Saturday, June 10, 2017

Year A, Trinity Sunday, Genesis 1, Matthew 28.16-20

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen
This is the thing in our world today.
It’s not so much that people don’t believe in God anymore, it’s that they don’t believe in the Church.
And though it is possible to believe in God, apart from believing in the Church, the truth is that we cannot learn and experience either love or forgiveness by looking in the mirror.
We need each other for that.
And apart from the experience of love and forgiveness there is no experience of God, for God’s very nature is tied up in those two things.
Today is Trinity Sunday, a day set aside to specifically talk of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
How God can be, at one and the same time, One God yet three persons is the mystery of the Trinity.
Our brothers and sisters in the Jewish and Muslim faiths would say he isn’t.  God is One.  Period.  Not three in One.
We have tried to explain our belief that Jesus could be distinct from the Father, and yet of one Being with the Father, and that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the  Son.
Yet in the end, it remains a mystery.
Except this.
Community is central to our understanding of who God is, and who we are called to be.
One cannot talk of God in God’s fullness, without talking about the relationships that are the very essence of God’s being. 
The relationship of the Father to the Son. 
The relationship of the Father and the Spirit.
The relationship of the Spirit and the Son.
And that being so related, they are One.
Not only that, but we are called into relationship with God.
In the beginning,
God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them—
That is, to be created in the image of God, is to be created in relationship with both God and each other. 
Later, God would declare "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner."
Jesus prayed in John 17:
that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, . . .
Let me put it a different way:
God had to create us, because it is God’s nature to love, and hence God had to have someone to love.
God also created us ‘in his image’, which means that he had to create us in the context of the human community that WE might have someone to love.
And that through being loved, and loving, we experience not only human life as it was meant to be from the beginning, but we become One with the Father who created us.
Is it all crystal clear, now?
But why the Church?
As I said at the beginning, the biggest challenge facing believers today is not believing in God, but believing in the Church.
The problem is that though the Church was intended to be a loving community that reflected in every way God’s love for us, it often has not been that.
I have been priviledged to be part of the Church from my youth.
My Father was a pastor.
And from a very early age, I imagined myself becoming a pastor as well.  And for the last 29 years that is what I have been.
I used to sit on the bench of the organ during services while Virginia Deussenberry played the hymns.
I was an acolyte, lighting the candles every Sunday for years on end.
My childhood was lived out in the context of this community of faith we call the Church.
I met Karla at Lutherwood Bible Camp where we were both serving as counselors.
Our married life was shaped profoundly by our participating in  Agnus Dei Lutheran Church in Gig Harbor, WA.
Our children were nurtured not only in our own home, but within the context of the Church.
And when asked, one of my children responded that the Church is for them, the place where they have been loved and cared for.
If the Church is all that then why doesn’t everyone want to be part of the Church?
The problem is that the Church has often fallen short of being a loving and caring place.
Personally, I am amazed at times that I remain part of the Church.
There have been times when my experience of the Church has left me shattered and broken.
Rather than being that loving place where grace abounded, there were times when the Church was downright cruel and vicious.
I have experienced betrayal, and anger, and meanness.
More than once, my experience of the Church has left me struggling with depression and wondering if I even had the will to live anymore.
And yet, even in the most difficult of those circumstances, often at the very moments that I wondered if I could go on, grace has abounded.
I have experienced God’s loving presence most profoundly, often when the Church failed me the most.
What I have learned over the years is that if you want to experience love, you must learn forgiveness.
There are so many things that can divide us that we must be able to forgive, and be forgiven, in order that love can prevail.
This is true of our relationship with God.
It is true of our relationship with one another.
And it is certainly true with respect to the Church.
Here is a mystery.
That just at that moment that the Church seems to be failing miserably in its attempts to love, God chooses to teach us about forgiveness.  And as we experience forgiveness, both given and received, we discover the depth of love.
In my own relationship with my wife, I have learned more about loving and being loved from those moments where forgiveness was required, than from those moments of blissful harmony.
And there have been both.
So it is with the Church.
Why should we, as Christians, be part of the Church?
Why should we devote so much time and energy to this little community?
Because here, like no other place, you will learn to love and be loved.
And here, like no other place, you will both be forgiven and learn to forgive.
Two things.  Love.  And forgiveness.
As we experience those two things, we come face to face with God.
As Jesus hung from the cross he cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!”
Have you ever considered these words, and realized that in the end, Jesus needed to forgive the Father?  Even within the context of the Holy Trinity and the unity of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, forgiveness was required in order that love might be found.
The biggest disappointment to me with the Church is how often we have been unwilling to love and forgive.  People have chosen division instead.  Sometimes leaving one congregation for another, sometimes leaving the Church itself.
Should I too, get fed up and leave?  Or perhaps it’s at moments like this, that I am called all the more to love and forgive as I have been loved and forgiven. 
As we do that, we will experience God.
May this peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.


No comments:

Post a Comment