Sermons That Work

Give Me A Simple Religion…, Trinity Sunday (A) – 2005

May 22, 2005

“Give me a simple religion,” we sometimes yearn. It’s an odd prayer. If someone calls us “simple” we are very offended. Certainly there can be nothing simple about God. It would be very odd indeed if complicated humans and a complicated God met together in a “simple faith.” In a few minutes we will say the Creed together. The Creed is a table of contents to the important teachings found in the Bible. The Creed is full of rather complicated notions. God is “Almighty,” the “maker of heaven and earth,” the maker of “all that is,” whether seen or unseen. Our first reading today drew us into the mystery of a God who creates and sustains and who made us in his own image. The truths we learn here are beyond simplicity, beyond the world of facts. They pierce into the mystery of a truth beyond our understanding.

“We believe in one God.” “We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ.” “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord.” Sunday-by-Sunday we gather together and profess the faith of the church. Together, as one family, we embrace for ourselves as individuals, a list of concepts that point to truths which no words may encompass. We read the signposts pointing us in the right direction to God and away from concepts that might harm us and make us less than we were intended to be.

Something deep within us affirms the words we recite. Each of us is an individual with our own unique features, fingerprints, mannerisms, talents, and “personality.” We’ve been gazing at this person in the mirror since we were tiny children. Our Western culture influences us to assert and demand our individuality. “It’s my life and I’ll do as I please with it,” we shout when we lose our tempers. We’ve been doing that ever since we threw our baby food at the wall.

Yet we also yearn to be loved and to be part of someone or a collection of “someones.” At school we wanted to be popular, to have friends, to be admired. Then comes love! How appropriate it seems to tell someone that we live for them; that they are the most important “other” in our lives. How tragic it is when we are judged to have used someone else to satisfy our own selfish desires; when we have dominated, abused, and rejected a love given to us in trust. In the Marriage Service, we are told:

The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy.” Notice the words “union” and “mutual.

Perhaps our need to say we are unique, special, autonomous beings and our need to be united with others is practical evidence that we are made in the image and likeness of God? If this is true, it is true because God made us this way and what God makes is good.

God the Father Almighty, our King Jesus, the Life-Giving Spirit—to use the language of the Creeds—are certainly individuals to an extraordinary degree. Each has a distinct role, by nature or personality, and as lovers of all that has been made, seen or unseen, including us all. Strangely, their personalities, their perfect personalities, create unity as they share together love. Love belongs to God, is created in God and is shared by God. We should be grateful for love, and greet it wherever it is found, as God’s gift and not as something we manufacture. Love humbles us. For God’s love may be found well beyond the “individualism” of our personality, family, race, religion, language, politics, causes, or culture. Truth and justice, as God’s features, always draw us together and never divide us into individualism: “It’s my life and I’ll do as I please.” While love impels us to strive for truth and justice it does so in a manner that reflects the long-suffering, loving, forgiving kindness of the God whose loving diversity creates oneness and wholeness.

Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.

So St. Paul speaks to each of us on this Trinity Sunday. Finding order and agreement is not a political process after all, but what happens when we open ourselves collectively and individually to the God of love and peace. This we symbolize when we share the “Peace” with one another. In the Gospel reading, Jesus commissions us to go into the world telling everyone what it means to discover oneself as a person, an individual, and how our personality and individualism is celebrated most forcefully when we live in unity with each other as people possessed by the God who is unity in community and community in unity.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

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Christopher Sikkema


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