Monthly Archives: May 2021

Holy Trinity

Trinity Sunday.

There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

“Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. ( Jn.3:1-17)

Trinity Sunday

A father of five children had won a toy at a raffle. He called his kids together to ask which one of the five should have the present.  “Who is the most obedient?” he asked. “Who never talks back to mother? Who does everything she says?” 

Silence. 

Then all five kids shouted together,  “You play with it daddy.”

Fathers are pretty important, aren’t they?

And ‘Father ‘is up there with the ‘Son’ and the ‘Holy Spirit’ in the Trinity, the threefold God we Christians affirm .

We affirm the threefold God, but in worship, one person of God might  be emphasized more than the others, depending on which denomination you belong to. 

Some Christian denominations emphasize Jesus, and tend to downplay the Father or the Holy Spirit. Some emphasize  the Holy Spirit, downplaying the other two persons, whereas others emphasize worship of the Father. 

I think Anglicans tend not to emphasize Jesus, because doing so smacks of those television evangelists, with their floppy Bibles, and the way they use the name  ‘ Jeehhezzzus.’    

Anglicans  tend not to emphasize the Holy Spirit because that would call for being led by the Holy Spirit into some actions that don’t sit well with Anglicans. Like waving of arms,  ‘ dancing in the Spirit ‘  laughing out loud,  telling anyone and everyone who will listen, of the joy of the Spirit.

So for us it’s the Father. Or Mother. Creator of all things. God Almighty. ‘ Father ‘ is kind of  the least challenging, don’t you think?

I have to say, however, that I am not too comfortable with a theology which doesn’t challenge.  What is the point?

I remember as a teenager, listening to sermons, and waiting for the challenge. I remember one preacher, who always liked to finish with a challenge.  You knew a challenge  was coming because that paragraph always began with the words, ” May we……”

I have to confess ( to my shame)  that I was relieved when the ‘challenge’ didn’t really call for real effort..

Some research has been done into why one  person of the Trinity is routinely emphasized in a particular denomination.

There are clear signs that point to a particular preference and how that preference affects their theology, liturgy, and the way the community relates to the outside world.

There was research done on the subject some years ago. I don’t remember much about it, so won’t comment, right now,  but the fact that we may emphasize one person of the Trinity over the other two is a good reason for having Trinity Sunday on the calendar.

Trinity!!

Remember? 

We  worship the  God we know as  Father, and Son and  Holy Spirit.

After much debate and controversy the concept of the Trinity only became orthodox Christian doctrine dating from the Council of Nicaea in the year 325.

And Trinity Sunday is the  time when ‘we’ try to explain the complicated theology behind the concept of the Trinity, and is something ‘we’ preachers tend to avoid.  

Metaphors have been used, such as the stream of water that if you place your hand in it becomes three streams.  All streams emanate from the one source, and are of the same substance, and although they appear to be separate, are in fact one.

Another metaphor is the clover leaf. On the one shoot are three identical leaves. 

But I think that what really matters to us Christians is how the Father, Son and Spirit  are manifest,  in our lives.  What do the three persons of God mean to us personally? 

I remember at school, in a chemistry class, examining the chemical reactions that take place when soap is used in water. What about the calcium or chlorine in the water? What is the composition of the soap? What chemical reaction leaves that scum floating on the surface? 

The teacher took a long time getting us to follow his reasoning, and to figure out the equations.

Then one boy raised his hand. “Sir, how does the soap get your hands clean?” he asked.

The teacher replied, “Well…. I think it dissolves the sweat…. doesn’t it?

That question was about where the ‘rubber meets the road’ wasn’t it?

Where ‘the rubber meets the road ‘ for us, comes in the question – how does each person of God, specifically affect us, and how? 

Perhaps if we think of God as the head, Jesus as the heart, and the Spirit as the hands, it  might  help us to get at the answer.

God created the universe, and us, and placed us here on this His world. He loves us and wants us to live a life that is faithful to Him. In return for His loving us, we love Him, and try to live for Him.  This is the same God with whom the Israelites entered in covenant. “I will be your God and you will be my people,” He told them.

Further, He told them through Moses, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

The covenant involved obeying God’s law, and living as God’s people.

God asks the same of us, and promises the same to us.

This God, then, is a God we can understand, as we agree to live for Him – in covenant relationship as it is called. A God that we can reason about. And talk to.

And worship!

Of course, the Israelites, once they were in their own land broke the covenant. In fact they  broke it soon after it was made by creating a golden calf  and worshipping it, there in the wilderness,  before they ever came into their own land.

God the Father was like a great and good parent, but a parent against whom they, and we, could rebel.

He was in their head, but not in their heart.

It is more difficult to reason from the heart, but easier to love.

Jesus, by his life, and his love, and his sacrifice points us to God as our Redeemer, our Saviour.

And he explained this superbly, when he told the story of the Prodigal Son. 

