The Rev'd Canon Lynne Thackwray's Sermons

 

Sermon: July 8, 2018 Pentecost 7

The Rev’d Canon Lynne Thackwray

 

     It was over, and it was beginning. The long agonizing struggle between David and Saul was over. Saul was dead, and David's reign, the reign of David the king, was beginning. David had been only a shepherd boy when God chose him to be king, saying, "You shall be shepherd of my people."Now he was 30 years old, and the people acknowledged him as king. On that day, the people remembered God's word, so in the person of David, king and shepherd were forever joined. And David made a covenant with the people that it would always be so: the shepherd boy would be king, and the king would be shepherd to the people.
    "King" and "shepherd," the words are not foreign to us. We know what they mean, yet in our day-to-day experience we have little or nothing to do with kings, or with shepherds either for that matter. Yet from even our limited knowledge of kings and shepherds it is apparent that, different as they are from one another, shepherds and kings do have a few things in common. Both exercise authority: kings over the nation, shepherds over the flock.

But where a king can be authoritarian in his authority (ordering a thing, knowing it will be done), have you ever tried to order a flock of sheep around? Just try to force a flock of sheep to do anything. They are likely to scatter in all directions. Gentle persuasion is how the shepherd exercises his authority. Firm, gentle persuasion is needed to get everyone moving. (It is hopeful that everyone moves in the same direction.)
     God said to David: "Go ahead, be a king, but when you're doing what you do as king, do it like a shepherd would." So David tried to be a shepherd to his people, and sometimes he succeeded. But other times self-interest got in his way, and David forgot the most basic rule of shepherding: the flock comes first. Through storms and dark nights and rough country: the flock comes first.
      Now moving on down David’s line we find another who was both shepherd and king - Jesus Christ - the Lord is my shepherd; Jesus Christ  - Lord of Lords, king of kings!  From the beginning Jesus was teaching, healing, and casting out demons.  He had performed many miracles by the time he comes home to Nazareth. Nazareth, that little backwater town that is despised and looked down on by the rest of Israel. Here is their big chance to show that something good can come out of Nazareth. We would expect that the Nazareth Gazette would run the headline, "Local Boy Makes Good" or that there would be a parade with Jesus as the grand marshal. We might expect them to name a street after him or to at least to invite him to be the guest of honor at the Rotary club.

Yet, we soon discover that this is not the case. Jesus comes into town and goes to the synagogue on the sabbath. He takes his place as an adult male and teaches that day. He is not like the Jesus they watched grow up. He has grown and changed. He is no longer the obedient child learning to handle a carpenter's plane. He stands tall and speaks with authority. He has words and ideas that are far beyond what he could have learned in Nazareth.

The stories of the mighty deeds he has done are talked about in hushed tones as his one-time neighbors listen to him teach. And they are offended! "He is not like one of us." "He has changed." "Who does he think he is, anyway?" Few listen to his words and he can do very little good among them. Jesus comes to recognize that a prophet can be recognized anywhere but at home.

     And how did he handle this situation?. He didn't run away from home but rather stuck to his itinerary and went on about his ministry. He did not snub his hometown or speak disparagingly about it.  He did not desert his family and friends though they certainly did not understand or approve of what he was doing. He knew who he was and he knew what he had to do and he went about doing it. We will find him back in Nazareth from time to time and we will find him relating to his mother and the rest of his family.

Jesus had come to a turning point in his ministry. He knew that he would not be around much longer to lead the disciples. It was time for them to get started. He didn't sit down with his followers and complain about the narrow-minded people of Nazareth.  

     Instead, He shepherded his disciples - he gave them a pep talk and some basic instructions and he sent them out on their first mission.  He didn’t command them or order them to obey him.  Firm gentle persuasion is how the shepherd exercises his authority.  Then he gave them his authority and sent them out to do the miracles of healing he had already been doing. He could have done something very different. He could have reminded them that they would always be only his helpers. He was in charge. He was the Son of God, after all. He hadto be in charge for their own safety and so they wouldn't be sued if something went wrong. He could have had them waiting on him, running and fetching, carrying messages, acting like general factotums for the boss.

