Saturday, June 23, 2007

Before Faith Came

Galatians 3:23-29
On Friday a dear friend of mine graduated from college. As we celebrated at a party Friday evening I looked around at all the people – babies, children, and adults of all ages – I looked at all the stages of life present – and I considered the differences between childhood and adulthood.

When we are young, we are surrounded by rules! Don’t leave the yard without telling someone. Never swim alone. Don’t cross the street by yourself. Clean your room. Don’t eat candles. Put away your toys. Don’t take toys away from others. Don’t hit people.

And we’re surrounded by people who check up on us to make sure we follow the rules – parents, older siblings, babysitters, teachers . . . Who discipline us when misbehave, or don’t follow instructions.

As we get older we have more freedom to make our own decisions. The new college graduate had no one standing over her to make sure her papers and other assignments were completed. She disciplined herself, knowing what had to be done and doing it, taking responsibility for her successes and failures. She didn’t have many failures, mind – she graduated Magna cum laude! – while working full time.

It was much the same way in Paul’s time. Among the Greeks and Romans of Paul’s time, children were put in the care of a tutor, a disciplinarian, who was often brutal in his treatment of the children in his care to ensure that they would learn and obey. In this passage, the law is being likened to this kind of disciplinarian.

"Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith."

When Paul wrote this letter to the Galatian Christians, one of the major issues in the church was the conflict between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians. Many of the Jewish Christians in Galatia were insistent that Gentiles must be obedient to the laws of Moses in order to be accepted as Christians – in order to justify that they were worthy of God’s love and forgiveness. This was, after all, the understanding that Jews had held for over 1,000 years, since Moses brought the tablets of the law down from Mt. Sinai. These Jewish Christians saw themselves as superior to the Gentile Christians because of their obedience to the law. Here Paul speaks to the Gentiles, encouraging them, and assuring them that they were equally worthy, equally justified, continuing his argument that Christians are justified by faith, not by obedience to the laws of Moses.

Paul was not saying the laws were no longer of any worth, but that obedience to the law was not the primary focus for Christians. Christians – whether Jewish or Gentile - showed their worthiness of God’s forgiveness through faith – not so much faith in Christ, as faithfulness to Christ. The disciplinarian is no longer needed, for faith has given the Gentiles the freedom of adulthood.

"As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise."

Today, anyone can wear anything they like. Rich people shop on Rodeo Drive in raggedy clothes, and poor people buy designer knockoffs at Ross. When I look at you, I can’t tell just from your clothing whether you are poor or wealthy, well educated or illiterate, or even where in the world you might come from. In Paul's time, clothes really did make the man. The clothes a person wore were determined by class and social status, and governed by laws. Just because you could afford a toga didn’t mean you could wear one – you had to be a member of the nobility. The color purple was worn only by royalty, although members of the Roman Senate could wear a tiny stripe of purple on their togas. Anyone could tell with just a glance where you stood in society based on what you had on.

For the early Christians, the image of clothing themselves in Christ had a very specific meaning. At their baptism, every new Christian received a new robe as they emerged from the water, identical to every other baptismal robe, a very tangible symbol of the new life they were entering. For those early Christians, the image evoked with the mention of their baptismal clothing was the image of equality. Just as they were all clothed the same in baptism, so as Christians they are equal – Jews and Greeks, equally Christian. Men and women – one in Christ. Slave and free – equal in status, equally loved by God, equally forgiven. As Christians, as members of the body of Christ, they are now to relate to one another in perfect equality. They were to relate to one another in perfect equality in the community that is the Christian ideal – in the way that God intends for all people to live in the world to come.

Now when the individual members of this community of Christians left the place of worship to go back to their places in the world, they were, of course, still Jewish and Greek and male and female and slave and free. They did the same work they always done, they still held whatever status or lack of it in the world that they held before. What changed, what was expected to change, was how they treated each other – as equals in every way. What changed (and what attracted others to this new religion) was how they treated their neighbors – these new Christians reached out to help the sick, the poor, the oppressed – not just other Christians, but anyone in need.

