Bless us with thankful hearts;
Fill us with joyful hearts;
Save us with faithful hearts.
p110, Litany for the Holy Trinity, The Daily Office, 1965
Holy, Holy, Holy, of whom and through whom and to whom are all things:
Bless us with thankful hearts;
Fill us with joyful hearts;
Save us with faithful hearts.
p110, Litany for the Holy Trinity, The Daily Office, 1965
2019 Holy Trinity Sunday
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 Psalm 8 Romans 5:1-5 John 16:12-15
When Jesus says, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now,” it took me back to when I was much younger person and I was full of questions. I heard from the authority figures, exasperated expressions, such as “Because I told you so” and “I will tell you when you are older.”
My experience is not unique. A quick Internet search led me to a 2017 article in THE INDEPENDENT that reported on a study. The study found that curious children ask as many as 73 questions a day – many of which parents cannot answer for a number of reasons. Sometimes the big people don’t know the answer, other times, it is because we don’t know how to take what is truly complex and turn it into a simple concrete explanation. And, then, there are other times, when adults know that children simply do not have the conceptual ability to grasp the answer. Delay and distraction are best for now.
The article reported the top 10 questions. Any of us who are around small children will recognize some version of these questions.
Our brief passage from John 16 is part the last conversation that Jesus has with the disciples before he is arrested and crucified. In John 14-17, Jesus gives them plenty of things to think about. In these chapters, Jesus washes the disciples’ feet; he commands them to love one another; he explains their life as a life of service; explains that he is going to the Father so that the Holy Spirit may come. And, Jesus prays for the Apostles and the Church that follows.
But, there is so much, much more to be said. So, in the midst of his explanation of the work of the Holy Spirit, Jesus says, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”
That is true, isn’t it. We know from the gospels that even though Jesus explained at least three times, probably more than that, that he, the Son of Man, must be betrayed, killed, and on the third day rise again, the disciples were not prepared for those events. In the midst of the crisis that follows, all the information that Jesus shared with them, departed from them, and they were emotionally and spiritually devastated and deeply afraid.
Peter didn’t even realize he was denying knowing Jesus until after the rooster crowed after his third denial. Did the disciples even know they were running away as they were running away? Probably not. They were overwhelmed. And, no, they could not handle any more. Jesus was right.
But, then, along comes Pentecost. The Holy Spirit comes upon the Apostles and they are transformed. Jesus promised, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.”
The Truth the Holy Spirit leads us into is everything that Jesus taught them. It is also the teaching found in the New Testament. The Apostle Paul’s letters are recognized as inspired by the Holy Spirit. To particular problems and issues arising in the first generation of congregations, Paul is led by the Holy Spirit to speak the truth of God. We have a fine example in Romans 5.
Our salvation is not our own doing. We have peace with God because of what Jesus has done in the cross and resurrection. Jesus dies for our sins. He rises to forgive us. Jesus dies a death so that when he rises from the dead, he conquers death.
Jesus has done the hard work. Now, what we do is trust in Jesus’ work. We have faith. In the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul says that we are justified by faith. We don’t justify ourselves before God. We have faith in Jesus as our Savior and that faith in Jesus saves us. Because we have faith in Jesus, we have hope. An eternal hope. And, that hope will not disappoint us. Hope and love are gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Today is the feast of the Holy Trinity. This is another truth that the Holy Spirit leads us into. Jesus did explain to the disciples his unique relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit. But, they could not bear it then. So, the Holy Spirit has led the Church into the knowledge that Jesus is God and that he has an unparalleled existence with the other two persons of the Trinity.
The Holy Spirit leads us into the truth of God that there is one God. And, at the same time, the one God consists of three distinct persons. Each having a role to play in the created heavens and earth and in our salvation.
When it comes to speaking about God’s mysterious being, this is when we begin with our 73 questions: How can this be? How can Jesus be God but be born of the Virgin Mary? How can Jesus die but the Father and the Spirit don’t die too? And, the questions go on.
The Holy Spirit has led the Church to develop three creeds that quickly summarize the basic teachings of the Bible about God and God’s intentions for us. The Athanasian Creed joins the Apostles and the Nicene Creed as gifts of the Holy Spirit that serve to keep our confession of God pure. What can we know about God? The Creeds gather up what is said about God and express it succinctly.
