Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8:12-17; John 3:1-17
Bigfork Community United Methodist Church
May 27, 2018 – Trinity Sunday
We move into Ordinary Time this week and we remain there for the next half-year. For most of this long span of Ordinary Time, the liturgical color is green, but our paraments, our altar cloth and pulpit scarf are white today because it is Peace with Justice Sunday.
White is the color symbolizing light, innocence, purity, joy, triumph, and glory.Gold can be substituted for white and so the liturgical color you find in your bulletin is gold rather than white…because white print is so hard to read.
There are two seasons of Ordinary Time. The first is after Christmastide and before Lent, from Epiphany to Transfiguration Sunday.
The season we entered last Monday …the day after Pentecost… stretches from the day after Pentecost to the last Sunday before Advent, Christ the King Sunday, which usually follows the American national celebration of Thanksgiving.
Next Sunday the paraments will be green. Last Sunday they were red. We stand at a turning point, then, on a white and gold Sunday, between Pentecost, when we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit, and Advent, when we will come once again to our worship of God’s gift of the Christ-child, a Savior to all the world.
Ordinary time on the Christian calendar does not mean that our readings are ordinary or our days are ordinary. Least of all does it mean that our worship is to be ordinary.
It simply means that we are between festival seasons…Advent, Christmastide, Lent, Eastertide, and Pentecost. And on this transitional day we meditate on the nature of the triune God, the three-in-one gift.
Let me give you a minute of law school. Every gift is three things in one. You have to have a gift. That’s one. You have to have a donor. That’s two. And you have to have a donee, someone to receive the gift.
If you are lacking any one of those elements, you don’t have a gift. It’s like fire. You need fuel, heat and oxygen to have a fire. Without any one of the three, you won’t have a fire.
Without God, there would be no Christ. Without Christ, we would not have seen God. Without the Holy Spirit, we would never have known the love of God in Jesus Christ. Without any one of those three, humanity…civilization… would be groping in the dark.
We would still be living in caves, killing and eating anything that we could to sustain our bodies. Anything more would only be so much brave talk...
But we have been touched by the Spirit. We have come to know the story of Jesus and we have begun to see ourselves in it, full of meaning and hope…pregnant with faith in the goodness of God.
The angels of our better nature, as Lincoln called them, hover in our consciousness. We know there is evil in the world. We have seen it. We have felt it in our own hearts, and but for the grace of God, we would have been more lost than ever. Save us from our anger… rashness…judgment, dear Lord.
We know there is suffering in the world. We have seen that, too, and maybe we have felt that in our hearts, too. Maybe we have come to know that suffering presses us to a decision between goodness and evil… between bitterness and transformation.
We hear too many times someone regret what they have done, but if you understood what has happened to me, you would understand why I did it. Maybe we have told ourselves that…more than once.
They/We might as well say that the devil made them/us do it. When you have power you have freedom and when you have freedom, you have a choice.
If it touches your heart, think about it deeply before you respond. Ask yourself: 1. What are all my options? How many ways can I respond to this? 2. What will happen if I respond in this way? 3. What comes after that? 4. Which option is the best one for me…for them… for everyone? 5. What is the right thing to do?
If it wounds your heart…if it stirs up anger in you…put on your hat and walk around the block. If you are still angry…walk around the block again…and again…and again.
Come, sit with Jesus in the Garden and ask God what is the right thing to do…not my will, but thine.
I don’t know that this is exactly what Jesus meant when he told Nicodemus that one must be born again to enter into the Kingdom… but it sure fits.
I don’t know that this is exactly what Jesus was talking about when he told Peter that if a member of the church sinned against him, he did not have to forgive them just seven times…but seventy times seven…but it sure fits.
It’s like the time I was trying to get out of the house to get to work… back in the day when I was watching over my mother…and trying to raise two young and intelligent (but not always wise) teenagers…and doing course of study…and working as a lawyer and serving a church… and taking care of two dogs…and a gecko.
The yellow Lab, Zoe, had a bad habit of chewing up my gloves. So I got a couple pair. And she chewed up the left glove from both pair. So I got three pair and she chewed up the left glove of all three pair.
And there, on the table beside the door was my right glove…and no left glove. Zoe! I called. She came over, panting and wagging her tail, so happy to have me talking to her.
