Saturday, June 14, 2014

trinity sunday 2014



I wonder how exciting it was to be among the disciples whom Jesus gave the commission to go and tell the story of the Gospel to the whole world. My guess is that you could not be in that group and not be at least a little fired up and ready to go out and make a difference in the world.
Of course, we rationalize, they had Jesus standing right there – if Jesus was standing right here we might find ourselves a little more enthusiastic about getting on with the job of sharing the story.  But here we are, back at Trinity Sunday, the week when the sermon is bound to contain examples of things which are three, but which can be seen as a unity, which kind of explain a complicated doctrine, but not really.
Trinity Sunday is often a bit of a let down. As a preacher I have done my fair share of trying to find satisfactory illustrations of the Trinity but there is always a hole there, always something of the mystery which cannot be expressed by physical objects. God in three persons, one. One substance but three. Coequal, coeternal…you get the point. This is the Sunday when we get to use the big words and yet often fail to deal with the reality of a God who is engaged and exciting.
Trinity Sunday is a sort of homecoming. We celebrate the unity and diversity of God in white, the color we use for all festivals but then we turn and begin ordinary time. The Trinity is the beginning of our ordinary, of our every day, of who we are as Church. The liturgical color changes to green. Not some sort of drudgey color but the color of new life and growth. The color of days surrounded by sunlight and happiness. This is our ordinary.
Our ordinary is rejoicing in a God who lives in community, who dwells in unity and invites us along in an eternal dance of light and love. Our ordinary is to be so in love with, so caught up in the story of Jesus that it just spills out of us, because there is nowhere else it can go. That is, I imagine, what those first disciples experience. Something which took all of them, something which became all of them, something which filled them in a way in which they have never been filled before.
Last week I spoke about the unpredictable Holy Spirit – the beautiful but sometimes roaring Spirit of God which inhabited those first disciples. Too often we forget that, our green goes from vibrant life to a dull memory of a celebration long forgotten.
Of course, life is not always easy, we have real problems, we have things we do not agree on –but then where do we turn. Do we imagine we live in a shadowy world of religious irrelevance or do we begin to believe that this story which we carry does more to unite us, more to make real a dancing lively Trinity than we could ever believe.
We have lost so much confidence in  the power of God in Trinity – that God is anything real at all or makes a difference. The Church, churches, individuals are all so caught up in our own stories that we forget to engage, be changed by and be empowered by the story which Jesus sends us to tell.
Of course, the great story of the Gospel must intertwine with human lives, of course it must be lived and not just spoken – but how many of us have real confidence in the power of the Gospel to transform, how many of us can seize the Good News as something which we can carry with us and which will change lives.
Too often we are caught in denominational politics and apology. Well, we think, we cannot tell so and so because they might not like the Church. Either we think that will devastate us, to have someone we care about not care about the things we do, or actively reject them. Or worse, we think to ourselves that there are a lot of things about our church which we do not like and so how can we sell that to others? We become embarrassed, not only because to follow through with the Gospel in our own lives is deeply radical but also because the place where we express faith is not something which we would want to share for fear of rejection or, actually, putting someone off the faith.
If this is the case, if any of this is the case, then we are failing miserably. We are failing to take up the great commission to  take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Now, I know all too well that one size does not fit all but what are we doing to provide a variety of styles and offerings in our churches to which we can genuinely invite people. How often do we ask these two questions – first; who would I like to invite to come to Church, and secondly; what needs to be here to help them make that first step into Christian community.
There is a more radical question to ask and that is do we invite people to Church as a first step of faith at all. Do we expect someone with little formal faith background to walk into an Episcopal Church and make sense of it.  What is there here in our worship which speaks of anything beyond ourselves, that untouchable presence, that excitement of God in Trinity? What is it that tells those who we invite in that this is a place of excitement, of  heaven touching earth? That these, we, are people who are deeply engaged with the story?
We are building kingdom, but are we sure we are building God’s Kingdom and not something else which is more “us” shaped. What does God’s kingdom here on earth even look like? What does Jesus actually say and do? How do we live as those whose ordinary is completely extraordinary?
Sometimes we come to this table broken and barely holding on – but most of the time we are challenged not just to receive comfort but to be sent in to the world as those who have been changed by this pause in time. This moment where into creation, God enters and makes real to us His presence in Bread and Wine. What difference does that make? Do we just feel a bit better for a few minutes before the world swallows us up again or is there something else, some energy, some renewing and redirection of our stories, and our stories in Christ?
I would challenge all of us to go from this Trinity Sunday with a renewed sense of the importance of our task. This is not something to do when we have more time, of when  the kids are older, or when we have done this and  that. This is something which we are called to today and every day – to make sense of the story of Jesus Christ in our own lives and to notice that story being played out, often without the words of faith, in the world around us.
This is our story and this must be a song, a song which fills us and lets us dance with the God of Trinity. Supremely lovely, filled with Grace and with the confidence and presence of the Holy Spirit.
I bind unto myself today, the strong name of the Trinity. Christ be with me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ within me,  Christ  above me, Christ beneath me, Christ in friend and Christ in stranger. Let that be real in you, let that be compelling and in the name of Christ go forth Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that He has commanded you. Amen.

