Sent by God
Isaiah 6:1-8; Romans 8:12-17
Today is celebrated as Trinity Sunday in the Revised Common Lectionary. The mystery surrounding the doctrine of the Trinity is so resistant to modern thinking, that it deserves a chance for the faith communities and their resident theologian, to talk about - at least once a year.
In fact, I have been setting up this day for a month. Last week, on Pentecost, we recognized the role and power of the Holy Spirit to propel the continual motion of the divine presence, powered by love and the desire for relationship. Have you heard? It is all about the relationship.
On Mother’s Day, we turned our attention to the dynamic nature of love, and celebrated all of the ways we can nurture and support one another. We recognized the deep need for the personal act of forgiveness, with or without the antagonist’s repentance, to create the foundation for family and community, and also preserve our own spiritual health. We envisioned the person of God as the New Fire Triangle. Eliminate any part of God, and there is no God.
Even on May 6, we commented on how the Holy Spirit is a palpable presence in the General Synod of the United Church of Christ. It is this spirit of the living God, that lifts the gathered community of church folks, and inspires them to new heights of care and compassion. Emboldened by the Spirit, the Synod invariably reviews resolutions with an intentional bias towards compassion and connection, in contrast with the apparent values of the culture. It is, all about the relationship.
In Genesis it says that we are made in the image of God. I typically reduce that to having the capacity to love and be loved. I default to relationship on a routine basis. But on Trinity Sunday, what would it mean to be made in the image of the Triune God? It might mean that we are defined by the most prominent and significant relationships in our life, at any time in our life.
I was once a child. My life was defined as a son, and a brother. We were active in the church, even attending the Catholic Grade School. In that time, I was an individual, a family member, and a part of the faith community.
Today, I am a husband and father. And I serve this church as pastor and teacher. I see this role in Morton CUCC as a particular extension of my membership in the wider church. I have been a part of other churches before, and God willing, improved by what I have learned and shared here, I may touch more hearts down the road.
Your own life has been marked by the roles you play. When the children are small, they require gobs and gobs of energy and attention. Depending on how your particular family is composed, and the way roles and duties are interpreted, there are untold numbers of possible ways to live that life.
When our kids were small, Martha and I took turns serving on a church Board or committee. My work schedule was hectic and included tons and tons of overtime. So between us we would meet whatever commitments we made. If Martha promised to wash dishes and one of the kids was sick and had to have momma, Chuck washed church dishes. If Chuck promised to sing at a Funeral, Martha got a cold and sent Chuck.
I am drifting from the point. We are always in multiple relationships. Who we are as a person, lives and grows within the shifting swirl of what we believe, and how those beliefs are expressed in what we say and do. We are influenced and grow within the context of relationships. We intentionally seek out a particular faith community because of the way the people and experiences of the church feed the kind of growth we want for ourselves and our families.
The letter of Paul to the Romans contains a treasure chest of theological nuggets. The segment that we have pulled out for today leans heavily on the shorthand Paul uses to separate our most honorable intentions as “spiritual” and our more base desires as, “of the flesh.”
When the Tuesday morning Bible Study worked on several of Paul’s letters, we noted his frequent use of this analogy, and also the limitations it has. Today though, he makes it clear that we are in “the body of Christ” and that is clearly a good thing. We suffer with the Christ, so that we may rise again and share in Christ’s glory.
If the suffering Christ is a full and active part of the divine Trinity, then as we are made in the image of God, our own suffering, and especially the suffering made for love, brings us ever closer to the heart of God. The things we do for love make us an insider, within the whirlwind that is the Trinity. This is where the life lived well becomes sanctified. Not only in beliefs, not only in words, but in the passion of living everyday.
In the passage from Isaiah, the prophet has a vision. It is a life changing moment. The man is moved through a transformation, not dissimilar to the way the disciples were transformed on the first Pentecost; changed from frightened, timid souls to bold, public representatives of the living God.
In the classic call story of the prophet and poet Isaiah, we hear the human register the inadequacy he feels, standing in the presence of the living God. He has a vision of God, seated on the throne, and he is immediately frightened and ashamed that he is not worthy to be in that place.
Angels with coals from the heavenly altar purge the history of bad words from his lips. I admit, there are time when foul language escapes my lips, and wonder if an angel with hot tongs is lurking around the next corner. Only a God with a sense of humor can put words of divine love in a mouth like mine.
Deep at the heart of today’s message is this miracle. God does not call the qualified. Instead, God qualifies those that are called. This does not stop at the pulpit. Each of us who have been called into the faith are charged with the responsibility to share that faith. St. Francis of Assisi is credited with saying, “Preach the gospel always, if necessary, use words.” The direct message here is that we preach by word and by deed. A faith that is lived is compelling and stands the test of time.
You and I have been selected, from among the many in the world, to represent God’s good love made clear in the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. Recognizing that God acts through the lives of the faithful, we accept that we are worthy of the task because of God’s grace working in and through us.
Our life at work, and in the community needs to be a public expression of our faith in God and God’s good love. We cannot panic even when times get hard. We are called to see the culture and its false gods, and know that there is nothing the culture can do to eliminate or reduce the power of God’s love.
It is our relationship with God that will endure, as long as love endures. It is the expectation of heaven, that you can and will be successful at sharing God’s good love at the level of your own capabilities. Both body and spirit belong to God. Both body and spirit are blessed and anointed for this task. In a breath taking and surprising way, we are sent into the world, from our spiritual home within the whirlwind of love and relationship we know as the Trinity. We have been blessed, to be a blessing, Amen.