Monday, May 12, 2008

The Strong Name of the Trinity!

Trinity Sunday is among my favorite days of the Christian follow a few thoughts for Trinity Sunday...I bind unto myself the strong name of the Trinity!
Paul of Salem.

Response for Trinity Sunday.

Where are we to get strength to face the challenge of our times? History brings us many challenges. Our ancestors in faith demonstrated great courage in the face of adversity. We too can come to the wellspring of courage they drew from. I am devoted to the notion of the Trinity, not as a doctrine but as to the source of a God given spirituality. There is great power in that spirituality.

We know that God “brooded” over the face of the waters of chaos at the creation. We also know that Jesus poured out his life for us on the cross. And we have reliable witnesses who told us about the experience of a “mighty wind” that rushed in upon the Apostles in the Upper Room, and the flames of fire that alighted upon them. Thus the biblical record clearly states that God is Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. In Sacred History our collective experience of God’s mighty power is called The Holy Trinity in short hand. This is no doctrine for me. This is the very power of God, and we have direct experience of it and access to it.

Thus there are terrorist attacks the like of which we have never seen before, and there will be more to follow. Nature will unleash her destructive forces in unprecedented dimensions particularly if we continue to ignore our own contribution to nature’s need for protection and conservation. Garden variety human sin as well as sin of a more heinous sort, political chicanery, and economic disquietude will often find us overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of it all.

But we must not despair. And we must never loose hope. We have in fact, seen it all before. We must read our history books. If we do not, we will repeat it all, time after time after tiresome time. The philosopher, George Santayana said it well; “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it!”

Whatever the world throws at us by way of human violence, nature’s fury, or our own folly, we still have won the Victory! That is the core of our faith. Good Friday will have its day. But Good Friday is not the end of the story. If that had been the end of the story for us, Christianity would have been nothing more than a byword. “Ho-hum, another good man died at the hands of brutality”, history would say by way of footnote.

But Jesus and Christianity is no footnote, and we had better wake up to the fact that God is not to be mocked, either by wicked people, or by our own timidity. God is nothing short of the power to redeem a fallen world. We are the Easter People, remember! It is time for us to get our nerve back and put some punch back into our Gospel. We are the hands and feet of the Gospel…and whatever catastrophe befalls us, we have much work to do.

There is a wonderful scene in “Fiddler on the Roof”. In it, the Great Wedding Feast is utterly destroyed by Cossack soldiers descending upon the merry making. Homes are set afire, tables overturned, china broken, and the entire scene is pillaged. In shock, in disbelief, the people look up to God in bewilderment…and ask Tevye, who always had something wise to say; “What are we to do now?” There was, of course a long pause, as Tevye resolutely picked up a chair, and defiantly said; “Clean up the mess”.

Tevye also wondered about being the “Chosen” people…by asking God at one point with a wry smile: “Couldn’t you choose somebody else, once in a while?” My dear friends, there is a futility in asking “why” to the constant onslaught of sin. It is understandable, but ultimately futile. What is much more fruitful will be Tevye’s faithful response to the experience of devastation. What we have to remember after 9/11, or after the onslaught of Tsunamis, Hurricanes and Cyclones, what we have to remember after our own sins, or the sins and wickedness of others; is the simple but Grace-filled proclamation; “Clean up the mess!”

Wonder of wonders, this is where God’s grace will be found; and more than that, this is where Christ’s Victory will be found. When we claim the Power of God to Create, To Save and to Sanctify, all the world will see that the Love of God is alive and well in us. As we dare to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this world, we will discover God’s Grace at work in us transforming us and the world we live in.

All the world will come to taste and see the Creative, Redeeming and Sanctifying Power of God as we remember who God has called us to be. I am not the first Celt to bind to myself the Strong Name of the Trinity. Patrick did so many, many years ago during his battle with the Irish slave trade. Bind yourself to it with me and all those who have looked to God for help before, you will no doubt discover the Power of God at work in you!

Peace Pentecost

Pentecost was a wonderful day at St. Peter's. The Gospel was read in six languages: English, German, Spanish, French, Greek, and was wonderful! And Mamadou, a new friend of the parish from Senegal, played the West African drums for us and rendered our music and our praise expecially joyful and exciting! What a day...and then marching "In the Light of God" we made our way to the Parish Hall where we feasted on a sumptuous Birthday Cake for the Church...

