Trinity 2009 Sermon Notes

Trinity 2009

Isaiah 6:1-8
Psalm 29
Romans 8:12-17
John 3:1-17

A few things to remember about the Trinity

1) The Trinity arose as a response to the real problem of God’s shared suffering with humanity.
2) The cooperative nature of the three persons of the trinity is held in contrast to an alternative: that of rivalry and competition.
3) Fathers and Sons may compete for attention. However, in this relationship they are held together through love, which is the holy spirit.
4) Schoolhouse rock has a neat song about Three as a Magic Number.
5) To assert the Trinity is to say that God has a life, and is not so transcendent or distant that s/he is not participating in human affairs.
6) Asserting the Trinity does not mean we make other theological mistakes (such as, for example, omnipotence).
7) The Trinity is not, properly, a biblical doctrine. It arises from contradictions and problems in scripture, and is a way of cohering the suffering servant with divine power while not making God into a sadomasochist.

The lectionary: Here are a few quotes I’m working with.

From Isaiah:”Our guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”

I think feeling worthless or guilty is what inhibits us from taking action. We don’t think we can do the job. But sometimes the only way to do the job is to go ahead and do – with humility and attention, ideally with a mentor. This might be a way of exhorting a church, or challenging people – in a gentle way – to examine the sophisticated ways we use excuses to diminish our own power and remain weak.

Paul says, 8:15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of Godand if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ–if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

During the week, I will be asking the following questions: What are we afraid of? What are some good examples of the “spirit of slavery?” Is it like having addictions? When do we bear witness to being “heirs with Christ?” Are we glorifying suffering? Is this sadomasochistic? Are we called to being doormats?

I think it may have to do with maintaining integrity. When we have integrity and vision, we may be challenged directly: we may be crucified. Working in the spirit does not mean eliminating desire, becoming ascetics, or perfect in our piety. Instead, we are called to be mature, to self-regulate, to persevere in one’s vision in the midst of those who would suppress our ability to act and take risks.

John desires salvation: this passage is often used as a proof-text to demand intellectual unity. The passage is like a riddle: and Nicodemus doesn’t answer it correctly. the challenging word, “anothen,” can mean born “again” or “born from above.” Nicodemus, being in the dark, doesn’t understand.

What does it mean to be born “from above” or be a child of the light, rather than the darkness? What does this tell us about the Father? Perhaps it is to affirm that God does not work through violence, but through love. Paul also indicates some differences when he distinguishes between flesh and spirit. The flesh is material, the spirit is intellectual. Yet, we are not expected to completely disparage the physical body we were given.

I sometimes think that the consequence of being “from above” is learning not to be reactive; or to take offense. Jesus did show some rage at injustice; but cleanliness, piety and offenses of religious natures didn’t seem to bother him much.

The word “salvation” implies opening up, to make room. In some sense, by not being reactive, we give people room to express their true feelings, to be more fully the person God loves. Sometimes that’s exactly what we need: a little room! I’ll be thinking of ways we offer “room” for others.

But it is also Children’s Sunday, so I might just talk about a three-leaf clover.

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