Dancing in the Mystery

Sermon – Sunday, May 26, 2013
Zion Lutheran Church, Hoople, ND
John 16:12-15 – Trinity Sunday

Who likes a good mystery? Do you like to read a good mystery novel? Maybe watch a movie mystery? Everyone seems to love a good mystery, even kids. The game Clue has been around since I was little and kids and adults are still playing it. And there are murder mystery dinner parties for adults. They’re all a lot of fun. What makes a mystery really good is when you can’t figure it out until the end. We like trying to solve it. We like being surprised. Best of all we like the end when everything is revealed.

I think that’s why it is so difficult to talk about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, we can’t figure it out. There’s no answer for us, at least not yet. We profess in our creeds that we believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, yet they are all one God. It doesn’t make sense.

It’s hard for us to wrap our minds around it. We come up with lots of comparisons, but none of them really come close to understanding how there are three distinct persons, yet at the same time one God. Theologians for centuries have been trying to figure this out, and it just isn’t possible. The Trinity is a mystery. Writer, Madeline L’Engle says in her book Circle of Quiet, “To say anything beyond this about the creative process is like pulling all the petals off a flower in order to analyze it and ending up having destroyed the flower.” We can’t destroy God, but we sure can destroy peace and unity in the process of trying to understand what can’t be understood by human minds.

But we humans always want answers. It’s hard to sit with the questions. It’s hard to not be in control. That was the problem with the first people in the garden of Eden. God created humans and they wanted all the answers. They were experiencing God in the garden, but they wanted more. They wanted to be just like God, having all the answers and being in control and humans haven’t changed.

We look for answers to our questions and we want the answers immediately. Yet sometimes we have to wait because our minds can’t comprehend it at the time. Jesus says, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” John 16:12 There’s such a thing as information overload. Whether it’s good news or bad news, there’s only so much our human minds can absorb. God is so much bigger than we could ever comprehend and we think from our own limited viewpoints, but it doesn’t come close to really understanding who God is. St. Augustine compared it to the ocean. Understanding all about God would be like taking a bucket of water from the ocean and saying it is the whole ocean. It’s only a part. We cannot contain the whole ocean in a bucket any more than we can contain God. We do have glimpses of who God is. St. Paul says, “we see dimly” yet we are so eager to see in full so we spend so much time talking about who God is.

Studying and learning about God – theology- is good, but we can spend all our time talking about God instead of getting to know God. Knowing God is why the Word became flesh. It’s why Jesus became one of us – not so that we would be filled with all the knowledge of God, but so that we would be filled with the Spirit and experience God.

We experience God most tangibly through the sacraments of baptism and communion. Through the water and the Word of baptism we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. We are marked with the cross of Christ forever. We do not understand this mystery, yet through faith we believe in the promises of God. Through the sacrament of communion we experience the living Christ as we eat the body and blood of Jesus who somehow mysteriously is present in the bread and the wine. This sacred mystery that we hold in our hands, and are fed with nourishes us to become not only one with each other in the body of Christ, but one with the Trinity. Through these sacraments we are united with the Triune God – three in One and One in three. All for One and One for all.

Jesus said if we see Him, we see the Father. Jesus shows us a glimpse of who God the Father, the Creator of the universe is. One day we will understand, but that day is not now. We have to wait. So what do we do in the meantime?

We hope, and praise, and dance. Hope – that probably seems like a mystery as well. How can we hope in the midst of all the sorrows in life? How do we hope when the waters turn into floods, when winds stir up into violent tornados destroying lives, when bridges collapse, when illnesses strike, when evil seems to be increasing? St. Paul says in Romans that “we boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us.” It does not disappoint us because “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” We hope because we know that we have the Holy Spirit to guide us and lead us to the truth who is Jesus. We hope knowing that God has all the answers and in this faith we have peace. Hope is a confidence in God even when we do not know the answers.

And in the midst of mystery we praise God. We rejoice, St. Paul says, “in our sufferings.” This doesn’t mean we are grateful to have suffering, but we know that the future is in God’s hands. We believe that God may not cause our sufferings, but will bring good out of them. We praise God in the midst of our sufferings because we are not alone. God has promised to be with us always. God will not abandon us. The Holy Spirit will draw us closer to Jesus who like us suffered, and like Him we will be raised to new life.

During this in-between time of not understanding all of the mystery of God we also dance. What is dance but a form of communication as old as the prehistoric era. Words are not needed for a dance. Total knowledge is not needed for a dance. Dance is prayer from the depth of our soul. It is praise without words. We dance in the assurance that we are not alone. Through the sacraments, through the Word of God, through the guiding of the Holy Spirit we are drawn into the dance of the Trinity. Yes, we dance with the Trinity. We may not be able to understand or explain the Trinity, but we can experience the Trinity. The Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit show us what true relationship is all about. Each one of them though separate are one in a mystical dance of holy relationship. Distinct yet One. It’s like watching great dancers who though they are separate are united through the dance. And we are invited by the power of the Holy Spirit to participate in this holy dance.

As the Spirit of God hovered above the waters of creation bringing unity out of chaos, we are called to hover among people who seek to find peace in the midst of chaos. We are called to dance the dance of peace into lives torn apart by destruction and violence, grief and despair.
As Jesus travelled the way of the cross and freely sacrificed His life for each one of us, we are called to travel the way of the cross and sacrifice our lives for the sake of the gospel. We are called to dance the dance of service and love everywhere we go. Our dance steps need not be perfect; they only need to move in the direction of the cross.