While they continued to wear the clothing required by the laws of the world on the outside, on the inside they were clothed in Christ. They were dedicated to one purpose – to carry the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness to all the world. To spread the teachings of Jesus, and to do that by embodying the commandments to love God and all of God’s children. To share everything they had with each other for the survival of the community.

We are called to that same purpose, that same equality, that same commandment to love, that same community. Consider the church to be like the network on those Verizon wireless commercials on TV. As a member of the body of Christ, you have all that huge crowd of people standing behind you, giving you support, each contributing his or her own special skills. And you are likewise one of those people, freed by Christ to recognize the gifts and graces of all the others. Held up and nurtured by that body of saints who have come before, and who walk along with you.

The path on which our faith takes us, each of us individually, will be different. We are each called to a different ministry, a different path through life, a different way of serving the children of God. Whatever path we follow, whatever decisions we make, let it be the one that Jesus sets before us.

Hymn: I have decided to follow Jesus

Friday, June 22, 2007

Friday Five: Hot Town, Summer in the City...

Revgalblogpals invite us to talk about summer

Hot Town, Summer in the City...or town, or suburb, or hamlet, or burg, or unincorporated zone, or rural area of your choice---pretty much anywhere but the southern hemisphere, it's summer. (Australians and others, consider this an invitation to take a break from winter for a while.)

1. Favorite summer food(s) and beverage(s)

Fresh fruits and veggies! I grew up on a farm and summer meant harvesting our kitchen garden - watermelons and corn and string beans and tomatoes and asparagus - yum!

Perennial favorite summer beverages - water, iced tea and iced coffee. New favorite beverage - iced green tea

2. Song that "says" summer to you. (Need not be about summer explicitly.)

Summertime ( . . . and the living is easy) Somebody want to remind me who the artist was?

3. A childhood summer memory

When I was about 5 I had my first, very own watermelon patch. I checked it every day for a melon and on July 4th found a Miracle! A huge, ice cold watermelon was sitting next to the vine! It was a while before I figured out that Daddy had bought the watermelon and put it in the spring house to get cold, then put it in my watermelon patch as a surprise. :-)

4. An adult summer memory

Worship in the Woods in Indiana. We all went to a member's house who lived on a large property with lots of trees and flowering plants. We set up chairs on the lawn for worship, music was old favorites sung a capella, the pastor and student minister (me) dressed in jeans and Guatemalan stoles to lead the service. Worship was followed by a steak dinner that couldn't be beat!

5. Describe a wonderful summer day you'd like to have in the near future. (weather, location, activities)

I'd really like an early morning (like, Dawn!) walk on the beach. Then a breakfast featuring fresh fruits, a wander through a small town with lots of shops. Lunch somewhere, spend the afternoon in a big chair to read and nap in, dinner somewhere. Hmm - food without me making effort seems to be a large part of this wonderful day. :-)

Optional: Does your place of worship do anything differently in the summer? (Fewer services, casual dress, etc.)

I'm in So California - dress is always casual. :-) Traditionally here nothing changes in the summer. But this year beginning in July we will be starting worship 1/2 hour later, choir will be on break, and Monday Bible Study will take a vacation. Even the church Board will not meet in July. (Yippee!)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Spring Cleaning

There are just a few days left until summer begins so it's time to do Spring Cleaning at the church. Not one of those big church work-days, but the one-person-only sorting and clearing out decades worth of broken crayons, unused education materials, outdated posters and stacks and stacks of songsheets that haven't been used since the 1960s. It's time to sort out the CDs and put them on shelves instead of randomly stacked on the floor. And to trace all the wires and plugs in the choir loft to see which one goes to which electronic device, if indeed they go to anything. You know, the kind of sorting and cleaning that comes with changes in our education and music staff. I can't wait!

