Trinity

Let us pray.

O God, may your delight in us

Teach us to delight in you

And in the world you have created.

Amen.

…………..

Jerry Seinfeld once joked that

In every movie or television show

With characters from the future,

They’re always wearing the same thing.

They’ve got one outfit,

To represent the earth,

It’s the earth outfit,

Like in Star Trek, where they’ll all got colour-coded shirts for their jobs.

Seinfeld says he looks forward to this day,

And he’s not alone.

There is a deep-rooted desire

In a whole lotta people

For sameness.

For uniformity.

At clergy conference this week,

Archdeacon Travis talked about ways that European settlements

Were set up

With walls around the outside

And one entry point.

It was considered a safety measure, by those Europeans,

In contrast to the communities of the First Nations,

Unwalled,

With many and various ways to enter.

But there’s something deep inside some of us,

I’m not sure if it’s an evolutionary adaptation or what,

But something within us

Finds safety in sameness.

In folks who are just like us.

Who dress like us

And talk like us.

We’ve got one outfit

So that we all know

That we’re on the same team

And a wall around us

To keep the opposing team

Out.

But, as we have been witnessing,

For the last several weeks,

God doesn’t work like that!

God does not share our delight

In sameness.

God delights

In diversity.

We saw this three weeks ago in our lesson from Acts,

As we heard the story of the conversion of Cornelius.

The Holy Spirit fell upon him and blessed him,

Before Peter could explain to him the rules,

The ways that he would need to change,

The single, solitary entry point

That absolutely everyone would need to go through

In order to join the team.

Two weeks ago,

We heard Jesus pray

That we all may be one,

Not the same,

But together,

Because we don’t all need to wear the same thing

To be on the same team.

And then last week,

On Pentecost,

We heard the story of the miracle

Of the speaking in tongues.

And here’s the tell,

The real tell

Of God’s desire for diversity,

Not sameness.

The miracle of Pentecost

Isn’t that suddenly everyone could understand Greek or Aramaic

Or whatever language the disciples were

Proclaiming the Good News in.

The miracle of Pentecost is that

The disciples began to speak in other languages,

Different languages,

Because God’s goal isn’t to erase difference,

It’s to bridge it.

And today,

On Trinity Sunday,

We see this truth

Is at the very heart

Of God’s own being.

…………

In order to understand this a little better,

I want us to take a look at our reading from Proverbs today.

It’s a reading about Lady Wisdom.

Wisdom, in Proverbs and in a few other books of the Old Testament,

Is personified as a woman.

And in the passage we heard today,

She gets pretty loud.

I want to read some of it again,

Using a translation, well not really a translation,

More a paraphrase of the Bible

Called The Message.

Hear what it says:
“Do you hear Lady Wisdom calling?

Can you hear Madame Insight raising her voice?

She’s taken her stand at First and Main,

at the busiest intersection.

Right in the city square

where the traffic is thickest, she shouts,

“You – I’m talking to all of you,

everyone out here on the streets!

Don’t miss a word of this – I’m telling you how to live well.

God sovereignly made me – the first, the basic –

before he did anything else.

I was brought into being a long time ago,

well before Earth got its start.

I arrived on the scene before Ocean,

yes, even before Springs and Rivers and Lakes.

Long before God stretched out Earth’s Horizons,

and tended to the minute details of Soil and Weather,

And set Sky firmly in place,

I was there.

Day after day I was there, with my joyful applause,

always enjoying his company,

Delighted with the world of things and creatures,

happily celebrating the human family.”

You see, the author of Proverbs is concerned.

That people are not listening to Wisdom.

That they aren’t sure how to live well.

And so she takes up her spot

At First and Main,

Or 100thand 100th, here in Edmonton,

To share her insights

In the midst of the community.

The insight that she shares

Sure doesn’t sound like the advice we often hear.

It sure doesn’t sound like tips and tricks

Or life hacks

To get ahead

And live better than our neighbours.

No, the wisdom Madame Insight offers

Is one of delight.

Delight in God,

In all God has created,

Happily celebrating the human family.

Lady Wisdom might be better known to us

As the Holy Spirit,

Since that is how she came to be known

In the Christian community.

And we see here the extraordinary beauty of diversity

Even within God, Godself.

For God is one.

But God is not the same.

God is united.

But God is not uniform.

God does not delight in sameness.

God is, in Godself,

Diversity.

Father AND Son.

Son AND Holy Spirit.

Eternally united,

Locked in relationship,

All differences bridged

But not erased.

