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Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Trinity Means that Jesus Shows Us What God is Like

John 16:12-15

12‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

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This is the Sunday of the Holy Trinity. God as Three. God as One. God as three-in-one. Father, Son, Spirit. Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier. This is probably my least favorite Sunday of the church year. There’s no miraculous story to dig into, no exciting historical events to unpack, no drama or humor to tag onto. It’s a doctrine. And, quite honestly, not our best one. Someone once said that whoever has come up with an explanation of the Trinity that satisfies them has just dishonored the Trinity. The Holy Trinity is a doctrine that is simply our best effort at explaining that which cannot be explained. Try as we might, we just aren’t going to really understand it. God is, by definition, beyond our understanding.

But here’s what we do know. The Holy Trinity is the uniquely Christian way of describing God. We trust that God is truly Father, Son, and Spirit. The Father, the Creator, is God. The Son, the Redeemer, is God. The Spirit, the Sanctifier, is God. Not three gods, but One God.These three persons, who are the One God, relate, support, interdwell together. The relationship they share reveals the image of God in which we are made.

I want to think about the implications of the Trinity as a uniquely Christian explanation of God, for what that means in the world and to the world. How often have you heard someone say they think Jesus is fine, but aren’t sold on church? Pretty much everyone likes Jesus, right? Why do you suppose that is? What is it about Jesus that people seem to appreciate? What do you know about Jesus that is meaningful for you?________, ___________, __________, ___________.

If we take the doctrine of the Trinity seriously, we are saying that these things we described about Jesus are what we know God to be like. That’s a uniquely Christian thing to say. Because we know Jesus to be (______), we know that God is (________).

My sister and brother-in-law were in town last week. We took them into Denver to see where our daughter’s wedding reception will be next April. It’s actually an art gallery, which makes it rather unique for a wedding reception. While we were there, I was walking through the gallery and happened on a set of paintings that captured my attention. They were intriguing.

As we kept moving through the gallery, I kept coming back to these paintings, and bringing people with me to look at them. Don’t you find these interesting? Don’t you think they’re beautiful? Don’t you think they are worth $2000 apiece? Wouldn’t you love some of these hanging in your house (I asked Lois that one. Her answer was something about the $2000 apiece, which I think meant “no”)?

After about the fourth time back visiting this set of paintings, one of the gallery employees came up to me and said that the artist was in the gallery and was right then sitting about 8 feet away. Would you like me to introduce you? Yes!

So I had a chance to chat for several minutes with the artist of these paintings that I had found so intriguing. She explained her ideas and her inspiration which came from the emotions she experienced when seeing the morning sun completely change the appearance of the Rocky Mountains. She told me how long she’d worked on them and why this particular style was important to her. I thanked her and asked for one of her business cards.

Next time I walked by these paintings, of course I looked at them again. But this time, they were more than intriguing, more than interesting. There was a depth and a significance that wasn’t there before. I wasn’t just looking at a style of painting that I appreciated, I was seeing the artist too. What I knew about the artist was then part of what I knew about the paintings.

What we know about Jesus is part of what we know about God.

Think about what that means for the next conversation you have with someone who admires Jesus, but doesn’t necessarily go any further. What do they admire about Jesus? Perhaps they know more about God then, than they think. The Trinity means that Jesus shows us what God is like. If Jesus loves sinners, God does too. If Jesus forgave those who hate him, God does too. If Jesus welcomed those who were outcast, God does too. If Jesus showed mercy to those who were poor, God does too. The Trinity means that Jesus shows us what God is like.

This is the image of God in which we are created. This is the God we show to the world. One who loves the world—and loves us. One who forgives the world—and forgives us. One who welcomes the world—and welcomes us. One who shows mercy to the world—and shows mercy to us.

If we believe Jesus died and rose again, the doctrine of the Trinity means that we believe in a God who enters into the darkest parts of our lives and brings forth life. Not because we believe it, but because that’s the nature of God—the Trinity means that Jesus shows us what God is like.

The Trinity is the good news we bring to the world. Not a doctrine that you have to buy into, but an experience of what the God we trust is like. Jesus shows us. Amen.

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2013 in Sermon

 

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Enduring the Holy Spirit

The Day of Pentecost
Romans 8:14-17; John 14:8-17; Acts 2:1-21

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” 14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

I have a new respect for what these disciples experienced on that Pentecost Day. They endured the chaos of the Holy Spirit. They hung in there despite their uncertainty and confusion. Instead of trying to keep things the same–safe, orderly, and predictable hidden away in their room–they kept their heads down and went with whatever the Holy Spirit was doing, however they got dragged along. The Holy Spirit comes, chaos often ensues.

