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Archive for May, 2013

Trinity

Jesus said to the disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth . . .”  John 15:12-13a (NRSV)

There are a lot of things I really don’t understand.  Maybe I live with the “why” question every day, I don’t know.  I joke with the congregations I serve when I talk about it and say that I have a list of questions to ask when I get to heaven, and the list just gets longer all the time.  Of course, when I get there, none of them will really matter, and the scriptures tell us that we will understand anyway.  (See 1 Corinthians 13:12).

So when I read the scripture above from John 16, which is Jesus talking to his disciples as he attempts to prepare them for his death, I feel a little better.  Maybe some things are just to complicated and massive for us to understand.  We can’t take it all in at once, thus stunting our ability to comprehend much of it. 

I remember sitting through an all day workshop when the speakers gave us hours and hours of information, and after a while I felt like I was on overload, and my brain simply couldn’t take in any more information.  I suspect that learning about God is like that, too, so it’s not really a surprise that trying to understand God in the concept of Triune – the Trinity – can be a bit mind boggling, as well.

Basically, I see the Trinity as the three “beings” of God who relate to us in different ways.  Sometimes, I find myself making God the “head” of the family, and Jesus and the Holy Spirit subservient, but I know that isn’t the case.  They are God on equal footing and they are the ways in which we experience God.  Someone told me once that it is like our hand and fingers.  The fingers are all part of the one hand, and each has it’s own function, but they are still connected as the hand.

That helps a little.  The doctrine of the Trinity has been and continues to be challenging, but we can be sure that it is another way for us to try to comprehend (although at times in overwhelming ways) the magnitude and mystery of God in our lives and how God interacts with us as human beings.  Maybe some day, I’ll understand it fully, but for now, I will trust and know that God is working in the world through me and many others to make this a better place.  Thanks be to God!

The “Cost” of Pentecost

Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  Acts 2:21 NRSV

The Holy Day of Pentecost has been often overlooked or ignored as not that important, but it is important in that it recognized and signifies the birth of the church and issues a challenge to the church in all time.

We most often associate the powerful wind that roared into town and tongues resembling fire resting on the heads of the apostles.  In our churches we wear red, maybe bring in geraniums (for the red), have fans blowing to remind us of the wind, and retell the story with an emphasis on the first 13 verses of Acts 2.

Interestingly, the scripture readers for the day (sometimes including clergy) are terrified about all the names that are listed in those first 13 verses, so they miss emphasizing the remainder of the passage which contains Peter’s sermon and invitation to the assembly.

Just to back up a little, the apostles were given the ability to speak in different languages so that the ethnically diverse group of people in Jerusalem could understand the good news of the gospel in their own tongue.  This wasn’t a moment of what is known as glossolalia where people are filled with the Holy Spirit and speak in an entirely unknown language that has to be interpreted.  This is a gift of speaking in another language so that those who didn’t speak Aramaic would be able to hear the message in their own language.

Peter’s sermon reminded the listeners that the prophet Joel had envisioned this day when everyone – EVERYONE – would be able to praise and glorify God in Jesus Christ.  Peter’s boldness was nothing but a gift of the Spirit since he had denied Jesus after Jesus was arrested.  Peter’s newfound send of courage came from God and the church was born.

In our celebrations of Pentecost, we often concentrate on the church and the gift of the church.  Somehow it becomes all about us again, but the purpose of Pentecost and the birth of the church has to do with how the church points to God.  In the last verse of this section of Acts 2, which is written above, we are reminded that we are called to move outwardly – toward others, to invite others to know Jesus, to welcome him into their hearts and believe in him.

The United Methodist Church states that our work is to “go make disciples.”  So the church is not only called to nurture, teach, and grow together, but also to send each other forth in the name of Jesus, the Christ, in order to make disciples.  We open doors and plant seeds so that others can come to know Christ.  That is the purpose of the church.

Pentecost is a continuing event in the life of the church and in the world.  The Spirit is at work, and we are invited to partners with God through the Spirit’s work in the world.  May it be so!

