Holy Trinity, June 7, 2009
Psalm 29; Romans 8:1117;
My brothers and sisters, I speak to you in the name of the Father, the Son,
and the Holy Spirit: The Three in One and One in Three.
I remember one hot summer day when I was about 8 years old
and growing up in the rolling foothills of the Rocky Mountains
just south of Calgary. My brothers and I were lying in a broad field at
the top of a rise as we watched a thunderstorm steadily advancing
toward us. The air was tense with the power of the coming storm
and smelled of dust and dried grass. The sharp whistle of gophers
calling to one another, was underscored by the whirr of grasshopper
wings, and the steady croaking of frogs in a nearby slough.
I was both terrified and excited by the coming storm – watching the
heavy thunderheads, their towering white tops gleaming in the sun,
their underbellies dark and ominous, lit by the periodic flickers of
Yet, I also felt a strange contentment. There, with my back pressed into
the warm earth, feeling its contours beneath me, I was acutely aware of
the thin forces of gravity keeping me from falling into the endless
expanse of that Alberta sky, which seemed – not above me – but spread
I could almost see the millions of stars behind the sun‐washed blue
tiny, yet not diminished, for I was acutely aware of the power of God at
It was in the earth beneath me and in the fury and unpredictability of
the growing storm; in the air and the sky and the sound of the creatures
around me; and it was in me too, connecting me to everything.
I had a sense that day of taking my place in the universe. And perhaps,
if a voice had called out to me, “Whom shall I send?” in my naïveté I
might have answered, “Here I am.”
Had I been older and wiser I might have trembled knowing that,
like the hem of God’s robe which filled the temple in Isaiah’s vision,
what I was experiencing was only a very small portion of the reality that
we call God – awesome and uncontainable.
And now that I am older ‐‐ and I hope wiser ‐‐ I know that one does not
say “es”to God without some serious consideration of what it is one is
agreeing to be and to do. And yet, as those of us who have discerned a
call to ordained ministry can testify, until one says that “es”there can
be no true peace.
This passage from Isaiah is a favourite at ordinations –particularly to
those of us in diaconal orders. And I know it is with great sincerity that
we mouth the words of assent along with Isaiah, caught up as we are in
the wonder and emotion of the moment.
But it is important to remember the words of God that continue in the
next few verses, describing the reality of what we all will experience
when we carry the liberating word of God’ love with us into the world:
many to whom we are sent will shut their eyes and ears and minds to
believe about the world and about God. When we look around us at the
violence and injustice with which we treat one another ‐‐ and our
mindless abuse of the gifts of the earth ‐‐ we can already see some of the
resulting desolation of which God warns.
So what are we doing here on this Sunday morning, when we could be
outside enjoying the sun and the beauty that surrounds us ‐‐ or taking a
break from the crazy busy‐ness of our lives? Is it all pointless? Are we
deluding ourselves in thinking that anything we can do or say could
possibly make a difference?
The answer I think, is an unequivocal “es”–It
is pointless and we are deluding ourselves ‐‐ but only if we intend to keep God at a safe
and uninvolving distance. One of the beautiful things about Anglican liturgy is that
worship we are able to meet the awesomeness of the transcendent God
of Isaiah’ vision. A God so powerful as to call forth light from the dark
void and shape the waters of chaos into a beautiful and fruitful creation.
And we meet the immanence of the God who chose to take on human
flesh and be among us in all the pain and ugliness of human existence,
and remains with us to inspire and breathe life into us. This is the
Triune God –the God in three persons –whom we celebrate today.
Every time we gather, we are given the opportunity to encounter this
Good liturgy is work in which we all participate; to which we all
contribute. It is not a spectator sport! When we bring our whole selves
safe distance. It is impossible for us not to be involved in and changed
by the experience of meeting the One who surrounds us in love, feeds
and heals us, and speaks to us, and through us, in our cries and our
Anglican liturgy is rooted in a rich tradition. Everything we do has
meaning and purpose. And over the centuries we have developed a
pattern of Common Worship that is familiar and shapes our
understanding of God, the world, and ourselves. The shadow side of this
is that we can allow the familiar patterns to become so rigid that we are
caught up in the “do’s” and “donts” of how we worship rather than in
Whom we worship. This is not the living tradition of our faith that
grounds us in the Word and action of God, while allowing us to continue
to change and to grow, but the tradition that mires us in the past,
sucking us down like quick sand until we sink into the oblivion of
In John’s Gospel, when Nicodemus first comes to Jesus by night, he is a
man who has a fixed belief about who God is and how God operates. But
he is both intrigued and disturbed by this Jesus whose miraculous
deeds, when interpreted in the context of the Law of Moses, seem to
indicate that he is indeed from God. Yet Jesus does not have the
background, or the education, nor does he look and act in a way that fits
with the pattern Nicodemus has come to expect of a respected Rabbi.
As Jesus offers a new teaching about rebirth by water and spirit,
perspective to make what he is hearing fit what he already knows.
We are not unlike him.
For though we have been given this new birth by water and by Spirit in
our baptism, our thoughts of God, the world and ourselves, are still
profoundly influenced by the cultures in which we have been raised and
in which we now live. We have a tendency to try to make God fit our
learned expectations rather than allow God to transform our
In my travels as a chaplain I often encounter people who profess a faith
in God but do not want to be part of a parish. They often say they feel
they are able to experience and worship God just as well in nature.
While I agree that God is found everywhere in the world and most
definitely in the natural world, we need to be together for a number of
One of the major roles of the community of faith next to our corporate
worship, is to participate in and support the formation of believers.
When a person becomes a member of the Body of Christ through
baptism, they, or their sponsors, make vows about how they intend to
live their lives in Christ. And we, who are Christ’s brothers and sisters
and His representatives in the world, are charged with remembering
our own vows, and with promising to support the newly baptized as
they mature in their lives of faith. This is the commitment we make to
Kalen and Riley and their parents and sponsors this morning. This is
not an empty ritual but a profound moment in which we all answer
“ere I am Lord.”We are in this together. We need one‐another as surely as we need God.
We know that the road ahead will not be an easy one for us to travel for
we will be met with obstinance, opposition, and indifference. And there
will be times when we will feel discouraged and weary.
As individuals and as a body it is important that we be engaged in our
own on‐going formation as well. We will do this through study, prayer,
reflection, worship and by involving ourselves in God’ mission in the
world. We will struggle and be challenged by Christ to let go of our
preconceptions so God can surprise us with a new way of thinking and
seeing. And in this life‐long process we are formed into true believers,
not just “eligious observers” We are able to come to an understanding
that our ministry is not so much about what we do or even how we do it,
but about who we are –the body of Christ –representatives here and
now who continue His ministry –witnessing to God’ love for everyone
and everything, healing the sick, opening the eyes of the blind…living in
ways that honour the sacredness of all creation.
Our call as people baptized into the community of faith is to show here
in this place, and wherever we go, the God who creates in love; the God
who does not condemn the world but participates in it in order to heal
and redeem it; the God who continues to bring new life to the whole of
creation. May we meet this God in one‐another and in those we
encounter on the journey.