I Still Hear Mama Prayin’
by Chester DT Baldwin
CALL TO WORSHIP
Praise God, our Creator, source of our being and wellspring of life.
Praise God, who sets us free and gives us hope.
Praise to Christ our Lord, love made flesh to dwell among us.
Praise Jesus, who feeds the hungry and shows us the way.
Praise God the Spirit, fiery light and rushing wind.
Praise the Holy Spirit, who inspires, challenges, and sustains us.
Let us worship God!
PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Sovereign God, how wonderful are the many ways we experience your presence! Help us draw near to you, that we may receive all that you have to offer us. Open our ears so that we can hear wisdom’s call. Set our hearts ablaze with your healing fire. Nourish us with the gift of community. Empower us to serve only you. In the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, we pray. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Lord God, in the light of your glory, we see the suffering we have caused, the good we have refused, and the truth we have denied. Forgive us. Wash us in your mercy and heal us with your grace so that we may follow your way and live the good news of the Gospel. Amen.
WORDS OF ASSURANCE
Hear now these words of assurance:
Scriptures suggest that the life of Jesus is visible to us, even in our very bodies. Let us see the face of Jesus now in the faces around us as we share God’s loving forgiveness and peace.
Glory be to the Father, and to the son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
All readings are from the New Revised Standard Version bible.
OLD TESTAMENT LESSON ………………………………………………….. Proverbs 15: 21-33
Folly is a joy to one who has no sense, but a person of understanding walks straight ahead.
Without counsel, plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed.
To make an apt answer is a joy to anyone, and a word in season, how good it is!
For the wise the path of life leads upward, in order to avoid Sheol below.
The LORD tears down the house of the proud, but maintains the widow’s boundaries.
Evil plans are an abomination to the LORD, but gracious words are pure.
Those who are greedy for unjust gain make trouble for their households, but those who hate bribes will live.
The mind of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil.
The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and good news refreshes the body.
The ear that heeds wholesome admonition will lodge among the wise.
Those who ignore instruction despise themselves, but those who heed admonition gain understanding.
The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility goes before honor.
NEW TESTAMENT LESSON ………………………………………………….. Romans 5: 1-5
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings,
knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
GOSPEL LESSON ………………………………………………………… John 16: 12-15
Jesus said, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When 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. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
SERMON …………………………….… Unity by Diversity ………………………………….Rev. Mike Daly
Today is Trinity Sunday, a day we celebrate God’s 3-in-1 nature. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God our creator, Christ our redeemer, the Holy Spirit our sustainer.
British author and poet Dorothy Sayers tells a story of a Japanese man who politely listens to a Christian try to explain the concept of the Trinity. The Japanese man’s attempt to summarize his understanding was this….
Honorable Father, very good.
Honorable Son, very good.
Honorable Bird, I do not understand at all.
The “honorable bird” or the dove symbol for the Holy Spirit is challenging enough for those of us in the Christian tradition. Explaining One God but three persons to someone outside the tradition would seem almost impossible. Another famous author and person of faith, Madeleine L’Engle, commented on Sayers’ story by saying, “Very few of us understand ‘Honorable Bird,’ except to acknowledge that without his power and grace nothing would be written, painted, or composed at all.”
The Bible never explicitly mentions the Trinity, but it goes a little something like this:
The Bible tells us about God in three distinct ways. There are three distinct co-equals parts of God. God, is our source of being – is creator of all creation not just our creator – and the One who governs justly as “Lord” or “Sovereign” or “Father/Mother.”
This God is revealed through a Son who is a loving savior, a gracious teacher, and a humble servant-leader. God becomes flesh in the form of Jesus, the Messiah, to fulfill the prophesies of old. God with us comes to us as the Christ to conquer “sin and death” and then go even farther to reestablish a closer connection between God and all people.
Jesus enters our lives – calling on us to do the work of reconciling, liberating, and redeeming ourselves. While also asking us to care for the marginalized, the weary and the lost so that we might all live together in communion with God.
This God not only creates, reveals, and redeems – our God also transforms, empowers, and sustains us to live out this calling. It is the Holy Spirit who is the binding power to live in covenant and who is the one who has no tolerance for barriers, corrupt powers, or indifferent attitudes (Adapted Rev. Fred Anderson). All of these traits; and all this work is found together in One unifying God in three inseparable parts.
The Doctrine of the Trinity is a celebration of the diverse complexities of God’s nature. It is the reminder a “diverse God” creates a diverse world and creates a diverse people. In nature, we see diversity within species and within ecosystems. Biological diversity is nature’s very best way of preserving and propagating life. Evolution is not about conformity it is about the delicate balance of survival.