That's not the only spring cleaning I need to do, though. I need to do some serious self examination and clear out the things that keep my soul cluttered. I need to look at the kinds of tasks I do and determine if I really need to be doing them. What is really important, and what wouldn't matter to anyone if it wasn't done? I have to examine my calendar and see what the best use of my time really is. Do I leave time for prayer and meditation, for study, for spending time with The Husband? (I already know the answer to that one - No!) Do I spend enough time with individual members of the church when they're NOT in the hospital? (Also No!)

It seems that as each year progresses I find myself bogged down in the details of administration and forget all about the larger picture of what I have been called to do. In June, my anniversary month, I look back over the year and invariably discover that, once again, I have slid back into the same rut. Office hours, paperwork and meetings take up the majority of my time. How does that keep happening?

So . . . it's time to do some Spring Cleaning. May the Spirit blow through my life and clear out the spiritual clutter that keeps me from moving forward.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

When we are living

Galatians 2:15-21

I didn’t go to college until later in life. I entered Chapman University as a freshman in 1995 – I was 44 years old. And while I was pretty determined to have a college experience as much like that of my much younger classmates as possible, I had pretty much figured that I was not going to be in a sorority. Who would want a 44 year old married woman? One of the most surprising things that happened to me, therefore, was having a group of young women come to me and ask me to be part of a new sorority that was opening on campus – a Christian (Lutheran based) sorority. I did join that sorority, and through my sisters I learned a lot about other Protestant churches and their beliefs. Some of them came with some pretty serious rules for living. One of my sorority sisters always wore long skirts, because her church taught that God hated women who dressed like men, so she wasn’t ever allowed to wear slacks. Didn’t even own a pair of jeans! There were a whole lot of things she couldn’t do that the rest of us could, and we made adjustments in scheduling and in the activities we planned so she would not be excluded. I spent a lot of time being grateful that, as a Disciple, I didn’t have to deal with rules like that. Because you see, the thing about all those church rules is that we get to a point when the rules are the most important thing, and we forget that what God wants most of all is our love.

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul said to other Jewish Christians like himself
“we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law.

This teaching was really tough for people like Paul, who had spent their entire lives studying and interpreting and living by the law of Moses. Strict obedience to the laws had been the framework of his whole life – and now that framework was unnecessary. He could no longer say, as the Pharisee praying in the temple said in Luke’s gospel (18:12) “Lord, I give you thanks that I am not like other people, thieves, rogues or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give a tenth of all my income” and believe that this was enough.

19For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.

Jesus said he came to fulfill the law, and taught his followers that all the laws could be stated in the two greatest commandments “Love your God with all your heart and all your mind and all your strength, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.” These two laws created a new framework for Paul and other Jewish Christians. All those laws that had bound their lives were – not irrelevant exactly – but no longer the be all and end all of their existence. New Christians would not have to be circumcised before baptism. Gentiles and Jews, men and women, slaves and free persons could all come together for worship and for meals. The laws that had separated the Jews from everyone else were no longer the most important thing in their lives. Now their primary focus was faith in Jesus Christ – in obedience to his teachings, especially the teaching that love for God and the neighbor took precedence over all the other laws they had lived with for so long. The important thing – the most important thing – was living to God – allowing Christ to live within us.

Which brings up a question I was asked recently. Someone came to me and wanted to know “How do I let Christ into my heart?” That’s a tough one, really.

There is series of children’s books by CS Lewis you are probably familiar with, ‘The Chronicles of Narnia.” The first one, “The Witch, the Lion and the Wardrobe,” was recently made into a movie. Near the end of the final book the end of the world comes to Narnia, and all the people and creatures are judged by Aslan the Lion, who is really Jesus. One man, who had done good all his life in the service of an evil god, was embraced by Aslan as one of his own, and the man said “Lord, I am not yours. All my life I have served that other god.” And Aslan said “My child, when you did the good thing, the loving thing, even for though you thought it was for that other, you were doing those things for me.” All his life this man had Jesus in his heart, even though he wasn’t aware of it.

