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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

July 23, 2017      


Gospel: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43            
1st Reading: Isaiah 44:6-8
2nd Reading: Romans 8:12-25

                After reading this Gospel reading, I have to reverse my decision from last week.  I was going to pull up the volunteer tomato from my yard, which was crowding my kale, but now I think I should leave it In.  “Let both of them grow together,” the master tells the slaves.  However, maybe it isn’t that great of a plan to shape your gardening plans and advice from Jesus’ Parables.  After all, they aren’t about plants, or are they?

                I have here, this week a showy milkweed plant.  This plant has the word “weed” right in it.  It has a lot of traits of weeds.  It grows and spreads quickly, both by seeds and rhizomes.  It is low maintenance, not very picky.  For years milkweed was called a noxious plant, that must be eradicated.  People removed the plants.  They were sprayed and destroyed until very few were left.  Then we all became aware that the milkweed plant is the only place a Monarch butterfly will lay its eggs, the only food monarch caterpillars can eat.  So with the decline of such a magnificent butterfly, we begin to realize that a weed to us, an annoyance and troublemaker, is home to someone else, and someone we might even care about.

                This particular milkweed plant was placed in the yard of a member of this church and this plant began to spread and spread and started to take over, so these kind people offered it to us at church.  We’ve been talking since the beginning of the garden group of putting in some showy milkweed here on the church property, so when it was offered, I said yes.  Why not bring in a plant that will attract butterflies, and maybe take over some of this bare ground that just keeps producing weeds that we have to keep pulling.  The milkweed may even be able to choke out my arch-nemesis weed, the horsetail.

                Whether something is a weed or not is in the eye of the beholder.  I remember as a kid being baffled by what my mom and grandma told me were weeds.  Delicate little blue and salmon colored flowers that grew in the yard that made beautiful little bouquets for my Barbies, dandelions that we would give our mom to show her how much we loved her and whose seeds we would blow and make wishes as we observed them floating like little fairies, little yellow flowers we would hold up to our chins to make sure we liked butter, and on and on. 

As kids, we scoffed at the other flowers.  They needed all this special attention and care.  They had to be babied: they had to be watered, they had to weeded, they had to be deadheaded, they had to be fertilized.  They were wimps!  Who wanted to do all that work, when you had these perfectly good weeds everywhere, providing beautiful flowers?

                In the eyes of some, I’m sure Jesus would have been considered a weed.  He was born to an unwed mother, came from Nazareth, of all places.  This weed was popping up where none would be expected.  He was a wiley weed, resilient, a little thorny, not conforming to popular views of beauty, and decorum.  He wouldn’t stand in his row, he wouldn’t flower when he was supposed to, and all those pests kept buzzing around him, like women, and tax collectors, the homeless, and sick.  Jesus was seen by some as a weed, but we know he is God’s own Son.

                In the readings from Romans, it says, “The Creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.”  It isn’t just people that wait for redemption, for healing, for unity with God.  All creation does.  And not just the roses and the cedars, but the so-called weeds.  God created them, too, and not just to make extra work for us.  But they do what God created them to do.  They convert carbon dioxide into oxygen.  Their roots break up rocks and aggregates of soil.  They shade the ground.  They provide food and homes for animals and insects.  Some of them fix nitrogen in the soil so that other plants can grow.  God created them and God created them good.  We can’t put them in categories like “bad” just because they are inconvenient to us.  The weeds are waiting with eager longing, too, to take their rightful place in the balance of God’s good creation, in the new life that God is bringing, in the Kingdom itself.  Maybe the master says, “Let both of them grow until the harvest,” because God knows their use.  Maybe God sees what we can’t see.  A diverse landscape is how it has been naturally in creation.  It was us humans who had the gall to try to make all one plant grow in an area, to support our own growing population.  We forget that is unnatural and even at times unhealthy for the earth to be forced to grow things for our convenience.  To the other animals, maybe we are the weeds, an inconvenience, an evil to other species trying to survive, let alone experience abundant life that God is bringing to them in the peaceable Kingdom.