Sometimes people forget about or deny the importance of human diversity and how natural it is. For some, diversity is a threat to their own misconceived values and lifestyles. Wasn’t it Pat Robertson who said, New Orleans “got what it desired” (God’s wrath) when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005?
In political science, there are interesting studies where sociologists who have studied early America and early American towns found that the richest person and the poorest person almost never lived more than two hundred yards away from one another. They often had to walk by one another’s dwellings during the course of a typical day. They were part of the same community, and they were connected in a way we can now only try to imagine.
Today, in the United States, rich and poor are separated by miles of real estate and then gated and fenced off from one another. They don’t share the same schools or the same hospitals or even the same churches. When we don’t experience diversity of class or race or lifestyle in our day-to-day lives, we lose touch with one another. We lose the chance for relationship building, and all that God gives us is diminished.
Dr. Dean Wolfe says, achieving theological diversity can be just as difficult as achieving any other kind of diversity. Perhaps it’s even more difficult, because when we’re dealing with what we believe to be eternal and sacred “Truth” with a capital T, we’re not all that open to alternative approaches.
Dr. Richard Bower writes, “The fear and insecurity that draws people into rigid, propositional statements about God and creation blinds them to the reality that all theological reflection flows from particular histories and contexts that shape how we understand God and the divine work among us.
For us, the Trinity is the key symbol of community that holds us together in a spirit of mutual support and friendship. The Trinity as doctrine gives us a sense of the tangible character of God and yet, it also expresses a deep truth through a metaphor that different aspects and activities of God’s love bind all of creation.
The Bible has two creation accounts in the Book of Genesis. It has two versions of the 10 Commandments. It has four Gospels, and so on. Each account (each tale, each witness) enriches the overall story of our faith through its different authors and approaches – stories symbolizing a unity that is anything but uniform.
The multiple testimonies of Jesus in the gospels, for example, enhance and help us to understand the complexity of Jesus and all that he did. The fact that the Son of God can’t be shown fully by one account speaks to its glory. The diversity of witnesses invites us also to be part of the story, not just storytellers. Your own life witnesses to God’s undying love.
The Trinity and Trinity Sunday are mysterious, yet we can grasp them. Saint Patrick is said to have explained the Trinity to the Celts by using a shamrock, three individual leaves, yet still one plant. Tertullian, a theologian of the early church, used the metaphor of the Trinity as a plant. The Father as the deep root, the Son as the shoot that breaks forth into the world, and the Spirit as the force which spreads beauty and fragrance on the earth.
Contemporary Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff helps us understand the Trinity by describing it as a primal community; “just and equal within the reality that is God…and, therefore, a model for human society.” In some ways, the Trinity is the first community. It is the model for how we are called to connect with one another, without prejudice, without inequality, without competition, and always with perfect love.
There was a priest in the Episcopal Church in Scotland named Richard Holloway. In 1986 he was named the bishop of Edinburgh and in 1992 he was elected as Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church. The Primus Bishop is the convening bishop. He was given the bishops miter, the “hat.” In 2000 he went to the River Thames, took off his miter, threw it into the river, and then resigned from the church.
Holloway resigned in 2000 and became one of the most outspoken critics of the church and religious belief in the modern world. His dissatisfaction was directly pointed at the outdated, absolute certainties of the church. He wrote, “Today, authority has to be earned. It has to earn respect by the intrinsic value of what it says and not by the force of its imposition.” In other words, in the Bible and Christian tradition, there is a call for a disciplined life – but also a life of wisdom, like we find in Proverbs 15. In other words, how we interpret the Bible has to make sense in life and in our experiences.
Our experiences help us ask questions about what we thought we knew about God. Without wider conversations and exploration of faith, our faith will harden into absolute certainties and when there are total absolutes faith dies. The early theologians used the Greek word “peri-choresis,” meaning “around” or “rotating” relationship. There is an infinite dance of faith in which we all join in one great circle, and as we all dance to the center of life, where God resides, we all move closer and closer to one another in unity.
A faith that sees the possibility of God in the greatest possible diversity keeps the integrity and the God who shows no partiality as our judge. Creating a faith – with eyes – that sees God being present everywhere including the most fractured places of life. A God present in both the high and the low, in the good and the bad.
A God who goes into the abandoned, the forgotten, and broken places in world; and the abandoned, the forgotten, and broken places of our own lives. It is the diversity of God’s complex being that makes it possible for God to be present everywhere.
We are asked to remember this. Something the great early theologian Augustine once told students who were studying the doctrine of the Trinity. He said, “Don’t become discouraged; know that when you love, you know more about who God is than you could ever know with your intellect.” Or, as Jesus said it, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
THE LORD’S PRAYER
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
Just As I Am
by Jonathan McReynolds
Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below;
Praise Him above you heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen
May the Lord watch between me and thee, while we are apart one from the other, Amen.
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