Out of the Box

Out of the Box

Watch Pastor Kelly deliver this sermon or read the text below

The Commissioning of the Disciples
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore 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 I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:16-20 (NRSV)

Over the last few months through this pandemic, we as a society have had to figure out new ways of being present to one another. We now have zoom birthday parties and graduation parades, drive-by greetings, online meetings, and telehealth appointments. We as the church worship online. We call to check in on our church family and friends. We share online daily devotionals. We meet at our weekly Zoom coffee hours. We help people get groceries, and we drop handwritten notes in the mail to one another. But figuring out different ways to be present to one another is nothing new.

You see, today in the church we celebrate Trinity Sunday. Trinity Sunday is always the Sunday after Pentecost, and it is the day that we remember all the different ways that God is present with us. The word “trinity” comes from a Latin word that means “threefold,” and in the Christian Church, we believe that God exists in three distinct yet equal elements.

As Christians, we are sometimes referred to as “trinitarians.” Now that does not mean that we believe in three Gods, but what it does mean is that we experience God in three different ways. I know, it sounds kind of confusing sometimes, but let us see if this helps.

First, we experience God as Creator: Father, Mother, Parent, the one who created and creates all. Second, we experience God as Jesus Christ: teacher, redeemer, Savior; the one who came to earth as fully human and fully divine to experience life as we humans do. He came to walk in our shoes, to teach us by his own example, and to share our “common lot” as they say. He is the one who taught us to love God and to love one another. He showed us the way to live our lives, being compassionate, faithful, just, and true to ourselves, to God and to those around us. And third, we experience God as the Holy Spirit: the sustainer, the supporter, the advocate sent on Pentecost and the divine presence in our everyday lives. Now is one part of the Trinity more important than the others? No, because though the name that we use may be different, and the way that we experience each may be different, they are all are ways for us, as humans, to try and wrap our heads around something that is so much bigger and more amazing than we can ever imagine.

Friends, one of the things that I am so excited about with our at-home worship and our experiences over the last few month worshipping, learning, and living our faith outside of the walls of our church building, is that in this time, I honestly believe that our eyes are being opened to God in new and exciting ways. For so long, we met God on Sunday mornings, in the church building, and Jesus taught us through Bible stories in Household Huddle and worship, again in the church building. Some of us experienced the working of the Holy Spirit out in the world, but we only tended to talk about it within our church building. But here is the good news! Now that “the church has left the building,” we are experiencing God in the world all around us! We are telling the stories of Jesus not only in our homes but also on Facebook and YouTube! And now the Holy Spirit is flying free, no longer confined to the small spaces that we consider sacred.

You see, for thousands of years, we have tried to put God in a box so that we could keep our faith sacred and holy. But in so doing, we have separated our faith from our everyday lives, and our faith has become something we do, rather than a part of who we are. When we started at-home worship, though I was filming from home, I went back to the church to get several of the symbols that say “worship” and “church” to many us–the cross, our communion ware, the white altar cloths, my robes, and my stoles. But lately, I have started to wonder. “Though these are all familiar and comforting things to many Oldtowners, does the message change if I preach without my robe and stole? Or if I preach from my backyard? If I preach wearing a clergy collar? Or if I preach wearing jeans and a t-shirt?”

Friends, it should not. Because as long as we are respectful and open to God’s presence in our lives, it’s not about where we worship or what we wear. So, if we truly believe in God, we need to open the box that we have been trying to hold God in and allow God to show us in the mysteries of life, not in sterile and symbolic ways where we control each step expecting the world to follow, but in the midst of the lives that we all live.

Friends, one of the most precious stories of our faith is the story of what happened in the upper room so long ago when Jesus gathered with his friends, the disciples. That was when Jesus taught us all about the importance of communion, of sharing a simple meal, and remembering Jesus as we do. But one of the things that we often forget is that night in the upper room, Jesus made the ordinary, extraordinary. He did not set the table with fancy dishes or fine silver. There were no fresh-pressed tablecloths or elaborately folded napkins. There were no golden chalices or fancy, catered foods. Jesus simply took what was right in front of him–a piece of bread–something simple, every day, and ordinary. But friends, to tell you the truth, it could have been a cracker or a cookie or some other bit of food that was on the table in front of him–what it was wasn’t as important as what it stood for. Scripture tells us that he blessed it and broke it and gave it to them saying “This is my body, broken for you, do this in remembrance of me.”