                One weird thing happening in the Parable is that the weeds are sewn.  I have to tell you that weed seeds don’t have to be sewn.  They are occasionally when someone blows on the head of a dandelion that’s gone to seed, but in the vast majority of cases, they seed themselves.  In any handful of soil, if you look at it under a microscope, you’ll find hundreds of weed seeds already waiting in the soil.  Maybe this parable points to our tendency to want to blame someone for the bad things that we perceive are happening to us.  One thing to keep in mind is that isn’t always about us, it often isn’t personal, when things that are inconvenient to us happen.  And it often isn’t evil.  Often it is someone else trying to get through life with the tools they have, we’re just growing so close together, we forget we’re part of a field.

                Weeds aren’t all bad!  We know this because the Kingdom of Heaven will be compared to one, the Mustard seed, in our Gospel reading for next week.  What is a weed that grows out of control and takes over, is also a tree sheltering many birds.  Maybe this parable can help us to see the shades of gray instead of everything being either good or bad, black or white.  Take the perspective of the weed for a moment!  In fact, Christians have a lot of weedy traits, since we try to follow Jesus.  Christianity has spread like weeds and grows in unlikely places, despite efforts to root it out.  Weeds are described in the book “Weeds: In Defense of Natures Most Unloved Plants” as “gregarious, adventurous, prolific and profane.” Doesn’t that sound like Christianity at its best?  The church is must be all those things, because Jesus was and is and the church is the body of Christ!

                I am glad that God says to wait and let the weeds grow and when the time comes the angels will do the sorting.  For one thing, I have been known to mix up a weed and a good plant, both in my garden and in life.  I think I have someone figured out and placed in a category and they surprise me.  This way, I don’t have to decide, because I am just growing here in this field with the rest of you and I can’t see very far from my vantage point.  This way I can just concentrate on being the best of whatever I am that I am.  If I am a wheat, stalk, may I bear much fruit and not take more than my share of nutrients and water and sun.  If I am a weed, remember I didn’t decide to be, this is who I am and I have been created good like the rest of you, and may I play my part providing homes for our friends the insects, breaking up the soil, and keeping things from getting too boring and homogenous around here.

                This milkweed plant will soon be planted.  What was rejected will be accepted and invited.  It will take root and grow and spread.  And it is my hope that through this once denied and betrayed plant, new life will come, transformation will come.  Maybe next spring butterflies will lay their eggs there, caterpillars will devour this plant, make cocoons, and be transformed into to something beautiful, that reminds us of the resurrection, and our own capacity for transformation.  The stone that the builders have rejected has become the cornerstone.  The plant that the gardeners have rejected has become the prized plant in the garden.  There is hope for weeds like us, that God can and will bring new life, and that worms will somehow soar, that people will be transformed, that we will grow together and let God do the sorting, that God will be merciful and bring eternal abundant life to all of Creation and once again declare us good.

Monday, July 17, 2017

July 16, 2017      


Gospel: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23                 
1st Reading: Isaiah 55:10-13
2nd Reading:  Romans 8:1-11

                While I was on vacation, my neighbor watered my garden.  I just noticed Thursday morning that I had 2 volunteer tomato plants growing in the bed devoted to kale, where I grew tomatoes last year.  One is almost 5 inches high and the other is just a little thing at about 3 inches.  Now I have a debate going on with myself about whether to pull them out or let them continue, even though they probably won’t have time before the weather cools down to make tomatoes or at least to make red tomatoes.  So many gardeners have such trouble “thinning” their plants.  We begin to have empathy for that little runt of a plant, that little tenacious, rebellious little tomato, smelling so good, looking so confident.  But if you leave everything in there, that’s not going to be good for the garden, either.  How many of you think I should pull them out?  Oh but that plant is so beautiful and full of life right now!  It worked so hard to get where it is!  How many of you think I should let it grow and give it a chance?  Oh, but what good is that to me and what good does it do that plant?  It will never produce fruit in time and it will take nutrients from my other plants.

