in all creation.

We have one God, and at given points in our lives, we may need to view God in different ways.  Sometimes God as creator (Father) is more comforting.  At others God as redeemer (Son) is helpful.  And sometimes God as sustainer (Holy Spirit) is what we need.  There are special times in our lives when we need the strength of all three forms.

This morning at the 10:00 service, we get to be witnesses to Zyann                as he joins the Christian family through the sacrament of baptism.  Do we literally receive the spirit at baptism or is the spirit already within?  The spirit was present in the beginning of creation and I think all creation carries a bit of that spirit.  If the spirit is already present, how can we receive that spirit which is already present?  Perhaps our ‘receiving’ is the acknowledgment, our saying yes, to the spirit that is already present within us.  The sacrament of baptism by water is the outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace, the Holy Spirit.  On Zyann’s behalf, we acknowledge and welcome the Holy Spirit to “sustain him, give him an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and love God, and the gift of joy and wonder in all creation.”  It will be up to Zyann whether he chooses to make this same affirmation on his own later in life.

He will need God as Father and as Brother and as Holy Spirit at times in his life just as we do.  Through the grace of God, they are available to him as they are available to us and to every part of creation.  Paul tells the Romans, “we boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us…”  That would be difficult to accept if we did not have the grace of God, the Trinity, to be with us, to comfort us, to guide us…but we do and we can say “Glory to you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.”   AMEN.

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“The spiritual path is not a solo endeavor. In fact, the very notion of a self who is trying to free her/himself is a delusion. We are in it together and the company of spiritual friends helps us realize our interconnectedness.”
Tara Brach

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“Marriage is a spiritual discipline in which we come to know ourselves as beloved, trustworthy, redeemed, forgiven, and blessed, and at the same time learn how to love, be faithful, redeem, forgive, and bless the partner as well as the community.”
Chris Glaser

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Sermon

Pentecost, Year C

O God, you teach the hearts of your faithful children by sending to us the light of the Holy Spirit…

Today is the birth of the church as we know it. I hope that in celebrating that we don’t forget that worship of ‘God’ had been around for thousands of years before that day of Pentecost. Our first church buildings were synagogues and temples, then crypts and people’s living rooms. This is a much nicer place than the locked room of the first Pentecost.
Last week, I had a meeting with two children whose mother expressed their interest in being baptized. After introductions, I asked if they had any questions. The nine year old asked, “What is baptism?” So I launched into my long response, remembering after the fact to try to put the meaning into 9 year old language. But it got me thinking. Baptism is our initiation into the Christian family of God. We are symbolically drowned in the water and raised to new life in the name of God, the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Then with a special chrism or oil, we are “sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.”
We receive the Holy Spirit at baptism. Being in the world and being who we are, we can easily forget that we are filled with the Holy Spirit. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is a way to remind us, as we are reminded at every Baptism that the Holy Spirit has been with us, is with us, and will be with us our whole life. Although, the dramatic way the spirit lands on each person as tongues of flame is rather exciting.
There is another part with baptism that tends to be forgotten; it is that we all are ministers. “The offices of pastoral leadership are conferred for the first time in ordination, but the priesthood comes to every Christian in baptism.
Laos, the word from which we get laity, in the biblical sense, is a priestly term for a priestly person.” (EfM, Year 4, Chapter 32) In the early church all the baptized participated equally in ministering to the community. When Emperor Constantine made Christianity a legal religion, the church exploded. It became necessary to create order through hierarchy. Over the next centuries the role of the laity was diminished to a point of observer. The reformation restructured hierarchies, but the role of the laity developed slowly.
Our 1979 Book of Common Prayer states, “The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him where they may be, and according to the gifts given to them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world, and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the church.” (BCP, page 855) I was formed in a mission and a parish where the laity were very active in the life, worship and governance of the church. I did not find that same level of involvement here in the Diocese of San Joaquin. My mission at St. Anne’s is to raise the laity to partnership with clergy, to encourage lay leadership and to make the laity responsible and accountable for the health and spiritual growth of our community. It is going to take some time and effort on our part.
Gone are the times when only clergy can lead prayers or say grace at gatherings. Who says the blessing at your table when there is not a clergy person present? Many lay people are better at leading prayer or saying grace than I or any number of clergy. Some of you are better at teaching or facilitating classes and discussions that most clergy. Some of you are gifted in heading committees. Some are gifted with open hearts and listening skills for pastoral care. Some are gifted with organizational skills. Some are quiet doers. Some are gifted with the ability to promote change. Some know when to say “No”. Some know when to give up leadership and become a follower. None of us has all the skills or gifts, but together we make one powerful minister for God in our world. And we need you to step up and use your gifts.
We need a new way to minister to our families. We need a leader or two for the youth, a.k.a. youth group. We need an Altar Guild director, one who understands the theology of the Episcopal Church, is organized, can work with people and is familiar with technology. We need someone to wash the coffee hour linens and the kitchen towels (every other week). We need a few more coffee hour hosts. We could use two or three more Eucharistic Ministers at the 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. services. We need Eucharistic Visitors, those who take communion out to church members who are ill and can’t come to church, for one or two Sundays a month. If you are not able to do these tasks, please pray with me that God will send us the people we need.
This morning, I have a little something to help remind you of Pentecost and the Holy Spirit which has now been stirred up within you. It’s a pin with “tongues of flame”. Put it somewhere where you can see it on a daily basis – the refrigerator, a mirror, in the car…
As you come forward to God’s table this morning, receive the body and blood of Christ and be reminded that you are a minister in Christ’s church. Know that you are strengthened by the Holy Spirit to use your gifts in ministering to the community and to the world. AMEN.

_______________________________________

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