Sunday, May 22, 2016
Spoken and Poured Out
Spoken and Poured Out from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.
12I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When 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. 14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God
1Therefore, since we are justified be faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also boast in out sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and 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.
This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.
There are great stories out there for an English Major like me. Stories that speak to my inner word nerd. I may have told this one before, but I love telling stories twice.
The story goes that Winston Churchill was composing a speech, crafting it to energize the people and inspire the troops. As he was practicing it aloud, an aide interrupted him: Mr. Churchill, you’ve committed a grammatical error sir, you just ended a sentence with a preposition.
Churchill, looking up from his notes, replied, “That is something up with which I shall not put.”
I keep a list in my head of what I consider "Definitive Sermons." Now these are the best sermons I've ever heard on a particular text or topic. They're the ones that resonate with me on multiple levels, that have stuck with me for years.
I have been blessed to have heard some really good preaching in my life. As someone who values both good writing and good public speaking, it's been a real blessing.
I have yet to hear the "Definitive Sermon" on the doctrine of the Trinity. This Sunday comes around year after year. The Sunday after Pentecost, congregations across the world sing Holy, Holy, Holy, and celebrate one of the oldest doctrines of the church. I've heard a bunch of sermons on this topic.
I have yet to heard the "Definitive Sermon" on the doctrine of the Trinity.
Many of the sermons I’ve heard try and tiptoe around theological correctness, working so hard to avoid an error that they sacrifice good preaching. The meaning gets lost in trying to jump flawlessly through all the hoops. That is something up with which I shall not put.
In the same way that grammar describes the way that people use language, so too Doctrines describe what God is doing. When people use language in new and unexpected ways, we write new grammar.
Just so, when God does something new and unexpected, we write new theology. But our understanding is limited. We cannot bear all the things God has to say to us, all the ways God is in action in this created world. "When the Spirit of truth comes," Jesus promises us, "he will guide you into all the truth."
We are being guided into all the truth, we are being guided into the glory of God. As Paul writes in our Romans passage this morning, "we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God."
That’s part of what is missing in so many mediocre Trinity Sunday Sermons, rather than boasting in hope, they whisper in fear of making a mistake. The Bible is not a grammar handbook, a list of rules and how-it-ought-to-be's. The Bible is a story. It’s the story of God’s relationship with God’s people. Our theology is grammar that is built to describe what is revealed by that story.
Our story, preserved in Scripture by the Holy Spirit, shows us that the LORD does not work alone. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit work alongside one another, distinct, but inseparable, dancing through creation from the very beginning. In our John passage this morning, Jesus promises us that “[The Spirit] will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine…” God is in community with Godself.
But we live in a fractured and broken world. We who are created in the image of the triune God find so many ways to separate ourselves. We divide our communities along all sorts of lines, and those divisions have widened and deepened in our culture over the last fifteen years. As fear looms over us, we retreat into a tribal mindset. We take the outlook of us-and-them, of winners-and-losers, of uncompromising absolutes.
As broken people in a broken world, we often end up either pushing others away or abandoning ourselves and dissolving into the crowd. Sometimes we manage to do both, losing our integrity and our belonging at the same time.
Tri-Unity: God in three persons, distinct but inseparable. We are created in the image of God. When we allow ourselves to break down into those dividing mindsets, we are concealing the imagine of God in which we are created.
The ironic thing is that rather than returning to the distinct-but-inseparable image in which we are created, we double down on our divisions, pretending that we can justify ourselves by being one thing or doing another.
But we’re Christians, we know better. We know who we are and whose we are. We also know, as Paul helpfully reminds us, that it is not political affiliation, social status, or theological correctness that brings us peace. We are justified by faith, and therefore “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Since we know that, since we have seen in our story, preserved in Scripture by the Holy Spirit, we have an opportunity to embody the hope that we have been given. Just by firmly being who we are, forgiven sinners, created in the image of God, we can influence the culture in which we are immersed. Our congregation, and the Church as a whole, can be a conduit of God’s grace, speaking with the Spirit of truth and pouring out God’s love.
It doesn’t take special programming or a particular focus, it just requires a willingness to be the beloved community God has called us to be. The people who are the Presbyterian Church of Lowell have a lot of practice at being warm and welcoming to everyone who comes here. Yet we still have a very traditional worship service. We welcome all who come, but we stay very much who we are as a community of faith. It’s just who we are. I think that’s a beautiful embodied testimony to who God is. God is loving, forgiving, slow to anger, quick to forgive, but also holy and righteous. God’s righteous love continues to form and reform those whom he calls to live lives that glorify and enjoy him forever.
We’re not perfect, and we’ll continue to stumble along the way, but God’s got us firmly in hand. “Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through who we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.” God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, has grabbed us and will never let us go. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Therefore, we can proclaim our hope by living as God created us to live.
We don’t have to be afraid of making mistakes, we can have rough edges on our theology, because Jesus still has many things to say to us, and is speaking them to us through the Holy Spirit so we can better understand who we are in light of Scripture. It doesn’t have to be flawless, because God will make us complete in the end.
That’s our hope. That’s who we are as God’s people. We are invited to stumble our way through a relationship with a holy and Triune God. And through our stumbling, we may even learn to walk in the truth that is spoken, and the love that is poured out.