We may or may not be satisfied with the explanations found in the creeds and the Bible. We may want to understand more. Great. But, before we enter into a long, frustrating journey, let’s also remember that what the creeds do is that they lead us to praise.
There is a lot of mystery here. In my mind, one of the biggest mysteries is why has God chosen to reveal himself to us at all. We are such broken and disappointing parts of his creation. We have free choice and we so often choose badly. Why does God bother? For whatever reason, God has decided we are worth saving.
Our proper response to that gift is to praise God. God has provided us with God’s name. God is our Father. God is Jesus our brother. God is the Holy Spirit our guide. We praise God for his infinite generosity and kindness to us. All God’s people say…Amen.
Curious children ask 73 questions each day - many of which parents can't answer, says study: Children's inquisitiveness said to peak at four, leaving almost half of parents feeling hopeless
· Emma Elsworthy
· Sunday 3 December 2017 19:16
2019 Pentecost – Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:24-34, 35B; Romans 8:14-17; John 14:8-17 (25-27)
The day of Pentecost is often called the Birthday of the Church. This is the day when the Holy Spirit falls upon the frightened Apostles of Jesus. When the Holy Spirit comes, there is an immediate transformation.
We are told that they were together in a house. The impression that we have from the Scriptures is that between the time of Jesus’ death and the day of Pentecost, the Apostles kept a low profile because they were afraid that their fate may soon be that of Jesus’.
But the Holy Spirit changed those men. They were compelled to leave the obscurity and safety of the house to go out into the public. They met the curious who wanted to know why that dreadful sound of rushing wind was localized in that house.
The day of Pentecost is the day that the church became the church. The Greek word for church is ecclesia. The word means “called out.” The day of Pentecost set the pattern of the church. The church is called out by the Spirit to communicate God’s Truth and hopes for the world. The how and why and way that the Church communicates God’s Word has not changed from the original blueprint of the Day of Pentecost.
First, there is an outward movement. The Apostles do not remain in the building. They go out to where the people are gathering.
Second, words are spoken in a way in which people can understand. Jerusalem had an international presence on that day. All manner of nationalities and languages were inside those walls. The miracle of that moment is beautifully stated in Acts 2. “Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And, at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.”
Wherever the church has gone, it has spoken in the language of the native peoples. The faith requires comprehension. It requires an ascent to God’s truth. Faith requires an action on our part. We hear the Good News and we are baptized. Therefore the faith needs to be communicated in a way in which people can understand.
Third, the church speaks about God’s deeds of power. The church does not promote itself. We exist to promote God. What the Parthinians and the Elamites and the Cappadocians and the Egyptians were all hearing was how God brought God’s people out of slavery from Egypt, how God brought the people out of Babylon, and how the Father sent the Son and the Son, Jesus, was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven. That the Son gave his life for the sake of the world.
The Church today continues to speak of God’s deeds of power.
Fourth, the church speaks God’s name. There have always been lots of gods out there. Every culture has them. But, we believe that there is one God, revealed by Jesus as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In the midst of a pluralistic society the Church today announces the true God’s name.
Fifth, because of the work of the Holy Spirit, the church does what Jesus says in John 14, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”
What are these greater works? Instead of one person, Jesus, we have whole congregations, groups of people, who are speaking God’s Word in a language people can understand, engaging in miraculous acts of love and compassion and sacrifice. As history shows us, the Church saved abandoned babies, fed and housed the widows and the orphans, developed hospitals, created education programs, to name only a few things. We have loved and embraced the forgotten and lifted up the downtrodden, given hope to the hopeless, and forgiven those who intend us harm.
All of this we have done because the Holy Spirit leads, guides, and teaches us what we need when we need it.
The anniversaries of birthdays is a way to mark the passing of time. It is an occasion to celebrate with family and friends and to give thanks to God for the gift of life. When we have a few more birthdays under our belt, it becomes an occasion to take stock of our life, where we are headed and where we have been and what we think about it.
When we are younger, we make plans for where we are headed. Birthdays and New Years are times for setting goals. When, we are older, we evaluate the significance and ramifications of our decisions and life circumstances. What changes can be made in the time that remains?
As we observe this particular birthday of the church, it is clear that we are in a different situation than where we were 20 years ago. Gosh, actually, even 10 years ago. Who would have thought that on Pentecost that members of Gloria Dei, First English, and Good Shepherd would be sitting next to each other on a Sunday morning?