He could have done that, but he didn't. What he did was to transfer his power and authority to them. He trusted them. He sent them out with very little training to heal the sick, and they actually did it.  They responded to the gentle persuasion of their shepherd. David and Jesus were kings and shepherds.  We also are called to be shepherds.  Unfortunately sometimes some of us think that that means being king-like as well.   But the way of the shepherd is about bringing peace, fullness, tranquility and security to all those around us, in this wide world. The way to be a shepherd is to care - to see the need around us and do something about it.  It is so easy to forget why God put us on this earth and called us to be God's people.

     If at this point you're thinking, "Sure, that's obvious, doesn't everybody know that?" I wish I could agree with you. But if David and then Jesus lived in a world where shepherds gave and kings took, where shepherds looked after the flock and kings looked after themselves, where shepherds spoke peacefully and kings raged, where shepherds helped with the birthing of a lamb and kings slaughtered the competition; do you really think we live in a world that's all that different? We don't have many shepherds or many kings, but our world has many needs and many wants. It is so easy to become forgetful or overwhelmed or depressed about it all. It is so easy to stop caring.
     Yes, David failed at times: when greed or the seduction of power or self- interest led him to forget. But more often David managed to remember, to remember to be both king and shepherd to his people. And it seems to me we could do worse than follow David's lead (in those times when he remembered), knowing we are prone to forgetfulness as well. To live the life of the shepherd is to live a life that cares and tries to make this a better world. To live a life that cares most of the time, or even some of the time, is not any easier these days than it was in David's day. There are few of us who can pull it off all of the time, not even David could manage that! But David at least tried, hard as it was, David tried to care. That set him apart from all the rest. May the same be said of us, that at least we tried.
     Jesus, you are the good shepherd.  You lead by example, you lead us like a shepherd, in the paths you would have us follow. Forgive us when our ways are not your ways. When we stray, redirect us. When we are lost, find us. When we wander and our sense of direction is confused, lead us home. Help us to be open to the leading of your spirit through all our days.  Help us to be good shepherds.
 

 

 

Sermon: National Indigenous Peoples’ Day of Prayer

June 24, 2018

By Rev’d Canon Lynne Thackwray

 

Last year on Aboriginal Day or as it is now known as “Indigenous Peoples Day”  I spoke of my time at All Saint’s in Hagersville which was on the edge of the First Nations and New Credit reserve. Ministering to the natives in my parish both on and off the reserve certainly opened my eyes to some of their traditions and culture.  These folks were good people, mostly assimilated into Canadian culture, and basically everyone got along. But it was when I got to Caledonia and was exposed to the troubles there that my eyes were opened a little bit further.  Then when I came to serve at St. Mark’s and became a member of the Headwaters Indigenous Awareness Group my real education began. Through the blanket exercise I learned about colonization and how it affected our Indigenous People.  From our trip to Brantford to the Woodland Cultural Centre and the Kanata Village I learned about Residential Schools and the Sixties Scoop.  The history of our country as I knew it began to unravel and another not so nice side came to light.  Again when we gathered here in the parish hall to hear Brian Charles talk about wampum belts and the treaties they represented and how so many of them have been broken, I have found myself in the same predicament as last year asking“What in the world am I doing here? What am I supposed to be doing?”  How much does God really demand out of me?” That all came from last year’s reading from Micah.  So now I’m wondering about the readings this year that were chosen by the national church specifically for this day.

In the OT reading, Isaiah clearly suggests that no matter what the circumstances of our life, no matter what happens to us, we have a source of strength in God that will enable us not just to plod wearily through life, but to soar -- not just to survive, but to survive with style and meaning.

The exiles who once lived in Judah now dwelt as captives along the banks of the Euphrates River, surrounded by Babylonians who worshiped Marduk, Nebo, and other gods. . If you had asked the exiles the question, "How big is your God?" the answer might have surprised you. Many of those in captivity felt that they were in this predicament because of the powerlessness of their God to secure the safety of the nation. Because of this, the Jewish community was in danger of losing its spiritual identity. 