                Last month at the Council meeting, in light of the tree donation, I asked the council members if they were a tree, what kind of tree would you be.  We got some pretty interesting answers!  Maybe some of you think that’s silly, but sometimes we separate ourselves so much from nature, that we forget that we are part of it.  We are God’s good creation, too, just as the trees are, and the frogs, and slugs, etc.  Apart from all of them, we wouldn’t exist.  Yes, there are some key differences between us and the other creatures.  We have a bigger brain, but I’m not sure if we could be considered smarter.  We have a lot of power.  The truth is, we are part of God’s good creation, not separate, and the whole of creation was made to work together.  And there is a lot we can learn from the rest of God’s creation.

                For instance, in Isaiah, rain and snow teach us about how God’s word is distributed.  The earth is watered by the rain and snow, and if you’re in Oregon, the drizzle, the downpour, the hail, and the liquid sunshine.  It evaporates into clouds that dump the rain or snow on the mountains, which then flows down streams, creeks, and rivers, to the sea. And along the way evaporating again to take the journey again.

                We can learn from this passage that just as rain is life-giving, so is God’s word.  Just as rain is distributed over the whole earth, so is God’s word.  God’s life-giving word brings peace and joy.  It isn’t meant to be pooled all in one place, but shared and cared for and passed along to the next living thing that is as much in need of it as we are. 

                In Isaiah, too, we learn to praise God as the rest of Creation does, by doing what each does best, what each was created to do.  The mountains and hills shall burst into song, and the trees will clap their hands!  These are clearly not Lutheran—too exuberant!  What holds us back from truly praising God and giving thanks with all our being?!  How did we get so self-conscious?

                We can learn from the plants in the Gospel reading, too.  Maybe they can help us understand why some people don’t receive God’s word and others do. But then we put ourselves in the place of God and start sorting people into categories, which doesn’t do us or them any good.

 More than that, this parable can challenge us to be good soil.  If we don’t understand, like the seed that fell on the path, do we sit passively by, or do we do something more to understand?  Do we do some personal devotions, or take part in a discussion group to help us understand?  Do we take some time to ponder difficult passages?  Do we take time in prayer for God to open our hearts to understand? 

                Are we like the seed that fell on the rocky ground?  Are we immediately excited and full of joy, but when the hard times come, do we become disillusioned and go away or give up?  Do we just blame the kind of soil we fell on and move on, or do we work on developing a thicker skin?  Do we practice going to someone who has hurt us and talking it out, or do we let it fester?  Do we find role-models in our faith community and learn from them, how they got such deep roots and learn what we can do to be steadfast and strong?

                Are we like the seed that fell among the thorns?  Do we let the lies of this world choke out our faith?  Do we value what the world values, thing like things, fancy things, shiny things, money?  Are we selfish?  Do we need to be important?  How can we change our values?  Can we set aside time for God?  Can we spend some time volunteering?  Can we do some random acts of kindness for someone in need in secret?  Can we do without that new thing and instead invest in some weed-whackers for those darned thorns?

                The reading from Romans doesn’t use any symbols from nature to teach us how to live, however Paul lets us know that something that sets us apart from the rest of nature is that we are not governed only by our instincts, but that we have responsibility, choices, free-will.  Maybe it is because we have a conscience, or because we have so much power and the choice of how to use it, and we know the consequences of our actions, how they impact everyone and everything around us.  Paul is saying we can live one of two ways.  We can live as a hostage to corruption, under the rule of sin, in the flesh, selfishly, hurting the rest of the community of Creation, or we can deny this death-dealing way, and live in the new reality God is handing us, live in the Spirit, under the rule of God, with a new set of priorities, a new focus on the whole, with the big picture in mind, sharing life in community and peace. 

