His image.

Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.

Today we celebrate the ineffable nature and character of God made known to us by Jesus. That is enough for us. As the psalmist desires, we too only wish to live in the house of the LORD all the days of our lives, delighting in the LORD’s perfections and meditating in his Temple.

God’s wonderful mystery will be fully revealed to us when we finally go home to Him. In the meantime, we have work to do.

St. Paul tells the Corinthians and reminds us: Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

If we can simply do that, the God of love and peace will be with us.

Mending our ways is hard work, work that requires the full-on help of God’s grace. Mending our ways takes conversion, a turning of our hearts. It takes action, a doing of the right and a rejection of the wrong, a rejection of our own sinfulness. Yes, we sin, and we sin grievously.

Each night I review my Facebook feed. I find much good there, positive words, connections, mutual support and encouragement, an ability to be with distant family and friends and a chance to keep each other informed. Unfortunately, I also see words of hate, words that come from prejudice (a pre-judging of people), words that reflect frustrations, inordinate fears, and frankly a lack of knowledge pivoted to accusation and hate. Individuals are turned into “them” and “those.” I see it when people turn away from others physically, when we see someone approaching and turn the other way. How did we forget the Gospel lesson: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son. The world – all of us. Given to save, not to condemn.

If we think ourselves God’s followers, those who give God praise, glory, and honor, how can we hold any prejudice toward anyone? If we believe God, we know we are all created in His image. If we dishonor, disrespect, blame, accuse, or prejudge anyone we do so to the face of the Father. We do it to Jesus. We disrespect the Spirit. We must learn to agree, live in peace, and greet all with a holy kiss. We must mend our ways. 

Mending our ways from the overt and covert sins we engage in holds promise, not just for the moment God will be fully revealed to us, but here, today, for that is the action of kingdom builders. LORD, pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your own.

The best family
ever!

Brothers and sisters: For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ

How do we get the best family ever? We all have conceptions of what a great family would be. It would be loving, comforting, full of life and joy, faithful, of one mind and heart, and it would not end with only one generation, but would live on forever.

So often, we spend Trinity Sunday trying to work through the theology of God, One God in Three Divine Persons. We can make the day about thinking, or we may even make it about our feelings toward God, but rarely do we make it about relationship.

From the very beginning of scripture, God reveals Himself as relationship. Jesus’ coming to us was about building relationship and community. Jesus’ post-resurrection and post-Ascension reality is about a people as one body.

Paul, in writing to the Romans, spells it all out for us. He did this often, talking about the unity that we have as followers of Christ. He talks about that ideal family that has moved from conception to reality.

We have a family built on love. In a great reality it was created through the self-sacrifice of love. No greater love hath a man…

We have a family that offers the ultimate in comfort. It is a comfort that surpasses merely being comfortable – it gives us absolute assurance and guaranteed heavenly promises – God does not lie in His promises.

We have the fullness of life and the joy of freedom. Our joy and freedom comes from having all our debts paid and settled once and for all. Everything that bound us and weighed us down has been removed.

Faithfulness is derived from our dedication to God, to lives modeled on Jesus’ life, and the way we care for each other.

Our life does not end here and now, with a family fading away at the moment of death, but lasts forever in the Heavenly Court where we have our inheritance in Christ.

We have all this from the Spirit of Pentecost, in the family of Christ, the Unity of the Trinity; the best family ever.

Falling into the
arms of love.

Brothers and sisters, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

The quote on our bulletin from Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century abbess and mystic, is from a longer prayer she wrote. The main part of the prayer states:

You shine with radiant light,
in this circle of earthly existence
You shine so finely,
it surpasses understanding.
God hugs you.
You are encircled by the arms
of the mystery of God.

Trinity Sunday seems to be one of those days in the Church calendar that presents a challenge for us as believers and teachers of the Word. We work so hard to understand everything, to make sense of who God is, and to show our theological and philosophical learnings that we can miss what God is all about.

Our understanding must start with accepting the mystery of God. Our Orthodox brothers and sisters tend to accept the mystery of God in a much more open way. They don’t look to over intellectualize God. Rather, they see the whole life of a Christian as a mystery.

The joy of God’s mystery is the fact that this inestimable, incomprehensible God, this mystery beyond our understanding, encounters us and holds His arms open to us. Remember that He came to us and told us that He wishes relationship with us.

Moses encountered God in the burning bush and on Mount Sinai. In these encounters, he was surrounded by all the power and glory of God. Yet these were the words he heard: “The LORD, the LORD, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”

In our daily lives, we should reflect back on the prayer of Hildegard. If we have relationship with God we shine brightly. We are different. We have been pulled into relationship with awesome mystery and the key aspect of that mystery is that we can run to it, run into its arms. That is what allows us to be truly radiant.