It is into this setting that Second Isaiah, the prophet of exile and comfort, steps. Nothing is known of the personal life of the prophet. His whole purpose as a prophet was to present God as the God who is active and present in the midst of human history. It was his job to call the people back to God and to remind them that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was not a figment of humankind's mind. 

Like those ancient exiles, we too live in a culture that has run amuck, a world that has tried to make God in its own image. In a time such as ours, we need the ancient prophet to remind us in no uncertain terms that God, the true God, is Lord of all.  I hope and pray that our Indigenous people will not only survive but with style and meaning.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes that it is a matter of the heart. “When it comes to worry and anxiety, take it to the Lord in prayer and let the peace of God “guard your hearts." 

What is the peace of God that passes all understanding? I am not sure I understand all of that but it is something I long to have. There is a story of a community competition run by a neighborhood library for the best painting symbolizing peace. The award-winning art work would be prominently displayed in the library. The judges narrowed the competition down to two.

One painting featured a majestic lake, so tranquil and still that the lush hills behind it were perfectly mirrored in its reflection. Above was a blue sky, around it were blooming wild flowers. Behind it were deer grazing in the meadows. It was a piece to behold. It was a picture of peace.

The other finalist portrayed a terrible storm, winds blowing, trees bending, and debris flying through the air. The sky was dark, the sight was stark, and there was not a person in sight. There was, however, a bird perched on a limb on one of those bended trees. Observers got the impression that the bird was singing.

The judges chose the bird. Peace is not the absence of conflict. Peace is consolation of the heart. Through the Truth and Reconciliation recommendations I hope and pray that our responses will bring peace and consolation to all our hearts.

Paul also says “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”  Jesus was our earthly model of gratitude.  Like every good Jew, Jesus thanked God before and after each meal. He was raised to be thankful for the food he received. In Sabbath school he learned to pray the Psalms. “Bless the Lord, O my soul …and forget not all God benefits."  Jesus was grateful for the birds of the air, the lilies of the field, the critters that roam the countryside and the creatures that swim in the sea. He lived a life of gratitude.  Being part of a women’s drumming circle I have many times bowed my head as our leader gave thanks for our connectedness to and our gratitude for the four legged, the no legged, the waters and the trees and all parts of creation.  I am learning to live a life of gratitude.  Migwetch, migwetch, che migwetch. 

Finally, why the gospel of John? FIRST IS THE REASON FOR HIS COMING. Why did he come? To reveal God to us? Yes, certainly. Perhaps, though, he also came to discover what it means to be human.

Author Alex Haley was researching his historic work, ROOTS. At one point he had a terrible sense of emptiness over his inability to 'feel' the torment slaves must have experienced as they lay trapped in chains aboard ships heading to strange new lands. One night, he says, it came to him what he had to do. He needed to thrust himself into some circumstance that could let him feel at least something of what those Africans must have felt.

He borrowed enough money to fly to Africa, and there he purchased a one-way passenger ticket back to the United States aboard The African Star, a cargo ship that sailed from Monrovia, Liberia, to Jacksonville, Florida. Because he understood the physical design of vessels from his Coast Guard career, he was able to sneak at night into one of the ship's unlocked holds. For two nights, after dinner, he crawled into the cavernous, darkened hold. He stripped to his underwear and lay on his back on some broad, thick, rough-sawed timber that had been wedged between sections of cargo to prevent shifting in heavy seas.

It was not a pleasant voyage.  By the fourth night he abandoned his Quixotic adventure altogether. He knew that he, a passenger, safe and snug on a strong steel cargo ship, eating three meals daily could never really 'feel' the suffering of those chained so many years before in the bowels of a slave ship! (2) Still, the journey was important for him to touch his origins.  It's always helpful to put yourself even temporarily in someone else's shoes.  Have we ever tried to walk in the mocassins of our Indigenous People?

We can only speculate as to Christ's reasons for making his way into the world of humankind but sharing with us a common humanity is a possibility. When God said, "Let there be light," it was for the purpose of sharing His love. When He separated the earth from the waters, it was for the purpose of creating beings upon whom He could pour His beneficence.   What an amazing event Creation is. There was a Divine Purpose and that purpose was that God's perfect love which is the reason behind the universe, would be revealed to humanity.