So maybe it’s not so much about getting Jesus into our hearts – he’s already there. It’s about letting him out. When we are being our most noble, when we are living in such a way that God’s love seems to shine through us, we are letting Christ out of our hearts to be a blessing to the world.

A clergy colleague suggested that perhaps instead of asking “What would Jesus do?” we should ask “What is Jesus already doing if we just give him room to live?” Maybe we should ask “What can I do to get myself out of the way and allow Christ room to work?”

And she told this story: There was once an especially tense church meeting in which two men, both good men and respected leaders, found themselves passionately advocating opposing viewpoints. In the heat of the discussion, both men became ungracious toward each other, and Matt, one of the men, stormed out. Everyone was shocked because this behavior was so out of character. Fifteen minutes later, Matt returned with a basin of water in his hands, a towel over his shoulder, and tears in his eyes. He knelt before his opponent, removed his shoes and socks, and began to wash his feet. When he’d finished, he said, “please forgive me. I’ve treated you very poorly. I realized after I left that, if you were so passionate about this issue, there must be a good reason, and I need to at least listen.” 

Once that man let go of his tightfisted effort to make his religious point, he discovered the presence of Jesus Christ already there, ready to change the tone of that meeting, and ready to reconcile two brothers in the faith. The "Christ in him" drove him back into that room.

And truly, the Christ in the other man allowed him to accept the foot washing – to accept the offer of reconciliation.

Paul said “I have been crucified with Christ; 20and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”

Wouldn’t that be great? To be dead to all the things that separate us from God so that Christ could always live in us? To always be loving, generous, merciful, kind, forgiving and compassionate?

I'd love to be dead to self – to be crucified with Christ - so that Christ could always come out of my heart through my words and actions, but that's just not reality. In reality, I can be judgmental, quick to jump to assumptions about other people, ready to gossip, selfishly concerned with what I want or think I need, or just plain unkind. Sometimes I’m afraid that if I give generously I won’t have enough. Reality is the constant struggle to put self behind me - to be kind and generous and forgiving. Reality is knowing that I'm going to fall short of the ideal, but being willing to keep trying to get out of the way so Christ can work through me.

How do we let Jesus out? Focus on him. Call on him. Read the gospels and try to do what he taught us to do. Look for the blessings in our lives, even the smallest. Whatever we focus on is what will be present in our lives – so if we focus on blessing, if we focus on the good, if we focus on helping and forgiving, then these are the things we see, experience, are enabled to do.

We let Christ out when we are drawn to do even the smallest blessing for another and then do it. When we aren't worried about what others will think or if doing something good for someone else will leave us with less - time, money, whatever. To live for Christ, serving God’s children, who ever and where ever they may be, seeking always to act in love. When we are loving, we are living. And when we are living, we belong to God.

Hymn Pues Si Vivimos (When We Are Living) 536

Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday Five: Books, books, books!

Revgalblogpal Sally writes:
I've just returned from a meeting in Cambridge so I'm posting this late here in the UK (it is 3:45pm).. because I took the opportunity of a free afternoon in Cambridge's wonderful book shops... I only bought a few- and they were on sale- very restrained for me!!!

So with my head full of books I've seen and a long wish list in my mind, I bring you a Friday Five on books!!!

1. Fiction what kind, detective novels, historical stuff, thrillers, romance????

Very favorite - sci fi and fantasy! Dragons, wizards, knights with magical swords and/or futuristic (space travel, humans living on other planets, life here on Terra in the very distant future, etc.) Harry Potter, of course. Anything by Mercedes Lackey, Anne McAffery, Terry Pratchett, Elizabeth Moon. The Narnia Chronicles. I once owned everything every written by Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. It never ceases to amaze me how many clergy and theologians write sci fi and how often the underlying themes are commentary on our society. :-)

I also enjoy getting lost in detective novels, with special favorites taking place on the Navajo Reservation. There are now several authors following where Tony Hillerman led, like Aimee and David Thurlo.