                Sometimes all I see in myself are rocks, thorns, and hard compacted soil like that on the path!  There are so many ways to go wrong!  Sometimes it seems like life in the flesh is all I can focus on.  But there’s Good News!  Are you ready for it?  God’s word is going out in every direction.  It is full of life.  It is freely distributed! It is abundant! It is guaranteed to be fruitful!  It is a free gift of God’s grace!  Remember the passage from the Gospel of John, “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  That’s what Jesus did for us, he died and the seed is sprouting in the community and in the world, and we can learn from him, that it isn’t about us as individuals, but it is about us as the community of Creation in Jesus Christ.  We need each other for the thriving of abundant life.  Because of Jesus’ love for us, we have the free gift of God’s grace and a place in God’s family.  The Kingdom of God is near!

                Do you want to participate in it?  Then go ahead.  The seed is good, the soil is prepared, and God is the one who provides the sun and rain, all we need for growth.

                Whether you participate in it or not, it is happening!  God will produce a harvest, beyond any of our expectations or hopes.  With or without us, there will be joy and peace.  There will be thriving life, eternal life for all God’s creatures.  In fact, it is happening even now!  100 new trees are growing in our neighborhood because of God’s generosity!  9 kids know the story of Noah’s ark and are on the lookout for rainbows reminding them how much God loves them and all of Creation.  57 Families are enjoying meals they received at this location, with the help of 5 partner churches and many community members.  Through Metropolitan Alliance for Common Good, people from this church are telling our County Commissioners what we need to help the homeless in a zoning change that could allow tiny houses on some properties.  Who knows if they are going to listen to us, they might be rocky soil, they might be thorny soil, or the seed may lie for some time before sprouting, but it isn’t going to keep God from sewing the seed. 

                The point is, it is God’s work.  And God’s work is assured.  So let’s take our focus off our distractions and fears, and look around us at this beautiful world we live in.  Let’s praise God for it!  Let’s learn from it.  Let’s go out in joy and come back in peace.  Let’s be part of something that matters and lasts and is life-giving. 

                If I look at the whole of my garden, the big picture, I think the little tomato plant has got to go.  It will give its life so that others might have abundant life.  May the others take root and grow and produce fruit, and may we learn from the story of the sewer how to receive God’s grace and respond in joy.

July 2, 2017  


                      
Gospel: Matthew 10:40-42                          
1st Reading: Jeremiah 28:5-9       
2nd Reading: Romans 6:12-23

                Jesus tells us today that there is something simple we can do to help each other, something anyone can do, no matter how young or old they are, they can give a drink of water to someone.  Water is very important.  We can’t live without it, and neither can our pets or plants.  Water is something that we need.

                I wanted to talk to you about needs and wants, because sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between something we really, really want, and something we need.

                If I had a stick of celery and a piece of candy, which of those would you want to have?

                How about if I had a book or a video game?

                How about a glass of water or a glass of juice?

                How about if I had water in a small, plain cup, would you want that or one in a fancy cup with superheroes or sparkles on it?

                But what do we really need?

                Between the celery and the candy, what do you need?

                The book or video game?

                How about the water or the juice?

                And finally the water in the plain cup or the water in the fancy cup?
Sometimes we want what isn’t good for us and sometimes we need things we don’t want.  How can we know the difference so we know what we need to keep us healthy?

                Sometimes we learn by experience.  Like my sister.  One Easter morning she ate every bite of her Easter candy out of her basket.  What do you think happened?  Did she want that candy?  Did she need it?  So the next year she learned not to do that and the Easter bunny learned to bring some granola bars and applesauce along with the candy.

                How else do we know the difference between wants and needs?

                Sometimes people with more experience than we have try to help us tell the difference.  Did you ever hear your parents say, “You need to brush your teeth?”  They aren’t trying to make your life miserable, they are trying to tell you something helpful, so you don’t get cavities.

                As you grow up, you’ll learn to tell the difference.  You’ll learn the good that can come when you choose to meet your needs, so you’ll want to make choices that are good for you.  But no one has this completely mastered.

                Sometimes adults too need help telling the difference.  This hasn’t happened in a while, but some adults might wear a little too much cologne or perfume.  They sometimes forget that what they want might not be what they or others around them need. 

