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my miscellany

Trinity Sunday, 2018 — 27 May 18

Trinity Sunday, 2018

RCL B Trinity Sunday
Isaiah 6:1-8, Psalm 29, Romans 8:12-17, Saint John 3:1-17

Today is Trinity Sunday, the Day we acknowledge and celebrate the central doctrine of Christianity, namely, that there is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.[1]

For preachers, Trinity Sunday yields little more than failure. The preacher fails by attempting to explain the Trinity, how one God exists in three Persons. The explanation inevitably rises no higher than inadequacy. Or, a preacher fails by deciding not to attempt the explanation. Preachers fail whether or not they attempt to explain the Trinity. Nicodemus shows us—whether we are preachers or not—a better way.

Like most of us, Nicodemus cannot imagine what he doesn’t know. He cannot feature a realm, a world, beyond his five senses. The rebuke Jesus gives him rests exactly on this point, “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.”[2] Jesus comes from the realm, the world, beyond Nicodemus’ five senses, and Nicodemus cannot find a way to imagine that world.

So, Nicodemus is like you and like me. We cannot feature what we haven’t experienced, not any more than all that is can be fitted into the boundaries of Rhode Island. But, in time, Nicodemus grows. He begins to understand, and he begins to act on his understanding. Reading ahead to the end of the Gospel of Saint John, you will find that he joins Joseph of Arimathea in the removal of Jesus’ body from the Cross and its burial in the tomb nearby. Nicodemus will mature from the level of understanding he presents in the Gospel today. But will we?

Did we notice that the Gospel today is shot through with references to God: God as Father, God as Son, and God as Spirit? We cannot hear it or read it without bumping into all three Persons of the Trinity several times. And that page of the Scriptures is like any hour of our lives. The three Persons of the Trinity are everywhere we turn. They are inescapable. We run across them over and over again. The key that unlocks their presence and discloses it to us is very simple. That key is nothing more than our perception of our limits. Beyond our ken lies everything and everyone Jesus speaks of. To the extent that we receive his testimony, we see. And to the extent that we see, we understand.

There is no better approach to life than the one Nicodemus takes. A lurker, an inquiring stranger, he comes to Jesus by night, and he begins to perceive what he doesn’t know. Encounters with Jesus, alone, can have this effect. Nicodemus comes to allow himself to be instructed by what he discovers. In this way God reveals himself to all of us. Bumping into God over and over again all of our lives, we have yet another opportunity this Trinity Sunday to connect more of the dots shared by our senses and God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

[1] The Book of Common Prayer, page 852.

[2] Saint John 3:11.

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The Day of Pentecost: Whitsunday, 2018 — 20 May 18

The Day of Pentecost: Whitsunday, 2018

RCL Year B Pentecost
Acts 2:1–21, Psalm 104:25–35 and 37, Romans 8:22–27, Saint John 15:26–27 and 16:4b–15

You heard in the First Lesson about tongues of fire coming down from heaven and lighting upon the heads of the disciples. It sounds fantastic. It seems very dramatic. But God is fantastic and dramatic. You have only to remember the Resurrection to recall exactly how fantastic and dramatic God can be.

The tongues of fire may leave Episcopalians cold, but I pray they do not leave you cold. You may not see this ever happening to you. You may not want it to happen to you. But if you look deeper, if you consider the tongues as a way God selected to make himself known to his people, as a way with outward and visible signs of giving them the grace and the power to be his people in the world, then the coldness may melt. The hardness may soften. You will have had a very wonderful Day of Pentecost if you can just see a little more clearly that God wishes to make himself known to you. God wants to lead your life. God wants to give you what you need to go on.

But God’s grace doesn’t stop there. God takes the first step to make himself known to you so that you can share that relationship with other people. That’s evangelism. And, that’s part of our mission at Good Shepherd.

You really can’t do better than to remember Christ’s words from the Gospel: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”[1] I genuinely believe that, and I ask myself several times a day, “What is God trying to get through to me? What am I missing in my understanding and functioning?” For the very last thing that I want to do is to compromise the truth and the power of God’s revelation to us. And so I recommend that together we trust that what God has made known to us, he intends us to use to guide us into all the truth, that in our worship we come closer to his near presence. And Saint Paul tells us in the Epistle that “the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”[2] The Spirit intercedes for you and for me, that together we find our way home, and do his will along the way.

[1] Saint John 16:13a.

[2] Romans 8:27.

For Marjorie — 18 May 18

For Marjorie

The Eucharist of Christian Burial
Romans 8:14–39, Psalm 23, Saint John 14:1–6

We have gathered together today to give thanks to God for every remembrance we have of Marjorie, who lives now, as she always has, in the hands of a loving and merciful Creator.

We can say this because of the strength of the Gospel just proclaimed. Jesus orders his disciples to believe in God and in him. Believing is in their power; believing is their choice to make. Jesus tells them that he goes to prepare a place for them that where he is, there they may be also. It all sounds to them too good to be true. And Saint Thomas objects. “How can we know the way?”[1]

What Thomas will learn in time is that God’s specialty is bringing good out of bad whether it is drawing water out of a rock, or joy out of sadness, or sight out of blindness, or comfort out of the valley of the shadow of death, or faith out of doubt, or life out of death. God’s way is to make the future better than the past. He does this over and over again. We have only to believe in order to see.

And believe we do. We believe that when we commend Marjorie to God, we are handing her on to a loving and merciful Creator, the one who made her for good and brought so much good out of her. We believe that God made her to enjoy God’s presence and life in this life and in the next. We believe that when we commend Marjorie to God, we are joining with Marjorie and with God in God’s loving purposes for her. And we believe that when we commend Marjorie to God, we ourselves are enjoying God’s life and presence even as we are coming a little closer to God’s loving purposes for us.

And so, let us stand and proclaim our faith and our assurance in God’s loving purposes. Let us proclaim our faith in the Apostles’ Creed found on page 496 of your Prayer Books.

[1] Saint John 14:5.

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