May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father be with us in the name of his son, our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; Amen.
Imagine with me for a moment the excitement you would feel in discovering that you had a long lost uncle or aunt who had named you as the sole heir to their estate. Could you see it happening? You wake up one morning, receive a certified letter in the mail and open it up to discover that they had left you riches beyond count, that your major financial worries are over, and that now you really didn't have to worry all that much about the future. How would you feel? What would you do? I don't mean to ask that question that everyone gets asked about what is th the first thing they buy if they won the lottery; all of us would rush out right away and splurge on ourselves with something, buying some things that we have always wanted but could not afford.
What I am asking is this: what would be different about your day-to-day attitudes, practices, habits and outlook after the initial luxuries were bought, the money invested and life went on? How would knowing that your future financial well-being is absolutely secure change your present? This really is the exact scenario that the Apostle Paul is describing in those few verses of his letter to the Christians in Rome that we heard in our second reading. “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” In this passage, Paul uses legal language to tell us something about our relationship with God – we are God's adopted children; we are legally bound to the Heavenly Father with all rights to the riches of God right now in our lives. Indeed, God considers us co-heirs – equal inheritors of everything that God has to give – with Christ, God's only begotten Son.
Not only that, but according to Paul it makes a huge difference as we live day by day. Rather than being afraid – of the future, of what people may think, or of our status, or of our standing with God – Paul invites us instead to imagine a life of courage, the courage of those who have been adopted by God and invited into the full measure of God's blessings and riches.
If you think about it, it is the same thing that Jesus is saying to Nicodemus. He invites him into a relationship where we have the opportunity through our life in the spirit to be born anew, to be born from above as God's children – those so precious that God was willing to give his only Son as testament to the abundance of God's rich love for us!
That all brings me to the theme for the day: The Holy Trinity. Today we don't try to understand the triune nature of God – we may celebrate the mystery of a God who does not make his full nature known, as our youth demonstrated to the children in their, “Who's On First” skit – but none of us totally understands the Trinity. What we do know is this: at the heart of our understanding of God as three-in-one is the notion that you can't fully or finally understand God without talking about relationship.
When we consider our relationship with the Triune God, no matter how thoroughly we have tried to explain it, we really haven't captured the heart of the doctrine unless we recognize that God is three-in-one IN ORDER THAT one more can be added… and that's us; we are an infinite “plus one” through which Jesus' love is made complete in relationship with all of God's adopted children. This is a profound love that draws us into relationship with God, with each other, and with the whole of creation.
Which brings me back to the original question I had in my sermon – what does it mean for us to live knowing that we are God's beloved children, adopted, chosen and named co-heirs with Christ? What does it mean to live with confidence that we have access to God's abundance in our lives instead of scarcity; joy instead of sorrow; peace instead of chaos? We have access to this, but as God's children do we always connect with it? If you are like me, life gets busy, messy, and God gets relegated to just one more responsibility that gets in the way of what I want or need to do! Instead of celebrating the mystery of the Triune God who still today creates, redeems and encourages me, we tend to forget about this crazy God and think that we have to do it all on our own. We don't heed the invitation of the three-in-one to become the fourth in this model. And then, we suffer needlessly because of it.
I recently bought a number of books that I will be reading this summer. One of them I just ordered this week. It is called, “Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You” and it is written by John Ortberg. The reason that I bought the book is because a friend of mine who is also a pastor posted this excerpt from it online: “The soul was not made to run on empty. But the soul doesn't come with a gauge. The indicators of soul-fatigue are more subtle: Things seem to bother you more than they should. Your spouse's gum-chewing suddenly reveals to you a massive character flaw. It's hard to make up your mind about even a simple decision. Impulses to eat or drink or spend or crave are harder to resist than they otherwise would be. You are more likely to favor short-term gains in ways that leave you with high long-term costs. Israel ended up worshiping a golden calf simply because they grew tired of having to wait on Moses and God. Your judgment is suffering. You have less courage. “Fatigue makes cowards of us all,” is a quote so ubiquitous that it has been attributed to General Patton and Vince Lombardi and Shakespeare. The same disciples who fled in fear when Jesus was crucified eventually sacrificed their lives for him. What changed wasn't their bodies, but their souls.”
This is my final sermon for this summer, until the end of August. I am looking forward to finding out the best way to care for the most important part of my self – my soul – and to actively do it. I will confess to you that I am tired. My courage is low. I find it hard to make simple decisions, especially when it comes to being the primary visionary for this congregation. But I am feeling the strain in my personal life and those relationships. I am giving in to impulses to eat and avoid exercise more easily right now. The good news is that God keeps inviting me and you and everyone back into this three-in-one, plus one model of relationship. When we live as though life is scarce instead of the reality of the riches that are our inheritance now, God provides people and places and time for us to reconnect to that Triune nature.
My question for you on this, my final sermon until the end of August is this: What will you do over the next 10-11 weeks to care for your soul? I challenge each of you to intentionally reconnect with the Triune God in some way or another. Make it a priority to be here at worship, to keep connected with God as we are called to be through hearing God's word and receiving Holy Communion. Get together with one or two other congregation members and ask them how their soul is doing; come to some of the opportunities that Pastor Bengson will have to talk about the future vision for our congregation – I believe he is going to schedule some on Sundays after the worship service is over in the parlor, to talk over some coffee and refreshments. Purchase or check out at the public library one or more of the books on my sabbatical reading list – I made copies of the list available on the shelf in the narthex along with a few copies of the book, “Rebuilt.” I am making a commitment to care for my soul. I invite you into that commitment to care for yours as well.
This Holy Trinity Sunday is a special one. We celebrate the mystery of the unknowable God as we embrace the God who we call “Abba, Father – or ‘daddy” along with Jesus. We live in the abundance of God's blessings. In hope, let our everyday lives reflect the confidence, courage and conviction that trust in that promise requires. May it be so, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; Amen.