Another thing Archdeacon Travis said at clergy conference,

Is that in Cree, the word for God,

Creator,

Isn’t a noun.

It’s a verb.

Because God is always active.

God is on the move.

And when you think about it,

It makes sense.

C.S. Lewis pointed out that when we say God is love,

How could God be love,

The noun,

Without first loving.

And to love,

God needs someone to be loved.

The very heart of God is a relationship,

Active, on the move,

Made up of love.

God is not static,

Frozen in time.

God is on the move.

And in fact,

God’s movement is a particular one.

It’s not just an eternal dance,

As some Trinitarian preachers proclaim.

God moves

With purpose.

And that purpose is one of invitation.

It’s taking up a spot

Right in the city square

At the busiest intersection.

God invites us

Into this eternal relationship.

God the Word

Became flesh in Jesus of Nazareth

And dwelt among us.

This was the ultimate bridging of difference.

God and sinners reconciled,

As the Christmas carol says.

And after his death and resurrection,

When he ascended into heaven,

That flesh,

That humanity,

That us-ness

That was in the image of God

But had been divided from God,

Became united with all of Godself. /

The eternal relationship,

The eternal dance,

The very reality of love

Now includes us.

Our humanity.

Wisdom’s delight in the human family

Is made complete,

As humanity itself

Is invited further up and farther in.

God didn’t build a wall to shut us out.

God didn’t even wait for us

To stumble around it

To find the one way in.

God came out

To find us,

Her delight,

And invite us to join the team.

Not because we are the same as God

But because we are different.

And because God delights

In bridging that difference

To bring together

That which had been kept apart,

Happily celebrating the human family.

The future we seek,

Christians seek,

Isn’t one of sameness.

There isn’t one earth outfit

We should all get ready to wear.

Because our God delights not in sameness

But in diversity.

And God is on the move

Inviting more and more different kinds of people in.

Amen.

 

5th Sunday of Easter

Let us pray.

Lord, what you have called clean,

We must not call profane.

Lead us in your way,

That we may never try to limit your love.

Amen.

……………..

When I was in seminary,

A professor told us that the book of Acts

Was the most important book in the Bible.

I was pretty taken aback.

Because I don’t particularly enjoy reading the book of Acts,

Especially the latter half.

It’s a big travelogue

With lots of names and places

That don’t make a ton of sense unless you’ve been there –

And shouldn’t our focus be on the Gospels?

You know, the books that tell the story of Jesus?

The Saviour?

So I went back and re-read it.

And while I still hold out for the Gospels

As the most important books of the Bible,

I do think the book of Acts

Is criminally underrated.

Because we get so lost in the travelogue

Of the names and places

We aren’t familiar with,

We miss the important themes God is trying to show us

Through the acts of the earliest followers of Jesus.

Like in our story today,

About the fallout from Peter’s recent dinner with the Gentiles.

I encourage you to go back and read it in context.

Because it represents the truly reckless abandon

With which God is widening the circle

Of who’s included

Far beyond what the original disciples are comfortable with.

It starts in the very beginning of the book,

As the Holy Spirit falls upon the disciples,

And enables them to speak in other languages.

Did you know a recent study of my countryfolk down south

Revealed that over 30% are uncomfortable

Hearing languages other than English?

I know that we prize linguistic diversity

More highly than our American cousins,

And inhabitants of Jerusalem,

The crossroads of the ancient world,

Host to Israelites,

Greeks,

Romans,

Parthians, Medes, Elamites,

And residents of Mesopotamia,

Would have been quite used to the babble of many languages,

But it’s worth noticing how the ripples outward begin,

And, perhaps, how we have taken a step backward

From the place our forebears started.

Peter addresses a crowd filled with Jews

Who have traveled to Jerusalem for the festival.

They live in many places

And speak many languages,

But they are still Jews.

Fellow Israelites.

Religious types

Who are included in Abraham’s covenant

By virtue of their birth,

And who are pious enough

To journey to the Temple in Jerusalem

For worship.

But God’s not done yet.

Just a short time later,

An angel of the Lord sends Philip

To the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.

There, he meets a eunuch,

A servant of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians.

This man is not ethnically Jewish.

He is from a different race and people entirely.

While he has gone up to Jerusalem to worship,

And we find him reading the Scriptures,

His body has been modified in such a way

That prevents him from being circumcised.

He is not able, physically,

To be a part of the covenant of Abraham.

Such a one cannot participate in the Temple rites,

Or even approach the altar,

According the Law given in Leviticus

And Deuteronomy.

But God sends Philip to him.