And historical novels, especially Irish and other Celtic histories. When a mystery is included, as in Sister Fidelma, I'm really happy. :-)

2. When you get a really good book do you read it all in one chunk or savour it slowly?

Slowly?? What is that?

I'm a reading addict - I have to do it all at once. This does sometimes get in the way of things I should be doing, but I tell myself that relaxing with a good book is "self care." Besides, so many are social commentary that, theoretically, my relaxing reading can double as "work related"

3. Is there a book you keep returning to and why?

That's hard. I have a whole bookcase filled with my favorite "read over and over again" books.

Why? For the reasons above - I actually got part of a wedding sermon from a Mercedes Lackey novel!

4. Apart from the Bible which non-fiction book has influenced you the most?

"Close to the Bone: Life Threatening Illness and the Search for Meaning" by Jean Shinoda Bolen, MD.

When I was diagnosed with cervical cancer a professor recommended this book and I truly believe that it saved my life, or at least, my sanity. Dr. Shinoda Bolen seemed to know exactly what I was feeling and fearing and dreaming. I was blessed a few years ago with the opportunity to meet and thank her. I recommend this book to everyone who is diagnosed with a life threatening illness, especially cancer.

My #2 choice is pretty much anything written by Parker Palmer.

5. Describe a perfect place to read. ( could be anywhere!!!)

Anywhere is indeed a perfect place to read. :-)

My favorite place is curled up in the corner of the love seat in my living room. The coffee table is placed at the perfect spot for putting my feet on, and the pillows have taken on my body shape.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Success on the Web

I did it! With help from Apple, of course. I got the church website published just this morning. I am really quite excited about it, and so grateful to Songbird of Revgalblogpals who helped me learn how to navigate around bloggish things, especially vocabulary. :-)

Now to see how it goes over with the members.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Website Woes

I have a new MacBook and new software! Yay! This morning I spent hours designing a website on iWeb with a welcome page and other pages for photos and sermons. Then I hit "Publish" and ran into all kinds of problems. I knew it was going too easily! :-)

I think the problem stems from having upgraded from Trial Version of the .Mac software to Full Version - silly computer seems to think I have 2 different user names or something and it's trying to publish using the wrong one. Anyway, I've contacted Apple for help and am waiting as patiently as possible for a response.

Patience is not one of my more obvious virtues. I'm just going to keep telling myself that the website is up and ready to go as soon as the software is properly explained to me. After all, I've been trying to get someone, anyone, to design a website for our church for 4 years and now I have one. I can surely wait a few more days to see it online.

Plus, now I can spend more time working out how to get the newsletter on it. Since the newsletter is composed and laid out on 2 different computers (my secretary does half and I do half) I think scanning will work best. AND my new MacBook came with an HP printer/copier/scanner so I have all the tools I could possibly ask for.

Maybe I'll go buy a digital camera so I have something else to fuss with. Tomorrow is going to be a big day at chuch saying Aloha to our Associate. Just thinking of all the great photos I can publish on the website to share with all our members and friends around the country (world!) is really exciting! :-)

Friday, June 08, 2007

Friday Five - Island Getaway

If I were told to pack a few things for a day away, and I could go anywhere I wanted to go. . .

I'd be whisked to a beach on the Atlantic Ocean, ideally Key West. I'd stay in a small pension-like hotel on the beach (yes, I do have a specific one in mind.)

1) What book(s) will you bring?
I'd escape with sci-fi/fantasy, maybe Mercedes Lackey or Melanie Rawn or Anne McAffrey. Or Terry Prachett for a really good laugh. Anything but "work" books - no theology, nothing that is intended to improve my mind. :-)

2) What music accompanies you?
I'd pack some CDS I have of local artists playing dulcimer and guitar.

3) What essentials of everyday living must you take (as in the health and beauty aids aisle variety)?
Hmm - For one day? I'd have to take shower gel and perfume in my favorite summer scent (verbena and lemon), sunblock lotion, toothpaste and brush, a comb.