Think about their life now that Jesus was ascended and they couldn’t see him anymore. They were unsure. They felt like they were kind of on their own, even though they weren’t exactly sure what to do or how God was calling them. But they could have meetings and prayer sessions and conversations about it. Sounds like some of us here.

On the other hand, now that he was no longer with them, things had finally calmed down a bit. There was some order and predictability. They had time to think, to pray, to consider their next moves. They were still disciples of Jesus. They had followed him, listened to his teachings, believed him Son of God, believed he was raised from the dead. Sounds like some of us here.

So they met together, prayed, read some scripture, shared meals, and tried to figure out God’s direction. Sounds like some of us here.

They were trying, but just weren’t sure what all this meant for the world–what their part in God’s redeeming work actually was. So they kept talking and meeting and asking and trying to figure it all out. Sounds like some of us here.

I’m pretty certain that prior to Pentecost these disciples had spoken to others about Jesus. I’m sure they had shared news of his death and resurrection with any number of people. They were there; they saw it all; he was their good friend and teacher. Wasn’t that enough? There was no blueprint for what this whole discipleship thing was supposed to look like.

But suddenly something happened. I’m not sure they were fully aware of it, and I’m not sure they liked it very much. At least not at first. These verses in Acts are the only mention in scripture of the tongues of fire and the violent wind at the coming of the Spirit. In John, Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit on them. In Paul’s writings, the coming of the Holy Spirit is evident through one’s faith. Only Luke describes it this way, this radically. That leads me to believe that these disciples weren’t thinking, “Tongues of fire? Alright! Now the Spirit of God has filled me! Sound of a violent wind? OK, now I am equipped to proclaim Jesus! Hey, everyone, I’m speakin Japanese! And French! And Mesopotamian! If only my Spanish teacher were grading me today! Finally the Holy Spirit has come. Watch what happens when I preach now!”

No, I’m convinced they didn’t know what was going on. This was just chaos. All they could do was what they had been doing, trying to be faithful, trying to figure this out, sharing their story. Because when you read this account, the disciples aren’t doing anything out of the ordinary. The Holy Spirit, however, is.
Thousands of people didn’t gather outside of the house because of the disciples’ newfound language skills. They certainly didn’t gather because of what the disciples were saying about Jesus. No, the crowd gathered because of the noise of this wind that was coming from the house. Even then they weren’t listening to what the disciples were actually saying; they were only hearing that their own native languages were being spoken. They aren’t believing in Jesus. No, just like the disciples, the crowds are trying to figure out what’s happening, too. The scene is simply chaotic. Wind and fire and languages. No one has the first clue as to what’s going on.
“Aren’t these Galileans? How can we be hearing them in our own languages?” The crowds are just as confused as the disciples. The best explanation those outside can come up with for these uneducated fishermen speaking fluently in foreign languages is that these disciples are drunk. Really? That’s the best they’ve got? Apparently they don’t have much experience listening to drunk people.

It wasn’t anything the disciples were doing, it’s what the Holy Spirit was doing. On her own. The Holy Spirit blows where she wants to blow, and accomplishes what she wants to accomplish. Not because of our efforts, but sometimes through them. It’s not explainable, not orderly, not according to our priorities or expectations. Wind and fire and languages. The Holy Spirit makes noise, and chaos ensues. Whether we like it or not. Whether we put forth effort or not.

We are a congregation that puts forth a tremendous amount of effort. We are healthy, creative, adventurous, caring, diverse, focused, authentic, involved. We are, in a lot of  ways, what many congregations strive to be. We’ve had things pretty good here for quite a number of years. I kinda like that. It’s calm and rational. We can take time to evaluate, to ponder, to discuss, to gather input before we make a decision and move forward. That’s what we do. That’s the way we operatate. That’s LCM going about our business of being God’s church in the world.

But sometimes the Holy Spirit shows up. Things can feel chaotic. Not everything goes in an orderly, calm kind of way. It’s not that we’re doing anything differently, necessarily, but the Holy Spirit begins to blow and burn and speak. We try to figure out what’s happeninging, why things are different, why things aren’t going the way we had planned. Why suddenly what we had been doing that was so sucessful now seems to have shifted out from underneath us. I have a newfound appreciation for the disciples on that first Pentecost Day.

I think, sometimes, that we long for the orderly, predictable way of our past. The chaos and uncertainlty of Pentecost is unsettling. What will happen? What is God up to around us? What has God called us into now? I’m not sure I know the answer.