trinity sunday 2014



I wonder how exciting it was to be among the disciples whom Jesus gave the commission to go and tell the story of the Gospel to the whole world. My guess is that you could not be in that group and not be at least a little fired up and ready to go out and make a difference in the world.
Of course, we rationalize, they had Jesus standing right there – if Jesus was standing right here we might find ourselves a little more enthusiastic about getting on with the job of sharing the story.  But here we are, back at Trinity Sunday, the week when the sermon is bound to contain examples of things which are three, but which can be seen as a unity, which kind of explain a complicated doctrine, but not really.
Trinity Sunday is often a bit of a let down. As a preacher I have done my fair share of trying to find satisfactory illustrations of the Trinity but there is always a hole there, always something of the mystery which cannot be expressed by physical objects. God in three persons, one. One substance but three. Coequal, coeternal…you get the point. This is the Sunday when we get to use the big words and yet often fail to deal with the reality of a God who is engaged and exciting.
Trinity Sunday is a sort of homecoming. We celebrate the unity and diversity of God in white, the color we use for all festivals but then we turn and begin ordinary time. The Trinity is the beginning of our ordinary, of our every day, of who we are as Church. The liturgical color changes to green. Not some sort of drudgey color but the color of new life and growth. The color of days surrounded by sunlight and happiness. This is our ordinary.
Our ordinary is rejoicing in a God who lives in community, who dwells in unity and invites us along in an eternal dance of light and love. Our ordinary is to be so in love with, so caught up in the story of Jesus that it just spills out of us, because there is nowhere else it can go. That is, I imagine, what those first disciples experience. Something which took all of them, something which became all of them, something which filled them in a way in which they have never been filled before.
Last week I spoke about the unpredictable Holy Spirit – the beautiful but sometimes roaring Spirit of God which inhabited those first disciples. Too often we forget that, our green goes from vibrant life to a dull memory of a celebration long forgotten.
Of course, life is not always easy, we have real problems, we have things we do not agree on –but then where do we turn. Do we imagine we live in a shadowy world of religious irrelevance or do we begin to believe that this story which we carry does more to unite us, more to make real a dancing lively Trinity than we could ever believe.
We have lost so much confidence in  the power of God in Trinity – that God is anything real at all or makes a difference. The Church, churches, individuals are all so caught up in our own stories that we forget to engage, be changed by and be empowered by the story which Jesus sends us to tell.
Of course, the great story of the Gospel must intertwine with human lives, of course it must be lived and not just spoken – but how many of us have real confidence in the power of the Gospel to transform, how many of us can seize the Good News as something which we can carry with us and which will change lives.
Too often we are caught in denominational politics and apology. Well, we think, we cannot tell so and so because they might not like the Church. Either we think that will devastate us, to have someone we care about not care about the things we do, or actively reject them. Or worse, we think to ourselves that there are a lot of things about our church which we do not like and so how can we sell that to others? We become embarrassed, not only because to follow through with the Gospel in our own lives is deeply radical but also because the place where we express faith is not something which we would want to share for fear of rejection or, actually, putting someone off the faith.
If this is the case, if any of this is the case, then we are failing miserably. We are failing to take up the great commission to  take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Now, I know all too well that one size does not fit all but what are we doing to provide a variety of styles and offerings in our churches to which we can genuinely invite people. How often do we ask these two questions – first; who would I like to invite to come to Church, and secondly; what needs to be here to help them make that first step into Christian community.
There is a more radical question to ask and that is do we invite people to Church as a first step of faith at all. Do we expect someone with little formal faith background to walk into an Episcopal Church and make sense of it.  What is there here in our worship which speaks of anything beyond ourselves, that untouchable presence, that excitement of God in Trinity? What is it that tells those who we invite in that this is a place of excitement, of  heaven touching earth? That these, we, are people who are deeply engaged with the story?
We are building kingdom, but are we sure we are building God’s Kingdom and not something else which is more “us” shaped. What does God’s kingdom here on earth even look like? What does Jesus actually say and do? How do we live as those whose ordinary is completely extraordinary?
Sometimes we come to this table broken and barely holding on – but most of the time we are challenged not just to receive comfort but to be sent in to the world as those who have been changed by this pause in time. This moment where into creation, God enters and makes real to us His presence in Bread and Wine. What difference does that make? Do we just feel a bit better for a few minutes before the world swallows us up again or is there something else, some energy, some renewing and redirection of our stories, and our stories in Christ?
I would challenge all of us to go from this Trinity Sunday with a renewed sense of the importance of our task. This is not something to do when we have more time, of when  the kids are older, or when we have done this and  that. This is something which we are called to today and every day – to make sense of the story of Jesus Christ in our own lives and to notice that story being played out, often without the words of faith, in the world around us.
This is our story and this must be a song, a song which fills us and lets us dance with the God of Trinity. Supremely lovely, filled with Grace and with the confidence and presence of the Holy Spirit.
I bind unto myself today, the strong name of the Trinity. Christ be with me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ within me,  Christ  above me, Christ beneath me, Christ in friend and Christ in stranger. Let that be real in you, let that be compelling and in the name of Christ go forth Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that He has commanded you. Amen.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Easter 3 Sermon