Over the past several weeks we have worked very hard. The basket social, rummage sale, bread sale. These tasks were done with joy and fellowship, but also added to our stress. We worry over the outcome. Will we have success? Will we live up to past accomplishment? In the face of these concerns, this Trinity Sunday calls us to re-encounter God’s mystery. Paying bills and life can get in the way of being radiant. God calls us back to radiance, back to His arms of love, to fall into His arms today.

Is the Trinity
practical?

“But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”

Sometimes we think of the Trinity as three gods who get along really well and never argue or disagree. Of course, that would be incorrect – there is but one God, not three. We believe in One God in three different Persons.

Neither is the Trinity just three manifestations of God; God showing up in different costumes. This is modalism. Modalism says that there is one God and He appears as the Father and then as the Son and now as the Spirit. Rather, God is three Divine, Eternal and Distinct Persons.

The Trinity is also uncreated and eternal. The Father did not create the Son or Spirit. The Father is not “the main God” and the Son or Spirit some inferior god or that the Father created the Son and Spirit before anything else.

So the truth of the Trinity is not saying there are three different gods or three different manifestations of God or that God the Father created some lesser, inferior gods. Scripture and Church Tradition are consistent in teaching that there is One God existing in Three Eternal Persons, One God in unity, eternally existing in three Persons, The Father, Son and Holy Spirit – equal in nature, distinct in person, and subordinate in duties.

Beyond the technical explanation of what the Holy Trinity is or is not, what is the practical application of the Trinity for us?

St. John states: Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. John identified himself in his writing as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” He knew that when we begin to understand God’s love, like he did, when we see God in the way He really is, we experience life differently and we live differently.

When we come to understand the unity in Trinity of the Father, Son and Spirit we can better appreciate and understand what it really means. He did not need us, but created us as an outpouring of His love. He wants only that in knowing Him we come to pour out that kind of love each day. The mutuality, love, unity, self-subordination, and perfection of God flowing from love is not just a fact of the Trinity but more so a call to us. Knowing is not enough. The Trinity calls us to compassion for those who don’t know love and a desire to share that love and life. It is our living life in the Trinity.

About-the-Trinity1

I believe in
— —.

Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Jesus’s words found at the very end of Matthew’s Gospel account give us great comfort. He is ascending, but will remain with us always.

But, why should His words give us comfort? Even those we consider close friends can sometimes offer words, but fail to follow-through. Why are Jesus’ words supposed to give us any more comfort than any other person’s words?

This is where we get down to brass tacks as Christians. What is at the center of our faith? From where do we derive our confidence? How can we prepare ourselves to do what St. Peter asks of us when he says: “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you”?

Standing where we are today, and having recited the creeds of the faith as our parents, grandparents, and ancestors have through the centuries it is easy enough to say – God. God is the reason for our hope. We are confident in Jesus’ words because Jesus is God and God cannot speak falsehood. If He said He would be with us always it is obviously and categorically true.

It wasn’t always that way. The Church had to work and fight long and hard, for centuries, to proclaim the truth about God, to settle it all based on what Jesus taught and the Apostles witnessed firsthand. Others came along with theories and opinions – Jesus was not really a man, He was not really God, the Holy Spirit wasn’t a person. These were called heresies – untruths – falsehoods.

The various creeds were written to clearly covey the truth of Who and What God is in opposition to those heresies. What we believe, as is stated in the Athanasian Creed, is the baseline necessary belief for every Christian. God is Three Co-eternal, Uncreated, and Almighty Persons of One Substance.

We have to be very careful to proclaim this truth. If we do not, our baptism in the name of the Trinity is worthless, our prayer is useless, and our hope is baseless. Jesus words are just the words of another faulty human. The Holy Spirit is just a breeze or a warm fuzzy feeling, He has no personhood. The Father – who knows?

Our task this Trinity Sunday is to reconnect ourselves to the truth of God and in doing so recognize the great promise and power that is ours.

Reflection for the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity 2014

Living-Room-Main

Get on the couch
with Us

Brothers and sisters, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the holy ones greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

If you look at the picture at the top you will see a couch with three seats and the words: “The Living Room.” This is symbolic of our One God and the three Devine Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and the real focus of this Solemnity.

If we were to try to explain the nature of God as One in Three Divine Persons we would be wasting our time. Many saints have offered analogies to explain the Trinity. The Councils of the Church have set forth great Creeds that proclaim our understanding of God. We can simply proclaim our belief and understanding of God’s nature in those Creeds and avoid the frustrations of over-thinking. Today, let us stand in faith, accepting God’s revelation of Himself as One and Three Divine Persons, and profess our Creeds with confidence. What has frustrated the minds of others has been given to us by faith.