I have a new respect for what these disciples experienced on that Pentecost Day. The Holy Spirit comes, chaos often ensues. The Holy Spirit will do what she does on her own. She blows where she wants to blow, and accomplishes what she wants to accomplish. Not because of our efforts, but sometimes through them. It’s not explainable, not orderly, not according to our priorities or expectations. Wind and fire and languages. The Holy Spirit makes noise, and chaos ensues. Whether we like it or not. Whether we cooperate or not. Blow, Spirit, blow. We can deal with chaos. Light a holy fire. We will put up with whatever you’ve got in mind. Speak through us. We are here. Come, Holy Spirit.
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Posted by on May 22, 2013 in Sermon

 

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Mother’s Day Sermon, Pastor Brigette Weier

TrinityIn our gospel reading this morning, we are hearing the last few lines of what is known as the High Priestly Prayer-Jesus praying to God on the behalf of the disciples and for those believers to come-namely us. These words are full of imagery of the unity, relationship and love between God the Creator and Jesus as God’s son, as well as a prayer for humanity to reflect and be this unity, relationship and love with one another. I have a picture of the famous Andrei Rublev Icon from1410 that hangs in my office (show on screen). I love this image because it shows the Triune God in this  relationship. God the Creator bowing to Jesus (God incarnate) the Redeemer who bows back to the Creator and the Holy Spirit the sanctifier who in turn bows to Jesus. Not one persons of God is more important or higher but all are equal community around the table. The three persons cannot be separated and each needs aspects and attributes of the other for wholeness and completeness. God is not complete without Jesus and Jesus is not complete without the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is not complete without the Creator or the redeemer. But what I love even more about this icon is the space at the table that is open-it is space for you, me and all of God’s people. There is space at the table to be in full and permanent relationship in the very life of God and our presence is part of the wholeness of God. There is something of us in the very life of God that also completes God. It also reminds me that I am a part of something bigger than myself and my own little corner of the world.
In John, Jesus is naming this very reality in these seven verses. The love that flows through the Triune God in deep and abiding relationship, spills out to us…and Jesus is praying that this love flows through us to everyone in the world. This is beyond choosing to share this communal love with our biological family or just people with whom we are comfortable, but it is to share this love with whomever God gives us-places in our midst- to love, regardless if we would name them as part of our biological family or not.
We live in a culture that likes to think that there is a narrow definition for family. The word “family” quickly can conjure up images of the often idealized nuclear family, a la Leave it to Beaver or the Huxtibles. For decades, the nuclear family was perpetuated as the most stable and functional. These families were considered the most self sufficient and so no one outside of the immediate family was necessary or helpful. Some of this has, of course, been proven false over the years, and all of the different configurations of family such as blended, single parent, same gender parents, adult children living with aging parents or even three or more generations in a home are much more prevalent in the past few years and we are even seeing some of that trend finally being reflected in media culture. But sadly, it seems that there is still a loud voice in our culture that declares that anything outside of the nuclear type family leads to the decline of “these real families” even attacks the idea of stable family.
However, when you look up the definition of “family” in Merriam Websters, alongside the definition of the biological family is this one: “a group of people who are united by certain convictions or affiliation.” There is no mention of biology or DNA at all. Over and over we see Jesus’ own ministry calling into question what constitutes a family and redefining the idea of family. He speaks of families being divided and of loving complete strangers as oneself. From the cross Jesus redefines his own mother’s relationship with the beloved disciple-“Woman here is your son.” And to the disciple, “here is your mother.” It seems that DNA is not that important to Jesus as far as who is considered family. What is important to Jesus, is commitment and unconditional love to one another, who will walk the difficult journey with you,  and who will nurture you in the faith of a loving and forgiving God. What is important to Jesus is how we affiliate with one another.
This is not a definition of family that our society is that comfortable with living into. We tend to believe the culture that tells us that we can go it alone, or that we should be able to go it alone– in raising our children,  living completely independently without any assistance and also that we have nothing to offer anyone else who isn’t actually related to us.
So, here we are on Mother’s Day-a day where Hallmark tells us that we should honor those women who have children. And while we often associate this day with going to church, I want to point out that this is not a religious holiday. It’s actually a day that runs counter to God’s message of community and definition of family. Society has lifted up this day as important but in reality it can be a painful day where inadequacies, loss and grief abound. This day does not acknowledge women who have buried their mother, women who have buried their children, women who don’t know where their children are, women whose children are ill, women who did not or could not have children. It also does not acknowledge women who love and care for children that are not biologically related or who love and care for children that they will never meet or see. This day does not speak into the reality of Jesus prayer of all people being one in the life of a relational God who doesn’t care about who is actually related to whom but declares that all people are God’s very own children and so are all one family bound in love.
The church knows what the world does not-we need one another. Jesus is praying that we keep this at the forefront of all that we do as people of God-a family of God. Jesus prays that we remember that the baby crying next to us in worship is our baby to bring to faith and can remind us of joy. The teenager feeling lost and drifting in life is our teenager to walk beside and counsel and gifts us with their  young wisdom. The toddler with more energy than all of the adults around her is our toddler to chase for a bit and offers us wonder and exercise! The elderly person no longer able to leave their home is our grandparent in need of a visit or assistance and can offer us beautiful stories of a full life. The family without a home are our brothers and sisters to house and can point to our need to work for fair housing. We are not complete without one another. You are important to the completeness of my life, to the completeness of the person next you, to the people in our neighborhood whom you have never met and to God.
The kingdom of God is about family, a family that continually broadens beyond itself to encompass more people and looks for more connections in community and to be continuously connected to God. Just as in the Rublev Icon there is a place at the table for you, for me, and all people, this table right here is a concrete and real place where we can invite all people in our community to gather in the very life and presence of a gracious, loving and communal God. Today we don’t celebrate only mother’s, we celebrate all of the women in our lives regardless of biological ties, who share with us the nurturing God who created us in her image for one another, who gave us her son in order to be with us always and breathes her very life into all of us so that the world may know the name of God and the family of God. Thanks be to God

