With Trinity Sunday coming up, I decided to share a sermon I gave on Trinity Sunday 2009.
“Come to the Table”
Isaiah 6:1-8, John 3:1-17
June 7, 2009
First Christian Church
I was not looking forward to it.
had this fear that I would have to learn to how have tea. I was scared
that I would not hold the tea cup in the right way and that I would
make a fool of myself.
Well, the day came and Daniel
and I went to a suburban house in Richfield. A woman in her 50s or 60s
came to the door dressed quite nicely. We went in and sat down at a
table that was adorned with nice china. It was all nice, but I was
nervous. Finally, it was time for the tea and the cookies. But instead
of worrying about if I had to have my pinky up or not, what happened
was rather surprising. The circle of friends gathered and started
sharing what was going on in their lives. My fears subsided as I
realized there was less concern about getting things right than there
was about the relationships that were happening at that moment.
Sunday after Pentecost is called Trinity Sunday, when we focus on God
as the Three in One: God the Father or Creator, God the Son or the
Redeemer, and God the Holy Spirit or Sustainer. This Sunday is an
interesting Sunday for those of us who belong to this tradition in
Christianity called the Disciples of Christ. Alexander Campbell, one of
the founders of what became the Disciples, did not focus on the
Trinity. The reason was that there was no mention of it in the Bible.
Since we were a people of the book, it made no sense to spend time in a
concept that was not mentioned in the Bible.
And he is
right of course, if you read the Bible, especially the New Testament,
you will not find the word, “trinity.” The concept of Trinity is not a
biblical per se, it’s a doctrinal statement that came later in the life
of the Chrisitianity. So, since it was considered a doctrine, and we
Disciples tend to be non-doctrinal, the Trinity doesn’t get talked about
a whole lot among Disciples.
Now, one doesn’t have to
believe in the Trinity to be a good Christian. However, it is a way to
think about the nature of God, a way to explain God. There are a lot
of different ways to try to describe God and the Trinity is one of those
ways. The Trinity also reminds us how we are to be church, how we are
to be God’s children in the world. For some reason, the Trinity has me
thinking of food and tea, tables, mission and grace.
the John text, we introduced to Nicodemus. We find out that he is a
Pharisee and is intriguied by Jesus. He comes to visit Jesus under the
cover of darkness to find out more about this man. I can imagine him
walking down the streets at night, trying to make sure no one sees him
and then going to a door on a side street and knocking the door. One of
the disciples opens the door and leads him to a room where Jesus is
sitting with tea or coffee at the waiting. Nicodemus sits and the two
converse among many, many cups of tea. Nicodemus was well versed in the
law and believed he had done all the right things. But Jesus starts
talking about being “born again” and about how being born of water and
Spirit. Jesus tells Nicodemus that it is not about one has done for
God, but what God has done for us; how God loved the world so much that
he sent Jesus to live among us.
What happens during
this late night visit is the beginning of a relationship. Nicodemus is
captivated by this man named Jesus, and begins to get closer to him.
We later see the Pharisee stand up for Jesus and after the crucifixion
works with others to find proper burial place for Jesus.
our Isaiah text, we see that a person is being called by God to a
mission. Unlike the quiet setting found in John, this story seems
rather frightening. There are angels with several wings that don’t seem
like those gentle versions we see on television. We can imagine a loud
voice calling the person to do this thing for God. And the person
replies that he is not worthy to do carry out God’s mission. And then
we have this odd vision of one of these horrid looking angels getting a
fiery coal and placing it on the person’s mouth as a sign of his now
being made clean by God. Once he was made clean by God, the person in
this story can now claim in a strong voice, “here I am! Send me.”
there is one thing I want you to remember, is that the concept of the
Trinity is about seeing God as a God that wants to be in relationship.
God is in relationship within God, and God wants to be relationship with
all of creation, including humanity.
There is a
painting by Andrei Rublev, a Russain artist, that shows what the Trinity
is all about and gives a clue into what it means to be church. (show
Gathered around a table are three
figures reprenting the Trinity. You can see the three seated around
this table and sharing each others lives. Notice that there is one seat
that is open. It’s an ivitation to come and sit with God.
is not about trying to do the right thing. In some ways, many people
are like I was before that tea party, worried that I would do the wrong
thing. But God is more interested in having a relationship with us.
we are afraid to be in relationship with God. Sometimes we feel that
we are not worthy and sometimes we just stay away. But just as God
cleaned the writer in Isaiah, we are made clean by God through Jesus
Christ. It was through the life death and ressurection that we are made
clean and called to do God’s work in the world.
members of First Christian, we have been in the midst of a study called
Ubinding the Gospel and we have been implored to learn to share the good
news of Jesus with others. I can imagine, that at times, we might feel
not up to the task. We feel ashamed that we are not sharing the gospel
with others and feel unclean.
I want to challenge you
to see sharing the good news not in the form of a task that one should
do, as some boring task of duty, but as engaging in a relationship.
It’s about sharing our lives with each other over a cup of coffee. It’s
about inviting someone to dinner and seeing how your family and friends
are doing. Evangelism isn’t not about trying to accost someone with
the good news of God, but it is going out in the world and being in
relationship with people; sharing our lives with each other. And since
God is part of our lives, we will share that part of our life as well.
want to read something to you: it’s the mission statement for First
Christian. “In response to the grace of God, the mission of First
Christian Church is to be a Christ-centered presence, to share the Good
News of Jesus Christ, and to witness through service to God’s World.”
don’t go out and talking about how we encounter God because we have to.
We do it in response for what God has done for us. God has in Jesus
showed that God loves us. In response that we are loved by God, we can
be a presence in the world, being in relationship with our friends and
neighbors and even strangers. We seek to get to know people and get to
know about their hopes and fears and seek ways to help them and to just
be Christ to them. We seek to be in relationship when we serve food to
the hungry at St. Stephen’s shelter. Being church is not about a
building or committee, or pews or an organ. Those are all nice, but
church is about a table,, where the Trinity invites us to come and share
our lives and where we are so in love with God that we want to go out
and invite others to the table.
And that’s what we do
every week, don’t we? We come to this table where we are reminded of
God’s love for us. We don’t have to worry if we are worthy, God has
already made us worthy, God has made everyone worthy.
want to leave you with a final image. As many of you know, there was a
time long ago, when I was a member of this congregation. I remember
the first time I visited this church, Labor Day weekend of 1996. I went
to the service and then came home to do some other things. Later that
evening, a I heard a knock on the door. There was a man in his 50s with
a loaf of bread and a packet. The man was from First Christian and
wanted to thank me for visiting. The man was Garry Hesser, who is a
member here. I was invited to enter a relationship and decided to take
up the invite. I would remember later on having conversations with
Garry and Martha Harris over tea as we talked about the nature of God.
is not calling us to duty; God wants us to be in realtionship with God
and with each other. God is about having tea with friends and sharing
our lives. We are invited to the Table. Come to the Table. Be
yourself. Feel free to invite others. Thanks be to God. Amen.
The painting is called The Trinity, by Andrei Rublev.