4) What technological gadgets if any, will you take with you or do you leave it all behind?
I'd take my cell phone in case of emergencies (turned on silent, of course) and my PDA because I have the alarm in it set to remind me to eat breakfast and lunch.

5) What culinary delights will you partake in while there?
Ooh - Cuban food! Conch fritters, black beans and rice with squid, and for breakfast - huevos con frijoles y bistek con limon (eggs with beans and steak seasoned with lemon - it's yummy!).

As a bonus question, what makes for a perfect day on vacation for you?

Staying with the dream of Key West - If the heavens cooperated, the weather would be greyish, overcast with a hint of drizzle to keep the tourists off the beach. I'd have a Labrador retriever with me to play in the waves and chase sandpipers as we walked the beach. Since I don't actually have a dog right now I'd have to borrow one. :-)

When I got tired of walking the beach I'd walk the town - visit Ernest Hemingway's house to play with the cats, look in shop windows, and sit in a sidewalk cafe half reading and half people. The Husband would be with me as he likes this kind of day also.

In real life, since Key West is over 3,000 miles away . . . I haven't really found a place or activity I absolutely love here on the West Coast. Of course, I don't get out much. Hmm - I'll have to work on that.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Saying Aloha

My friend and mentor and church musician and minister of education and youth is leaving. She's moving to Hawaii with her daughter who has been called to serve a church there. I've known for a few months now, but the day is getting closer and closer. Sunday we will celebrate her ministry with our congregation and 10 days later she'll get on the Big Bird to fly across the Pacific. I'm happy for them, but not so happy for me.

We've known each other for about 11 years now. We were separated for 4 years by half a country while I was in seminary. We stayed in touch through email and saw each other at General Assembly. When I was called to the church where she already served it was such a comfort to know I wouldn't be all alone in a strange place. And now she's going away.

One day last week, as I was busy feeling sorry for myself, I realized that what had actually happened was that she had been sent out as the disciples were sent out. Her daughter was called to Hawaii and she wasn't, but just as Jesus sent his followers out in pairs to preach the good news, heal the sick and cast out demons, these two are going out together to do ministry. I don't know what the ministry will be for the two of them together, but I do know that where those two are, ministry is guaranteed to happen.

Knowing that helps. I'll still miss her. I'll miss our Monday morning phone conferences about everything. But we will still have email and Assemblies and her twice a year trips home to visit her doctor and her grandchildren. And ministry of a new kind will be done in Hawaii in Christ's name. How can I complain about that?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Holy Wisdom

It’s Trinity Sunday - the day when we celebrate God in three persons. The Trinity has been problematic for Christians from the beginning. Scholars and theologians argue over how the Trinity works, exactly. Members of other faiths say that our insistence on the existence of the Trinity means we are really worshipping three Gods, that we’re not really monotheistic as we say we are. And then there’s the task of trying to understand the trinity for you and me. I’ve told the story before of the young woman who asked me to explain the Trinity during her coffee break from work. It simply can’t be done. People have been trying to explain it for nearly 2,000 years. Alexander Campbell, one of the founders of the Disciples, served as a minister in the Baptist church for a while until they invited him to leave because he just wasn’t orthodox enough for them in his understanding of the Trinity. Many of my clergy sisters and brothers won’t preach on the Trinity - some don’t consider themselves Trinitarian at all. And that’s ok - as Disciples we get to agree to disagree on the finer points of theology, we aren’t held to a creed, a statement of belief that we all agree on.

In one of the versions of the Doxology, instead of singing “Father, Son and Holy Ghost” the words are “Creator, Christ and Holy Ghost.” I was told by one of my seminary professors that these words - Creator, Christ and Holy Ghost - weren’t Trinitarian, that use of these words somehow denied the Trinity. It seems to me that he was limiting his understanding of God by limiting the range of the words he would use to describe God. People do that, you know. Try to limit God to something within the range of our very small understanding. Theologians argue over the specific ways we are supposed to understand the Trinity - they put limitations on what is or is not accepted, orthodox belief. They say “Jesus is divine in just this way and no other” or “these are things God can and cannot do” or “The Spirit is limited to this and that kind of action.” Instead of seeing Three in One, they try to make the One into Three as if there were walls between the different aspects within God.