There is no more meaningful imagery in Scripture to describe what Christ's coming into the world meant than the imagery of light overcoming darkness.

Viktor Frankl, the father of Logo therapy, was interned by the Nazis for being a Jew. In his book, Man's Search For Meaning, Frankl tells how a distant light helped him through the darkness of his incarceration. The camp in which he was held was cruel and ugly beyond belief. He lived in a squalid dormitory. Nearby were the smoke spewing crematoriums. And surrounding him were other human beings living in the most wretched of conditions. The apparent hopelessness of the situation took its toll on many, driving them to end their lives. But Frankl discovered that if you have a purpose for life, you can endure.

In the distance, there was a house surrounded by trees. Early in the morning on cold winter days, the glow emitting from that farmhouse served as a beacon of hope. Frankl envisioned a normal family gathered around the hearth. Deep in his heart he knew that the lights had not gone out in all the world and one day the present darkness would be overcome. And that is Christ's promise to us. The present darkness will be overcome.

The Primate has called for all 46 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to be read out in our congregations on Aboriginal Sunday. These are the first two.                                                                                           Article 1 - Indigenous peoples have the right to the full enjoyment, as a collective or as individuals, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms as recognized in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights law.

Article 2 - Indigenous peoples and individuals are free and equal to all other peoples and individuals and have the right to be free from any kind of discrimination, in the exercise of their rights, in particular that based on their indigenous origin or identity  

Light has come into our world. That light is Christ himself who came for all of humanity. 

 

 

 

 

 

St Benedict Rule of Life: Recreation

By the Rev’d Canon Lynne Thackwray

 

     In the gospel this morning, Jesus told his disciples that “the sabbath was made for mankind, not mankind for the sabbath.”   The Sabbath according to Jewish law is a day set apart for the worship of God as well as for the rest and re-creation of mankind.  Today we are looking at Re-Creation  - the fourth of the St. Benedictine rules of life as outlined in your brochures.  The questions asked were:  “How will care for myself?”  How can I incorporate times for rest and re-Creation?”

     In this day and age many or should I say most, of us (and I am no exception) lead very busy lives. There always seems to be places to go, people to see, things to do and not enough time to do them all.  It feels as though we are always in a hurry, as though there is so much to accomplish and so few years in which to do it all that we've become addicted to instant everything.  It probably started with instant mashed potatoes!  Now there's instant food at drive-through windows, instant cash from an ATM, instant credit from all manner of stores, and instant information available online. We have lost the ability to let life unfold in its own time.

     For those of us who are rushing through our days at break-neck speed, an ordinary way of becoming holy may simply be to practice slowing down.Do the dishes more slowly in the morning, drive more slowly to work, handwrite a letter rather than pushing buttons quickly on a computer, walk from your car into the store more slowly, eat more slowly. These conscious acts of slowing down can ready your spirit for the moments of grace, moments that we might not see if we race by too swiftly.  Perhaps one of the reasons we find it difficult to slow down is that we have not become convinced of the need for things to occur “in the fullness of time.”

Scripture however, gives us another way to think about time. How long did Abraham and Sarah wait for the arrival of their promised heir, Isaac?  God first revealed to Abraham that he would be the father of many nations when he called him to leave his country and go to the land God would show him. 25 years later when Abraham was 100 years old, Abraham and Sarah finally had their son - in   “the fullness of time.” How long did the Israelites wander through the desert after leaving Egypt on their way to the Promised Land?  Forty long years. It certainly doesn't take 40 years to get from where they started in the Nile Delta to reach Jericho. I wonder if God felt they needed to slow down so they could really experience the “fullness of time.” Think of old Simeon, the priest in the temple, who waited his whole life to see the promised Messiah. God had told him long before that he would not die until he had seen the Christ.  When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus into the temple to be blessed, Simeon lifted him up and said, “Lord now let your servant depart in peace according to your word.  The “fullness of time” had arrived.

Another approach of course if we find it just too difficult to “Slow Down” is to intentionally set aside a time when we can come to a stop – when we can review the day, pray, read the Bible, meditate, or just be still in our mind and body, to be at peace within ourselves and the world we live in.   Hopefully this will generate within us a spiritual energy of balance and wellness.