And likewise, after supper, he took a cup–a cup that was on the table in front of him. Again, something simple, something every day and something ordinary. Scripture says it was wine. He gave thanks and poured it out for them. Saying, “This is my blood of the new covenant poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this as often as you drink of it, in remembrance of me.” But friends, to tell you the truth, it could have been a cup of coffee, or a glass of water, or can of soda if they had soda in Jesus’ day! Because again, what it was wasn’t as important as what it stood for.

Folks, if you do not have a snack or some kind of food in front of you right now–like an English muffin, or a cracker, or a muffin, or a cookie, or a piece of bread–and something to drink–like a cup of coffee, or some juice, or a glass of water–then I would invite you to go get something. Remember, nothing fancy, just something ordinary! And then join us back here for a moment of prayer.

Loving God, we thank you for your presence in our lives and for calling us to be your people. Open our eyes today, that we might experience you in the nourishment of ordinary food and drink. Help us to remember you through this simple meal that we might be fed and nourished in mind, body, and spirit. Oh God, we ask that you bless the food and the drink that we share today. May these simple and ordinary things be made extraordinary by your loving grace. All this we ask in your blessed and holy name. Amen!

My friends, it seems as though all is ready, so let us share our meal together! Friends, this is the Bread of Heaven! And this is the Cup of Blessing!

Will you join in a moment of prayer? O God, thank you for meeting us where we are and for helping us to understand that you do not need a special space to meet us in, a specific food, or a fancy table that is set just the right way. Because you long to walk with us, not just in some of the sacred moments, but in all of the ordinary and extraordinary moments of our lives. And for that, we give you thanks and praise, Amen.

Friends, when we celebrate Communion, we are reminded of the unconditional love and grace that God so graciously shares with us. But we need to remember that God’s unconditional love is not only for us but for each and every person that God has created.

Friends if we are going to make a difference in our world so that there will be an end to prejudice and racial injustice so that every person will be treated equally and we will love our neighbor–whoever our neighbor might be–bringing healing and wholeness to all, not only do we need to open the box that we try to place God in, but we need to step out of the box ourselves! We need to step out of the box that we have filled with our own comfort and control, acknowledging that yes, all lives matter, but if we truly love our brothers and sisters, Black Lives Matter more right now, because that is where the hurt and injustice is!

We need to step out of the box to look and listen through the eyes and ears of our brothers and sisters, understanding that when we truly listen, we open ourselves to the possibility of our opinions and our traditions being changed. So that, no matter someone’s color or race or religion or sexual orientation or political views or gender, all might be heard and loved and treated equally.

Folks, today we celebrate the Trinity, the “three in one” where all parts are distinct yet equal. Perhaps that is an example of the way that we should live our lives too. Because none of us are more important than any other. Friends, though the way we look or talk or understand the world around us may be different, and where we work or live or worship may be different, and who we love and call family may be different, we are all loved by the God who created us.

But the story does not end there! Because it is not enough to be loved. We need to put our selves aside as we go out and love our brothers and sisters, especially those who are hurting the most so that one day–hopefully, one day soon!–all might be made whole.

So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we go out into the week ahead, let’s remember that it’s not up to us to put God in a box and control the way that we experience the holy. Because there are so many different ways to worship and to pray and to do works of mission and justice in our world. There are different kinds of songs to sing, and places to go, foods to eat, and experiences to share, and each one of them offers a sense of the sacred because God will be with us in every ordinary and extraordinary moment. So, find a way to step out of the box that you are in, as you find your own way of bringing healing and wholeness to the world. And finally, remember God promised in our scripture reading today, “I will be with you always, until the end of the age.”

My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen.

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