                And we’ve been talking about this regarding coffee hour.  People like to have lots of snacks.  But there are a lot of hungrier people on this earth that could use that food so much more than we do.  We don’t really need all that food.  However, when we have snacks, we tend to stay and visit longer which is a need!

                God wants our needs to be met, and for us to help each other to meet needs.  Needs are things like food, water, shelter, love.

                God wants us to stay away from the things that aren’t good for us or that we don’t need, so that we can be healthy and happy people who use our brains and get along with others in our community, and share with others in our community so they have enough.  If we concentrate on the needs, there will be enough for everyone. 

                One last question for all of you.  How about God’s love, is that a want or a need?  It is a need, and thankfully we are all in God’s family.  God loves each of us, even when we take more than we need or make choices, we always have another chance to try again.  And when we share because we have more than what we need, people in need find out they are also loved and we are all part of God’s family.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

June 18, 2017


Gospel: Matthew 9:35-10:23                      
1st Reading: Exodus 19:2-8a         
2nd Reading: Romans 5:1-8

                I remember standing there at my ordination and Bishop Swanson asking me all the questions: Would I faithfully preach and teach in accordance with the Holy Scriptures and the creeds and confessions, would I be diligent in my study of the Holy Scriptures and my use of the means of grace, would I pray for God’s people, nourish them with the word and Holy Sacraments, and lead them by my own example in faithful service and holy living, would I give faithful witness in the world, that God’s love may be made known in all I do?  I knew what all they were going to ask me, of course, and I was aware of those big expectations and that I was unlikely to be able to fulfill them, but I was also aware of God’s grace which gave me enough hope to answer, “Yes, with the help of God.”   In our baptisms, too, we state our intention to live among God’s faithful people, to read the scriptures and pray, to receive the Lord’s Supper, to proclaim Christ, to care for this world God has made, and to work for justice and peace in all the world.  It is a lot to take on for anyone, but over and over we say, “yes, with the help of God.”

                It reminded me of the Israelites this morning in the reading from Exodus, when they all say so naively, “Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.”  How could they possibly know what they were agreeing to?  They are just beginning a 40 year journey in the wilderness school of hardships and complaining and rebellion and fear and turning to false gods and new rules for living as a community and becoming the people of God and God becoming angry and Moses making a case for the people and God cooling off.  What a journey it would be, difficult and trying!  It is a lot to take on for anyone, but they all say, “Yes, with the help of God.”

                In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”  In other words, there is plenty of work to be done, but few people are stepping up to do it.  I always feel guilty when I read this.  Is Jesus saying I’m slacking off?  Let me put it this way, how many of you would like to be more faithful?  Ok, so what is holding us back? Why don’t we want to go into the fields with Jesus? 

                Whenever I sing “I love to tell the story” I want to confess, I feel uneasy.  It is a beautiful song, but it expresses an ideal that is often far away from the reality we are living in. When I was a kid, I would stand in church and listen to all the adults around me singing it and feel the disconnect between the words and the reality.  Besides my Sunday School teachers, in the classroom, and my pastor in church, I didn’t hear anyone telling the story of Jesus and his love, and I certainly didn’t know anyone who “loved” to tell the story. When I pictured what this would look like, I pictured the kid who always brought his Bible to school and everyone made fun of him.  I didn’t want to be that kid.  I didn’t want to be foolish.  It was an aspirational hymn we sang, and to my mind we didn’t mean it one bit.  It was like we were asking God to make us love to tell the story, or that maybe we loved to tell the story to other people who loved it as much as we did, but that was it.  When I think of the affirmation, the “Yes” in that song to follow where Jesus leads, I think of how far we are away from that ideal, and it makes me squirm. 

                It is true that many of us are doing God’s work every single day, in small and large ways.  And it is true that Jesus’ story isn’t necessarily one we tell by going door to door or yelling it through a megaphone at a street corner, that we can tell the story sometimes a lot better by living it, by loving people who no one loves.  And it is also true that we could be more responsive to God’s invitation to go work in the field side by side with our Savior.  So what is it that hold us back?