You will remember that the younger son was given his inheritance, and straightway went out and  blew it all.

After living for a while as the equivalent of a street person, he came to his senses and went home to his father. He didn’t expect to be treated well. He had after all shamed his family, and himself. He hoped only to be treated as a servant in his father’s house.

But his father had missed him; had pined for him; had longed for his return.

And when the father finally caught a glimpse of his son, over there in the distance, he ran to him,  and embraced him, and welcomed him back, with celebration and reinstatement as a son of the family. 

God longs for, pines for, sorrows over, the rebellious and the wayward, and He goes more than halfway. Instead of punishing us, He takes our  punishment for us, and makes it easier for us to return.

That is God in the heart. Jesus the Son.

We become not slaves, nor servants, nor robots, forced to do His will  – we become children of God – in harmony with Him, and in communion with Him.

And if we are loving children of God, we want others to know Him the same way, and have the same benefits – to know Him as we know him.

One little boy was taking this idea very seriously. He was working hard on a drawing and his daddy asked him what he was doing. The little boy looked up from his pad, and said, “ Drawing a picture of God.”  His daddy said, “You can’t do that honey, no-one knows what God looks like.”

The little boy was undeterred. He looked at his drawing, added a few more strokes of his pencil, and said, “They will in a few minutes.”

We want to share our views about God with everyone else. We want people to know how fabulous it is to be loved by Him and to love Him back. We want people to know how liberating it is to bring the garbage of our lives to God, and not only to be forgiven but to be welcomed with open arms.

We want people to know how much fun it is to be a follower of Jesus.

And we get to this place by accepting God as Father;  accepting Jesus as  Saviour; and accepting the Holy Spirit as enabler.

The Spirit of Christ is what enabled David Livingstone to travel through darkest Africa; and other missionaries, likewise, to travel to the nethermost regions, of the world,  to bring knowledge of Christ .

Missionaries developed written languages where there weren’t any, and then translated the Bible into  those languages. They worked in tropical heat, or arctic cold. They worked with the light from candles, or whale oil lamps, fighting off weird and dangerous diseases – to bring to people – people like you and me – people from next door – down the street –the joy of  knowing God to those who knew him not.

Their willing hands were the hands of the Holy Spirit.

God here (head) Jesus here( heart) and the Holy Spirit here (hands).

One God – creating, loving, healing, forgiving, enabling, being – with us, His children in this world.

We are blessed in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Amen.

David Livingstone (/ˈlɪvɪŋstən/; 19 March 1813 – 1 May 1873) was a Scottish physician, Congregationalist, and pioneer Christian missionary[2] with the London Missionary Society, an explorer in Africa, and one of the most popular British heroes of the late 19th-century Victorian era. He had a mythic status that operated on a number of interconnected levels: Protestant missionary martyr, working-class “rags-to-riches” inspirational story, scientific investigator and explorer, imperial reformer, anti-slavery crusader, and advocate of British commercial and colonial expansion.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I Chose You.

The Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, According to John.

Jesus said to his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.” John 15:9-17

As I Have Loved you.

In the last few weeks, the evangelist John has expounded on love. Today is no exception.   And John’s Gospel has Jesus’s words about love: ‘Love each other’. Love others as I have loved you’.The greatest way that you can show love for someone is to die for them.’

So let’s talk about love.  Or otherwise, and how it has played out during the recent past.  

In Palestine, militants attack Israel and Israel retaliates. The attacks are from a distance – rockets from the Palestinian side, and bombings from Israel.

Men women, children are killed, injured, homes destroyed.

India has many problems, not the least of which is trying to fight off Covid 19. But aside from that, it has been reported that in India, over fifty children a day are abducted. 

Here at home, some time ago, a commission spent months looking into the reason for the disappearance of over 4000 indigenous women here in Canada and was criticized for making slow progress. 

Parents who have lost their daughters complain about the lack of action by police when they report a daughter missing.

Why is this – all of this – and more – continuing to happen? 

The reasons are many. In India, hatred between different religious groups and a desire to strike at a hated group,  or maybe to cause friction between such groups, may contribute. 

In Canada’s north, grinding poverty in many communities, and the legacy of the residential schools, are cited.  

In developing countries – here in this developed country – no-one explanation can be found. 

However the objectification of people has to bear some of the blame.  

Once you see a person as an object, then you lose compassion. You lose any human feeling for that object.

During the time of Jesus, each Spring,  a Roman farmer would inspect his implements, his animals –  all the things needed for the planting season – and would discard anything that was damaged, worn out, or otherwise useless to him.  

This included his slaves. He would check out his slaves, and any who had become too old, or too lame, or too sick, would be turned out to fend for themselves.  With the same lack of passion  that he might show in throwing out a useless implement, he would throw out ‘useless’ slaves.

