Archive | June 2012

3. Pentecost: Seedy Faith

17 June 2012

Third Sunday after Pentecost

St. John United Church of Christ

St. Clair, MO

“Seedy Faith”

Based on St. Mark 4: 26-34

By Rev. James Semmelroth Darnell

 

                        For those of us who prefer direct answers, to deal with a situation head on, to lay it all out on the table, Jesus sometimes has a frustrating habit. When  asked a question, he would often ask a question in response  – or, as in the instance of this morning’s gospel reading, he would answer with a parable. Later in the gospel, St. Mark even tells us that “He did not say anything to them without using a parable.” We don’t often use parables today, and they’re often confused with fables. But, Rev. Anthony Robinson, a UCC leader, explains that parables “aren’t little moral stories or object lessons. Rather they are stories about the way God’s kingdom and logic turn the world’s logic and kingdom upside down.”[1] That is certainly the way the parables Jesus tells today work.

            We hear that “a man scatters seed on the ground” but that “the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.” What? What kind of farmer is this guy? Any farmer or gardener with any sense, certainly all the farmers or even gardeners in our congregation would understand how their plants sprout and grow, and not just leave it to dumb luck, but tend carefully to them. Yet, here we are told that this is what God’s kingdom is like. Both inside and outside of the Church we often plant metaphorical seeds, often without noticing it. Sometimes they produce grain for harvest, sometimes they don’t. But often times a plant sprouts forth when we least expect it. Teachers impact students they never thought they could reach and hear about it years later. A simple act of kindness turns a person’s life around. We never know when we might be planting a seed. God’s kingdom is as mysterious as that. I am reminded of an incident in my home congregation. I never met Hannelore Mass. But she had been a member of the congregation while living in the U.S. She later returned to her home in Germany, where she passed away a few years ago. Lo and behold, in her will she left the congregation in DC her entire estate, which was completely unexpected. Somehow, somewhere, a seed had been planted and her life had been impacted, and she responded with a gift of gratitude. That is what God’s kingdom is like – unexpected and surprising and mysterious.

            In the second, more familiar, parable Jesus tells, he compares the kingdom of God to a mustard seed which grows into a shrub. Really? Is God’s kingdom like a shrub or a tiny seed? Well, Jesus says so.  Now I’m no expert on wild mustard, but those who are say that Jesus likely referred to wild black mustard, with a seed the size of  1 or 2mm, and can grow into a plant up to 9 feet tall. So a remarkably small seed can grow into a sizeable plant. This is comforting for those perhaps with a weak faith or those just beginning to believe – that they can grow into strong stalwarts of faith. Or it is good news for our own community of faith that we might be enlargened and strengthened and emboldened. But the size of the mustard seed and its ensuing plant is not the whole point, although illuminating. Mustard has been called a “malignant weed with dangerous takeover properties.”[2] Dr. David Lose helps us to understand why this is so, saying:

The thing about mustard seeds, you see, is that while some varieties were used as spice and others medicinally, in general they were considered at the very least pesky and often somewhat dangerous. Why? Because wild mustard is incredibly hard to control, and once  it takes root it can take over a whole planting area. That’s why mustard would only occasionally be found in a garden in the ancient world; more likely you would look for it overtaking the side of an open hill or abandoned field. So pick your favorite garden-variety weed – crabgrass, dandelion, wild onion – that’s pretty much what Jesus was comparing the kingdom of God to.[3]

           

So God’s kingdom is like an annoying shrub? I don’t think that’s entirely what Jesus was getting at, but yes! I think the message Jesus was trying to convey in this parable was about the nature of the kingdom and work of God.  Mustard is difficult to control once it takes root, and can potentially take over an entire field. Things may happen with the mustard plant that were unplanned, unexpected, and unanticipated. It may spread to areas you didn’t want it to go. The kingdom of God is like that. Like the mustard seed, once the seed of God’s work and kingdom are planted, it cannot be controlled afterward.

            It’s a bit disconcerting to not be able to control the outcome, but after all, how often do we control the outcomes in our lives? We are reminded that it is God’s kingdom, not ours. The ability of the mustard seed to take over even a whole field demonstrates that once God’s work takes root – it can spread rapidly, even into those areas, we really wish it would stay out of. The mustard seed reminds us not only that out of something very small can come a pretty large shrub, but that powerful faith can be the result of a small seed planted, that a mighty church movement can be born out of one little congregation, that God’s kingdom will take charge not just of a small garden but of the whole world.