Happy Mother’s Day

A capable wife who can find?  She is far more precious than jewels.  The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.”  Proverbs 31:10-11 (NRSV)

As we approach Mother’s Day, I reflect on my own mother’s role in my life.  I admit that I never wanted to be like her – not that there was anything wrong with her life or how she lived it; actually, she has had a very good life and is a wonderful person.  It’s just that I didn’t want to be at home taking care of children.  I’m not even sure I wanted any special career which might explain all the different careers I HAVE had.  It’s just that Mom seemed to me to be rather un-glamorous.  I have to admit that my childhood aspirations were to be a movie star, but that was only in my dreams.

But now that I’m in my sixties and watching Mom decline in health as she becomes more frail and elderly (she will be 89 in August), I see that she has some wonderful qualities that were gifts she passed along to me:  a caring heart, tenderness, a cute and subtle sense of humor, her beautiful singing voice and love of music, her faith in God, and commitment.  Mom taught me that when you made a commitment, you followed through.  If you joined a committee, you went to the meetings; if you decided to sing in choir you went to rehearsals and showed up on Sundays; if you promised to “love, honor, and cherish” someone for the rest of your life, you stuck with it.

Mom and Dad have been married for 67 years this July.  Both of them say that it hardly seems possible so many years have gone by.  I’m only learning now about how they have worked through problems and stuck with each other even when the going got tough.  Mom supported Dad totally in everything.  Mom was a quiet, gentle, steady force there for Dad and all us kids as we were growing up.  She always told us she was proud of us, and she was there to listen when we needed someone to hear what was going on in our lives.  Mom also has very strong opinions about politics, substance abuse, marriage, and moral issues, and none of us ever doubted where she stood on things.

As I see her age, I remember all the gifts she has given me – given our family, and I’m grateful that God has given me a mother to be proud of and to love.  I know my mom loves me and all of us with an incredibly strong love, and it is in that love (from both my parents) that I recognize a tiny sliver of the depth of God’s love.  Thanks, Mom.  Thanks, God.  I love you both.

Heaven

I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.”  Revelation 21:22 NRSV

For the nation of Israel, the Temple was their core.  It was where they believed God resided, and where they would go for the most holy days and festivals.  Even today, the West Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem is an awesome and holy place.  I remember standing at the wall to place my tiny prayer in one of the crevices and weeping for joy at the privilege of being in such a wonderful place.  Israel continues to be a special place, but most of us agree that God doesn’t just reside in that country.

We believe that God resides everywhere and is accessible to all people.  In the Christian faith, we believe that through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God was reconciled to humanity.  At Jesus’ death, the temple curtain separating the Holy of Holies was torn in two as a symbol of God’s love and forgiveness for all the earth, all people.

So, when we think of “heaven on earth” it could be anywhere, and I think it is individual in that sense.  For some, it may be at the birth of a child; others may experience God’s presence on a mountaintop or by the ocean; still others may find God in the midst of a noisy city or working in rural areas.  It varies for everyone which demonstrates that God can be found anywhere and everywhere.

There are some who say that the earth as it is now is actually hell, and the scripture from Revelation 21-22 could actually indicate such a possibility.  We can see the widespread pain, hurt, sorrow, fear, and anguish that so many experience in life.  Yet, as the Church of Jesus Christ, we believe that we can help to build the kingdom of God even in the midst of such challenges.  We believe that God has called us to help make this “Heaven on earth” by living in the ways of Jesus, loving and caring for and about others, bringing kindness, compassion, and care to places where people most need it.

We believe that we are called to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, minister to the poor, visit the sick and imprisoned, clothe the naked, and reach out to the disenfranchised or outcasts of society.  Sometimes we don’t succeed very well, but other times we actually do quite well.  “Heaven on earth” is God working through all of us, and the temple of God is in all regions of this world.  Our mission field is large, and often it begins right at home (which is often the most difficult!).

Heaven doesn’t need to be a place far away or look any particular way.  Heaven is where the people of God carry out the mission of Christ.  Heaven is where God’s presence is made manifest because of all God’s children working together to make this world a better place.  And some day, heaven will be perfected because of God’s complete presence.  May it be so.

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