And when the Ethiopian eunuch hears the good news

About Jesus Christ, he asks,

“Look! here is water. What is to prevent me from being baptized?”

The answer is: nothing.

There is nothing to prevent him from being baptized.

And the circle grows wider.

But now we get to the really scandalous bit.

The part that Peter gets super defensive about

When questioned on it in our story today.

God speaks to a Gentile named Cornelius.

We hear that he is a devout and generous man,

But he is also a Roman;

Indeed, a Roman soldier,

Not unlike those who have really pretty recently crucified Jesus.

But God tells Cornelius to send for Peter.

Meanwhile, Peter is on a roof praying when is struck with a vision.

A huge sheet filled with animals and reptiles and birds of the air.

A voice says to Peter, “Get up, Peter! Kill and eat.”

Peter hasn’t quite cottoned on to what God is doing yet,

So he protests by appealing to The Rules.

The Rules say not to eat

These unclean animals

As explicitly named in the Law,

And not to share a meal

With anyone who does.

Peter, even after all his time following Jesus,

Thinks that what’s important here

Is following The Rules.

But the voice tells him,

“What God has made clean,

You must not call profane.”

What God has made clean,

You must not call profane.

How often

Has the Church

Called what God has made clean

Profane?

How often

Have religious people

Focused on following The Rules

Instead of following the example of Jesus?

How often

Have we attempted to keep the circle small

Contained

Full of the people

Who are exactly like us

Who speak our language

Who belong in the Temple.

Peter encounters folks just like that

In today’s story.

They have heard that Peter went to eat dinner

With these unclean Gentiles

And they are just furious about it.

“Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?”

They ask.

But Peter tells them the story.

He tells them what he has heard and seen.

He tells them

That the Holy Spirit fell upon Cornelius and his household

Before Peter even gets a chance

To explain to them what they have to do to get saved.

Because God is drawing the circle

Wider than we could ever imagine.

I wonder who

The Holy Spirit might be falling upon now

Before we even get a chance

To explain to them what they “have” to do to get saved.

I wonder who

Might be on the road to Gaza

Seeking answers from the Scriptures

And needing to hear that there is nothing

To hinder them from being baptized.

I wonder who God has made clean

That we are still calling profane.

In this Easter season,

As we rejoice in the Good News

That Christ has won victory over death and the grave,

Trampling down death by death

And giving life

Even to those already in the tomb,

We remember

That God has drawn the circle wide enough

To include even us,

For whom he died

While we were yet sinners.

Who are we, then,

To call others too profane

To receive God’s extraordinary gift?

Who are we

To seek to limit the reach

Of God’s almighty love?

Rather than work against the Holy Spirit

To try to turn God’s Church –

Not our Church, God’s Church –

Into an exclusive club

Of likeminded folks,

Our calling is to get on board with God’s mission

To draw the circle ever wider.

To include more and more kinds of folks.

Even the ones who will make us uncomfortable.

Even the ones who will change who we are, fundamentally.

The Church is awfully different from those few believers

Huddled in an Upper Room with the doors locked

In the days immediately after Jesus’s crucifixion.

Including more folks will change us yet again.

But that’s what God is about.

Drawing the circle wide.

Baptizing the folks we’d never expect.

And sending us as messengers of his good news

That God’s love

Really is for all.

And all

Means all.

Amen.

3rd Sunday After Epiphany

Let us pray.

Pour your Spirit upon us, O Lord,

That we might preach good news to the poor.

Amen.

……………

You gotta have a good opening line.

Back when I was trying to become a blogger,

Websites who advised up-and-coming bloggers

Used to tell us to spend about 50% of the time

Coming up with a post title,

25% of our time on the first line,

And 25% on the whole rest of the blog post.

Because that was about in line with the amount of attention

Your readers would pay to each part.

At preaching camp,

They told us the same thing.

“Never start your sermon with

‘Today, we celebrate the Feast of Circumcision of Our Lord’”

They would tell us.

You gotta have a good opening line.

It draws people in

Captures their attention

Convinces them that the rest of what you’ve got to say

Is worth listening to.

Today, we hear Jesus’s opening line.

As I mentioned last week,

The gospels differ slightly on order of events,

But according to Luke,

Jesus’s adult ministry so far has been to

Get baptized

Immediately head out into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan

Then go home to Galilee

To be a good Jewish boy and go to synagogue.

He hasn’t even called his disciples yet!

Because before he asks people to follow him,

Jesus has to give them this thesis statement

This encapsulation of what he is all about

To convince them

That the rest of what he’s got to say

Is worth their time,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me;

because he has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

Jesus just lays it all out there.