            Often times we try to compartmentalize our faith. It’s like the old adage that says politics and religion aren’t polite dinner conversation (though they often make for the best dinner conversation – in the biased opinion of this lover of politics and religion). Too often we want to limit God to our prayer life or devotion, or worse, one hour on Sundays only. But when Jesus preached about the kingdom of God he didn’t talk about one small corner of our lives – he spoke of our entire lives being completely different, like the mustard plant that has taken over a whole field.

            Jesus never intended for us to hide our faith in the walls of a sanctuary. He warned his followers not to boast of their faithfulness, but also not to hide their light under a bushel. In fact, Jesus broke that dinner conversation rule all the time, as it was often around the dinner table, sharing bread and wine with rich and poor alike, that he often engaged in his most powerful ministry. The mustard seed reminds us that God wants to unleash the kingdom in all parts of our lives, in all parts of our world – and that we cannot contain or hold God’s kingdom in one small area of our lives or world.

            An Indian proverb says “To the work you are entitled, but not the fruit thereof.” Even if we do like the sower in the first parable, sow a seed, or even in the second parable, plant mustard seeds – even hoping for its wild, expansive growth – we may or may not get what we expected. Who knows if we will see the fruits of our work –the mustard plant coming up across the field, of people coming to faith, lives being renewed and restored. More often than not the seeds we plant will take a long time to germinate. When we least expect it, and many times, after we have taken our leave, God’s kingdom starts sprouting out the ground – and before you know it has taken over. We may not see the fruits or the plants coming up, but in the end the task of faith is not about us – it’s about helping each other and the world live into being God’s kingdom on earth. God will take what we do, and produce wild and revolutionary results. We may not always understand what God is doing with that pesky mustard, but have faith – God is doing new and glorious things, each and every day.

+To God be the Glory. Amen.

 


[2]Wikipedia, “Parable of the Mustard Seed,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_Mustard_Seed

2. Pentecost: Are You Crazy?

10 June 2012

Second Sunday after Pentecost

St. John United Church of Christ

St. Clair, MO

 

“Are You Crazy?”

Based on St. Mark 3: 20-35

By Rev. James Semmelroth Darnell

 

            When I was in college, I served on the leadership team of the Student Ecumenical Partnership, or STEP for short. STEP is a national ministry of college students that provides resources and leadership for the colleges, universities, and campus ministries of the United Church of Christ, and its sister denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). At some point in my service on the leadership team, we began wearing t-shirts that said on the front “R U Crazy?” On the back was the scripture reference behind our catchphrase, from 2 Corinthians 5:13, “If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit.” (New Living Translation). We were a bunch of college students looking for an eye-catching way to capture our passion for Jesus and justice. It certainly was eye-catching and we got a variety of responses to that simple question, “R U Crazy?”

            It seems that Jesus’ family asked the same question. They thought he had fallen off his proverbial rocker. The very beginning of our gospel text says, “When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” Jesus’ own family thought he was out of his mind – with all of his passionate preaching of the Kingdom of God and casting out demons. So much so, that they attempted to restrain him. They are convinced that things are getting out of control, Jesus has lost his mind and they are determined to do something about it.

            The scribes who came down from Jerusalem to investigate just what it was that was happening, took an even lower view. They accused Jesus himself of being demon-possessed. They charge him saying “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” They charge him with evil, and suggests that he acts not with the power of God, but the power of Satan. But Jesus thwarts their illogic by responding, “How can Satan cast out Satan?” Jesus is saying that when he cast out demons, he was casting out evil or Satan, so how could what Jesus did be evil itself.