No matter that this slave had labored for him for years. No matter that this slave would be unable to fend for himself, or herself; out they would go. With no more thought than for any other object. The slave was merely an object, in the eyes of  the Roman farmer.  

It’s worth reminding ourselves that on this continent, slaves were also objects not too long ago. And some of their descendants are still being objectified. 

During the late nineteen thirties, Adolf Hitler began the process of getting rid of the Jews in Germany. He began to objectify them. He isolated them. Newspapers, and billboard propaganda denigrated them.  They were labeled by having to wear a yellow Star of David.

They were set apart.

They were objects.

Hitler’s objectification of the Jews was such a success that many ordinary Germans – normally ‘ good’ Germans – found it not too difficult to join him in trying to rid Germany of Jews. 

And assisted in the death camps.

Sad to say, seeing people as objects happens here, in our world, in our country.   And it causes much pain.

The city wants to turn a house into a halfway residence for people with emotional or psychological difficulties: a place where affected persons can be assisted in becoming re-integrated into society. But the neighbours protest, ‘We don’t want people like that in our community.’

People like that?

There, is a phrase that objectifies people. It makes them faceless, nameless, easy to hate, easy to hurt. 

Strangely enough, when the city has gone ahead over objections, and put such a residence into a neighborhood, and people have got to know their new neighbors, their hatred has dissipated.  Those ‘objects’ are now seen as real people, worthy of care.

I knew a man who professed to hate Arabs. He was quite vociferous about his feelings.  As far as he was concerned, they were all the same, all having the same bad traits. There was no arguing with him!

Then one day I saw him talking to his dry cleaner, who happened to be a Moroccan. So, I asked him, “If you hate Arabs, so much, how come you are friendly with Ali?

Oh, he said, “Ali is alright. He’s not like the rest.”

By virtue of their acquaintance, the Arab had become a person. No longer an object.  My friend couldn’t hate Ali.

See where this is going? If you see people as objects, it is easier to hurt them.

If you see them as people, it is not so easy to hurt  them.  You might even be able to love them.

As followers of Jesus- – today, he tells us that we are his friends – we are enjoined to love each other.

This will be the beginning of stopping the hatred that seems to fill the world.

But to stop the hurt in this world: to stop the hurt in this town, in our church, in our family, we have to stop seeing people as objects –   stop labeling them.

You know what I mean:

All Conservatives are out for themselves. Liberals have no principles.  

All gypsies are thieves.

My neighbour is a nasty person.

All Scotsmen are cheap.

Yorkshiremen are cheaper.

All Indians are drunks. 

All homosexuals are sexual predators.

And these are the milder epithets

Brothers and sisters, taking the hurt out of this world is a big job.

And frankly, there is only one way and that is to love people. All people? That might be too big for you and me, you might say.

But we could make a start, here at home, at work, when we are out and about.

Avoid stereotyping.   It means  looking  for ways to understand  someone rather than  condemning them out of hand. It means making a real effort to eliminate hatred,  rather than nurturing it.

The exploitive, sexploitive, explosive, violent nature of this world seems set so deep. that we despair of ever making a difference, let alone triumphing against it, but John tells us that we –  we- children of God can defeat the world, and it is our  faith that will give us the victory.

And you know, Jesus so loved us – and loved those who pervert this world too – that he willingly died for us, and them!

When Jesus tells us that the greatest way to show love for our friends is to die for them,  he is illustrating how much we have to love them.

Well, we might give up our life for a member of our family. Or a really close friend.  But who would willingly die for a stranger?

PARIS (REUTERS, AFP) – The French policeman who was shot three times after voluntarily taking the place of a hostage during a supermarket siege in south-western France on Friday has died, France announced on Saturday (March 24).

Arnaud Beltrame, who once served in Iraq, had been raced to hospital fighting for his life after the siege in which he took the place of a female hostage at the Super U store in the town of Trebes, near the Pyrenees mountains. 

“He fell as a hero, giving up his life to halt the murderous outfit of a jihadist terrorist,” President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement shortly before dawn on Saturday. 

So someone did! 

Give up his life for a stranger.

Perhaps Arnaud Beltrame felt he had no choice.

Because, as Jesus says, “You did not choose me. I chose you.

And, he continues, ” I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”

Well alright, you say, but I don’t have the skills, the words, the strength.

In a church meeting I attended – where discussion was about the sad state of their financial affairs, a motion was made that a sum of money that had been donated yearly to a home for women – mothers and their children escaping violence – be terminated, the mood was solemn, and it seemed that the motion would pass denying that support.

Then a woman stood up and made an impassioned plea,  speaking  so eloquently, and movingly, that everyone decided that that the donation must be continued.

Afterward I congratulated her on her speech, its eloquence, and persuasiveness.

She replied, ” I have never spoken up at a meeting, before, I have always been afraid to do so. I don’t know what came over me.”

“I chose you!.”

And when he chooses us, he gives us the power!.

Amen.

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