This is the point.

When we look at all future teachings he offers,

All actions he makes,

Every healing,

Every miracle,

Every dinner at a tax collector’s house,

Even as he walks to the cross,

Jesus declares that

This is his mission statement,

Through which everything else he does

Should be viewed.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, he says,

So he has been anointed by God

To share a message beyond human origin.

A message connected to history,

Because this is a quotation of the book of Isaiah.

And it’s the part of Isaiah,

Where God appoints the prophet to tell Israelites in exile

That they get to go home.

The Israelites who were living in Babylon

Believed that their exile was divine punishment

For their idolatry,

But Isaiah turns up to tell them they’re up for parole.

It’s good news, this message,

And specifically, it’s good news for the poor.

Not the poor in spirit.

Not the slightly disadvantaged.

Not the less than billionaires.

The gospel that Jesus preaches is good news

For the poor.

It’s also good news

For captives, who are now released from their bondage.

For the blind, who receive recovery of sight.

For the oppressed,

Who hear that freedom’s coming,

The Year of the Lord’s Favour.

Now, the Year of the Lord’s Favour

Doesn’t mean God is just smiling down on people,

Happy about them.

It doesn’t mean God is going to bless the crops

And make everyone rich.

The Year of the Lord’s Favour is something outlined in the Law.

It is a divine economic reset,

Intended to be carried out

Every fifty years.

All debts are forgiven.

All land that had been sold

Had to be returned

To its original owners.

Good news for the poor, indeed,

But not necessarily super great news for the rich,

Many of whom had bought up this land

And now had to return it

With no hope of a refund.

I haven’t been able to find any evidence

That the Israelites ever actually practiced this Law,

Which makes it kind of amazing that it never got dropped from the Scriptures

Over the years.

But it didn’t,

So everyone knew they were supposed to respond

To Jesus’s proclamation

With a radical reordering of society

That would leave many much poorer than their current state

For the sake of others.

It’s no wonder the crowd responds by trying to throw him off a cliff!

Now, we might be surprised to hear

That this is Jesus’s mission statement.

The Church,

As full of sinners as any other collection of people,

Seems to have forgotten our marching orders rather quickly.

While the Church in Acts is recorded as holding all things in common,

We can see from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians

That remembering we are all in this together

Was a struggle even from early days.

And nowadays,

People are shocked when I share with them

Christ’s love for the poor

His call to radical freedom

And total reordering of society

To render justice for the oppressed.

That’s not something they associate with Jesus at all.

Over the past 17 months I have served as your rector,

I’ve been running all over the city,

Having coffee with various non-profit leaders,

Trying to figure out how we can contribute

To the service they are offering our neighbours.

At some point,

In nearly every conversation,

The other person says,

“Don’t you …. worry you’ll get in trouble

For saying things like Jesus loves the poor?

For encouraging Christians to let those they’ve oppressed go free?

Shouldn’t you keep some of these opinions to yourself?”

At first, I didn’t know how to answer them,

So completely was I taken aback.

I didn’t realize just how terrible the Christian reputation was,

That people thought it would be controversial

For me to proclaim the very statement

That inaugurates Jesus’s ministry.

It’s been sobering

To learn just how few people

Associate the gospel of Jesus

With good news.

But we can change that.

We have to change that.

Because the body of which we are members

Is not just our human collective.

It is the body of Christ Himself.

It is not just that we all suffer

When even one member does,

Jesus suffers too.

And when we proclaim a gospel

That offers judgment upon the poor,

Slammed doors in the faces of prisoners,

“God helps those who helps themselves” to the blind,

And “get over it! That was so long ago” to the oppressed,

Then it’s Jesus

Who people hear making those claims.

So it’s our job

To live into his mission statement

As individual members of his body in the world

So that it’s no longer considered controversial

To proclaim that what motivates us

Is the same word that he lived, and died,

And rose again to declare.

As we gather today

For our annual meeting,

We will have some business to discuss.

Now, it may seem boring to talk about budgets and vestry members

And Robert’s Rules of Order,

But I want us to keep this mission statement in mind.

Because we are not a business.

We’re not even just a non-profit.

We’re a church,

Part of the body of Christ whom we worship.

Everything we do – everything!

From what we say to what we buy to who leads us

Should reflect the mission Jesus proclaimed.

Because if we won’t live into Jesus’s opening line,

How the heck are we going to follow

The rest of the example he showed us?

This is our mission.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon us.

Will we proclaim

Good News?

Amen.