I slapped her on the nose with the right glove and she blinked, then wagged her tail a little harder. I said, “No!” and slapped her again. And she quit wagging her tail.
I shook the glove in her face and said, “Bad girl!” and I turned and stomped through the kitchen, into the garage, got in my car and threw my one…right…glove onto the passenger seat next to me…right next to where my left glove was laying.
I went back into the house to apologize and Zoe really didn’t know what was happening then. She stood there waiting and I threw my arms around her and told her that I was sorry.
I imagined that she was saying with the look she gave me, “I hope you know what you’re sorry about… because I don’t know what I’m sorry about…but I sure am sorry.”
There will be good days and bad days, my friends. We will have good moments…and moments that could have been better. But at the end of the day, we will have a need to accept our own shortcomings… doggone it…and vow to do better.
We can’t climb into a Time Machine and go back to start over. What’s done is done.
I had a friend who was afraid to tell their father about a terrible thing that had happened to them when they were young. They loved their father and they were afraid he would be so upset about it that he might do something bad.
They respected him, though, and wanted to ask him to help them through the hurt feelings and sense of woundedness that they felt. I told them I couldn’t tell them what to do.
It was few years later that I saw that person again and as we said hello and caught up on each other’s lives, I wondered what they had done with their hurt and what they might have said to their dad.
It was as if my thinking about it had made them think about it, too, and they said, “You know that thing? Well, I talked to my father and he surprised me. He just said, ‘What are you going to do about it?”
What a good question! And that’s the only question that is open to us, come what may. We can be angry or sarcastic or mean. We can be kind and understanding and okay with it. But in the end, the question is, ‘What are you going to do about it?’
All I know is that anger provokes anger…and more anger provokes more anger. On the other hand, I know that kindness begets kindness and love is the only thing that can get everyone out of the box.
If we respond to the people who hurt us the same way they have behaved toward us…we become what we hate. But if we respond like Jesus, inviting our enemies to become our friends…praying for insight into what God’s will is [Read here: What is the right thing to do?] then we…and they…and the whole world can be born again.
We have three brains, and only one of them is able to think at that high level. Only one of them is able to contemplate alternatives, play them out to their logical end, decide on the best one…and maybe even… just do the right thing.
It all depends on whether you think that someone who can keep their wits about them when everyone else is panicking is a very wise person… or someone who doesn’t really understand what is going on.
If you think they just don’t understand, then maybe you are like the guy in the Army that my dad told me about. Everyone was out of step but them…and they were miserable about it…and they made everyone else miserable, too.
Nations are like people. Nations are people. We can ask ourselves how we can hurt them as much as they have hurt us, or we can ask…with an open heart…what the right thing is.
If we can do the latter, that – I think – is when Paul would tell us that if we live on the basis of selfishness, we are going to die. Indeed, a part of us will die, every time we vote another person off the island. No man is an island, and all that.
So what are we going to do about it? Cry, “Mourn for me, for I am a person of unclean lips and I live among people with unclean lips?”
Or are we going hear the angel say, “Your guilt has departed. Your sin is removed?”
Will we find the grace and the courage to sit quietly enough…even when everyone else is panicking… and here God ask, “Whom should I send, and who will go for us?”
In the early 1900s, Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote a poem for us today, and she titled it, “You Never Can Tell.”
YOU never can tell when you send a word,
Like an arrow shot from a bow
By an archer blind, be it cruel or kind,
Just where it may chance to go.
It may pierce the breast of your dearest friend.
Tipped with its poison or balm,
To a stranger's heart in life's great mart,
It may carry its pain or its calm.
You never can tell when you do an act
Just what the result will be;
But with every deed you are sowing a seed,
Though the harvest you may not see.
Each kindly act is an acorn dropped
In God's productive soil
You may not know, but the tree shall grow,
With shelter for those who toil.
You never can tell what your thoughts will do,
In bringing you hate or love;
For thoughts are things, and their airy wings
Are swifter than carrier doves.
They follow the law of the universe—
Each thing must create its kind,
And they speed o'er the track to bring you back
Whatever went out from your mind.
Dear Lord, what is it that you want to accomplish – through the grace of Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit – in this world…through me…this day? Amen.