June 11, 2017 Sermon for Trinity Sunday
The Faith I Have Claimed
Every week we sing the Creed. The familiar lines … I believe in God … I believe in God’s Son … I believe in God’s own Spirit. The Creed is a way of saying and singing our faith.
The thing I love about this particular paraphrase by Sylvia Dunstan is the last line: “This the faith that I have claimed.” When we believe something, we claim it as our own. We say, “This is what I trust. This is what I give my heart to.” So when we say that we believe in God, in Jesus, in God’s own Spirit, we are saying that this is the one to whom we give our heart.
The heart of the Creed, and the heart of our faith, is that God promises to be with us. We can think of our Christian faith as a story which is centred around this throught: God is with us. We heard it twice today in our readings. Paul’s last word to the church in Corinth is, “The God of love and peace will be with you.” Matthew says it just as strongly. Jesus’ last words to the church are, “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
God is with us. That’s the heart of what we trust.
Our response to God is this: “I give my heart to God whom we know in Jesus in the power of the Spirit.
Today is Trinity Sunday. I’m not going to try to explain the Trinity to you. What I am going to say is that the Trinity is another way of affirming that God is with us. Trinity is a way of telling the story of our faith.
It all begins in Genesis, in the book of beginnings. Our story begins with a wonderful portrait of God calling creation into being, of a God who longs to be with creation.
Behind everything in nature, behind every living thing, behind all of humankind, there is God. God is involved in our world. We claim, we trust that the world has meaning and purpose. God is involved in life, and God’s creative power continues to work day by day. My world comes from God; my life comes from God; all that I touch and handle and own—it all comes from God. Every breath I take; every ability or gift, and every possession, comes from God. God is with us.
And at the end of this wondrous story in Genesis, God commissions us all, men and women and children together, to take care of creation. Doesn’t that just take your breath away? God says to us, “Here’s my beautiful, amazing, wondrous, life–filled creation. Now you take care of it for me.”
God entrusts all of it to us. We are stewards of God’s good creation. We get to take care of what God has given to us.
But something went terribly wrong. Our close relationship with God was stretched to the breaking point. We were entrusted with creation—and we’ve made a mess of it. We’ve done a lousy job. We have confused what is good with what is merely advantageous for us. We have become arrogant, thinking that the water and the air and the resources of this earth are nothing more than commodities for us to buy and sell so that we can make life as comfortable for us as we can. As if it were all about us …
So the Creed continues, “We believe in Jesus.” Here’s where we run into a bit of a problem with the Creed—there’s nothing in it about Jesus’ life. It’s all about his death and resurrection. So let me fill in some of the gaps of the story.
Jesus came into our lives and called us, “Follow me! Walk with me. Journey with me. As I am with you, so you be with me. Let me show you how God’s world is meant to work. Let me help you discover God’s Kingdom—the Reign of God—God’s way of doing things.”
Jesus calls a group of followers around him. They watch what he does; they listen to what he says; they see how he touches lives. They discover his priorities, his concerns, his passions. Slowly, they come to understand that Jesus is showing them what it means to be trusted servants of God. The theme of stewardship which we found at the very beginning of the story is also important in Jesus’ teaching and life. He calls us over and over again to be faithful with what is entrusted to us. Take care of what God gives you.
When the disciples complained that their resources were limited, Jesus showed them God’s abundance. When the disciples thought they weren’t enough, Jesus taught them that in God’s economy we are always enough.
They followed; they watched and listened; they learned—sometimes very slowly, but they learned. They saw broken lives changed; they watched Jesus give dignity to nobodies; Jesus touched people with love and treated them with respect; outcasts were welcomed. All were embraced within God’s love.
Gradually it dawned on them that Jesus was preparing them to take on his work—to do what he did—and they were afraid. They saw a hostile world and they were so afraid that they huddled behind locked doors. The resurrected Jesus came to them, greeted them with peace and promised them a gift.
That gift was God’s holy Spirit. Here’s the third part of the story. We celebrated this gift last week, at Pentecost. God’s holy Spirit is given to followers of Jesus. God’s holy Spirit strengthens us, teaches us, encourages us, enables us to be the trusted servants God intends us to be.
God’s holy Spirit blew through the lives of the first followers of Jesus, and they lost their fear. They came out from behind closed doors, and began to work with what God had entrusted them. They touched broken lives as Jesus had; they shared good news with the poor as Jesus had; they talked about the Kingdom as Jesus had. It was said of them that they “turned the world upside down”. They made a difference. They suffered for it; they died for it, but they made a difference…just as trusted servants—just as stewards—always do.
We believe in that same Holy Spirit. That same holy Spirit blows through our lives to make us more faithful followers of Jesus, to be more faithful stewards of all God’s blessings.
This is our story. We are part of this story of God with us. When we say “We believe”, we confess that all we have and all we are, is entrusted to us by God. God invites us to help build the Kingdom—to reach out into the world we live in—to touch and change hurting, broken and marginalized lives.
And for us who believe in God, for us who trust God—we also trust that as we take up our vocation to follow Jesus, our lives will be filled with God’s grace and love to reach out to our world with healing and compassion and grace.
We are called to live faithfully in the world as people who trust God, who follow Jesus, who are empowered by God’s holy Spirit. We are empowered to live faithfully as God’s people.
That’s what happens at the end of Matthew’s gospel. Jesus speaks one last word to the church: “Go. Make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”
This is how God’s kingdom happens. Just as God invited us to take care of creation at the beginning, so now God invites us to give birth to the kingdom, to God’s way of doing things. God invites us to live, day by day, knowing that God is with us.
That’s the promise on which the gospel ends. “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” We heard this same promise at the beginning of Matthew’s gospel. When Jesus is born, he is named Emmanuel—God with us. God is with us. In every moment of our days, God is with us. In every circumstance of our lives, God is with us. In every act we pursue, God is with us.
Here is our story. It’s the story of life lived in the presence of God. It’s the story of God action and our response. It’s the story of the partnership which God invites us into.
“This the faith that I have claimed.”
Thanks be to God.
Rev. Dr. Yme Woensdregt
June 11, 2017 (1st Sunday after Pentecost—Trinity Sunday)
Matthew 28: 16–20
Genesis 1:1 – 2:4a
2 Corinthians 13: 11–13