     And who among us does not want to be well?  Who would not pay to have their aches and pains disappear, their illnesses healed, their anxieties wiped away leaving no trace of worry. And who has not experienced disappointment as one solution after another fails, and wellness remained beyond our grasp.  For Christians it is clear that wellness is part of God's intention.  Jesus healed both body and soul. And Christ's message is one of transforming lives.  Rev. Dr. Robert Hansel a retired episcopal priest who spent many years mentoring clergy as they reflected upon and discerned their calling had this to say:  Christian faith values equallyall facets of human life and experience. Physical wellness and activity are not “inferior” to intellectual or aesthetic qualities. It is in the balance, unity, and harmony of the entire person (or community) that true wellness emerges. For Christians, the ultimate goal of life is, through Christ, to be restored to complete unity with God—a harmony in which all the fragmentation and division that cause self-alienation and separates people from one another is finally overcome. 
     Wellness, or well-being, is difficult to define and can vary from individual to individual and from situation to situation.  One universal defining mark of wellness is flexibility and adaptability in all areas of life.  It involves the willingness to know one’s self and our capacity to function.  Wellness includes having a clear set of core values including our ability to     channel our passions, set goals, and at least work towards them. It means having the capacity to initiate, sustain, and deepen relationships.  But the vital relationship, the unseen force and mover of our well-being, is our relationship with God.

Tao says: We join spokes together in a wheel

But it is the center hole that makes the wagon move.

As the center of our life, God calls us to an abundant life—not a life without stress or challenge, but a life that meets those challenges and stresses in a way that draws upon the resources of our faith in communion and community with others. This is the foundation for a comprehensive approach to wellness.

     Living a thankful life or a life of gratitude I believe is critical to wellness and  re-creation. “Studies and statistics have shown that gratitude is good for us.  It grounds us in something solid and sustaining and, yes, sacred.   "While gratitude is sometimes a thank-you for something specific, it is most deeply realized through a process that simply happens."  Gratitude is grace.    And “Just like the loaves and fishes, gratitude grows. The more one says thank you, the more one sees things for which to be thankful.  A spirit of thanksgiving is contagious. Being around grateful people makes us likely to catch this delightful disease.” 1 Thessalonians tells us to give thanks in all circumstances. The only sense that can come of these seemingly upside-down responses to pain is that there is something much, much deeper than what we see. Something there for us even in the darkness, even in the cold.  Depending on what you are experiencing in your life, practicing gratitude may be a joy on some days and a challenge on others. It may help to remember that the goal here is not to become happier... though that may in fact be a fringe benefit. The ultimate purpose is to reinforce at our very core that God's gift of love is endlessly abundant, and that is something for which we can be truly grateful.

     Author and Episcopal priest John Claypool, a man who had spent his adult years teaching others about faith lost his 8 year old daughter to leukemia. The insight he gained from his journey through profound anguish and grief eventually led him to a place of gratitude.  "Only when life is seen as a gift and received with the open hands of gratitude is it the joy God meant for it to be," Claypool writes. "Life is gift." In the 6thcentury, St. Columbanus said: “If you wish to know the Creator, come to know his creatures. The stories of the saints tell us that this tradition understands that creatures and humanity are in a living, God-given reciprocal relationship.

These stories invite us to remember that the creatures have their own dignity and otherness, that each of them has distinctive traits and habits brought forth by divine power.  Thus when St. Kevin dropped his treasured psalter into the waters of Glendalough, a friendly and faithful otter dove into the depths and retrieved the sacred book.  This tale, like many others, points us to the creatures as companions in searching the depths of our souls for God’s truth.  The otter saw Kevin’s distress and responded.  The otter’s searching reminds us that the creatures dwell in places and in dimensions that are foreign to us; they have a knowing and a being that we do not.   
     The tradition suggests that the creatures, in their own way, are prayerful.  From Welsh poetry we find various reminders that the birds in song, the salmon swimming, the stag running, are all forms of praise to the living God who made the creature with those particular properties and characteristics.    