                I think a lot of it is that we don’t want to be unprepared and look foolish.   The Disciples were instructed to go out without money or extra clothes or much training.  They are going to have to ask for help.  If we are Jesus’ disciples, we are going to have to ask for help.  We are going to look like we don’t know what we are doing.  We are going to make mistakes.  We want to get this right.  But God is trying to keep us humble, so we will fail.  And God is trying to keep us creative, so we will fail and have think creatively.  Sometimes we think it is our job to save others, and we forget that only God can do that.  We often bring supplies and gifts, we bring the know-how and the labor, and we try to do for others.  In that case, we put people in a situation where we are the haves and they are the have-nots and we are better than they are.  However, if we go in with nothing, having nothing and knowing nothing, we leave room for them to be the experts about their own lives.  We open ourselves to receiving from others, needing them as much as they need us, so we will be more likely to form community of equal partners with balanced power.

                Several people have mentioned to me that they keep meaning to visit homebound members, but it never seems to happen.  I understand.  It is complicated.  Should you call first and then go or just show up?  How many days ahead should you call?  What if you have to cancel the day of?  How difficult will it be to find the location?  Will you have enough to talk about?  What if the person expresses dismay that you haven’t come until now?  What if uncomfortable topics arise?  What if the person just talks and talks and you have trouble getting out of there?  Should you pray with the person?  And then there are feelings of powerlessness to help a person who isn’t going to get any better.  There are so many unknowns in a visit like this.  None of us is an expert.  We go in feeling guilty and afraid, even I do!  Sometimes our fears keep us from going out to the harvest. But in that moment of connection, we find healing and forgiveness and acceptance and joy and that person finds the same and we are equals, partners in this chaotic wilderness journey.  And in those visits, we find Jesus is with us.

                God brought the Israelite people through the wilderness so they would practice being God’s people, and being community together with each other.  It was a learning experience in which they often looked and felt foolish.  It took all these years of walking together to learn how to rely on God and how to treat each other.  We are in a wilderness school too.  God is bringing us new experiences that disorient us and make us feel foolish, not to make fun of us, but to remind us who we rely on and belong to, who is with us always gathering the harvest with us, and that it isn’t about us but about the body of Christ, the whole community finding healing and wholeness and connection.

                And it is about what brings us hope and keeps us going, what motivates us to respond to God’s call to join in the work.  Do we hope in our own powers?  If so we are disappointed.  I got curious about the reading from Romans so I looked up the original language. I specifically wanted to know what it meant by “character.”  But it got me looking at the whole passage.  First of all, the reading from Romans says we are justified by faith, and the question is whether it is our faith that justifies us and makes us right with God, or whether it is Jesus’ faith.  Secondly, the word “boast” is actually the word meaning to rejoice.  So we rejoice in our sufferings, we rejoice in our hope of sharing the good news.  And the comes the part, “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character and character produces hope and hope does not disappoint us.”  It is actually more like this, “suffering produces patience, and patience produces experience, and experience produces expectation.”  In other words it is only through life experience that we learn who to trust and where to put our hope, because we keep practicing in the wilderness school of life, that stuff doesn’t fulfill us, that we need to take care of each other, and that God comes through for us, the only reliable one, the only one who fulfills the expectations—again, whose expectations?  Ours or Gods?  Expectation is more than hope, more than a dream, but a promised reality, assured, expected.