As far as I am concerned, this is a happy occasion. We are in a time of discernment. In doing so, we are making new friends. While some of you may be thinking that we are discerning whether or not we are going to merge or consolidate, I think what we should be thinking about is how we are going to best live out the pattern of the early church.
How do we best get out of the house and to where the people are who need the Good News of God’s mighty deeds?
What language do we need to learn to speak of God’s mighty deeds so that they understand and are invited in? I’m not talking about Spanish, I am talking about learning to talk about God with people who have never been a part of a church.
In this remarkable, culturally and religiously diverse country, how do we speak the true name of God with clarity?
How is the Spirit of God leading us to love and serve our neighbors?
On the anniversary of the birth of the Church, these are the questions, we must ponder and answer together. When we get our mission straight, how and where we are together for Sunday worship will take care of itself.
All God’s people say…Amen.
I enjoyed this book. I was drawn to Connell’s honesty.
Connell returned to the farm that he grew up on after nearly a decade away. He was making his life as a journalist, writer of books, and film director, when his life came to a screeching halt. As he returned to the rhythm of farm work, he recognized the unsettled feeling that was always within him while he lived and travelled in Australia, the USA, and Canada. When he returned home, he was settled.
Internally, he may have felt settled, but home life had its complications, especially with his Dad. Then, there was the exhausting work of taking care of the cattle, calving, and raising sheep and lambing.
Connell is honest about the hard work of both farming and the relationships. Along the way, we learn the history of cattle, and their mythic beginnings. Who knew that beef had such a significant place in different cultures and their myths of origin? Fascinating.
In Ireland the book is titled: The Cow Book. It was a best seller there.
As Connell points out, so many people are now disconnected from their ancestral lands and from the process of raising food and meat. Connell gives the reader a taste of what all of that is like. He lives in the history of his people and of the land. He and his family maintain many of the farming practices of yesteryear.
If you take the time to read this, you will be enchanted.
2019 Easter 7 June 2, 2019 Praying for You
As some of you know, I joined John and Gloria in representing you at the Indiana-Kentucky Synod Assembly that met at Purdue University campus. The theme of the Assembly is the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Bishop Gafkjen and the Assembly planners wanted to broaden our awareness of who our neighbors are. And, be aware of the barriers, real and imagined, that are in place to prevent us from knowing our neighbor’s as fellow human beings and as neighbors.
I do not intend to offer a report of the Synod Assembly. You will have that soon enough in a couple of different ways. But, I do want to point out that one of the ways we can help and know our neighbors is to pray for them. Prayer is a powerful witness.
Prayer is a powerful witness because of who we pray to and what we pray for.
The Gospel lesson is from John 17. The entire chapter captures a lengthy prayer that Jesus offers to our Heavenly Father in behalf of the Apostles and the Church of the future. In the lectionary for today, Jesus is praying for you and me. He acknowledges that the reason we believe is because of the Word of the Apostles.
After Pentecost, the Apostles proclaimed the Good News of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Son of God, born of Mary, who has died on the cross, risen from the dead, and now ascended into heaven. We know this information because the Apostles told others who received this good news, believed, gathered into the church, and then began the process of passing God’s Holy and Precious Good News down from one generation to another.
We would not have faith in Jesus as the Christ if it were not for those first Apostles. We have come to believe because of their word. Because of our faith, we are connected to the Apostles and every other Christian who has lived, lives now, and will ever live on this beautiful planet. Jesus prays that we be one. By faith in Jesus we are saved, by faith in Jesus we join with Christians in all times and places in the mystical body of Christ.
Jesus prays for us. He prays that we cherish the gift of grace given to us. He prays that we remain steadfast. He prays that we remain faithful and pass the treasure of the Christian faith unto the generations that follow.
The Christian faith is not only the intellectual content that God is the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. And that Jesus dies for us. The Christian faith is also about embodying the love that Christ has for us into our own lives. Love of any kind is to be shared. Jesus prays, “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
The Father loves the Son. The Father loves us. Who do we love? We love God and neighbor. But, then comes the challenge. How do we love our neighbor?