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2013 in Sermon

 

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God’s Misdirection

Acts 16:9-15

I’ve discovered some difficult things about God over the years.

~God rarely does what I want.

~God doesn’t do things the way I think God should.

~God doesn’t ever seem to do anything directly; always some roundabout way.

~God doesn’t hold efficiency in very high regard.

I only hope God knows what God is doing. Because a lot of the time I really don’t know. Once again, that’s not exactly how I’d like God to be, but it’s not like I have a choice in who God is or how God works.

One source of consolation I have in my confusion about God is that the early church seemed to experience God the same way. Right before this reading in Acts, Paul, Barnabas, Silas, and a new disciple Timothy are on a roll. They are going around sharing the new decisions made by the church leaders in Jersusalem. Everyone’s excited that anyone is now welcome in the church–Jewish or not. Everywhere they go, the churches are receiving this news, they are growing, the Spirit of God is working, all’s well.

So they keep going. Trying to go to the next church on their journey to share the news and bring encouragement. For some reason it isn’t working. They can’t get there. So they try the next church; can’t get there either. Obstacles, road blocks, hindrances, whatever. They aren’t able to get to the nearby churches to encourage them.

(As each site is mentioned, use the whole nave as a regional map: pointing out Jerusalem, Troas, The Aegean Sea, Samothrace, the Region of Macedonia, the cities of Neapolis, Philippi, and finally Thyatira). The only road left is the one southwest to port city of Troas. They weren’t sure what to do. But Paul had a vision of a man in Macedonia calling for help. You’d think getting a vision from God would make things clear. But is anything really that clear from God? There are some questions. First, is this really a vision from God? Who is the man? Where in Macedonia are they to go? What is the “help” he’s asking for? After the group talked about it, and together they decided this was God’s direction for them. And off they went, sailing from Troas, stopping on the island of Samothrace, landing at Neapolis, and finally ending up in Philippi, where they hung around for several days–still not knowing what to do. Uncertainty? Confusion? Could be God at work.

Having no other direction, they figured they may as well go see if there were any church people around, so they went down to the river–apparently where religious people go when there’s no synagogue. And there they find Lydia who listened, whose heart was opened, who was baptized, and who hosted them in her home.

That’s all well and good. Except Lydia is from Thyatira, which was in the general direction they were trying to go in the first place.

Apparently, that’s how God works. God wants you to talk to someone east of here, so God sends you west. God’s geography makes great sense, doesn’t it?

How often does God do this kind of thing? Give away your stuff to become rich. Become like a child to become wise. Die to yourself in order to rise to new life. Sit at the lowest place at the table to get to the highest. Be last in order to be first.

At least God seems to be consistent in this kind of mis-direction. And, I have to admit, on those occasions when I catch a glimpse at what God is actually doing, I’m struck by the imagination of the God who is present with us. In order to talk to Lydia, who is from a city east of Paul, God sends him west.

Just when you think you have God figured out, you realize God was going a different direction the whole time. In the midst of confusion, God provides riddles. In the depths of despair, God brings surprises. Just when you’re sure things can’t get worse, God meets you when they do. When you’ve hit a dead end and can’t figure which way to go, God points in the opposite direction. When you’ve given your all and have no fight left, God says that’s OK, your fighting wasn’t very helpful anyway. When you need to talk to someone in the east, God sends you west. For several days.

So where do you feel most helpless? Where are you hitting a dead end? Where do you only see darkness? Where do you feel like you’re hitting your head against a brick wall?

I’ve discovered some difficult things about God. But I’ve also discovered some truly wonderful things about God over the years.

~God rarely does what I want.

~God doesn’t do things the way I think God should.

~God doesn’t ever seem to do anything directly; always some roundabout way.

~God doesn’t hold efficiency in very high regard. Love and mercy and compassion and relationships take priority.

God’s misdirection. This is good news for us, and for the world. Amen.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2013 in Sermon

 

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