A pdf for easier printing Pentecost 20, proper 22
October 7, 2018
Rev. Dr. Paul Moore
Community with God
This is a sermon about the Trinity. I know it sounds like the lessons are more about marriage than the Trinity, but really, underlying even a Christian understanding of marriage, there is a prior doctrine that has to do with human community. Human community is adrift unless it includes God. God is the first and primordial community out of which we spin in loving creation. So, this is really about the Trinity.
But enough of word tricks. The Christian understanding of all that exists is ultimately and intimately tied up with the concept of community. That’s what I would like to talk with you about this morning. By the end I hope to have put some very concrete feet on it, because I believe that this is vitally important to you as a Christian, and to the community that is Good Shepherd Church.
The Christian Community, and for those of us who call Good Shepherd home, THIS Christian Community is the context in which the community that God seeks with you as an individual Christian plays out. Oh, there are other things as well, as we shall see, but this is the starting point. You call this place your spiritual home. Here is where you learn to grow and mature as a Christian human being.
Let’s go back to that first reading. God creates “ADAM,” an English rendition of a Hebrew word whose root means red or ruddy, like red earth. In Hebrew it means “man,” in the generic sense. Matt Laney, a UCC pastor in Atlanta, says that a better translation would be “earthling,” someone made of earth. When that someone was lonely and none of the animals really meet that need God creates woman by separating the earthling into two beings. He calls it the first gender assignment surgery on record!
The point is clear, whether you take Laney’s analysis or not. We are not meant to be alone. How many times have single people asked me if I knew someone I could introduce them to. How many times have I visited the shut-ins and their biggest anxiety are in the hours between visits. How many times did my boys ask to go out to hang with their friends (parents don’t count as community when you’re a teen, we all know that.)
We are meant to be in community, and that community is rooted in the one who creates us for community. God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening, the text tells us. When community recognizes its roots it goes well, when it doesn’t it goes wrong. The Nazi movement in Germany in the first part of the last century did NOT recognize this. The Jewish community and a small group of German Lutherans did. The Nazi movement in Germany fell apart. The Jews and the German Lutherans are still with us. Do the math.
Now community is a two-way street. All relationships require action on each part that invests in the community. In the second lesson we see just what God does to maintain community with us. God creates us—that is, God maintains us in existence. If any of you have ever ridden a snowmobile over deep snow you know what I mean. Snowmobiles are not naturally balanced. They tend to tip one way or the other. You have to actively keep them upright or they’ll throw you in the snowbank. God actively keeps us in existence so that we don’t get thrown into the snowbank of oblivion.
Then, when we go wrong, in Christ, God forgives us and seeks reconciliation. Have you ever sat down with someone to explain how they offended or hurt you and find out they had no clue? Well, generally we have no clue, yet God wants to reconnect constantly. Jesus’ death and resurrection are an ongoing thing from God’s point of view, always inviting, always reaching out.
How about us?
The beginning of a relationship is always fun, isn’t it, especially romantic ones? You dream about what you can do to show your love and affection, and you can get real creative. But life together is more difficult. There are bills to pay. There may be children to look after and to shuttle between dance and soccer after school. There are obligations with housing associations and civic clubs, and there are the demands of employment. In the same way, we have those wonderful moments when we feel close to God, and find we love everyone and it’s easy to pray, to go to Church, to volunteer and to write out a healthy donation to whatever the cause is. It’s harder when life gets in the way and you get busy with a thousand things, and it seems God is far away.
Yet just as in any other relationship, this is when it’s ESPECIALLY important to keep investing. If the relationship is really that important, if you really don’t want to lose the other, then it’s time to ante up and do what is needed. You will be glad you did later on when the sailing gets smooth again. You’ll be so grateful you didn’t throw in the towel. What Jesus is saying about marriage in the Gospel today is to recognize just how important a marriage relationship is, and to not cheapen it by jumping if it gets inconvenient. The fruit of that relationship (the children) are a blessing, and should be blessed in return.
So how do you make community with God? How do you invest in a relationship with the very ground of your own being? In a sense you can’t outside a sense of gratitude for life itself, and this, of course, is essential. But there is a lot you can do, and these are encoded in the disciplines of our faith. Our Presiding Bishop has a model that I want to present to you. He calls it “The Way of Love.” It answers the question, “What do we seek?”
- We seek Love
- We seek Freedom
- And we seek Abundant Life.
There are seven practices in it:
- Turn: Pause, listen and choose to follow Jesus.
- Learn: Reflect on Scripture each day, especially Jesus’ life and teaching.
- Pray: Dwell intentionally with God each day.
- Worship: Gather in community weekly to thank, praise and raw near to God.
- Bless: Share faith and unselfishly give and serve.
- Go: Cross boundaries, listen deeply and live like Jesus.
- Rest: Receive the gift of God’s grace, peace and restoration.
There is a poster in your bulletin about it, and there are wallet cards available in the passage way between the church and the parish hall.
But let’s get really practical. The first step is to center your life on Jesus. There are many ways to do that, but let me share one with you. Take a little corner of your house and turn it into a personal or family altar. Mine is in my office at home. Set it aside as a place of prayer and reflection. Mark it with things that remind you to pray—pictures, poems, sayings, or even statues of inspirational people or saints, candles, flowers, whatever does it for you. This is a really cool thing to do with kids.
Then, spend time there every day. In the morning you can dedicate your day to God. In the evening you can give thanks. Do whatever works for you, as long as it is a daily discipline. And yes, include your kids!
The month of August is focused on stewardship, especially as expressed by your financial commitment to the work of God in this Church. What I have been saying is not off the mark. Any and all approach to finances from a Christian standpoint has to start with a focus of one’s life on Jesus. If so, you’re expressing the most profound thing about you financially in your spiritual community. If not, you’re merely sharing. So as a start, drill down. Create ways to focus your life on Jesus, and later in the month we’ll talk about ways to live that out in the life of the parish you call home.