Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Trinity Sunday Sermon: The Divine Dance of Love

Trinity Sunday 2014
Appointed Scripture
In the Name of the One God, the Holy Trinity. Amen.

It was my Sabbath day. My day off. And I decided that, instead of doing chores or any of the things on my yawning to-do list, I would really and TRULY take the day off. I enjoy the visual arts, so I headed to the Museum of Fine Arts to take in a special exhibition.

          As I made my way through the galleries, I came upon a painting that caused me to stop and draw in a breath. It was a painting by Paul Gauguin, entitled “Breton Girls Dancing.” In exquisite and sophisticated colors, three girls, wearing long dresses and white bonnets, link their hands in dance on a soft, yellow wheat field. They are accompanied by a small dog, frolicking among the stacks of cut wheat. Their village is in the background, out of which rises a tall Gothic church spire, piercing the early-evening sky. I could almost hear the church bells ring as I looked upon those three, interlocked, dancing figures and whispered to myself, “The Trinity!”

          Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

          Creator, Redeemer, and Giver of Life.

          “He who loves, that which is loved, and the power of love” (Augustine).

          Today is Trinity Sunday. When we pause after dramatic Pentecost, and look back to recognize the pattern and movement of the Trinity in the sweep of salvation history. It is worth noting that the Trinitarian formula was first used in the context of early Christian hymns, worship and baptism. Only later was the doctrinal theology — One in three and three in One — worked out.

In the concluding words of Matthew’s gospel today, we hear Christ’s instruction to baptize: “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

          This is not a perfunctory act or formula, but in fact, incorporates each of us into the life of the living God. What does that look like? I invite you to think of it as joining the divine dance of the Trinity.

 Perichoresis is a word used by early church theologian Gregory of Nyssa and has been put to good use by contemporary theologians. Peri meaning “around” and chorea meaning “dance,” it is a way for us to understand God’s unity, life, and movement of love — in the world and in our lives.

Our foundational reading from Genesis reminds us that God created us for relationship: to be, if you will, dance partners.

Our dance with the Creator: reminds us of who we are and whose we are. The One who created us from the same stuff as stars, who knit us in our mothers’ wombs, who ordered the universe, and who continues to create. When the world and our lives seem out of control, the Creator is the one who brings order to chaos. When beholding the beauty of a delicate flower or the grandeur of a mountain range, it is to the Creator to whom we give thanks.

Our Dance with the Redeemer: Jesus, God with us, who knows not only joy and laughter, but also suffering, betrayal, heart-ache, sweat, and tears. Whose life and death demonstrated and made real divine mercy and forgiveness. Who destroyed death and through him we are lifted to divine life – in this life and the next. When we feel alone or without hope, it is Jesus, the Redeemer, who promises he will be – and is -- with us always.

Our Dance with the Giver of Life: The Holy Spirit, Sanctifier. As close as your very breath is the One who swept over the face of the earth at Creation. Called “Sophia” and “Wisdom” in Christian tradition, she inspires, animates, and brings faith and boldness from otherwise tentative and fearful disciples – then and now. Purifying flame and breath of life. “Breathe on [us], breath of God, till [we] are wholly thine, till all this earthly part of [us] glows with thy fire divine” (Hymn 508).

These three, in a divine dance, include us in their unified movement of love.

On The Trinity, Augustine wrote: “the substance of all things is love – in its three-fold appearance of he who loves, that which is loved, and the power of love – everything created by God has traces of the Trinity.”

Everything created by God has traces of the Trinity. Do we look for it? Do we see it the natural world around us? In each other? And when we look at ourselves?

We are made in the image of God, and in baptism we are engaged in the divine dance of the Trinity.

A few weeks ago, I was leaving the Cathedral office later than usual, and I came upon a couple of students break-dancing on the Diocesan Center sidewalk.

