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Posts Tagged ‘Trinity’

A sermon based on John 1: 43 -51

A young journalist was sitting at a bar, feeling quite sorry for himself. “Nobody understands me, “ he lamented to the man on the stool next to him. His new friend asked, “Do you mean that there is nobody at all, not one human being, not a single, solitary person who understand you?” That’s right,” said the reporter. “Not a one.”
“You are a lucky man,” his bar companion told him. “Have you noticed how miserable I am?”

No, the journalist had not noticed because he had been too busy feeling sorry for himself.
“Yes,” said his friend,” I am just about the miserable-ext person on two legs.”
“Wy’s that? asked the journalist.

“Because there are two people in this world who understand me. They don’t understand me completely, but they understand me well enough. It’s awful being understood by one person but being understood by two is almost unbearable. If they understood me completely, the embarrassment would probably kill me.”

The journalist went on to write a newspaper column reflecting on the ways we defend ourselves against people understanding us too well. We don’t want them to see the confusion or the chaos that threaten to unsettle us. We don’t want them to know the fears and doubts that trouble the clam exterior we show to others. Much of the time we cover up who we really are. It works, of course, to help us function most of the time. It also leaves us feeling lonely, alone in the world. More than that, it is hard on our souls, which thrive only in the atmosphere of truth.  (Russell Baker, “We can all use a little misunderstanding”, source unknown)

Do you have someone who understands you? Do you have someone in your life who knows the real you? Is there someone who understands the joys and fears, and the deep longings that drive you to act the way you do? Not completely perhaps, but well enough? does that make you miserable because you cannot get away with anything? Or, do you experience it as a great and precious gift?

The gospels tell us stories of Jesus encountering people, seeing them for who they really were, and telling them the truth about their lives. For some of them, Jesus’ words are a great gift. They bring out what is best in them. They grow strong and courageous; they become generous and compassionate. For some people, Jesus tells them more truth than they want to hear. Jesus truth-telling exposes their hypocrisy or deceit, their manipulations and their abuses of power. Some of them eventually kill him for it.

Barbara Brown Taylor tells the story about a group of people who were on a religious retreat. The leader asked them to think of someone who represented Christ in their lives. Then, they were to spend some time sharing with the group who those people were. Near the end of the sharing time, one woman stood up and said, “I had to think about that one. I kept thinking, ‘Who is it who told me the truth about myself so clearly that I wanted to kill him for it?’” (Truth to Tell)

In today’s gospel story, Jesus is gathering a community of people who hear the truth he speaks to them as good news. It is received as a great treasure. He invites Andrew and Simon to “come and see”; then, he finds Philip who finds Nathanael. Philip says, “We have been looking for someone who will save us. We have found him: Jesus, son of Joseph of Nazareth.”

Nathanael is more than a little skeptical. Jesus was not what he thought God’s salvation would look like: a carpenter’s son from a no-account town like Nazareth? Philip does not argue with Nathanael. He does not try to prove to him that Jesus is the Messiah. He just says, “Come and see.”

While Nathanael is still making his way toward Jesus, Jesus says, “Look, here is a true Israelite. Here is someone who is a wrestler-with-God. Here is someone in whom there is no deceit.” Nathanael is surprised by what Jesus saw in him, “How do you know me?” Jesus replies, “I saw you sitting under the fig tree.”

“Sitting under the fig tree” was an old saying used to describe someone who was genuinely searching for God’s truth and God’s salvation. You are “sitting under the fig tree” when you see a world being corrupted by evil and greed and violence and hatred and you say, “Surely another world is possible”. You are “sitting under the fig tree” when you are no longer content merely to skim along the surface of your life and you decide, instead, to find your place in God’s plan for the world. You are “sitting under the fig tree” when you search for wisdom and courage to navigate a faithful path through difficult and ambiguous choices; when you dare to speak your truth even when people want you to remain quiet and complacent.

Jesus sees you sitting there long before you are even aware of him. Long before you start searching for him, he has already been looking for you. He knows your questions, your doubts, your uncertainties, and the things you try to hid. “I can work with that,” he says. “Come, follow me. Follow me and you will find that your life is lived on holy ground. You are living at the intersection between who you really are and what God is doing in and through you.”

There is a great deal of interest these days in ‘the self’. You are told in countless ways that you need to get to know your self more clearly and ore deeply. Only as you do so will you will maximize your potential, develop your gifts, meet your needs and follow your dreams.

There is a healthy self-awareness: an awareness of your inner life helps you function better in the world. But, ultimately, the self is too small an environment in which any human being can flourish. It is not the kind of environment where your soul can deepen and grow and mature. You and I are made to love. We are made for community with other selves. The self cannot be itself, fully itself, unless it is in relationship: relationship with others and, most decisively, relationship with God.

The self is your soul with God left out. Focus only on your ‘self’, without reference to who God is and what God is doing in your life, and you are leaving out the most important part of who you are. The most decisive thing about your life is not who you are or what you are doing. The most decisive action in your life is what God is doing in you and through you. What most defines who you is who God says you are.

Jesus invites you out of the cramped world of the self and sets you into the large world of God’s grace. There is always more going on that any of us realizes. God acts in ways that are often invisible and unexpected. Yet, at every moment, you are immersed in the presence and the action of God. The God who is creating and saving and blessing and transforming you and the world, is permeating all of your life with God’s beauty and grace and love. You are standing on holy ground.

Early Christian theologians sometimes described the relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as a great and wonderful dance of perfect love. Each of us is untied to join the dance, and to add our moves to it. As you join the dance, you become more fully yourself than you could ever be apart from God.

Faith is not a journey of self-discovery as much as it is a journey of God-discovery. Faith is learning to pay attention to God; opening yourself to God; getting in on what God is king. It is a journey of learning to live beyond yourself because you are being drawn into God’s great and holy work in the world. Faith makes you more than you could ever be on your own. “Follow me,” says Jesus”, Let him teach you the steps you need to know to join in the dance: patience and love, truth and forgiveness, goodness and beauty, hope and courage, joy and celebration.

There will be times when the dance feels odd. You will be moving in ways that feel strange. How do you being? You continue what God has already begun in you. You risk: risk trusting as much of your self as you can to as much of God as you know. Then, let the Spirit draw you into the divine dance of love.

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Teach us to Dance

A prayer for Trinity Sunday with reflections on Philippians 4: 8-14

Your love draws us toward you,

Inviting us into the dance of love with you.

We confess that the steps feel awkward at times –

steps of self-abandonment,

trusting that your grace will be sufficient

when the road ahead is uncertain;

steps of self-giving,

trusting that by letting go

we shall find life in all its fullness.

We cannot learn this dance

unless you lead us.

Lead us till we learn to embrace

all that is true, noble, and  just;

all that is pure and gracious;

all that is beautiful.

We ask in the name of Jesus,

the Lord of the Dance of Life,

and  through the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

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