May 22, 2016 – Three in One

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; John 16:12-15

        Today serves three purposes in our Christian calendar.  There are specific days carved out during the year where we celebrate different aspects of the church.  Today we are recognizing this as Trinity Sunday, Peace with Justice Sunday, and Heritage Sunday.  You will note the power of three today as we look at each of these focal points.  That all sounds rather formal, but bear with me a bit.  When we discuss what I believe to be the ultimate mystery – the concept of the Holy Trinity – I firmly believe God has a sense of humor and basks in the wonder of pastors trying to explain this to folks on this day.  Trinity – three in one – is the concept of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  You hear me say this a lot. I also use a familiar gesture when expressing the Holy Trinity by making a symbol of the cross.  This idea of three in one – one God, yet three distinct entities – is truly a mystery.  Here are some images that we like to gravitate toward that may in some way help us to visualize this concept.  The triangle is a popular symbol showing the equality and importance of each member of the Trinity.  Here are some other historic pictures of the Trinity. We often see God depicted as an elderly man (although many will argue that God has no gender), while we see Jesus as the crucified Christ and the Holy Spirit as a dove.  There is one picture here that is interesting in that all three entities are identical – the only way you can tell who one of them is happens when he takes the cup of crucifixion, then we know that one is Jesus.  All three are God – God is all three.

Yet each seems to have a purpose.  We see God as the ultimate Creator.  God appears to be the focus of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).  God sent God’s son Jesus to earth to be the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.  While Jesus was on earth, he healed the sick, taught the masses, empowered leaders to continue his work, and initiated a movement that has grown as Christianity recognized throughout most of the world.  When Jesus left this earth, he sent the advocate, the Comforter in the Holy Spirit to empower the initial church to do great things while continuing to inspire us today.  It seems these three are separate beings, yet the idea of the Holy Trinity is three in one – all one God.  Today is a day to recognize the mystery of the Holy Trinity and realize at every phase of our lives God continues to love us more than we could ever fathom.

Today is also known as Peace with Justice Sunday.  It seems strange to speak of peace in a world so often locked in conflict.  I remember a time when my children were young and I saw a cartoon of a family decorating a grave of a fallen soldier on Memorial Day.  The son asked the mother about war, and finally asked the question, “Mom, have I ever seen war?” The mother was able to state, “No, and I hope you never will.” Not long after, the headline of the Washington Post read, “War in Gulf.”  Our world seems to constantly be in a state of war and unrest. Yet Jesus taught a message of peace, but not at the expense of exploiting others. Jesus advocated for the outcasts – those who were denied justice.  That is what this day recognizes as well – not just peace, but peace with justice.

Many will tell you that the church has no business in the world of justice and seeking peace in the midst of conflict. I would argue this in one of the most important roles for the church universal. I am greatly saddened by the events occurring during our General Conference which began last week.  I mentioned to you that there is one issue threatening to tear the United Methodist Church apart, and that is our treatment of those in the LBGTQ community.  I am reminded that every time the church is steeped in conflict, the true enemy wins.  Perhaps it is time we step up and fight the real enemy of our world – the one who would love to see our families fall into ruin, our churches polarized by our own prejudices, our neighborhoods locked in fear of the criminal acts of others, our children gripped by fear led by a life with no hope in anything or anyone.  Satan comes to destroy, and to steal and to kill.  But Jesus came to bring life, peace, love, and real joy.  What will we choose?  Peace with justice seems to me to be about promoting the love of Jesus Christ to others in ways that make a difference in the lives of others.

The third focus for today is Heritage Sunday.  Entities like Ancestry.com encourage us to seek out and appreciate our heritage.  When we look at the heritage of this church, it has not been an easy road. There have been times of grief, conflict, struggle, worry – yet there has also been a resolve that God is our guide and strength and our advocate in times of plenty and in times of trouble.  Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble but take heart, I have overcome the world.”  The Christian church has some very dark chapters in its history, yet when God’s people have taken to heart the commandments to love God and love our neighbors, miraculous change has occurred from the inside out. It begins with our relationship with Jesus the Christ, who gave everything so that we could have life, and have it more abundantly.

So what? Yup, we are there!  What’s the ‘so what’ that I hope you take with you this day?  Take a look at the scripture from Proverbs that was read for us.  It states, “Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out: ‘To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live.”  Who is this ‘wisdom’ the scripture refers to?  I would present to you that ‘wisdom’ noted in Proverbs and the Holy Spirit noted in the New Testament, are one and the same.  It appears the third part of the Trinity has been there all along.

The Holy Spirit is with us today.  Think of a time in this church when you felt your burdens lifted, even if for just a little while.  Think of a time when you found true joy when entering this house of God.  I enjoy seeing all of you entering worship, greeting one another, and sharing stories of blessing and bearing one another’s burdens.  What a joy to have that special time with others while sharing a faith in Jesus Christ and a genuine love for one another.  Many churches suffer from that lack of community, but community is alive and well here at Mayo UMC.  I think the Holy Spirit has a lot to do with that.  [share story]  When we set aside our differences and focus on worshipping God together in one place and in one accord, we are also in the presence of the Holy Spirit.

I have often heard folks say they wish they had the wisdom they have now back when they were twenty somethings.  Think of the things you have learned, often the hard way. Think of the trials and joys you have experienced and consider the wisdom you have gained over your lifetime. Perhaps that wisdom was inspired by the Holy Spirit, the embodiment of wisdom.  Perhaps we as a church can continue to gain wisdom as we trust and seek out the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives, in our church, in our community, in our nation, and in our world.  Are we dreaming God-sized dreams? Can we envision a better world for our children because we as a church have decided to take a stand against the evil forces of wickedness?  Can we put our faith into action?  Holy Trinity – Peace with Justice – Heritage Sunday.  The link appears to be the recognition and acceptance of Lady Wisdom, the Holy Spirit, as our advocate.  Take on the empowerment given to you as blessed children of God.  Preach peace in a world of war. Live generously in a world of selfies.  Embody love when others scream hate.  Let us be the church that God called us to be, the church Christ died for us to be, the church the Holy Spirit continues to empower us to be. Amen.

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