I stopped to watch. I marveled at not only their skill, but also their joy. And, I had to ask myself, and now I ask you: when was the last time that you danced? Taking time out, away from the chores, the to-do list, all that is pressing, serious, and sometimes overwhelming…to trust God and dance.

On this Sabbath day, take time to rest, and recreate. Make a space, to see the traces of the Trinity and divine love in all things. And, as did the early Christians, Augustine and Gregory of Nyssa, the Breton girls, and our friends on the Diocesan Center sidewalk…to once again accept God’s invitation into the divine dance of love.



Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Magnetic Pull to Divine Life and Mission

Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year A:
Appointed Scripture passages

When I was a child, one of my favorite workstations in Kindergarten class was the magnet station. Perhaps you had one in your early-childhood classroom, too. Our magnet station was very popular. So if I didn’t get there first, I would bide my time, gluing macaroni to a paper plate at the nearby art station, waiting for my turn at the magnet station.

Once there, I would pick up the large magnet and sweep it across the table, picking up clumps of metal bits. I would continue to move the magnet around, attempting to gather up every last metal bit so that they all clung to the big magnet. Some would fall off. So, back around I would come to gather them again. Child after child would continue this work, as I imagine they still do today.

In John’s gospel, Jesus describes his mission as this: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32). This what he accomplishes in the pivotal events of crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. But it seems to me that throughout the gospel, Jesus does this “drawing-all-people-to-himself” business all the time. Through his preaching, teaching, healing, and feeding...and just hanging out being Jesus…he is drawing people to himself and to God.

For example, the story of the Samaritan Woman at the well: through her encounter with Jesus, her conversion, and witness, many people in her city came to believe. She had gone to the well to draw water. Jesus was there to draw all people to himself: offering living water, abundant life — the source of which is God.

In today’s gospel, in Jesus’ prayer, we are given insight into this dynamic and the relationship of the Father and the Son. How the love and action of each of them, together, creates the magnetic spiritual pull on us. God glorifies Jesus in his ministry, and Jesus glorifies God by imparting the divine life to those attracted to him.

Then, as those drawn in, Jesus prompts us to consider our place in this relationship and our place in the mission of divine love when he prays:  “And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, […] Holy Father, protect them […], so that they may be one, as we are one.”

Like a child sweeping the magnet across the Kindergarten workstation table, Jesus draws us to him, to each other, and makes us one…for the purpose of mission.

Jesus prays for our protection and unity so that we can continue in his work, not so that we can be a cozy club. In his own life, he shows us what is essential in carrying out the mission. It is this: being connected to God, the source of light and life, and being ever mindful of our identity as children of God. This is how the Divine love in our lives and within our community creates a magnetic spiritual pull on others.

And this process is activated through the power of the Holy Spirit. Today we hear in Acts the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to do all things, including being witnesses, to “those who are far off and those who are near” (BCP, p. 100).

And so, when Jesus is “lifted up”, the two men in white robes ask the dumbfounded disciples, “Why are you standing around looking up to heaven?” As your Canon for Welcome & Evangelism, I must confess, what I hear in their question is this: "You’ve got work to do! You’ve been given a mission!" And this message is for us today as well.

Enlivened and guided by the Holy Spirit, God is now working through us — the Church — to draw all people to God’s self. Through our many and various ministries, together we carry on with Jesus’ preaching, teaching, healing, feeding, and “hanging-out-just-being-Jesus” work in the world.

And as we begin to reach out to downtown and into our neighborhoods through our new initiatives, it is important to remember what it is that we have to share. What it is that the Church has to offer. It is what Jesus offered the woman at the well: Living water, Divine love, eternal life — abundant life in Christ.

God created us for this relationship. Yet many people do not understand the yearning within them, confuse it with other things, and they don’t even have words for it. St. Augustine sums it up best: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, O Lord.”

So, children of God, are you ready? In this age, it is our turn at the table, to be about the mission of drawing all people to Christ — our friends, neighbors, our city, and the world — through the magnetic divine love of God.

The macaroni art can wait.