Thursday, May 28, 2015

Trinity Sunday!

Trinity Sunday! Every preacher’s nightmare. How do I make sense of the Doctrine of the Trinity?
Understanding God as three in one is a central platform of Christianity. And it is really difficult to grasp. And we get it wrong a lot. it is so hard to keep the balance between Threeness and unity.
I suspect a significant number of us really believe in 3 Gods. The way some Christians talk about the three persons of the Trinity has no sense of unity about it at all. For them the separateness of the three persons reigns supreme. And others in reality believe in one God and loose the Threeness. To say that God is one expressed in three modes (like water, ice and steam) is not Trinitarian either.
God is one and God is three “persons”. The three persons of the Trinity each have their own work or mission. Only The Son was incarnate, lived among us and died on the Cross. Only God the Father is the source of all being. Only the Spirit enlivens and empowers us today to join in the ongoing mission of God. But in each we see the other two.  For each person of the Trinity is of one being, co-eternal.
How can any of this make sense? In many ways it doesn’t, which in part is the point. God is fundamentally a mystery. Beyond our comprehension, beyond our control. We will never fully grasp the Trinity. It will hold us in god’s mystery. When we think we have mastered the Trinity – I suspect you have got lost and made an understandable image of God. But you are no longer worshipping the Triune God.
So why bother? Because both Paul and John in today’s readings state that our theology shapes our lifestyle. Who we understand God to be shapes how we respond to God in our everyday lives. Some theologians have suggested that rather than get hung up on the mechanics of how the Trinity works, it is better to focus our attention on the nature of the relationship between the persons of the Trinity. What words then might we use to describe this relationship? What does Jesus teach us about the nature of the relationship? How does this help us read scripture and live our lives?

Friday, May 22, 2015

Wind Blown

Listen to this sermon here.

Gate Pa – Pentecost Sunday 2015
Psalm                         Psalm 104:24-34, 35  
First Reading:                         Acts 2:1-21                             
Second Reading:                    Rom 8:22-27                          
Gospel:                                    John 15:26-27 16:4-15           

What I want to say:
Explore the wonder of the languages, and the social justice basis for pentecost

What I want to happen:
People to be opened to the radical newness of what Pentecost is all about

The Sermon

     1.      Introduction:

who felt earth move listened to Acts reading
left feeling bewildered, amazed, astonished or perplexed?
guess is none of us
2000 years hearing
so familiar
too familiar
hearing different language from what occurred in
            when occurred
            what written in
miss so much radical nature what Luke describes
left with nice story
need birthday cake for the church
happy birthday church.

     2.      Language

experience of Maori class – operates in te reo Maori
get a lot of what is saying
have to really focus
know lot I am missing a lot
don’t have vocab truly understand all being said
not spent a lot time around marae and Maori settings
            don’t get some idioms and phrases.
Langauge is tricky thing.
When on Iona 10 years ago
doing my after lunch duty woman grown up in Glasgow
spent last 20 years in Perth
before coming to Iona
been home
as we swept she spoke to me
apparently we both were speaking same language
I had no idea what she said
spoke in Glaswegian once
            which translated at – we are a bunch of mucky pups
            even knowing that – no idea what she had said
language is tricky thing
            so much more that words and grammar
experienced that other way around
exchange students
whose English pretty good
whole lot of New Zealand slang they kept missing
we used without thinking
left them with blank faces
teaching in Pacific Islands or Solomons – people for whom English is not first language
always trying
            keep it simple
            leave out New Zealand isms
realise is that whole of language tied up with where from
all which only make sense if know the assumed knowledge that lies behind what is being said.
so while I am trying to learn te reo
unless immerse myself in te ao Maori
always going to be pretty superficial
bucket load of cultural images, stories, sayings
            not get
            never use
leave my language impoverished

     3.      Translating

that makes translating work so hard
remember at peace event in Brazil where Desmond Tutu was speaking about us being arms of Jesus
            translated as we are guns of Jesus
even harder when talking about translating words  written at least 2000 years ago in very different language and culture

work translators made so much more difficult
            too often not really knowing that assumed knowledge
            even if do – trying work out how capture that in their work
all of which is why we are not feeling
bewildered, amazed, astonished or perplexed
a lot going on in this story that we just miss

     4.      God’s new thing

all which makes Pentecost such ground breaking event
People heard their own dialect
Glaswegians would have heard
            not just English
own language
with all little nuances from where came from
used their images
used their little sayings
they heard what a bunch of mucky pups when everyone else heard gibberish.
not only hear it
heard it in their language of home
Remember friend mine talking about coming home from OE
arrived airport in London
check in person said “sweet”
like she was home already
in this story today
            people hear their dialect
            with all emotion that evokes
            of family and land
            sense of belonging
            of rootedness
Gospel proclaimed to them
            in their language
just imagine how people felt as they heard this
in their own language
hearing and understanding
with no strain of trying comprehend
            in this place where always having strain a little
response they are bewildered, amazed, astonished or perplexed
are we?