These kinds of stories remind us that the world is in Christ and call us to live from that reality in all of our relationships, including those with the creatures.

From the Celtic saints we learn to be open to a way of knowing that only the creatures can offer a way that heals the dullness of our blinded sight and allows us to catch glimpses of glory on wings, on four feet, with fins or with feathers. May we learn to slow down long enough or simply stop and let ourselves appreciate and be thankful for those glimpses.

     One important thing I have not touched on is humour and I find that it is one of the greatest gifts that God has given us to cope with life’s challenges and disappointments. One of my favourite passage in scripture is from psalm 2 – God sits in the heavens and laughs.

      Let us pray:

Gracious God, help us simply to stop for a moment to pay attention to the beauty of creation all around us. Help us to be grateful for water so still it can reflect the color of the world; for trees in full leafy green; for air so warm it relaxes our body and soul; for cool breezes that caress and awaken; for clouds that shift and puff; for blue skies that stretch beyond sight. Let us remember to simply stop for a moment and be filled withthe gifts you have so abundantly given. Amen

Sermon:  Trinity Sunday

May 27, 2018

The Rev’d Canon Lynne Thackwray.

 

There is a story – and you’ve probably heard it before but it never hurts to hear it again. Once upon a time there lived six blind men in a village.  One day the villagers told them, “Hey, there is an elephant in the village today.”   Now they had no idea what an elephant was.  They decided, “Even though we cannot see it, let us go and feel it anyway.”  So all of them went where the elephant was and each one touched and felt the elephant.

 

“An elephant is like a pillar,” said the first man as he felt the elephant’s huge leg.

 

“Oh no!” said the second man, touching the elephant’s tail.  “It is like a rope.”

 

“You are both quite wrong,” said the third man as he touched the elephant’s trunk.  “An elephant is like the trunk of a tree.”

 

“It’s like a fan,” said the fourth man, touching the elephant’s huge ear.

 

“You’re all wrong!” said the fifth man as he touched the belly of the elephant.  “It is definitely like a huge wall.”

 

“No, No,” said the sixth man as he touched the tusk of the elephant.  “It is like a solid pipe.”

 

And so each one had their own idea based on their unique experience. 

 

And so it is of our understanding of God.  “God is our Father,” we say.  “God provides us with everything we need.”

 

God is our mother, birthing us, nurturing and caring for us,” Says another.

 

God is our brother, our friend, our companion.”

 

God is the wind; we feel God without ever seeing what God is like.”

 

“God is a flower, a butterfly, a rainbow, a mountain, a thunderstorm....”

 

There is so much to know about God that we can never comprehend it all.  But we keep on exploring and discovering new and wonderful things about this great God of ours.  People through the ages have written about their experience of God.  In Christian terms we have come to acknowledge that experience as the Trinity.

 

This is the essence of this Sunday as we celebrate the attributes of our wonderful and mysterious God.  Through the ages we have tried to define God.  It has never been an easy concept.  I have had people point out to me many times, “You’ve never seen God, so how can you presume to try to prove the existence of God to me.”  And no, I can’t prove it to anyone.  I can only explain my understanding of God through the doctrines of the Church, through the study of Scripture but especially through my own personal experience of who God is and how God has worked in my life.

 

The interesting thing about Trinity Sunday is that it is the one day set aside by the Church to remember not an event but a doctrine.  When we think about Christmas, we think about the stable, the manger, the shepherds and magi.  Good Friday brings to mind the Cross at Calvary.   We associate Easter with the stone rolled away from the empty tomb.  And Pentecost celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit with tongues of fire that separated and came to rest upon all of the disciples.

 

When it comes to the Trinity, however, we have nothing to tell.  There is no Trinity story.  There is only a doctrine which was formulated during the first two centuries of the Christian Church. 

 

And even that doctrine has little biblical support.  The only direct reference that comes to mind is the passage   from Matthew where Jesus told the disciples to share the Good News with all people, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

 

So, why then do we bother?  What is so important about this doctrine of the Trinity?  Well doctrines are important.  They help us to relate what we believe.  Some people think that doctrines are the work of overeducated theologians with too much time on their hands.  You know, the sort of people who sit around and consider really important questions, like “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”

 

And what is this specific doctrine of the Trinity?  What do we mean by it?  Very simply, the doctrine of the Trinity says that we believe in one God who has been revealed to us in three basic ways:  through the Father, through the Son and through the Holy Spirit.  Each is divine and each is equally God.   We are baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  The catechism states that “the mystery of the Holy Trinity is The central mystery of Christian faith and life.”  