Naturally, We think of the Trinity as a purely Christian concept. Yet, according to Scripture - Old Testament and New - The Trinity - God in three persons - has existed since the very beginning. Genesis tells us that God created - with a Word. God said “Let there be Light” and there was. God spoke the Word and a universe sprang into being - earth, sky, waters, stars, moon, and sun. God said “let us make humans in our image, according to our likeness. . .” To whom was God speaking? Many scholars believe that God was speaking to Godself - Creator, Word and Spirit. “so God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them” and breathed the breath of life into them, filling them with God’s own Spirit. Creator - Word - Spirit - all present together from the beginning. Named in that order in Genesis, just as in our understanding of Trinity we speak of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In our daily lives we turn to each of these three persons in different ways, for different reasons.

We give thanks to God - Creator, Parent, provider of the earth‘s bounty. We say grace at our meals, ask a blessing on whatever we’re doing, maybe stand and just look - at a perfect flower, at a baby - and know that the miracle of life can happen only through a power so great we can’t even guess at what it must be like. On Sundays we come here to worship God. In the Bible we study the works of God, and God’s Word as taught us by Jesus. We speak to God as a child speaks to a parent, asking for blessings, asking for help with daily life. When things go well, we say “Thank God” or we might say “Thank you Jesus!“ But when things go wrong in life, we don’t say “Jesus why did you do this, or Spirit, why did you do this?“ We turn to God in anger or frustration or pain, even as Jesus did on the cross, saying “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And God is there, always there,

Spirit - the guide, the feeling - the one who helps us understand and remember the Word that Jesus brought us. The still small voice that speaks to us as we make decisions and choices. The breath of life within each of us, that helps us turn toward God, toward blessing and life. The feeling that rises within us when worship is just right, when the words to a prayer touch our hearts in a particular way, when music lifts us up beyond normal experience, when we are moved to act in a way we normally wouldn’t. The Spirit doesn’t get a lot of attention most of the time. And yet, the Spirit is part of our daily life. There’s a news article from a Christian news source I’d like to share with you about the Spirit. (Read article from Lark)

Mike may go a little beyond “Normal” in his relationship with Holy Spirit. Most of us don’t walk around having a latte with the Holy Spirit. But in each of us, in every human, there exists that breath of life that is God’s Spirit, present from humanity’s very beginning.

The Word - Holy Wisdom
Hear the words from the Book of Proverbs that describe Wisdom, and the part Wisdom played in creation (Read Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31)

Lady Wisdom, the Word, present at the creation, part of God from the beginning and always. Some 2000 years ago a child was born, and into that Child God poured wisdom - filling him with the Word - with full knowledge of God’s ways, God’s desires for his children, God’s forgiveness and unconditional love. John’s Gospel begins with a description of the Word, similar to the words from Proverbs “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” That Word became flesh in Jesus, the Christ. How was the Word made flesh? I don’t know. I don’t much care about the mechanics of it. I just believe it to be true. Not that Jesus, the human being, was present at the creation, but that the Word which was present became imbedded in Jesus that he might teach us, that we might come to know God as he does.

We turn to Jesus, to the Word, for knowledge - for an understanding of God’s will for humanity. We find this Word in Scripture, in the words and actions of Jesus. We use the Word, the teachings we have received, to guide our lives and actions. We turn to Jesus for His understanding of human pain and joy and sorrow, to stand beside us in good times and bad. We know that Jesus lives, eternally, in and with God, The Word of God made flesh.

Today we celebrate the Trinity - we celebrate God’s presence and action in the world and in our lives through Creation, Life Giving Spirit and Wisdom. Let us invite the Spirit to be part of us as we sing of Wisdom’s part in all of this.

Hymn: Holy Wisdom