     5.      Ramifications

At heart of todays readings is declaration that God is doing a radically new thing
number radically new things
left those initially involved feeling bewildered, amazed, astonished or perplexed
Most obvious is ..
            there is no one holy language
no God language
unlike just about every other religion around Jerusalem and Roman world at time
Judaism – Hebrew is God’s language
            holy language
                        language of scripture
                        language of prayer -
places Israel and Jerusalem at centre of that religion
where you look to
other sects arose around that time
            used language of founders – sacred language
            geographical centre became home religion
600 years later – Islam arise out Arabic Peninsular
            language of Prophet Mohammed Arabic becomes the language of God
            language worship
            language of scripture
            Prophet Mohammed’s Home of Mecca becomes centre of that religion
similar assumption among new group of followers Jesus
            good Jews
            Hebrew continue to be language God
            Jerusalem with temple – be geographical centre
Pentecost explodes all those expectations
Book acts recounts story how all other expectations
            feel to one side as gospel spread
suddenly no language is more important that others
no place is more important than others
eventually understood as
            no people more important
            no culture more important
God is shaking thing up here
and figuratively
and still is
shaking up our assumptions
shaking up our notions how God operates and who God works through

     6.      Pentecost

Pentecost is about Coming of Holy Spirit of God
message is clear
Spirit of God is at work in every people, place and language.
God will be known in new and fresh ways
not just here in the holiest of all cities
but where you are from
God does not need to be taken there
God is there
at work
offering hope
creating new ways of being a society
all important
all cared for
God is doing a very different thing
God is breaking out all moulds God stuffed into
Are we ready?
what moulds are creaking today
How are we hearing God’s words of life to us afresh
in our language of home

Come Holy Spirit

shake the hearts of your faithful

fill the hearts of your faithful

and kindle in them the fire of your love

Send forth your Spirit

and we shall be created

and you will renew the face of the earth

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Blown by the Just Spirit of God.

Today, Pentecost Sunday marks the end of the great season of Easter. A season 50 days long - one seventh of the year. It is our great Sunday which began on the day of the resurrection and ends today on a Sunday. During this time have we celebrated the resurrection, ascension, and the sending of the Spirit. Now we enter into Ordinary Time where we see these three great themes at play in all creation, working and in through creation, and in and through ordinary people of all cultures and ethnicities, forming God’s just communities.
Pentecost is first and foremost a Jewish festival. Tradition stated that 50 days after the Hebrew slaves were freed from Egypt (remembered at The Passover) the Hebrews, now a free people, arrived at the Mountain of God to receive the Law. Pentecost was a festival commemorating the gift of the Torah. Torah was not seen as the rules to be obeyed to earn God’s blessing, but a describer of what it meant to live in the presence of God freely given.
Pentecost was also a harvest festival of Shavuot or the Festival of Weeks. Leviticus 23: 15-22 describes this festival and what was required. It ends with “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and for the alien: I am the Lord your God.” 
To live in God’s presence meant having the same passion for the poor as God exhibited in freeing the Hebrew slaves. To live in God’s presence meant to be a people living God’s justice, generosity and mercy.
All of this is at play in Luke’s account of Pentecost in Acts. His telling is filled with drama, symbolism and imagery. Like the Ascension it should shake our world. But it has become too familiar and is now domesticated and safe. Frank L. Couch describes it as a “fear-inducing, adrenalin-pumping, wind-tossed, fire-singed, smoke-filled” experience that “left those outside the room described in the NRSV as “bewildered” (v. 6), “amazed and astonished” (v. 7), and “amazed and perplexed” (v. 12)”[1] How might we describe our experience of this story?
The story of the early church comes out of today’s events. That group of uncertain disciples became certain that all that was hoped for was fulfilled, but not in any way they had anticipated. They became known for their compassion and commitment to the poor, the outcast. They lived out the Torah and shamed the ruling elite.
We are heirs of that story today. We should again feel our world move as we listen to this story. It should lead us to question so many of our presuppositions. As we listen and reflect on the account of the first Pentecost, we are invited to make “connections to some of scripture’s most primal, disorderly, prophetic roots (that) open doors into a liberating, open-ended array of possibilities made possible by the unconstrained Spirit of God.” [2]
And so we begin with all we have learnt from crucifixion, resurrection, ascension;  blown by the Just Spirit of God. Are we ready for the ride?

[2] ibid.