AHT1: Holy Trinity Sunday

Sermon for Holy Trinity Sunday at Faith Lutheran Church Gardner, MA

Last week my father had a stroke.  He continues to slowly improve but this was a blow to my family.  As I sat in the hospital room with him, my mother and Katie I could not help but think of all the wonderful things that he has done for us over the years.  I also felt a presence with us in that room.

You see earlier in the day I asked for prayers on Facebook.  In a matter of hours there were individuals, churches, synod staff and communities praying for my father.

As I sat down to reflect on my experience especially in light of the readings for today I have been blown away.

So instead of focusing on what the Holy Trinity is, I want to talk about what it look like to be a church fully living out our call to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

A Trinitarian congregation is one that sees itself as called and sent by the Holy Spirit. Click To Tweet

As someone who has been connected with the church my whole life the times that I have seen the church come alive is when we were fully embracing our identity as the people of God called into community through God the Father, Jesus God’s son and the Holy Spirit.  It is God who is protects us, Jesus who is teaches us and the Holy Spirit who leads and guides us in this crazy thing we call life.

We exist as a community of faith to live out the mission and the vision that God calls us too.  What is this mission?

It is to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that Jesus has commanded us. And remember, God is with us always, to the end of the age.”

God calls us into mission together as a church, when we join together anything is possible.

Within a matter of hours there were well over 500 people praying for my father all over the country and those were only the people that I knew about!!! This weekend there were thousands of people gathering together for Relay for Life, raising hundred of thousands of dollars to help people fight a disease that we all would like to eliminate from our lives.  We can do amazing things when we come together, when we join together in a common mission.

Sometimes it is in the midst of prayer, praise and promises doubt creeps in.

This doubt is not unusual, because in each gospel account, Jesus’ own disciples the ones who had followed him from the start and knew him best — do not at first believe the story of the resurrection … even when they see Jesus!

At the end of the Gospel of Matthew, which we read today —  as the disciples are about to be commissioned as Jesus’ witnesses, they still have a hard time believing in Jesus even as they worship him.

That’s who they are, that’s who we are — people made up of a mixture of faith and doubt, hope and fear, successes and failures. Remembering that doubt is part of our life as a faith community  and doubting does not make you a bad christian.

It does not mean that God loves you any less or that your faith is any less valued.  We all have times of doubt, we all have times when things happen that we can’t explain  when we feel like we are at the end of our rope there is a sense of questioning if God is really there.  But even in the midst of our questions God fulfills promises.  One of those many promises is that God will be with us even until the end of the age.

We come to church to be inspired to carry out God’s work to love and bless the world in our daily routines, relationships, and activities. Sometimes this involves sharing our faith with others, but it always involves living our faith by being good neighbors, classmates, friends, employees, brothers and sisters in christ. We are called to be faithful in the variety of roles we play so that we can carry on Jesus’ mission to respond to those in need.

This is where I felt the power of prayer.  This is where I felt the loving arms of God enfolding myself and my family when we needed God the most and that feeling has not gone away.

So when you hear of a loved one who is sick or in pain, when there is a sense of lost hope.  Remember the promise that God hears our prayers, that Jesus walks beside us and that the Holy Spirit leads us in the direction that we need to God.

Because I know that, because I experienced that I want to share that love with the world.  I want everyone to know the love, grace and forgiveness of God.

We have been commissioned by Jesus, and we can take courage from that. But we are also promised Jesus’ presence and ongoing love and support no matter what may come, we have the promise of peace, love, support, forgiveness and grace and that is the best gift anyone can give us.  Amen

Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived (HarperCollins, 2011)

As a pastor I get asked all the time the future of an individual after they die.  What happens when we die?  Who goes to heaven and who goes to hell?  Rob Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith—hell and the afterlife—arguing, would a loving God send people to eternal torment forever?  This is an awesome book and one that I would highly recommend to everyone!


Bishop Hazlewood

During the bishop election of the 2012 New England Synod Assembly Jim Hazlewood was asked what he would like to accomplish during his first year in office if he was elected.  Jim’s answer was that he would visit every ELCA congregation in the New England Synod.  Little did he know that he was soon to be elected bishop and that he would have to fulfill this promise.

I think Bishop Hazlewood was the perfect person for the job because he understands the church.  He writes on his blog Bishop on a Bike a few days after he was elected “I do not know the workings of the Holy Spirit, but here is my more rational understanding of what happened in Springfield.   Our church in New England, and across North America, is experiencing a seismic shift.  Whether it’s declining participation in congregational life, shift in where people go for spiritual understanding, economic dislocation or just plain old general angst, you can easily see these are strange and un-understandable times.  I think most everyone in the church, and certainly those at the Assembly in Springfield understood this to be the case.”  I believe there is a shift in the church and most of us really don’t understand what it is and we don’t know what to do about it!

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