(The Following is what I based my sermon on for Pentecost)

Peace Pentecost!

To this day, people of faith greet one another “Shalom”, “salaam alaykum”, and of course the Christians say “Peace”. The root of the word “Jerusalem” means “Peace”, and is thus viewed as the Holy City. We say peace…but do we mean it?
As recently as today there is division, there is warfare. Can we transcend race, ethnicity and sexual politics? Will the measure of our wealth or the lack of it continue to divide or classify us? We are still, as it were, “Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs”. All that is different in the dynamic of definition are the labels we use because now we are black, white, rich, poor, gay, straight, Arab, Jew, Protestant, Catholic, and every ethnicity under the sun. And if we listen to the “still small voice of God” we’ll hear that Gospel message making us all ONE in Christ. Today let us pray for the Pentecost moment that it may alight upon us once again.
Cowering in fear in the Upper Room, they were…and then Jesus came to them. “Peace be unto you”, he says and then he repeats it. The room is filled with the sound of a mighty rush of wind. Flames appear over their heads and they are filled to the brim with the power and the goodness of God. And going forth then they speak the languages of a thousand tongues. Every division that humanity had known fell before breath of the Holy Spirit. They received Power when the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they became witnesses for Christ unto the uttermost parts of the earth. (para. Acts 1:8)

It is so easy for us to classify human beings into every kind of convenient box. But then Jesus happens and all our sad divisions cease. When we allow Jesus to be the Christ, and when we find ourselves “in him” we are then no longer male nor female, Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, for we are all one in Christ. (Galatians 3:28)

Suddenly we are at Peace when we are living a Baptized life. In the Prayer Book Service the question is asked of the newly baptized; “Will you respect the dignity of every human being?” That really is an utterly astounding expectation. The Baptismal Covenant requires as much, however.

The Pentecost event proclaims that the Holy Spirit has been poured out on the whole creation. It is a curious irony that Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour of the week. We have yet to fully embrace the power that Christ has poured out on us.

I suspect that when the world sees us so divided into all of our racial, ethnic, and economic pigeonholes, some of the power of our Gospel looses its impact. That impact will weaken us until all our sad divisions cease.

I cannot help but think of my mother on this day. It is not just Pentecost, it is Mother’s Day as well. When we said our prayers at night, my Mother, not a particularly religious woman, would sit with me by my bed at night. I’d kneel beside my bed and say my prayers. At the end of those prayers we would say the “God blesses…” “God bless mommy, and daddy. God bless grandma and grandpa, God bless the cat and the dog, and God bless my brother Bobby” (that was a hard one…) and then we’d say something extraordinary; “God bless everybody in the whole wide world. Amen”.

What my mother taught me quite by accident, I think was to wince just a bit when asking God’s blessing on anything less that everything and everyone. If we choose to ask God to bless this nation, the Pentecost moment is also asking us to bless every nation. If we love our own, we are asked to bless our enemies as well. Pentecost is a very generous and magnanimous moment.

Again on Mother’s Day, I would like to remember my grandmother for just a moment. When Thanksgiving Day came around once a year, she would get on the phone and call all the uncles and cousins and she would press them to into coming to the old family homestead for the holiday. After much grousing, they would relent. We would gather. We would be one, There would be gales of laughter, grand storytelling, a fair amount of gossip and general agreement that we should do this sort of thing more often. My grandmother was the glue that held us together as a family. When she died so did the “extended” family. We waited till funerals and weddings after that to gather.

Jesus I would submit to you is the “glue” that holds us all together as God’s family. Pentecost is the power of Jesus in the resurrection to pour out the spirit of God to gather us together to be one. In Pentecost we speak and we understand all cultures, all languages, all races, all ethnic folks, male, female, gay, straight, rich and poor. If Jesus is alive then we are all one. If we are not one, then Jesus cannot truly live in us. Peace comes to us in the living of Jesus. The Holy Spirit descends on us and turns our souls toward God and toward one another.

It is truly a lifelong task to work out the details of our salvation. Thankfully God has given us a lifetime to do that very work. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation. The fires of the Holy Spirit hover above us not all that far away. When God chases away our fears, we will then realize how close we are to God; how close we are to one another.

Come Holy Spirit, come!