Trinity B-18, May 27, 2018
Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8:12-17; John 3:1-17
This week I have been cleaning up of my stuff. It started here in the office. Like most projects, every time I finish something on my list of to-do jobs, two more suddenly appear. So, stuff at home is also getting a review.
I found a newsletter from the summer camp I went to in the 1950’s. In it was an article I wrote, and when I re-read it, I laughed out loud. It was about all the different talents we have (like Paul wrote to the Corinthians) and how we need each other to make God’s perfect community. And, Lopezians, I made the comparison to a quilt with many different patches that together form a new beautiful piece! So, even way back then, I was thinking of this as one of my favorite themes.
Last week was Pentecost. We were supposed to have a big procession and all that follows, but, with the Profile Discussions planned for the same day – well, we switched that part of the celebration to today. Trinity and Pentecost together. Pentecost celebrates the birthday of the Church. Trinity Sunday celebrates the whole way we see three parts of one God being in us.
So where are the presents, our gifts? What are they?
The obvious one is the coming of the Holy Spirit, the “advocate” promised by Jesus to be with us all the time. In his stead, the Spirit guides us, strengthens us, comforts us. Another of the obvious gifts from God is Jesus. Our reading today reminds us that God so loved us that he gave us the gift of his “only Son” so that we could have eternal life.
And then there are the gifts he gave us as individuaIs – life, and the physical gifts and skills that make us who we are. Not to mention our spiritual gifts. I love the fact that the Children’s Church has picked up on that. So, today we share what the children thought were the spiritual gifts we have received.
We have these wonderful spiritual gifts that we should be using with as much enthusiasm and being as diligence in practicing them as we do with our physical talents. It may be hard work – being the listener, the guide, the cheerful one, the faithful one, the good friend or parent, the patient teacher. But just like having a good voice or a mind that can design rockets, being the caring follower of Jesus requires our full energy and devotion.
I thought of a few places that the physical and the spiritual work together.
A quilt. Art, skill in sewing, and eye for detail, and patience to see it through.
Ceramics. Art again. But also faith, trust, that what you have made in soft clay, will go into a kiln and come out the way you imagined it would. And yet again into the kiln to be glazed. All along, the end process is one that is not readily seen. And a flaw, unseen, could ruin all the work during any phase.
Gardening. But we trust that the seeds will grow even when the weather isn’t just right. And suddenly, they are there! Radishes, carrots, and even tomatoes.
A cup of tea, shared with a friend while we listen and help and care for each other.
All of these things show the same love for each other that God has for us. All require some part of us to be present to God and to the processes of transforming physical stuff into something new, or transforming our relationships with other people into something stronger. Those changes are sometimes dramatic, sometimes subtle.
Some of us are going to hear and see Michael Curry in a few weeks. A new Cursillo weekend will be offered again in the Fall. We search for ways to be transformed. We want to find out how our spiritual life can make sense in our crazy world. We want find and cultivate our spiritual gifts. We want them to be energized and used.
Before you think I am a rosy dreamer, hopelessly out of touch with reality, remember there are other parts of our being that are not so rosy – our weaknesses. We are easily tempted by food or power or winning at all costs. We may have a disability – poor eyes, no sense of balance, mental or physical limitations, any number of characteristics (gifts from the same God?).
It is too frustrating to see that set of behaviors in people around us, and then listen to Jesus talking about another way of going through life. We accept that the world around us is full of violence, corruption, people trying to get the most benefit for themselves without regard to others in their way, but Jesus says, do we have to accept that as the norm. He tells us to live our lives by loving God and our neighbor.
Finding the path down the middle of our mixed-up world is where the Holy Spirit can give us the daily strength to live a life that we can enjoy, and make decisions that do not harm or ignore our neighbors. That is only possible when we follow God and Jesus.
The way we balance these two is hard. We are not asked to do anything by ourselves. We have the Advocate in the Holy Spirit to help us. We can be reborn by placing more emphasis on our spiritual side, considering how actions for our personal benefit affect others before we go on our own way.
Each of us has a unique set of physical and spiritual gifts for a reason. And we are reborn spiritually throughout the church year. If it doesn’t work in Advent or Lent, then with Baptisms, or the readings on forgiveness or rebirth like today. (Obviously, we are a church that believes in new starts and continual forgiveness and mercy).
On this Memorial Day weekend, we remember the sacrificed lives that those in our family and community have given to protect us as a nation. Just as we try to make our country better in their honor, we, as Christians must try to make the world better in honor of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.