This Solemnity is about the ‘living room.’ Ecclesiastes 4:7-8 tells us: Again, I saw vanity under the sun: a person who has no one, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, “For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?” This also is vanity and an unhappy business.

This reflection and Paul’s words to the Corinthians are about living Godlike lives. We could have the most perfect living room (at least to those looking in from the outside) but if we are alone or apart, if people can only look in, we are not living God’s life.

Ecclesiastes goes on: Two are better than one… though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him. A threefold cord is not quickly broken. This and Paul’s words are practical instruction on what life in God is really about. It is about faith expressed by living as God intends us to live, modeled on His own Divine Life – an eternal, beautiful, peaceful, truthful, rejoicing, and just life lived together. When the Holy Trinity looked at what they had made they declared: “It is not good that the man should be alone.” Jesus did not live alone, but gathered a community of disciples, and of course was always one with the Father and Holy Spirit.

Strength and the best in life come from living together in the living room created by and modeled on God. There are many seats – we must not sit there alone.

Reflection for the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity

ALeapofFaith-Image1

Let’s bungee jump…
for faith.

“I beside him as his craftsman, and I was his delight day by day, playing before him all the while, playing on the surface of his earth; and I found delight in the human race.”

In the Book of Proverbs we hear Jesus speaking about the creation of the world. Genesis tells us creation was an act of the Holy Trinity, God created the heavens and the earth… the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…”

This act of creation was an act of love and a joy for God. We were created to live in relationship with Him and with each other.

This is because God understands relationship. Relationship is His very essence. He is One and three Persons. He lives in a relational unity and created us so that we would be part of that unity; so that we would reflect unity in the way we live.

Jesus says that as He played on the surface of the earth He found delight in the human race. His delight was to uphold us, to reveal the truth of God to us, to take on our nature, and to redeem and save us.

Because God delights in us, because we are His joy, He offered Himself to reveal the truth of Who He is. For our sake He draws us into relationship with the Trinity. For that unity He broke down the barrier of sin by offering Himself on the Holy Cross. So that we will not forget or be lost He sent forth His Spirit to live with us, to guide us, and to lead us to unity with Him and each other.

We have an ongoing opportunity and call to live a life of love and unity; to live the revealed and absolute truth of God.

This weekend we recall how many sacrificed all and offered their lives for us, for our freedom and wellbeing. These men and women exhibited the reality of the God of relationships; the God that lived within them, and lives in us. They chose to care about their relationship with their brothers and sisters, and to do their utmost to protect those they could never know or meet.

We could spend this weekend theologizing about the Holy Trinity and frustrating ourselves in the process. We could spend it thinking of ourselves, and how we might relax, find a good sale, or party. Instead, let’s take that bungee jumping risk, that leap of faith and decide on a life that reflects God’s truth – unity.

The leap of faith is to recognize the reality of the God of relationships; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He delights in us and calls us to live by His example – in mutual love, support, and sacrifice. In doing so He delights in us.

Reflection for the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity

Can you explain?
Ummmmm, maybe?

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”

It is amazing that on the day we consider the greatest mystery of mysteries – the Holy Trinity, we are confronted with the Jesus’ command to go and do the most simple and straightforward of things – baptize.

We recall from catechism class that anyone can baptize. In an emergency, any person can take some water, pour it over a person’s head, and with the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” they have baptized that person.

In ages past, this was quite necessary. Unfortunately, many children died shortly after being born. People were caught up in wars and other tragedies. Christians in many places were the subject of persecution and martyrdom. Healthcare, safety, and religious freedom were a far cry from what they are today. Still to this day, every Christian has the right and duty to baptize when necessary.

Today’s Christians in the Middle East, North Korea, and China still baptize in emergencies, in prisons, whenever and wherever necessary. Soldiers in harms way baptize their brothers and sisters. Healthcare workers baptize in urgent situations.

In baptizing, in this simple act, we join the newly baptized to the Holy Trinity, to this great mystery, and to the Christian community.

The key is that in baptism, in regeneration into people of God, we come to recognize that our wisdom and intelligence are not enough. We realize that we are participants in God’s life. We must listen to and understand God’s mystery as a child would; accepting God’s greater wisdom.

Jesus praised His Father in saying: “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent, and revealed them to little children.

We cannot explain the mystery of the Trinity. We can however explain what He has revealed to us and what we have accepted in baptism as His children. It is this simple fact: The Father loves us so much that He offered up His Son so that we might have eternal life. He loves us so much that He gave the gift of the Holy Spirit to sustain, instruct, strengthen, and enlighten us; to join us together.

That’s a mystery we can all explain – love, A.K.A. God.