            Some today might even suggest that to believe in Jesus is crazy. One apologist has suggested that either Jesus is the messiah or was merely a madman. But a skeptic might say to Christians, “The virgin birth, cousin John the Baptist eating locusts and honey, making disciples of fishermen and tax collectors, casting out demons, healing the blind and lame, rising from the dead? How can you believe all that stuff – it’s crazy!” Dr. David Lose, a Lutheran seminary professor says that “think about it – week in and week out we confess that the God who created everything not only knows about us but loves us, loves us enough to send his Son to demonstrate that love by word and deed even if it meant being killed. You’d have to be a little crazy to believe that message, maybe even possessed.”[1] When you step back and look at it that way, I think it does take a bit of craziness to believe in the package of Christianity. Now I don’t mean verifiable mental illness – which is a very serious matter not to be taken lightly, and many of God’s faithful, including some of the most sainted members of the Church, have struggled with mental health – rather I’d like to suggest it takes the craziness that is able to see the world beyond what is just on the surface and look for the meaning behind, above, and below it all.

            Jesus was crazy after all – crazy enough to call people beyond their current state, crazy enough to envision the world not as Caesar or any other ruler’s kingdom, but as God’s kingdom. Dr. Willie Jennings once taught that, “Imagination is a gift and the freedom to use it can be dangerous, for it opens the mind to possibilities beyond what appears possible. The danger is that usually others bound in the illusions of normalcy will find such freedom “to imagine” a threat. That is why for centuries much of the church has taught that using your imagination could lead to sin – or worse “Satan!” Dr. Jennings went on to say, “You see I am confident in this gift, for in Jesus I believe in the imagination of a madman.”[2]

            Jesus had the imagination of a madman – in the very best sense of the world. People thought he was crazy, though he was a madman for imagining that people could be made whole, that the poor would be lifted up and the rich brought low, that the meek and the mourning will be call blessed. For people stuck in a world in which they think only those things which pass their test of being reasonable could possibly happen, of course this is crazy. It is the talk of a madman. But Jesus stands in good company – nearly all the prophets who had enough imagination to call the people around them to a different way of living – nearly all of those prophets were thought to be madmen. And yet they offered a vision in which people turned back to God and lived justly. Jesus comes from their long line of crazy imagining, and is the ultimate madman.

            But the world needs people crazy enough to imagine – crazy enough to believe that God has something better in store for us. What passes as normal in much of the world around us – greed and lust for power, hatred and fear, discrimination and prejudice, violence and poverty – ought not to be. We hear all kinds of false messages that masquerade as normal – wait until the time is right, people don’t change, live like you’re dying. But a crazy person, someone crazy enough to be the messiah says that now is the time, the Kingdom is come now, says that people can be transformed before your eyes and he makes it happen, and says live like there’s a resurrection. It takes a larger vision – one imaginative and crazy enough to see beyond the way things are now, to the way things could be, to the way God would have us act. We must be partners with our savior in that craziness.

            Nearly a decade ago, UCC leader, Rev. Dr. Bernice Powell Jackson said, , “I ask us to imagine a world. A world with no war. A world with no violence. A world with no pain. A world where all God’s children have food and clean water and housing. A world where all of God’s children have access to quality health care and education. A world of limitless possibilities for all God’s children, a world with no discrimination because of race or class or gender or age or language or religion or abilities or sexual orientation.” It’s a crazy vision – to imagine another world, in which we do justice in Jesus’ name rather than start wars in the name of religion. Are we crazy enough, to stand up against injustice when all the voices around us and even those inside us say to sit down, be quiet, and wait for it to get better? Are we crazy enough to not only feed the hungry but to ask what it is about our society that makes them hungry in the first place? Are we crazy enough to fight for the rights of those who don’t look, speak, act or believe like us? Are we crazy enough to think that death does not have the last word, and to not only believe it, but live it as well? Are we crazy enough to believe that a man from Nazareth can not only cast out demons and restore sight to the blind, but transforms and heals the entire world?

I sure hope so.

 

+To God be the glory. Amen.

 

 

 

 

2. Pentecost: Are You Crazy?

10 June 2012

Second Sunday after Pentecost

St. John United Church of Christ

St. Clair, MO

 

“Are You Crazy?”

Based on St. Mark 3: 20-35

By Rev. James Semmelroth Darnell

 

            When I was in college, I served on the leadership team of the Student Ecumenical Partnership, or STEP for short. STEP is a national ministry of college students that provides resources and leadership for the colleges, universities, and campus ministries of the United Church of Christ, and its sister denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). At some point in my service on the leadership team, we began wearing t-shirts that said on the front “R U Crazy?” On the back was the scripture reference behind our catchphrase, from 2 Corinthians 5:13, “If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit.” (New Living Translation). We were a bunch of college students looking for an eye-catching way to capture our passion for Jesus and justice. It certainly was eye-catching and we got a variety of responses to that simple question, “R U Crazy?”

