“Triple Reasons to Love”
May 22, 2016 – Trinity Sunday – Year C
Tom Miller, a ministry colleague and author, tells about visiting a three generation family where the grandfather, son, and 4 year old grandson were all named John.
The phone rang.
“Hello” said one of the women in the household.
“May I speak to John, please?”
“Which John would you like to speak to? John the father, John the son, or John the holy terror?”
If you have one of the church calendars on your wall, you will notice that today is designated as ‘Trinity Sunday.’ Immediately following Pentecost, it is the Sunday where we examine the three ways we understand and experience God’s active presence with us. We celebrate the nature, activity and mystery of God. Both the reading from Romans and the Gospel of John speak of the wisdom and caring of our creator God, the saving action of Jesus the Christ, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Writing to the Roman people, Paul reminded them that the human condition was such that they were “out of touch” with God and that their manner of living was hostile to God’s ways. In other words, the people messed up. But God made the first move. Just as creation began with a first move from God, so did our new life, when God brought about peace and reconciliation through Jesus Christ. This new life has not come about through our own desperate attempts at goodness but through God’s gracious action. God is the actor and is our great hope. The realization of the great gift made Paul ecstatic as he declared “and so we boast of the hope we have in sharing God’s glory!” Despite the hardship facing him, Paul is confident because he experiences God’s caring presence with him, through the Holy Spirit.
When a horrible tragedy struck a family in a community I once served, I was struck by the family’s strong faith. Their faith truly did sustain them, and continues to do so. Even to their un-churched friends and neighbours, the hope surrounding this family in the wake of such deep loss was truly inspiring.
That hope rests in Christ. It defines us as Christian people. It’s what makes us unique, and at times, even mysterious to those who cannot fathom the hope that remains even in seemingly hopeless circumstances. The epistle of Romans reminds us that our hope resides in Christ’s faithfulness to us, and that our hope never lets us down.
Sometimes hope really is “the thing with feathers that perches in the soul,” to quote Emily Dickinson. We can gladly celebrate those times when our hope is easily accessible and affirms our faith. But perhaps we can celebrate even more of those character-building struggles in which we find only a remnant of hope, one lone feather in what’s left of our soul. These are the moments that define us. In Christ, we hold on to that hope and never let it go.
In the passage from the gospel of John, Jesus is continuing to speak to the disciples at the Last Supper. But these are also the words of Jesus for the church. They are meant for us too. The followers of Jesus will never be abandoned. Jesus is trying to explain how the disciples will experience God’s presence and be guided after he is gone. It has not been possible for him to cover every situation that might arise. And, even it he had, it would have been too much for them. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, will be with them to aid them in understanding questions they haven’t even thought of yet. This understanding is not passive but a wisdom that issues in action. The Holy Spirit has been sent from God to be our guide. As the Spirit guides, so it also teaches and interprets in order that we may be led to deeper understanding, and begin to follow a way of life that will conform to the teaching of Jesus. The Holy Spirit will continue to guide the church as it seeks to do God’s will in the world.
Many years ago I went to a home to plan a funeral. Upon arriving at the home, I was ushered downstairs to talk with all the grandchildren – the adults could wait. The grandchildren ranged from 3 to 16 years of age. They so wanted to talk about their grandpa. But they had questions that they wanted answered first. They wanted to know where was grandpa, right now. My answer was something like “he is with God, in a very peaceful and loving place.” Then came the most difficult question. How do you know? I answered something like, “I know your Grandpa loved you all so very much and so does God. And now God is looking after your Grandpa, forever and forever.” And that answer seemed to satisfy them. And so the grandchildren were then OK with me talking with their parents to plan the service.
I believe the Holy Spirit meets us where we are, and informs our hearts according to the needs of the day. By this gracious gift, God pulls up a chair and meets us in the location of our very souls, ever present with us as comforter, advocate, teacher, and guide.
Sometimes we talk about coincidences happening in our lives. They sometimes seem to be serendipity experiences. I prefer to look on them as the work of the Holy Spirit. You will often hear me say, “Oh the Spirit is at work again!” when something wondrous happens. Recently a friend was telling me that her daughter was able to find a second job to help pay for orthodontic care for her daughter. The family didn’t know if they would be able to give the daughter the braces she needed, but because the 2nd job opened up, the dental care is now a reality. “Oh the Spirit is at work again!” Just this week I was told that a colleague was sitting at her desk and a teenage Syrian fellow came into her office and said he would like to sponsor his mother and sister as refugees from Syria. Would the church be interested in helping? Up to this point the congregation had been talking about how terrible the conflict and drought in Syria is, wondering what their response might be. “Oh the Spirit is at work again!”
Are we open to experiencing the Spirit at work? Is our faith in Jesus our friend and companion deep enough that even in times when we struggle, we cling to the assurance that we are not alone? Thanks be to our gracious God who is beyond our understanding and yet dwells in us. What wonderful Good News this is! Amen.