Saturday, June 14, 2014

I Believe in God the Lover, God the Beloved, God the Love

RCL Trinity A
15 June 2014

Saint Faith's Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

Click here to listen to the Sermon as actually preached at the 10.00 a.m. Eucharist at Saint Faith's on the 15th of June.

In May of 1980 I completed my second year of seminary without completing the required parish internship.  Because I was one of the School's sacristans who were responsible for the worship life of the seminary, I was not free to leave the School during the six-week inter-term, the time when most seminarians undertook a full-time internship.  To fulfill the requirement arrangements were made for me to undertake a summer internship at Trinity Episcopal Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where it so happened my distant cousin, Cory Randall, was rector.

Cory and I had been writing to one another for the month or so prior to the end of the school year.  We discussed how long the internship would be, where I would living and what I would be doing.  When the day came for me to head east, I thought that everything was settled.  I was wrong.

The drive from Nashotah, Wisconsin to Fort Wayne, Indiana can be done in four to five hours, depending upon the traffic in Chicago.  I had decided to visit some friends in the Chicago area before heading on to Fort Wayne, so I did not arrive in Fort Wayne until the Saturday afternoon before my first Sunday.  I arrived at Cory's home where I would be staying during my internship, spent some time with the family and then settled in.  Cory told me that I need only come to the mid-morning service; he would take the early service by himself.

The next morning was Trinity Sunday, the parish's 'name day' and a major celebration in the life of the community.  As we were lining up for the procession into the church, my cousin said to me, 'I am really looking forward to hearing your sermon.'  I thought that he was joking or teasing me, but a quick glance at the bulletin put that hope in the grave.  The bulletin read, 'Today we welcome our Seminary Intern, Mr Richard Geoffrey Leggett, who will be preaching at the 10.00 a.m. Eucharist.'

It turned out later that my cousin had sent me a note asking that I preach on my first Sunday in the parish.  But in the days before e-mail and mobile telephones, that note had been sent by 'snail' mail.  It arrived the day after I left Nashotah and Cory did not think to check in with me when I arrived Saturday afternoon.  My reputation for dependability and preparedness had contributed to my down-fall.  Why would anyone ask old reliable Richard Leggett if he were prepared?

So, as I processed down the aisle, as I listened to the readings and as I prayed fervently to the Holy Spirit, the shape of a homily took form and, with God's help, delivered to the awaiting congregation.  During coffee hour several people remarked at its brevity and simplicity.  One person said to me, 'You know, your cousin could take a page about preaching from your book!'

On this Sunday, across the Christian world, preachers will be trying to avoid the shipwreck of preaching on the only Sunday in the Christian year that bears the name of a 'doctrine', a 'teaching', an 'insight', of the Christian faith.  No doubt there will be some brilliant explanations of why Christians believe that God, the Holy One, is described by Christians to be three persons but one God, united as one even in diversity.  What I want to share with you today is some of what I know and believe about the God who created us, who has redeemed us, who makes us holy.  I want to share some thoughts about the God whom Augustine of Hippo, one of great teachers of the Christian faith, called 'the Lover, the Beloved and the Love'.

I believe that God is for us not against us.

In today's first reading we heard the familiar story of the creation of the world by God.  Did you hear the constant affirmation that God makes about the creation?  Six times God looks at the divine works of creation and calls it 'good' (Genesis 1.4, 1.10b, 1.12b, 1.18b, 1.21b, 1.25b,) and, at the very end of God's creative activity, 'God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.' (Genesis 1.31a).  When God looks at us and at all of creation, God sees its beauty, its potential for loving relationships and its participation in God's mission.

When humanity fell into sin and our potential for loving relationships with God and with one another was marred by the wounds of sin, God's response was not the destruction of our race nor the destruction of the world.  Nor did God choose to retreat into infinite distance to allow us to reap the harvest of our folly and our short-sightedness.  God responded to all of this with an act of solidarity.

I believe that God is with us not far from us.

As a Christian I confess that I believe in a God who chooses human agents such as Noah, Abraham and Moses to make known the divine purposes and wisdom.  As a Christian I confess that I believe God speaks through the prophets to call people to repentance and hope.  As a Christian I confess that I believe that in Jesus of Nazareth we meet God in a unique way.  God accommodates our limitation to time and space by entering into that time and that space to write the divine wisdom upon our hearts by flesh and blood as well as by ink.  This God in whom I believe, this God is for us and with us also dwells within us.

I believe God works in us and through us not without us.

At the end of most celebrations of the eucharist in this parish and many others throughout Canada we say, 'Glory to God, whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.'  And what is the 'power' of God?  I think that love, genuine love, self-giving love, steadfast love, is the power of God.

Every human being can draw upon that power.  In John's gospel we read that   all who believed that God is for us and that God is with us are given power to become children of God, born not of human will but of God (John 1.12-13).  God's children, and that is who we are, my friends, have been given the power to work with God to re-create, restore and renew the creation.

This knowledge is not easy for many people to accept.  To believe that God works in us and through us means that each one of us carries a moral responsibility to act wisely.  Our actions matter; each single action has the potential to help God heal the wounds of creation and to re-unite what has been broken by human sin.

Perhaps the true mystery of God is that God chooses to reveal that mystery in us and in all of creation rather than in some abstract theory or incomprehensible jargon.   To live as a member of the family of the God whom we proclaim to be the holy and blessed and undivided Trinity is to choose to live as God lives.  This is the true mystery of God that we celebrate today.  Amen.

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