Stephentown Federated Church




Pastor's Sermons

(John 14:15-21)

I have always loved languages, but have had a love/hate relationship with words. I love words in literature; I find it delicious when they perfectly describe a scene, an emotion or a character. On the other hand, there are times that I hate the way words (which are symbols for meaning) can distort a concept. As usual, I am talking about the limitations of our language to appropriately convey abstract theological concepts. Today is Trinity Sunday, and that alone is enough to make preachers run screaming from the pulpit. It is also Father's Day, which would make it all-too-easy to talk about God the Father and call it a day.

However, having raised three sons through some tough times, I am too stubborn to take that route. I am also not easily intellectually satisfied. I will chew on something and keep reading until I find something that can relate to my every day life.

An interesting etymological factoid is this: the Greek word "hypostasis" was translated awkwardly as "Person" when discussing the Trinity. I know that when I hear the word "person," the symbol stands for A person. A being. Therefore, when we talk about three persons in the Trinity, the brain strains toward bad psychotic cinematic stories or - imprinting from youth - an old man, a young man and a bird. Where does one go with that?

With further exploration, the word hypostasis can also mean, "manner of existence." Ah. I can go there. God has several ways of existing, of being manifest to the human understanding. The transcendent, unknowable God of the Hebrews who makes a covenant, the God drawn near to us in Jesus, and God's Spirit which is present within and energizes our community. So God is not divided, but exists and is manifest in different ways. God beyond the world. God in the world.. God within the world. And in all cases, this God is in relationship.

I read a great book called Quest for the Living God by Dr. Elizabeth Johnson. It is not a "beach book," but was satisfying beyond words on this subject. She is a professor of Theology at Fordham University, and a world renowned scholar. Her invitation to perceive God as manifest in different ways of being is a challenge, but also gives us a practical, user-friendly way to see Trinity as a vision of how we interact with God and the world. We see the transcendent, mysterious and unknowable God in creation. We see the "God-with-Us" in Jesus, and the God within us in the Spirit. We, as believers, take that relationship with us into prayer, living the Gospel and using our gifts to better the community.

And how does this fit with Father's Day? As life-givers, whether biological fathers/mothers or not, we are often the first image that children have of God. Scary, but true. We are the first experience they have of "hugeness," of a being beyond comprehension, who holds our very life in their hands. We are also their first image of tenderness, healing, forgiving love as we saw in the life of the Christ. We are also often their first exposure to empowerment through encouragement, discerning of gifts and unconditional support. I was profoundly blessed to have such a Dad as my biological father, but that role can also be fulfilled by others.

So today let us give thanks for those people in our lives who were those first images of God. Those who might have created us from their bodies, or who gave us life through loving, teaching, suporting and empowering us. Let us give thanks for the community which surrounds us with prayer, healing and energy. And let us go forth as people who are in relationship with God: created in Love, guided by the life of the Christ and gifted and prepared to serve through God's Spirit.

And let us take up the challenge to be Church as a manifestation of God in the world as well. Let us be the People of God as we were meant to be. Then, as Dr. Johnson says, "Wherever the human heart is healed, wherever liberation, hope and healing break through, wherever an act of human kindness is done, a cup of cool water is given or a book offered to a child..... there the human and earth community already reflect ... the visage of the trinitarian God."

Since it is the third Sunday of the month, we will have a blessing/healing time. The song that will be playing will reflect, I hope, the message that we receive as Children of God:

"How could anyone ever tell you you are anything less than beautiful...

How could anyone ever tell you you are less htan whole?

How could anyone fail to notice that your loving is a miracle...

How deeply you're connected to my soul..... "

Happy Father's Day.