                This world is full of suffering.  We have the means to keep ourselves from suffering.  We have the means to be comfortable, or at least keep up the illusion of comfort.  But God invites us to join the harvest.  We are invited to go where there is suffering, to experience suffering ourselves, in order to find abundant life.  The harvest is plentiful.  There is a lot of work to do.  Mothers need comforting whose sons have been shot by the police.  Drug babies need rocked at the hospital.  Veterans who have lost limbs need a friend.  Teens who have cut themselves need support networks.  The homebound need visitors.  Will we go where we are uncomfortable?   If we do, we will be enrolling in wilderness school. We will find that we are powerless to fix them, but they will minister to us.  We will have the chance to work side by side and learn from the best, our Savior Jesus.  We will look foolish.  We won’t know what we’re doing or be prepared.  Jesus calls us to serve where we aren’t the experts.  Jesus doesn’t want experts who already know everything, know-it-alls that aren’t trainable.  Jesus wants people who are open to learning and receiving help.  What we’re going to get out of this is going to be good for us and others.  We’re going to get a healthy dose of humility.  We’re going to become part of something greater than ourselves.  Jesus is going to use us to bring in the Kingdom.

 It’s all hands on deck!  Let’s get moving.  Jesus is calling us to day one of the harvest.  By the time the day is through we’re going to be pretty worn out and by the time 40 years is through we’re going to wonder if it will all be worthwhile, but we’ve got the best teacher there is, and we’ve got the expectation, the promise of what will be.  None of us will be greater than another, but all will have what they need and all will be included, and all will know they are loved, all will stand in God’s presence and all will see God’s presence in each other, and all will feast and be filled, and all will find fulfillment.  The promised land awaits if we will embark on this journey and be taught in the

June 11, 2017    


Gospel: Matthew 28:16-20          
1st Reading: Genesis 1:1-2:4a      
2nd Reading: 2 Corinthians 13:11-13

                As we’re going through my grandma’s things, my mom found a diary of hers from when she was about 9 years old.  She writes about her mama letting her roller skate on the porch and going to visit relatives in Iowa for the summer.  Precious stuff! It is a little glimpse into how she saw the world and what was important to her.  It is interesting to think of life in the 1930s and 40s.  And it is interesting to think of what experiences made her who she is, she who shaped who we are.

                The reading from Genesis is a little like the diary of God.  It tells us what is important to God and some of God’s activities.  It tells a little about how God sees the world and how God sees us, God with whom it all began and who continually shapes us.  On Trinity Sunday we attempt to explain and understand some glimpse of who God is, what matters to God, where we came from, who we are, and what is our purpose.  On Trinity Sunday we stand in the mystery of who God is and who we are.

                The word Trinity is found nowhere in the Bible, but it is a way of making sense of the complexity and relationality of God.  The Israelites had something unique in the ancient world, and that is monotheism, belief in one God.  No more appeasing multiple gods, trying to keep up with sacrifices and offerings, trying not to make one jealous by paying too much attention to another, trying to guess which might be the one who could help.  So here comes a religion with one God.  One God made everything.  One God has one intention for us all.  One God is God of both darkness and light, looks after people and animals and the cosmos, is all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-powerful.  And as the story of God unfolds, we find that this one God can be viewed as three persons of one being, having three modes, that we know of. 

                I’ve struggled with how to teach this to my child.  Jesus is God.  Jesus is God’s son.  And it gets so confusing in the Bible when Jesus prays to God.  Is he praying to himself?  How do these two persons of the Trinity communicate with one another?  Don’t they already know what each other is thinking?  Are the prayers for the sake of us all who are overhearing them?  If they appear in different modes, do they each take on limits?  I say, that as a whole God is all-powerful, which means having the choice of whether to use those powers or not.  This is already beyond what a kid can begin to understand and we adults are right there, unable to grasp the concept of the Trinity. 

                We’ve got God the Creator, an artist in no hurry at all, painting and sculpting the heavens and the earth, speaking life into being, interrelationships and interdependence, redundancy rather than efficiency, covering the jobs that nature does several times over.  We’ve got God the Son, the word that was in the beginning, moving over the waters, made flesh in Jesus, who lived God’s love on earth, who died and rose again and makes us part of God’s family.  We’ve got the Holy Spirit, Sophia wisdom, the breath of God, the Advocate, who we have with us when Jesus returns to God the creator.

                So what does God’s diary tell us about who God is and who we are?