 

Yet when you come right down to it, isn’t the doctrine of the Trinity simply an emotional exercise that explains our relationship to God?  Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all relational terms.  They are not about how we think.  They are about how we relate to God.  When we speak of God in human terms,  we are relating God to ways in which we experience and respond.  And isn’t that what people are really hungry for?  We want to be in relationship with God.    But if it is such a mystery, just how can we relate to it.  Perhaps this story might help to put it into perspective.

 

         Once there was an elderly man, and one evening he was taking his usual walk.  He was enjoying the crisp night air and the wind blowing gently.  But suddenly he heard a voice crying out, “Help me!  Help me!”  The man looked around and saw no one and so he continued his walk.  Again he heard a tiny voice, “Help me, help me!”  This time he looked down and he saw a small frog.  He gently lifted up the frog and looked at it intently.  The frog spokle, “I am really a very beautiful princess.  If you kiss me, I will turn back into a princess and I will hug you and kiss you and love you forever.”  The man thought for a moment, placed the frog in his top pocket, and continued walking.  The little frog looked up out of the pocket and asked, “Why don’t you kiss me?”  The man looked down and said, “Frankly, at this stage of my life, I’d rather have a talking frog.”

 

What is the point of this story?  That we all exist in relationship to others.  The thing about the Trinity to which we can best relate is relationship itself.  Our very existence is defined by who we are in relation to others, even if it’s to a frog.  The elderly gentleman in our story probably figured that if the frog became a princess, she’d run off with some young dude and leave him alone again.  So he’d prefer the company of the frog to nothing. 

 

So what is it all about?  Relationships with others, communicating with others, being involved with others.  Even the internet has provided a way for people to communicate with others.    Just think about the best experiences of your life.  I would bet that they were experiences you had with a spouse, a friend, a parent or someone else who had a special place in your life.  That was the person to whom you could open up and be yourself completely without any facades or phoniness.   It is part of our humanness that we need companionship, that we need to be able to “break bread” with others.

 

Conversely , the worst times in our lives have probably been the ones when we felt alone, abandoned.  Just like our Lord felt in the Garden of Gethsemane and during his passion.  He knows what that feels like, even to the point of sweating blood.  Deprivation of companionship is the worst possible punishment.  That is exactly what solitary confinement is in prisons: the ultimate and worst form of punishment.    So why do we need to be in constant relationship to others?   Because we are made in the image and likeness of a God that is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  No matter how little we may know about the Trinity, we can say without hesitation that the Three Persons exist in relationship to one another.  God the Father loves God the Son with such a depth that God the Holy Spirit comes to be.   The Trinity says that God is community and so we seek others.  The Trinity says that God is love and so we love.  We can’t help ourselves.  We have been created in that image and likeness.  We can only exist in relationship with others.  

 

That is why it is so important to build community within the church.  It isn’t good enough to have a group of people who come together once a week to worship for an hour and then walk away from each other until the next week.  It is important that the group of people develop a community within which to worship.  A community being people who are in relationship with each other, people who care for each other, people who pray for one another, people who come to each other’s assistance when help is needed.

 

Where have you bumped into God in the last few days?  I’ll bet it wasn’t’ just in church this morning.  At the breakfast table?  During a walk in the woods or in your garden?  When a friend apologized for an unkind word spoken in haste?  When memories of good times came flooding back to you during a phone call from an old friend?  Are those not the kind of events that we translate as love?  Are they not ways in which we relate to our loving God?

 

We can have confidence in God, our loving and caring creator.  For we know the saving action of Jesus Christ.  We know the guidance of the Spirit.  We continue on our life long journey of discovering the God in whose image we are created.  That is the great mystery of the Trinity that we celebrate today.  We share in the joy of the God who created us, sustains us and redeems us.