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First Sunday after Pentecost

Readings – Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8:12-17; John 3:1-17

Last Sunday we celebrated Pentecost, fifty days after the Resurrection, when the Holy Spirit descended like tongues of fire on the gathered disciples, turning the disciples into apostles.  They were the sent-out ones to share their on-fire love for God. 

Today is traditionally called Trinity Sunday when the Church proclaims God as Father, God as Son, and God as Spirit.  These are the three traditional ways we have experienced God in the life of the Church and in our individual lives. 

Our readings give us God as totally other, “the Lord God sitting on a throne, high and lofty”.  A seraph flies to Isaiah with a pair of tongs bringing a live coal to cleanse his lips.  God then inquires “who I shall I send, and who will go for us?”  Isaiah responds, “Here I am; send me”. 

In St. Paul’s letter to the church in Rome he writes, “…if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live”.  St. Paul writes that like the coal from the altar brought by the seraph, the Spirit cleanses, makes God’s people pure. 

In the Gospel according to St. John we hear about the conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus.  There is talk of maturing faith, not of perfection, not of cleansing.

God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world,
but in order that the world [all of us] might be saved through him. 

There is no proclamation of perfection first and then working for the goodness of God, for the kingdom of God, yoked side by side with Jesus.  That perspective of the less than perfect being touched by God, being a part of God’s work resonates more with me, and reminds me of another story from the Old Testament, one of the earliest stories passed down from generation to generation around the evening cooking fires of our ancestors.

Now the Lord God said to Abram, “Go and your father’s house to the
land that I will show you.  And I will make of you a great nation, and
I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a
blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you
you I will curse; and by you all families of the earth will bless themselves. 
Genesis 12: 1-3

Abram and Sarai set off not knowing where they were headed other than that they would be guided and accompanied by God.  It is written that they wandered with their goats, their sheep, their camels.  God said, Go, and they went.  But here is the part often overlooked, they went with all their stuff, with all their baggage.  They were not perfect; their lips were not seared with a hot coal; they were not made pure by the Spirit.   They went as they were and they wandered, and God guided and accompanied them. 

Now that sounds a lot more like my life, not pure, not always knowing where I am going, and yet still guided and accompanied by God. 

Volumes have been written and continue to be published about the Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit, and that’s okay.  Yet for me, it is enough to know God is with me and will touch my life, my imperfect life, from time to time, sometimes as like a father or mother, sometimes through unexpected conversations with sisters or brothers, and sometimes like the wind that “blows where it chooses”.  Sometimes it is just through a brief time in nature, and sometimes by a nuzzle from a neighbor’s dog, and sometimes through the gentle touch of a loved one. 

As for me, I will let someone else figure out how God does walk in love with me.  All I know, as the great theologian Karl Barth once said when asked what was the heart of his faith:   

Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so.

That is enough for me, and I hope that is enough for you, too.  And with that love we go forth day by day to share that love wherever our life’s journeys take us. 

Amen

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