            It seems that Jesus’ family asked the same question. They thought he had fallen off his proverbial rocker. The very beginning of our gospel text says, “When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” Jesus’ own family thought he was out of his mind – with all of his passionate preaching of the Kingdom of God and casting out demons. So much so, that they attempted to restrain him. They are convinced that things are getting out of control, Jesus has lost his mind and they are determined to do something about it.

            The scribes who came down from Jerusalem to investigate just what it was that was happening, took an even lower view. They accused Jesus himself of being demon-possessed. They charge him saying “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” They charge him with evil, and suggests that he acts not with the power of God, but the power of Satan. But Jesus thwarts their illogic by responding, “How can Satan cast out Satan?” Jesus is saying that when he cast out demons, he was casting out evil or Satan, so how could what Jesus did be evil itself.

            Some today might even suggest that to believe in Jesus is crazy. One apologist has suggested that either Jesus is the messiah or was merely a madman. But a skeptic might say to Christians, “The virgin birth, cousin John the Baptist eating locusts and honey, making disciples of fishermen and tax collectors, casting out demons, healing the blind and lame, rising from the dead? How can you believe all that stuff – it’s crazy!” Dr. David Lose, a Lutheran seminary professor says that “think about it – week in and week out we confess that the God who created everything not only knows about us but loves us, loves us enough to send his Son to demonstrate that love by word and deed even if it meant being killed. You’d have to be a little crazy to believe that message, maybe even possessed.”[1] When you step back and look at it that way, I think it does take a bit of craziness to believe in the package of Christianity. Now I don’t mean verifiable mental illness – which is a very serious matter not to be taken lightly, and many of God’s faithful, including some of the most sainted members of the Church, have struggled with mental health – rather I’d like to suggest it takes the craziness that is able to see the world beyond what is just on the surface and look for the meaning behind, above, and below it all.

            Jesus was crazy after all – crazy enough to call people beyond their current state, crazy enough to envision the world not as Caesar or any other ruler’s kingdom, but as God’s kingdom. Dr. Willie Jennings once taught that, “Imagination is a gift and the freedom to use it can be dangerous, for it opens the mind to possibilities beyond what appears possible. The danger is that usually others bound in the illusions of normalcy will find such freedom “to imagine” a threat. That is why for centuries much of the church has taught that using your imagination could lead to sin – or worse “Satan!” Dr. Jennings went on to say, “You see I am confident in this gift, for in Jesus I believe in the imagination of a madman.”[2]

            Jesus had the imagination of a madman – in the very best sense of the world. People thought he was crazy, though he was a madman for imagining that people could be made whole, that the poor would be lifted up and the rich brought low, that the meek and the mourning will be call blessed. For people stuck in a world in which they think only those things which pass their test of being reasonable could possibly happen, of course this is crazy. It is the talk of a madman. But Jesus stands in good company – nearly all the prophets who had enough imagination to call the people around them to a different way of living – nearly all of those prophets were thought to be madmen. And yet they offered a vision in which people turned back to God and lived justly. Jesus comes from their long line of crazy imagining, and is the ultimate madman.

            But the world needs people crazy enough to imagine – crazy enough to believe that God has something better in store for us. What passes as normal in much of the world around us – greed and lust for power, hatred and fear, discrimination and prejudice, violence and poverty – ought not to be. We hear all kinds of false messages that masquerade as normal – wait until the time is right, people don’t change, live like you’re dying. But a crazy person, someone crazy enough to be the messiah says that now is the time, the Kingdom is come now, says that people can be transformed before your eyes and he makes it happen, and says live like there’s a resurrection. It takes a larger vision – one imaginative and crazy enough to see beyond the way things are now, to the way things could be, to the way God would have us act. We must be partners with our savior in that craziness.

