June 8, 2009

Sermon for Trinity Sunday

    Last winter, Cassie and I joined her family on a trip to Cocoa Beach, Florida.  At the time, her dad was considering buying and building a aerobatic bi-plane kit from a company that happened to be located twenty minutes south of our condo.  So one morning Doug and I made the trip south to see the factory and take a tour.  It was a really cool couple of hours.  The owner of the factory took us around to see the first ever prototype.  We saw the CNC Machine that cut out the thousands upon thousands of struts, ribs, and connecting pieces that make up the kit.  We saw planes in various stages of construction, and learned all ABOUT what made this aerobatic bi-plane special.  We learned about the engine that is made for a plane three or four times as heavy.  We learned about the wings, which unlike a regular plane wing taht is curved only on the top to provide lift, is curved on both top and bottom so that the plane doesn't care whether you are flying it rightside up or upside down.  As you can tell, I left that two hour tour knowing a whole lot ABOUT this bi-plane. The next day, we headed to the airport where their professional test pilot was going to give my father-in-law a test flight in their trainer.  After he was done, he told me all ABOUT the aeloron rolls, barrel rolls, flips, and tricks they had done.  And then, something very unexpected happened, the pilot asked if I might like to go up.  I thought for about 2 milliseconds, and said "yes."  As he helped me put the five point harness on, the pilot said something to me that I will never forget, "if anything goes wrong, this is your ripcord, pull it."  I quickly realized that it didn't matter how much I knew ABOUT this particular aircraft because I was about to know it, intimately.  And boy howdy did I get to know that airplane.
    There is a tendency on Trinity Sunday to do a lot of talking ABOUT the doctrine and dogma of the Trinity.  Sermons about the various points of doctrine ironed out to make up the Nicene Creed will be prevalent.  Various ways of thinking about our Triune God will be explored: God as water: ice, liquid, and steam; God as star: light, heat, and radiation; God as modes: creator, redeemer, sanctifier; God as persons in non-male language: mother, daughter, and holy womb.  There is, without a doubt, a whole lot of talk going on this morning helping people to know more ABOUT the Triune God that we, as Christians, profess to follow, and that is a good thing, but all the many ways we can concoct to talk ABOUT God leave us feeling a little empty.  Quite frankly, we could talk ABOUT, write ABOUT, and read ABOUT God for the rest of our days and still not cover all that there is to cover.  Most importantly, even if we could know everything there is to know ABOUT God, it still pales in comparison to knowing God.  And so, I believe that Trinity Sunday is celebrated each year, not to help us come to know and understand more ABOUT God, we'll never be able to know if God can create a rock that God can't lift.  Instead, today we are called to a deeper relationship with the Triune God who meets us, who makes himself known to us, as Father, the one who creates, as Son, the one who redeems, and as Holy Spirit, the one who guides, protects, and sanctifies.  So the question this morning is not, how much do you know ABOUT God, but simply do you know God.
    Nicodemus probably knew everything there was to know ABOUT the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  As a Pharisee and a leader of the Jews, he had attended school since he was just a young man of thirteen.  He had studied under the finest minds in Jerusalem and made his way through the ranks to be one of the most respected men in all of Second Temple Judaism.  He came to Jesus full of knowledge ABOUT God, but still very much seeking to know God.
    "Rabbi," Nicodemus said to Jesus, "we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God."  A very polite way to begin the conversation, stating the facts as he saw them, Nicodemus was hoping to gain some more insight into why God was working through this itinerant Rabbi from Nazareth.  What he got in return, however, was the religious equivalent to "if anything goes wrong, this is your ripcord, pull it."
    Jesus began to teach him, not ABOUT God, but how to know God.  As the second person of the Trinity, Jesus the Messiah, was able to speak the wisdom of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that had never before been revealed.  He spoke it all to Nicodemus by way of an invitation to enter into a relationship with Him, and his Father, and the Advocate.  He invited him to strap on his parachute and join into the ongoing and beautiful dance that is the Triune God.
    "Be born from above," Jesus told Nicodemus, "Know the Spirit of God and experience what it is to be a part of God's plan, picked up from the face of the earth and set down precisely where God would have you work and live.  Know the Father who created you and wants more than anything to set all relationships back to rights.  Know me, and see that I am the Messiah, soon to be lifted up, exalted upon the cross, so that all of creation might be saved."
    This invitation from Jesus is a most dangerous one.  It is an invitation out of the social system, the political system, the religious system and into God's system of redemption.  It means that all that Nicodemus knew, all that we might know ABOUT God is now moot, God isn't keeping a heresy card, or a sin talley, but instead is asking us to accept his forgiveness and then share it far and wide with a world desperate for relationship with Him.  It is an invitation to follow in the footsteps of the Prophet Isaiah and answer, "here I am, Lord," no matter how frightening or rediculous the call might be.
    Here I am Lord, send me to Fountain Prision to serve as a Kairos Minister - called only to Listen, Listen and Love, Love.
    Here I am Lord, send me to the Domican Republic where I will build pews so that you might be worshipped and praises might be sung to your honor and glory.
    Here I am Lord, send me to the Diocesan School for Deacons so that my passion for the poor, sick, and needy might by made complete by the outpouring of your Spirit.
    Here I am Lord, parachute strapped to my back, ready to go where ever you call, hoping only to know you: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and share you: Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier with the world at large.  Send me O Lord, that I might be tied to you intimagely, as your hands, your feet, your heart, your ears, your embrace.  Here I am Lord, I may not know much ABOUT you, but I know you, and I know you sent your Son not to condemn the world, but to save it, to redeem it, to return it to wholeness, allow me to help you with that dangerous and holy work.  Amen.

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