In pm's words
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June 12, 2017, 8:00 AM

the one about God with us...


Holy Trinity Sunday Sermon - June 11, 2017

Text: Matthew 28: 16-20

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ. Will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, my fellow colleagues and I gather almost every week to discuss and brainstorm about that Sunday’s upcoming sermon. We read the texts, we share insights about what we’ve read or how we might interpret a word, phrase, or meaning behind the text, we tend to get lost in the weeds of our conversation a lot. This week – like every year around this time in the church year – is met with both awe and hesitancy.

The Holy Trinity – that we celebrate this day – is a particularly difficult revelation of God to speak about. As we joked this past week, ‘whenever you begin to talk about the Trinity, chances are you’re stepping – unintentionally most of the time – into a little bit of heresy.’ Which is to say that just because we wear these collars and humbly place these stoles upon our shoulders, we don’t understand it all fully either. Each way we attempt to explain the Holy Three-in-One and One-in-Three we always – always – fall short of the fullness of God.

I mention that, and I try to do that every year, as a reminder to y’all and others that I don’t have all the answers. I too still struggle in this life of faith in many ways, one of which is to define those things that are foundational to our faith. Pastors, they’re just like everyone else!

There is a tendency to try to focus this day solely on ‘explaining’ the very unexplainable and mysterious. I try not to do that because like I mentioned early, the more we do that the more likely we are to unintentionally venture into places that we just don’t want to trifle with. However, as I read this Gospel text we receive this morning, there is something particular about it that when I noticed it was sort of mind-blowing.

But, before we get to that part, I’d like us to think a little bit about the beginning of this gospel. The birth narrative. We really haven’t paid all that much attention to it since Advent – at least not specifically within our worship readings. Way back in chapter one of Matthew Joseph experiences a vision. A vision of an angel of the Lord speaking to him about the child that grows in his fiancé’s womb. The angel specifically cites scripture (Isaiah specifically) that speaks of a virgin who is to conceive and bear a son and that his name shall be called Emmanuel, which means God with us.

I always chuckle a bit at that. Because the angel cites this scripture about how the child shall be named Emmanuel, but tells them to call him Jesus instead.

But, that name Emmanuel is indeed the name we place upon our Lord. We believe in that celebration of that pregnancy and birth that God has come down to be with us. That out of that great love that God has for creation, that God has come to dwell in the chaotic messiness of life. Not only with us, but as one of creation.

That name is lived into throughout the gospel of Matthew. Jesus ventures into places and interacts lovingly and compassionately with those that others steer clear. People who are sick – Jesus is with them. Visiting places (and people) outside the ‘normal’ cultural realms – Jesus is with them. Amongst those who disagree with him – Jesus is with them. In the midst of discussions that make people uncomfortable – Jesus is with them.

Jesus is with them – teaching, healing, traveling, standing alongside, listening, forgiving, calling. Jesus is with them.

And, what do we hear Jesus tell his disciples and friends at the very end of the Gospel of Matthew this morning? The final promise that Jesus speaks unto his disciples is this – Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. For me, that was pretty mind blowing.

The promise of Emmanuel has been fulfilled in our Lord.

This time, I think the promise we hear is a desperately needed one. Because, Jesus is sending out his disciples – including us – into the world in the name of the Trinity to do ministry.

I think we need that promise that Jesus is with us because well, sometimes it is really hard to see and to know that Jesus is indeed with us. That we do live a life of Emmanuel. We may get close to this realization during times of tragedy or loss, when even the most infrequently religious of us call on God for some extra help. (Though, now that I think of it, calling on God and experiencing God with us are not the same.) But what about all the other times. Good times, not so good times, joyous times, sad times, expectant times, anxious times. Do we sense God’s presence?

Whenever I am humbled and honored to be with a family or person that has experienced loss in some way – a death of a loved one, an ending of a relationship, a failure to achieve a desired goal, receiving dire news – I usually say something to the effect of, “I don’t know how and I’m not sure where, but I know God is here with you and all of us in this. I know this, because God has promised to be here. Jesus has promised to be here. The Spirit is promised to be here.”

Jesus’ promise as he sends his disciples (and us) out in ministry is said in the present tense. It isn’t a ‘will be’ or a ‘might be’ scenario. Jesus says he IS with them. Here. Now. Forever.

That same promise is extended to each of us. God is here with us. Christ is here with us. The Spirit is here with us.

We don’t quite know how it all works, or what exactly it looks like. But, we trust in the promise that God has made. God is revealed to us in three persons – Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This Trinity that shares in the love of creation – in the love of each of us. Where that love so flourishes that it spills over the sides and washes us within it. Full of grace and forgiveness. In that model and example of love, we too are called to live out that sort of love. Loving, respecting, and caring for each other that spills out from our lives and into our neighborhoods and communities. Where that love is revealed to others in ways where others can see, touch, and participate. Giving out water to those on the road. Holding those in our arms as they are sent to camp. Being present with the sick, the hurt, the grieving. Finding new ways to be loving in a community that invites others to participate. Working, talking, and listening to one another to see where God is present.

Where we live into the promise that God has for us. Promises bind us together, they provide hope, and they create courage to live with each other, support each other, forgive each other, and encourage each other. At the heart of every real relationship, when you think about it, is a promise. A promise that is a whole lot like Jesus’ promise: I will be with you. I am for you. You can count on me. I’ve got your back. Let’s see what we can do together.

On this Holy Trinity Sunday – as we are sent out in the ministry that Jesus invites us into we do so in the promise that God is there. God is here. God promises to be present with each of us. Always. Forever. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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