Sermon May 27, 2018

“Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer”
Marcia Tomlinson, Deacon
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
May 27, 2018
Trinity Sunday

When I was a kid, summer meant a world of wonderfulness and Memorial Day weekend was its kick-off. One of the signs of summer was the arrival of the circus with its wild animals and equally fantastic grownups doing amazing things. I always loved that opening parade led by the biggest elephant with a beautiful sequined lady riding on top, waving to the crowd.

There’s an elephant in the room today … no sequined lady waving …. but definitely signaling a new season for us.

First, though, today is Memorial Sunday, and I’m reminded of an episode in “Rawhide” I watched last week in which trail boss Gil Favor reassured young wrangler Rowdy Yates who was ashamed for having been frightened when they battled the bad guys.

Gil said “To stand up when you’re half scared to death is the only time that really counts.”

It reminded me of when General Eisenhower walked amongst the soldiers just before D-Day, quietly talking to them, all the while knowing so many would not survive. He came to a frightened young private and talked to him calmly and pleasantly about fishing. That young man later “stood up half scared to death when it really counted”, … at the Battle of Normandy. Memorial Day is now for all who have died while on active duty. And many of us take time on Memorial Sunday to remember our loved ones who are no longer with us, and to thank God for the time we had together.

I still sense that elephant swinging his head slowly side to side, waiting to be recognized. But …

Let’s take a look at the Lectionary for this week:
Isaiah 6: 1-8 (Here am I … send ME!)
Romans 8: 12-17 (boldly cry out, “Abba!”
John 3: 1-17 (Nicodemus searches out Jesus at night)
Psalm 29

“Hot coals delivered by a seraph, advice to boldly cry out “Daddy!”, a VIP’s secret nighttime rendezvous, and oak trees a-whirling …. what’s not to love by this week’s Lectionary choices! Holy Moly.”

Actually, this Nicodemus story is one of my favorites in the New Testament … I admire the guy a lot. But enough about what I think. I’ve listed these readings in the bulletin because … well … they’re your homework. Your assignment this week is to read them and discern what is their common thread. I’ve provided you with some resource material … the hymns we’re singing this morning. I truly hope you will all give this homework a try. Who knows, maybe you’ll come to admire Nicodemus, too!

Now then … let’s address the elephant in the room.
Today is Trinity Sunday, the one day of the year we face the challenge of the Trinity, because we need some sort of grasp on what it means in order to head out into the world and share the good news.

I will never forget the day about 15 years ago when I went swimming with a non-Christian friend while the rest of our group was pitching horseshoes. It was at Sandy Lake in Ontario and the water was wonderfully warm under a bright summer sky. We stood waist deep luxuriating in the gentle rhythms of the waves, talking about our faiths. He asked me how I could possibly believe in 3 gods instead of the one. Huh? “No, not 3… Only the One,” I answered. Then, as I stood in the warm waters of Sandy Lake, I attempted to explain how the Trinity is the One God. Notice I say attempted, because my friend to this day remains a non-Christian.

Pastor Jeff this past Monday remarked as how the Trinity cannot be truly explained, or least no one has been able to thus far. It’s a mystery which requires belief. Like the Resurrection, it cannot be explained by human logic or reasoning. It requires a leap with faith.

The scoffer will ask, “How can you believe all that stuff?!” because he has no desire to learn.

The student will say, “I don’t understand.” because he does desire to learn.

I have 3 parables I’d like to to share with you about understanding the Trinity. I hope they help. They speak of God as Creator, God as Redeemer, and God as Sustainer

The Parable of the Candle (God as Creator)

Tom and Ava were looking for Josh. In a dark room they found a note and a lighted candle on a table. The note said:

Hi! It’s 2:30, and I’m leaving to run some errands. I’ll be back in a couple of hours. BTW, the electricity is out, so I lit a candle for you.—Josh.’

Ava wanted to know exactly when Josh would return. She said, ‘If we calculate what the rate of wax melting is, and measure how much has already dripped we can figure out how long ago he left.’

Tom said, ‘Why waste your time? The note says he left at 2:30.’
Ava replied, ‘Ah yes, but what does he mean by “2:30”? A note like that is subject to interpretation. Suppose he was talking about another time zone or something.’ And so Ava performed her measurements and calculations.

Well, I’ve got bad news for us,” she later announced, “Based on the amount of wax that has melted and the rate at which the wax is melting, I can confidently tell you that it has been at least one whole day since Josh left. He was probably talking about 2:30 yesterday. And since he said that he’d be back “in a couple of hours”, we can assume that something happened to him and he’s not coming back at all.’