            Nearly a decade ago, UCC leader, Rev. Dr. Bernice Powell Jackson said, , “I ask us to imagine a world. A world with no war. A world with no violence. A world with no pain. A world where all God’s children have food and clean water and housing. A world where all of God’s children have access to quality health care and education. A world of limitless possibilities for all God’s children, a world with no discrimination because of race or class or gender or age or language or religion or abilities or sexual orientation.” It’s a crazy vision – to imagine another world, in which we do justice in Jesus’ name rather than start wars in the name of religion. Are we crazy enough, to stand up against injustice when all the voices around us and even those inside us say to sit down, be quiet, and wait for it to get better? Are we crazy enough to not only feed the hungry but to ask what it is about our society that makes them hungry in the first place? Are we crazy enough to fight for the rights of those who don’t look, speak, act or believe like us? Are we crazy enough to think that death does not have the last word, and to not only believe it, but live it as well? Are we crazy enough to believe that a man from Nazareth can not only cast out demons and restore sight to the blind, but transforms and heals the entire world?

I sure hope so.

 

+To God be the glory. Amen.

 

 

 

 

Trinity: 3-D God

Trinity Sunday

3 June 2012

St. John United Church of Christ

St. Clair, MO

 

3-D God

Based on St. Matthew 28: 16-20

By Rev. James Semmelroth Darnell

 

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 

            A blessed Trinity Sunday! Today we celebrate and honor the Holy Trinity, and hopefully learn a bit about what the Trinity is. This morning I want to address what it means to be Trinitarian disciples.  

First, if it’s Trinity Sunday, why are we hearing a text, the Great Commission as it is known, typically reserved for when we talk about mission or evangelism? Our text this morning is actually a resurrection story. While we most often focus on Jesus commissioning the 11 remaining disciples to make disciples and baptize themselves, this is Jesus’ first appearance to the disciples in St. Matthew’s gospel. He has already appeared to the women, and now he appears to the men. And here on that resurrection day, he appears to them and tells them to make disciples. While the word Trinity is never found in the Bible, its concept and formula are. Jesus commands the apostles to make disciples of all nations and baptize them—in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the Trinity. Jesus never explicitly referred to himself as part of a triune god. However, here places himself right into what we have come to describe as the Triune God or the Trinity. St. Matthew and the other New Testament writers likely didn’t have a word for it. It really was not until almost 300 years later that the bishops of the historic church, declared against heresies about the nature of God, that God indeed was composed of three separate but inexplicably linked persons or identities, and we began to call this the Holy Trinity. Yet, this triune nature of God has always been present, and we find Christ revealing it in the midst of his resurrection appearance. This is why we find ourselves with this text today—because our mission as disciples, according to Jesus, is a Trinitarian one.

This leads to my second question, what does the Trinity have to do with discipleship? Don’t we usually just refer to being disciples of Jesus Christ? We do indeed, and sometimes this is to the neglect of the full expression of God, the Trinity. The United Methodist Church, has as its mission statement “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” This is concise, clear, and to the point. It’s a good mission statement. But it neglects the other two members of the Trinity. When Jesus, tells his disciples to go and make disciples , he doesn’t say “Make disciples of me.” Rather, he says make disciples of all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Jesus Christ is equal with the Creator and Holy Spirit, that each are equally important. However it is true, that the disciples were disciples of Jesus Christ. They chose to follow him rather than John the Baptist, or another religious leader. But in following Jesus the disciples also followed the Creator, the Father from which Jesus came and whose ways he sought to teach. Further the disciples were led by the Holy Spirit to leave everything they had previously known to follow Jesus. So it must be for us who believe in the Trinity. When we say we are disciples of Jesus Christ, we know that in order to follow him we must follow God the Creator and Spirit as well. We attach ourselves to Jesus specifically because he was incarnate among us and taught us how to live as the entire Trinity would have us live.

