|Pentecost 15, Year B||September 6, 2015||Proper 18, Year B||Isaiah 35:4-7a, Ps 146, James 2:1-17, Mark 7:24-37|
|Pentecost 12, Year B, Jonathan Myrick Daniels Commemoration||August 16, 2015||Pentecost 12, Proper 15||Proverbs 4:20-27, Psalm 85:7-13, Galatians 3:22-28, Luke 1:46-55|
|Pentecost 11, Year B||August 9, 2015||Proper 14, Year B||Ephesians 4:25-5:2|
|Pentecost 10, Year B||August 2, 2015||Proper 13, Year B||Ephesians 4:-16, John 6:24-35|
|Pentecost 8, Year B||July 19, 2015||Proper 11, Year B||Psalm 23, Mark 6:30-34, 53-56|
|Pentecost 7, Year B||July 12, 2015||Pentecost 7, Year B||Ephesians 1:3-14|
|Pentecost 6, Year B||July 5, 2015||Proper 9, Year B||Ezekiel 2:1-5, 2 Corinthians 13:3-10, Mark 6:1-13|
|Pentecost 5, Year B||June 28, 2015||Proper 8, Year B||Mark 5:21-43, Psalm 30|
|Pentecost 4, Year B||June 21, 2015||Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 7, Year B||2 Corinthians 6:1-13, Mark 4:35-41|
|Pentecost 3, Year B||June 14, 2015||The Third Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 6||2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17; Mark 4:26-34|
|Pentecost 2, Year B||June 7, 2015||The Second Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 5||Genesis 3:8-15, Ps 130, 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1, Mark 3:20-35|
|➤Pentecost 1, Year B -Trinity Sunday||May 31, 2015||Pentecost 1, Year B, Trinity Sunday||Isaiah 6:1-8,Psalm 29,Romans 8:12-17,John 3:1-17|
|Easter 7, Year B||May 17, 2015||Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year B||John 17:6-19|
|Easter 6, Rogation Sunday, Year B||May 10, 2015||Sixth Sunday of Easter, Rogation Sunday||Deuteronomy 11:10-15, Mark 4:26-32|
|Easter 4, Year B||April 26, 2015||Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B||I John 3:16-24, John 10:11-18|
Pentecost 1, Year B -Trinity Sunday
Sermon Date:May 31, 2015
Scripture: Isaiah 6:1-8,Psalm 29,Romans 8:12-17,John 3:1-17
Liturgy Calendar: Pentecost 1, Year B, Trinity Sunday
"Shield of the Trinity"
Back in May, at the parish retreat at Shrine Mont, we had to play a getting to know you game called the four C’s. One of the things we had to list was a closet dream.
I had no idea what my closet dream was until my pencil just seemed to write by itself—“Ride all the way across the United States by horseback!”
This dream was news to me. In fact, I was so puzzled by it that I started thinking about what on earth it could have really meant, because of course I doubt that I’ll ever actually carry out this dream, especially after having googled this idea to see if anyone else had done it, and yes, one woman had. She had a team of five people and it took her a whole year.
But the idea wouldn’t go away. When I was growing up, we had a pony and we had so much fun riding her and playing in the woods on my grandfather’s farm. And in the 90’s, I took horseback riding lessons for a while and enjoyed them.
Maybe I just needed to go ride a horse one afternoon and get this dream out of my system. I found a place that offered trail rides, and so on a recent overcast and cool Thursday afternoon, I drove out into the country and awkwardly swung into the saddle for the first time in years.
Before long, we were deep in woods near the Rappahannock River. My horse moved confidently and gracefully. The branches of birch trees and oak trees created a translucent green canopy through which the pale gray sky was visible. I heard my first wood thrush of this spring, a few other birds commented, and twigs crunched underneath the horses’ hooves. Otherwise, silence. The sweet smell of damp earth and leaves filled my lungs.
We went farther and farther into the woods and followed a small stream whose banks were lined with ferns.
At some point, time stopped and I realized that I was in what I can only describe as a mystical experience. The simplest way I can think to explain what I felt was being completely enveloped by and filled with God’s presence. All of the pieces of my life were caught up in what seemed like endless time. I felt completely at one with the universe and aware of nothing but the present moment.
Maybe this experience was an example of what Paul meant when he said that the very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words…that God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for us according to God’s will.
And the Spirit was interceding for me here, carrying me deep into God’s heart. This is the prayer that theologian Mark McIntosh describes as “God happening in us.”
When I got in the car to drive back to life as I know it, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and joy. I spent the entire trip home thanking God for what had happened.
This analysis of the moment is all in retrospect, because at the time I felt nothing but overwhelming peace, joy, complete communion and oneness with God and creation.
I believe that this communion with God is what we long for and nothing else will satisfy this desire. McIntosh quotes C.S. Lewis as saying that “we want to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.”
That’s what happened to me that day. I was united with God. I passed into God, received God into myself, bathed in God, became part of God, as deeply I think I could experience God on this side of heaven.
For that little while, God happened in me.
What does this experience of unexpected prayer and union with God have to do with the doctrine of the Trinity?
As Christians, we believe that the nature of our Trinitarian God is a relationship of sheer love shared in the deep communion of the Lover (God), the Beloved (Jesus) and the One who Enraptures (the Holy Spirit) (McIntosh’s terms).