Just then, Josh walked in. Ava said, ‘What took you so long?’ ‘What are you talking about?,” Josh replied, “I left you guys a note saying I’d be back in a couple of hours. It hasn’t even been that long.’

Ava said, ‘But I measured the amount of wax that has dripped off your candle, and the rate which the wax was melting. I know you’ve been gone since yesterday.’

Josh sighed, ‘First of all, that candle isn’t burning anywhere near as brightly as when I first lit it. Second of all, I didn’t light a new candle, but a used one. And thirdly, I used another candle to light this candle and in the process the wax from that candle spilled all over this one.’
Tom was confused, ‘So you set up that candle to deceive us, to make it look like you left the room over a day ago, when in fact it’s been less than a couple of hours?’

Look,” Josh said, shaking his head, “I wrote you a note telling you I left at 2:30. I never intended for you to measure wax drippings to figure out when I left so you could then determine exactly when I would return. I put the candle there so you would have some light while you waited for me.”

The Parable of The Room (God as Redeemer)

Doug had a key and unlocked the door that had his name on it. There was nothing in the room except one long wall covered with small index card file cabinets from floor to ceiling. He approached one of the cabinet drawers and read its label: “Girls I Have Liked”. Out of curiosity he pulled open the drawer and there neatly cataloged was one name per card … and his signature was also on each card. And every one was accurate.

His gaze fell upon another drawer labeled “Friends.” A quick glance inside proved this room held the record of his life! A few feet away he saw one marked “Smiles,” in which were all the times he had smiled … the drawer seemed endlessly long!

Curious, Doug began to open drawers at random. Some brought joy and so sweet memories. Some embarrassed him like the drawer with every time he had cheated on a test, fudged a resume, exaggerated on his income taxes.

Right above was the drawer labeled “Comfort I Have Given” and next to that was “Friends I Have Betrayed”…. he couldn’t bring himself to open that one.
“Books I Have Read”, “Lies I Have Told”, “Jokes I Have Laughed At” “Things I’ve Yelled at My Brothers.” “Things I Have Done in Anger”, “Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath” “Songs I Have Listened To” … the drawers were various shapes and sizes.

One drawer was labeled “TV” and there was one card for every show, every episode. No matter how far out he pulled the drawer he couldn’t see any end to it. Doug was ashamed at how much precious time he had wasted sitting and watching TV.

Then he came to a drawer labeled “People I’ve hurt”, and felt a chill run down his spine. He pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and peered in at a card. Doug felt sick to think that such a moment had been so accurately recorded. And it wasn’t the only card in there.

He yanked the drawer out, meaning to empty it … to burn the cards. All of them. But they wouldn’t come out! And they were indestructible.

He felt defeated and utterly helpless.
Doug’s gaze fell on one small drawer way in the corner, — “People I Have Shared the Gospel With”. He knelt down, noticing how this drawer looked unused, rarely opened. It was less than 3 inches long and contained less than a dozen cards.

No one must ever, ever know of this room. He must lock it up and hide the key.

But just then he noticed someone at the other end of the wall, pulling out one drawer after another, reading each and every card.. Oh no no no, please not Him, Doug thought. Not here.

He dropped his head and wept in shame. Then Jesus walked over and put His arm around Doug. He could have said so many things. But He didn’t say a single word of reproach, only those of comfort.

Jesus stood and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at the far end He pulled out a drawer and, one by one, began to write His name on every card, completely blotting out Doug’s signature.

“No!” Doug shouted but there it was …, Jesus’ name on every one.

There were tens of thousands of cards yet in just a moment Jesus was done, he had signed them all and returned to Doug.

“It is finished, ” He said as He reached down to help Doug stand. They left the room together without locking it, because there were still many more Doug cards to be written, especially for that drawer labeled, “People I Have Shared the Gospel With,” which oddly enough was now in the center of the wall and had grown larger than any of the others.

The Parable of the Heavy Rock (God as Sustainer)

Billy struggled to lift the large and heavy rock. Dad had entrusted him with the job to move it to the other side of the field. Billy had assured his father he could do it. But now he was unable to do it. No matter how hard he tried, he simply could not budge it. It was too big for him. It was an impossibly big job. He grumbled to himself, “It wasn’t fair of him to make me do this.”

Billy’s father watched his son struggle all morning and well into the afternoon. At dusk, he walked over to where the boy was sitting, utterly exhausted and defeated.

Have you been using all your strength?” his father asked.
Yes, I really HAVE used ALL my strength” Billy cried , ashamed he had not been able to perform the one task given to him. His father looked down with love and placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder.

No, my son, you haven’t been using all your strength,” “You forgot to ask ME for help.”

God as Creator, God as Redeemer, and God as Sustainer

We are always in relationship with the Triune God … Amen