                God made all things good.  Sometimes it is easy to forget, because we get so caught up in the idea of sin and all the wrong we do, that God made us good  and very good.  The good is in relationship to all the other parts, accepting responsibility and limits, and interrelatedness.  God mentions so many times the goodness of creation, and when humans are created, there is no special pronouncement, but only when the whole of creation is considered, God declares the whole of it very good.

                God made us in God’s image and likeness.  We don’t know if this is a likeness and appearance or in creativity or in responsibility or in tenderness, or all of the above, or something else entirely.  But what an honor and responsibility to resemble God in some way!  When we see ourselves, we must contemplate who God is and what the resemblance must be.

                God made us to rest. Only the sabbath, the day of rest, is called holy in this Genesis story.  There is something very important here. If God needed to rest, certainly, we do, too.  We are not meant to wear ourselves out by constant movement, but we have the invitation to care for ourselves and each other and this earth, to ponder God’s world, God’s creation, to breathe, to listen and pray and sing, to see how God sees as God rests.

                God makes all things new.  Not only did God create the world anew long ago, but every day, there is newness.  There is no day when we can predict what will happen.  There is no day when we are the same as we were the day before.  Every day is a new beginning, created anew by God.  We can picture God once again speaking over the waters and finding some order in the chaos and sending light and plants and animals and forming us, giving us another chance to be the people God created us to be.

                The reading from second Corinthians is a kind of diary of God’s people as the church was forming.  It was a statement about what is most important, that community matters, that we shouldn’t squabble about things that don’t matter, that we should put others first, that we need each other.  It is another beginning, God making the world anew, creating us again into the body of Christ.  It was a reminder that being powerful wouldn’t look exactly like people thought it would, that it would mean giving up power.  It was a reminder that it would not be traditional strength, by might, that accomplished all that God had in mind, it was the strength of love, of relationship and connection with God and creation.

                And finally, we come across the diary of the disciples.  The women at the tomb tell the other disciples to meet Jesus at the mountain of the transfiguration.  When it seemed like it would be the end, it was another new beginning.  When they got there Jesus told them to make disciples of all nations.  This message of Jesus and his love was not for a few any more.  Now the apprentices of Jesus are charged with going out to all the earth, baptizing, washing, including, bringing new life to all nations, every person invited to love and community, revealing to each one their part in the story. 

Jesus says to them, “I will be with you always to the end of the age.”  In other words, as we are become Christ’s body in the world, we are not alone, but God goes with us giving us strength and love to share with all.  Even in death, Jesus is with us, raising us to eternal life and making us new again.

We can’t understand the mind of God.  We can’t understand the Trinity, just like I will never understand all the experiences and gifts and complexity of what made my Grandma who she is.  I can catch glimpses and I can let go of what I don’t know and I can feel her love for me and for many.  Multiply this experience too many times to consider and we can start to realize just how much we don’t know with God.  But when we let go of needing to understand and let ourselves ponder the memories we have , maybe we can embrace the mystery.  When we look around us at this earth God created, we can feel close to God, even if we can’t understand God in all God’s complexity.

The Bible is less of a diary than it is the writings of a group of people trying to understand themselves and their place in the world.  We are the all nations that Jesus was telling the Disciples to go to.  And we become the disciples going out to all nations to do what Jesus did, to love, because God is love.  We could do much worse than to love what and who God loves.  We know God will be present in our love.  We were made by God.  We were made by love.  And we were made for love, for relationship and compassion and interdependence on each other, on God, on creation.  And the scriptures offer a vision that where we are going is very similar to where we came from, a vision in which we live closely with our Creator and fellow creatures in unity and love.  There are many ways we can know God better.  We can read the scriptures.  We can look for clues about God around us.  By far the best way is to receive and give love, the way God does as God creates and recreates us, the way Jesus did as he makes us into his beloved family, and the way the Holy Spirit does as she empowers and equips us for relationship and connection with each other and with God. God is love.  We are love.  All is love. Amen.