From this rich, loving, creative communion, the whole creation comes into being, abundant life pouring out into the miracles of babies, rivers, volcanoes, waterfalls, trees, galaxies, dragonflies, and daffodils.
All of creation is a result of this abundant life pouring out of the very nature of God, who is Love.
And God’s desire is to be in constant communion with all of this abundant life, to be in communion with each and every one of us.
Because God is Love.
We know that God is not just some far away high and lofty God but God who loves us so much that God stoops to come and dwell among us and to live and die as one of us. God comes and dwells in us, and fills us with the very breath of the Holy Spirit.
Knowing that God is a rich loving creative mutually loving Trinity pouring out abundant life changes the way we pray.
If only all my prayer turned out to be like the prayer I experienced on horseback that day. But usually, my prayers are much more pedestrian—along with my prayers of gratitude are plenty of mundane prayers– “God give me strength and please help me get through this day.” “God, please, make this trip down I-95 be quick instead of slow.” “God, take away the pain of the people I love.” “God, forgive me for disliking someone, or being aggravated by someone.”
Theologian Mark McIntosh says that when we Christians pray, we are talking to our Father, the Father that Jesus knew so intimately and lovingly. And the Spirit, as Paul says, prays in us “moving us deeply and uniting our heart with the heart of God.” The Holy Spirit does this “by filling our hearts with the heart of Christ.”
And so, when we pray, McIntosh points out that God invites us ever more deeply into the exchange of love that is the loving communion of the Trinity. This is when “God happens in us, that is, our coming into fuller being as we pray in the divine communion.”
McIntosh goes on to say that when we pray, “God is trying to renew our minds and hearts in the likeness of the divine yearning.”
So when I pray for strength, for a fast commute, for the removal of pain, for the grace to forgive, I’m at least at a starting place—because I desire these things. I have desire. That’s the start.
When I pray into the loving communion of the Trinity, I know that these desires are really about “letting the loving of the divine Persons deepen in me and stretch my small, feeble desires into a deeper desire, the desire for the freedom to be truly myself, a person in communion” with God and with all of creation, especially the people that God has placed in my life.
In the light of the Trinity, here’s how my usual prayers can be transformed.
“God give me strength and help me get through this day” is really about my desire to be drawn up into this relational love of God, to be held in God’s loving embrace, and to experience the strength of God’s love. When I experience being drawn into the heart of the Trinity, I have all the strength I will ever need in this lifetime, an ongoing source of strength and the realization that life is miraculous, and that every second of it is a miracle poured out on me from God’s own strength and abundance. And I have access to that strength. I forget that on a regular basis.
“God, please make this trip down I-95 be quick instead of slow.” This prayer is really about how I use my time. And I think that the underlying desire here is that I can use the time I’m given on the face of this earth to deepen my communion with God and with those around me. On my better days, when I remember that I’m praying to God to stretch my “small feeble desires into a deeper desire,” I use this time in traffic for prayer or listening to music that brings me close to God. But sometimes, I just give in and fume and focus on my immediate desire—to get home. And the time I could have been spending with God gets lost in my anger and frustration over traffic.
“God, take away the pain of the people I love.” When I pray with deeper desire, I realize that when I share with people in their pain by simply being present with them, then God, loving and relational, brings me into closer communion with that person, and opens my heart to join in with the suffering in the world rather than to look the other way and to protect myself from the horrible hurts that surround us all, not only in one another, but in creation itself. I’m being stretched to be a person more fully in communion not only with my hurting brothers and sisters and with the earth, but also more fully in communion with God, who in Jesus experienced the pain of suffering and death. And because of the mutual loving that is the Trinity, the new and abundant life of the resurrection becomes possible to experience, at least partially, in this life time.
And last, “God, forgive me for disliking or being aggravated at someone.”
Mark McIntosh says that “what matters to God is that every estrangement that is overcome becomes a flowering of one of the infinite possibilities of loving and unity found in God….the mending of the brokenness among us is cause for rejoicing in heaven, because it is all part of the delighted activity of mutual loving that is the Trinity.”
On that Thursday when I rode through the woods, God gave me the grace to discover that my dream to ride across country on horseback was really the desire to be more fully myself, by being a person more fully in communion with the mutual loving of the Trinity. When I opened my heart to the potential of one dream, what I experienced through God’s grace was the deeper dream I didn’t even know I had, God’s dreaming in me, for the dream of God’s loving embrace to enfold me, and for God to happen in me.
On this Trinity Sunday, I’ve resolved to remember that when I pray, my ultimate desire is to become part of the infinite loving and unity found in God and to long for the grace to be part of the delighted activity of mutual loving that is the Trinity.
And my hope for this sermon, which has been all about me and my prayers, is that it will be useful as you pray about your own desires, and that you too will be inspired to give space in your life for your dreams—for ultimately, they are the dreams of being more fully in communion with the mutual loving of the Trinity.
They are the dreams of having this ongoing and abundantly life giving love become reality in your life.
They are the dreams of becoming, ever more deeply, more and more yourself, as God created you to be from before the beginning of time.
Resource: McIntosh, Mark. Mysteries of Faith. Cowley Publications. 2000.