We are going back a little bit, chronologically, to the evening of the Resurrection. Remember how we left those disciples heart broken and lost on Good Friday, too numb from events even to imagine what might be next .Well that is how we pick up these travelers in this story. They are walking the road to Emmaus, a town a few miles from Jerusalem and we can imagine them slumping along, their hearts in their shoes. Perhaps they have now drawn breath, perhaps they are beginning to think where next, but probably not, they are probably still letting the news soak in. Jesus is dead.
It is hard for us to imagine in these days of mass communication, how slowly news might spread. How, if these men had left early that day, they might simply have missed the news. There were no tweets, no Instagram pictures of the empty tomb, no blogger reflections upon the truth of the matter. So there was no way in which these men were expecting Jesus to show up. Even though Jesus had given clear clues that he would be back, the experience of the reality of the resurrection was moment to moment.
When Jesus meets these disciples they are at their lowest ebb, they are feeling vulnerable and broken but it is in the moment when Jesus breaks bread that they see him for who he is – in that moment of recollection of his own suffering – this is my body, he had told them – that they recognize him.
For us too, this breaking of bread is a moment of recognition, a moment of gathering, a moment of presence. I remember at my confirmation classes I was taught to make the sign of the cross before receiving communion – the priest taking the class said, if nothing else, it was a final act of  pulling yourself together before receiving the sacrament. Whilst I don’t want to analyse that too closely there is something in the wisdom of repeated words and action which we learn and which become markers in our life for the presence of Christ – markers which at times of difficulty and doubt, can carry us through with action and words – even when those actions and words do not resonate as they once did.
I wonder though what we think when we leave church on a Sunday. Perhaps – well that is that for another week – time to get back to real life, perhaps we wonder how we can better integrate Sunday morning and Monday morning – or perhaps we leave with our eyes open to our next encounter with Christ – the next moment of recognition.
Do we look at the people around us day by day and see Christ in them, do we recognize them as fellow travelers. Perhaps we find that relatively easy with people we get on with, people we agree with – but what about those who we cannot make sense if, those who stand out from the norm, those who we find a bit too different or even frightening – how do we see Christ in them – how do we come to a moment of recognition in the brokenness of lives which we would rather see as somewhat outside our realm of experience.
And then there are those situations where we recognize Christ – those moments where we are fully aware of God’s grace and hope. Those moments of kindness and revelation and wonder which at least make us sit up straight and sometimes take our breath away completely. But there is also that slower sort of revelation, those times when we look back and recollect, especially when we are remembering difficult points in our lives, then we recognize a quieter savior, sitting amongst the broken pieces of our lives with us.
I was talking to another group this week about Brene Brown. She has written a lot about vulnerability- in fact she is a researcher and vulnerability sort of sneaked up on her as a surprise result of her research into what she calls whole-hearted living. When she talks about her return to Church she talks about the mid-life crisis manual she read which told her she needed to go back to church, she went expecting an epidural which would swaddle her and numb the pain she was feeling as her research led her towards vulnerability as something important to hold onto, and live through, rather than as something to be avoided at all costs.
She found that the Church, and I would say God working in the Church, was not an anesthetic against life but a midwife working to birth life. That on all the messiness and pain and brokenness which she was feeling there was new life waiting to break forth. But only in the brokenness of vulnerability was this possible, and only in knowing that God sits in the mess with us is true vulnerability possible.
Is this one of the lessons which this story teaches us? The in the moment of brokenness we recognize Jesus – this certainly is something which the disciples experienced.
So what is this breaking of bread – is it simply a moment in Church or is it something which transcends this moment and informs the rest of our lives. In breaking bread we share and feed but we also remember the action of Christ in ultimate vulnerability on the cross. This moment of breaking holds the power of the resurrection but must also fill us with the compassion of Christ and give eyes which recognize Christ time and again in the world around us.
When we leave the altar, we thank God for this gift, when we leave Church we are sent into the world – not to wait for our next chance to get to Church but to go in love and peace to serve the world – to make sense of the moments of brokenness and to see Christ in them.
We do not get to give simplistic answers, we do not get to keep our hands clean and we often skin our knees because that is what brokenness calls for. Walking into those places we can often feel, as the disciples felt, lonely and abandoned, and yet we find Christ has been walking with us all along, explaining things, making sense and things become clear – if only for a moment.
Resurrection is an event but it is also an experience of every day living. We proclaim resurrection and resurrection comes through the suffering of the cross, comes at cost, comes with joy and needs proclaiming. But like Jesus we come alongside those who He has already loved and we do so looking expectantly for the moments of recognition.
But they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over." So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?"
Lord Jesus give us hearts which burn for you all week long, that through your cross, we may truly live in your resurrection.