As the Spirit descended upon the disciples at Pentecost and transformed them into vibrant witnesses of the gospel, so we are called to dance the dance of transformation into lives seeking direction and rebirth.

We are called to dance with hope and praise and thanksgiving in the midst of our sufferings to give glory to God despite the questions and the mystery that surrounds us. We are called to move in a dance of unity with all people telling the story of God’s love.

The Trinity, the sacraments, the grace of God are mysteries that we cannot understand. Valuable time is wasted trying to come up with answers. We are on a mission from God. We are invited to a dance. It is the dance of the Trinity – moving, sending, praising, transforming love from Father to Son to Spirit to us again, and again, and again.

We do not need to understand these holy mysteries, What makes a mystery really good is when you can’t figure it out until the end. Join the dance of the Trinity – hope and praise, service and love, and invite everyone to join in. Amen.

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There’s No Place Like Home

Sermon – Sunday, May 5, 2013
Zion Lutheran Church, Hoople, ND
John 14:23-29

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” These words of Jesus begin the first verse in the fourteenth chapter of the gospel of John. This chapter is often called Jesus’ farewell discourse. We’re still in the season of Easter. We’ve celebrated the resurrection and yet today we take a step back and reflect on the words of Jesus to the disciples before he is about to be crucified. Why on earth would we take a look back and not just forge ahead? Sometimes it’s important to go back and listen to the words from a new perspective. That’s what we’re doing today.

At the time Jesus spoke these words to the disciples they didn’t understand what He was trying to say. They kept questioning Him. Jesus starts off by saying that He is going away to prepare a place for them –a home – but they need not be troubled. “Trust in God, trust also in me.” He says. But Thomas asks, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus tells them He is the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus continues to tell them that they know the Father by knowing Jesus. Again, more questions, by Philip who says, “Show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” And Judas, not Judas Iscariot, asks, “But Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not the world?” Questions after questions…….

We’re still asking questions today. We hear Jesus’ words and we, like the disciples, don’t understand. The disciples were filled with questions because Jesus was about to leave them and even though He promised that the Holy Spirit would be with them, they were feeling abandoned. Jesus tells them and us “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Yet, they felt abandoned, and so often we do too, don’t we? Jesus says that God will make a home with us, but we often don’t feel at home. We don’t feel the peace and security that one feels at home. So we keep walking that yellow brick road like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, looking for home. And while we walk on that road, peace and home seems a long way off.

During the time Jesus walked on earth as a human preaching and teaching, the Roman Empire ruled by force and fear. They invaded territories with might and the Pax Romana or peace of Rome was only an illusion of peace. As long as you did what they wanted then you could live in what they called peace. A more accurate description would be walking on eggshells. It wasn’t real peace and they kept on searching……

And today, bombs go off in downtown Boston, fires rage in Texas and California, the violence in Syria and Afghanistan increases, suicides are on the rise, cancer seems to be spreading like a virus out of control, people are hungry, sick, scared, and depressed….And Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” And we question the logic of such words. We questions whether Jesus understands what is going on. How can our hearts not be troubled. How can we not be afraid? And we keep questioning and searching for a yellow brick road that will lead us to the great and powerful Oz who will lead us home to a place of comfort and peace.

But the yellow brick road isn’t real and neither is the Wizard of Oz. And the wizard didn’t have any magical cures to give the scarecrow a brain, or the tin man a heart, or the lion courage. They already had those gifts; they just didn’t realize it. They didn’t realize that on their journey their gifts were being strengthened in their caring for one another. The gifts that we have been given by God are strengthened as we use them in caring for one another as well. It is hard on this journey of faith that we are on, yet we are not alone. Jesus has promised, “I will not leave you as orphans.” He has given us the Holy Spirit, to remind us of all that Jesus has taught us. He has given us the Holy Spirit to remind us of who we are, to remind us of Whose we are. He has given us the Holy Spirit to give us peace, not as the world gives, but as God gives.

The world’s peace is only an illusion. It is like the ancient Pax Romana, peace with conditions or strings attached. You can have peace as long as you are willing to pay the price. But what a price! The world offers us peace through material consumption, retail therapy, individualism vs. community, lust instead of love, power instead of peace. We lose our souls for this kind of peace that only lasts for a brief time. It’s an illusion.

Yet the peace of God is eternal. The peace of God is with us even when our physical world is falling apart. The peace of God is with us even when we have more questions than answers. The peace of God is there with us even when we can’t see a way out of a particular problem, even when it seems hopeless. The peace of God keeps us from being uprooted and give us courage – courage to keep trusting in the promises of Christ. A promise that God is always with us. A promise that the Holy Spirit will not leave us orphans. A promise that God will make a home in us.

And the home we have with God is not like an earthly home that can be destroyed or where one is afraid due to violence or abuse. God’s home is a place of peace and comfort and love. We don’t need to search for this home; it’s always with us. God has made this home with us through the sacraments. God is dwelling with us here and now. We do not need to look for a home. God is our home. God is our peace.

In Christ we all have a home and we can say with courage we will not be troubled or moved by the storms of life. “When peace, like a river, attends our way; when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever our lot, God has taught us to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.” In Christ we all have a home and we can say, “there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…in Christ.” Amen.