Our Omni-Relational God

Our Omni-Relational God

Sermon on  John 3:1-17 for May 27, 2018, Pentecost B       Audio Version here

John 3:1-17

Now 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.”

How do you experience God?  I guess I am assuming that you do have experiences that you feel OK identifying as experiences of God, or of the Divine, or Transcendent. Nearly everyone does. 

Today is the day we think about our experience of God.  We are following in the footsteps of the early church that eventually came up with the word Trinity.  The Trinity is the word we use, to sum up the uncanny way in which our experience of God is not singular, or simple, but variegated, diverse. 

Trinity Sunday Bulletin Art

Most of us experience moments of awe and wonder, of amazement.  Experiences of vastness often set off those feelings – the sea, the vista from the top of a mountain.  Think of all the people who go to Mount Magazine or Petite Jean just to be at the top and look out as far as the eye can see. 

Some people get that same feeling from the amazing microscopic world, or from the Hubble spacecraft pictures of deep space.  When we think of the vastness and complexity, the beauty that sometimes strikes us so deeply it almost hurts, we think of God, the Source, the Creator, or we could say, God the Father.

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Being Spiritual

Being Spiritual

Sermon on Acts 2:1-9, 12-18 for May 20, 2018, Pentecost, Year B

Acts 2:1-9, 12-18

“When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.

There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?

“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”

Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?”

Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”

That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: “Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. They haven’t had time to get drunk—it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:

“In the Last Days,” God says,
“I will pour out my Spirit
on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy,
also your daughters;
Your young men will see visions,
your old men dream dreams.
When the time comes,
I’ll pour out my Spirit
On those who serve me, men and women both,
and they’ll prophesy.

In the gospel of John, which was called a “spiritual gospel” by early church leaders, we read that Jesus himself breaths on his disciples, saying to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

But Luke tells the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit differently.  He sets the occasion later, at the feast of Pentecost, and makes it a miracle story with para-normal sights, and sounds.  We will look at Luke’s version of the story this time, and then ask, what does it mean for us today?

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Love, period.

Love, period.

Sermon on John 15:9-17 for May 6, 2018, Easter 6 B

John 15:9-17

[Jesus said:] “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.”

A man whom I have great respect for once told me that he thought all truth is paradoxical.  Whether or not you would agree, it seems to me that at least most truth is.  I see paradox everywhere.   Probably, being a limited, finite creature contributes to this.

One of the greatest paradoxes of all is how love is related to our faith.  The paradox is simple: Jesus taught us that love is the main thing, but we have treated belief as the main thing.   All the commandments are summed up, Jesus said, in the commands to love God and to love neighbor.  On the other hand, according to the synoptic gospels, Jesus had very little to say about what people believed. 

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