According to the speakers at the Assembly, your neighbor is whoever you happen to be around. You may or may not know them personally. They may be friend or foe. They may be invisible to you for one reason or another. They may be of another ethnic group, religion, political party, or economic status than you are, but they are still your neighbors.
Just so we are clear. This is also the position of Martin Luther and Jesus too.
Regardless, how do we talk with them about Jesus and the Church?
I was struck by the incidents of the first lesson. Paul and Silas are in prison because they have disrupted a slave girl’s owner’s financial stream. Paul’s God is more powerful than the demon that possessed her. In Jesus’ name he cast out that abusive spirit. In making her free, he cut off a lucrative money stream for the girl’s owners. People do get upset when their source of revenue is disrupted.
I think there is any number of things that Paul and Silas could have done while they were in prison. They could have wept, screamed, pled loudly about the injustice of the situation. They could have fallen into angry silence. Instead, they chose to pray and to sing hymns to God.
In the first chapter of the Gospel of John, it says of Jesus, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
In that dark, nasty, smelly, scary place with all manner of “neighbors,” Paul and Silas chose to praise God. In response to injustice, they chose to pray and sing hymns. They prayed out loud and they sang hymns out loud. And, did you hear what the text says? “and the prisoners were listening to them.” And, apparently, the guards and chief jailer heard them too. Why else would the jailor ask them that all important question. “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
Not only did Paul and Silas’ God have the power to silence the fortune telling demon, but Paul and Silas trusted our God sufficiently that they chose not to run when their chains broke free. What have they to fear, when the Lord governs their life?
Praying is a witness. Whether we are doing this in public or we are doing it in private. Praying for others is also a witness. Especially, when we let our neighbors know that we are praying for them.
There is a revealing prayer exercise in Stephen Ministry training. We pair up with someone we do not know and we say a prayer for one another. Then, we are given a set of questions to ask each other. It’s a way of getting to know one another. Then, after about 15 minutes of talking, we are asked to pray for one another again. We always find that second round of prayer to be much more fulfilling and meaningful because we know something about the person we are praying for.
When we pray for our neighbor, we usually know something about the person we are praying for. If they have been expressing worry about the parents or the child or the job, we can pray for and with them. If they are going through a health crisis, we can pray for and with them. Regardless of their faith, we can let them know that we are praying for them. It is a powerful witness to God to say that our Lord can do something about your situation. If nothing else, the Good Shepherd can bring you peace as you walk through that dark valley.
Jesus prays for us because he knows that we need it. He does not just save us and leave us. He continues to be the Good Shepherd who leads and guides us along our way. We are disciples of Jesus. We imitate our Lord. We pray for the people around us. Prayer is one of the ways in which we love our neighbor. And, because we are invoking God’s presence and energy and will, we may discover that in our prayer for others, we too are being changed. How can we not be changed by Jesus’s love and presence in our lives? As Jesus prays, “I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” May it be so.
All God’s people say…Amen.
In the South Bend, IN region there is a long standing tradition of the Episcopal and ELCA congregations sharing the celebration of our Lord's Ascension together in honor of the Full Communion agreement between the two church bodies. This year we were at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, South Bend. Bishop Doug Sparks of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana preached. Pastor Heather Apel, Assistant to Bishop Gafkjen, presided as Bishop Gafkjen was involved in pre-synod assembly meetings that he could not escape from.
It was a fine, fine service. I am grateful to the regular supply pastor, Rev. Dr. Max Johnson, for all the behind the scenes organizing that he did. My gratitude also extends to the congregational secretary and musician, Maretta Hershberger, for her work on the user-friendly bulletin and her work with the guest choir.
Here are a couple of pictures.
I liked this book much better than I thought I would. I appreciated how Carlson showed how attitudes, priorities and policies have changed within the political parties, business, and the wealthy. Carlson covers topics such as immigration, foreign wars, censorship, diversity, homosexuality and transgender, and the environment.
Carlson is particularly gifted at pointing out moral hypocrisy. For example, the reason the "elite" do not really oppose immigration is because they benefit from inexpensive labor. Another example, those who cry loudly about the environment and climate change have enormous carbon foot prints.
One of Carlson's objectives in this book is to explain how Donald Trump became president. He explains the frustration of normal, clear thinking individuals, who saw in Mr. Trump potential to bring a different kind of conversation to policies and decisions in Washington.
While I understand that this is a communicator's book, and Carlson is an excellent writer and communicator, the book would have been significantly strengthened if it included bibliographic notes to cite his sources.
2019 Easter 6 – John 14:23-29 – The Legacy
Alisha Brooks-Lytle tells a touching story from her life. Her husband Carl had a rare degenerative neurological condition. No cure cure. He will die. About 2 ½ before he died, Alisha asked Carl “What do you want our son to know about life after you are gone?” He responded – to know that God and family are more important than a job or success.
She then asked, “What do you want for me?” His response surprised her. Practice the piano. Piano proficiency will help her as a jazz vocalist, singer-songwriter, and worship leader.
So, a year after his death, the son appears to be living out the wisdom that Dad inspired. She now has a digital piano in her room and practices regularly.
Carl wanted their son to know that the love of God and neighbor is what shapes the Christian life. And, he wanted Alisha to know that the stewardship of her gifts is important for the particularity of her call and mission.
Remarkably wise legacy to leave.
The Gospel lesson today shows Jesus giving last minute instructions to the disciples and to the church. He is conveying his legacy. Last week, from John 13, we learned about his priority for us to “Love one another as I have loved you.” And, to glorify our Heavenly Father through our life and death. This week, Jesus adds to the list.
Jesus reiterates the importance of living in the kind of love that Jesus lives and dies with. When we love as Jesus loves, we keep Jesus’ word. When Alisha and her son do the things that Carl requested, they honor and keep Carl’ word. When we serve our neighbor and when we choose to love one another, we honor and keep Jesus’ words.
Jesus taught us how and who to love. Our love includes the community of our family and the church. It also includes those we consider our enemy. Jesus taught us to pray and to give his life over to our Heavenly Father’s will. Jesus taught us to forgive and that sometimes, for the benefit of our own soul, we ought to turn the other cheek. Jesus taught us to baptize and to partake of the Blessed and Holy Sacrament of Communion.
Jesus also teaches us that we are never truly alone. The Holy Spirit comes and gives us as individuals and our church guidance. Jesus confers upon us peace that comes from love, forgiveness, and hope.
This is Jesus’ wish for us – the Church – that we bear witness to Jesus’ life, teaching, and cross and resurrection. He wishes for his love to be upon us so that others will see it too.
Thanks be to God!
Alisha’s story comes from her article in The Christian Century, May 19, 2019, Easter 5, John 13:31-35
At long last, winter and spring have given way to days of warmth. All of the rain has led to beautiful green lawns and leafy trees. The flowers everywhere have been spectacular to behold. The hummingbirds have returned to our feeder outside our dining room window. After the polar vortex and all of the winter cold and dreariness, the abundance of plant life is such a welcome contrast. God’s created beauty leads the soul to sing. As I drive around and witness the unfolding of the many colors of creation, I often start humming the hymn For the Beauty of the Earth.
The author of the text for the hymn is Folliott S. Pierpoint whose dates are 1835-1917. Haeussler writes “…Pierpoint wrote this one day in late spring near his native city of Bath, England, when violets and primroses were in full bloom and all the earth seemed to rejoice. He climbed up a hill and sat down to rest and meditate. The panorama before him inspired him to write these beautiful lines.” (page 565 of Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship)
Beauty compels us to do any number of things. When we are embraced by beauty we slow down. We look and listen and feel deeply. We absorb. We respond with praise for the privilege of being a part of this remarkable moment. As the hymn says, For the wonder of each hour of the day and of the night, hill and vale and tree and flow’r, sun and moon and stars of light.What a gift to soak it in!
I was surprised to learn that this hymn was originally written as a communion hymn. I was surprised because it focuses on God’s visible creation. But, then, there is that wonderful refrain, “Christ, our God, to thee we raise this our sacrifice of praise.” How do we meet Christ? Through the elements of the created order. Christ is our God, born of Mary. He is of the created flesh. The divine and human are together in the person of Jesus. We meet Jesus in the water of Baptism. Every Sunday we meet Jesus in the bread and wine. Christ Jesus is truly present in the bread and wine. Isn’t this what he teaches us in the Words of Institution? “Take, eat, this is my body given for you; take, drink, this is my blood shed for you.”
The beauty of the visible creation leads us to God. In Jesus, we encounter God in the flesh. For the beauty of the earth and the truth it leads us into, we praise our God!