We must not lose sight of the whole of the Trinity lest we lose sight of who God is. With just the Father-Mother we see a creating God, with just the Christ we see a teaching, saving, and redeeming God, with just the Spirit we see a guiding, advocating, moving God. It is as if Jesus is on a movie screen. Him we can see fairly well. His teachings, parts of his life story, the stories of his followers tell us much about him and what he wants for us. But Jesus Christ is not all of God. Perhaps God the Creator and Holy Spirit are like the red and blue colors of the 3-D glasses. We put the 3-D glasses on and see that God is more than just Jesus, but this mysterious Trinity, which creates, redeems, and saves us as One. We cannot of course fully understand God, because we are not God—but the Trinity, which has existed and exists eternally, has been revealed to us throughout history and offers us a glimpse into God. Our God is three-dimensional, and our discipleship must be also. In both of our faith traditions, in baptism we ask those to be baptized or their guardians separately if they believe in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is the first step in our discipleship, before following in their ways. A Roman Catholic author states that, “When believers are baptized in the name of the Trinity, they become intimate with all that God is: God above them (Father), God beside them (Son), and God within them (Holy Spirit). With God so close to the faithful, they become God’s instruments.”[1] So, just as we baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we live into the life God has created us for as who our Creator created and called us to be, following where Jesus will lead us, guided and sustained by the Spirit.   

So having just briefly explored what the Trinity has to do with discipleship, how might the Trinity itself (himself and herself) serve as a model for our life as disciples in the community of faith? I believe we must first start with the relationship of the Trinity. The three persons of the Trinity are in relationship with one another, each complementing the other, forming an expansive community of God. They, while each is separate with its own characteristics, have their own “mystic sweet communion” together. Both Thomas Scirghi, an American Jesuit and Jürgen Moltmann, a German Evangelical, argue that the Trinity is a community unto itself. Scirghi, a professor at Fordham University, writes that:

The Trinity is a community…Community emerges through communion and mutual self-surrender…The Trinity depicts a relationship of mutual self-giving: the Father gives himself completely to the Son and the Son gives himself completely to the Father. The Spirit, proceeding from both, is the bond of the love between them: “God is the lover, the beloved, and the love between them.” Thus God is not a person, that is, one entity of the relationship, but the fullness of relatedness.[2]

 

For Scirghi, the community of the Trinity is marked by mutual self-giving and love. It is a tri-unity based on self-giving, responsive love. So too for Moltmann. He once preached that, “It is only from the perspective of the trinitarian God that we can claim that “God is Love,” because love is never alone.”[3] It is a loving community of the three equal and distinct members of the Trinity. The Trinity beckons and invites us to be in intimate conversation with it. The Triune God offers to us relationship in a communion of love. 

            The community of the Trinity offers to us the model for our discipleship to the Trinity. Just as God must be in a community of tri-unity in order to love, so must we. In order to grow in a faith in which God attempts to teach us how to love, we must be in community ourselves. We can not be disciples without the community of faith. This is why, our first step on the journey to discipleship, in baptism we are baptized in the midst of a faith community, both ourselves making vows and the community taking vows to support us. It is in the community of faith that we wrestle with our own faith, in which we hammer out what we believe, in which we discern what that belief calls us to do. It is also a place in which we can celebrate life’s joys and mourn life’s pains, and acknowledge and honor everything in between. The community of faith is a sacred place—and if we follow the model of the Trinity, it should be bound together by self-giving love. Just as the members of the Trinity lovingly give of themselves to the other members, so it should be in our Christian community. We are called together as disciples in a community so that we may grow as disciples together. We are not in the same places in our discipleship journey, but we are to give of ourselves to each other, help each other grow in the place in which we find ourselves. Those who are mature in their own discipleship can assist and inspire those who are just beginning, and those who are just beginning ask new questions that freshen the mature in faith in their discipleship. As a community of discipleship, we give of ourselves to each other in loving, mutual support. But this self-giving does not solely focus inward. Like the Trinity, it also looks outward and is expansive. We are to open ourselves and invite others into our Trinitarian community of discipleship.

            The Holy Trinity calls us beyond ourselves, beyond who we are on our own. When we exist just for ourselves, we alienate ourselves from the world, and we serve no one but ourselves. Our individuality is a precious gift from God and indeed each of the members of the Trinity has its own characteristic. But individualism, the focus solely on ourselves is dangerous, and it can lead to turning our very selves into an idol to be worshiped. The Holy Trinity calls us to be in community as it is in community, to become fuller persons in relationship with others. Jesus calls us to discipleship in the name of the Trinity, so that we follow the model of the Trinity—acknowledging that we have been created, redeemed, and sustained, and grow into our relationship with the Trinity together. We cease to be lone rangers, struggling to find the answers on our own. We become something larger than ourselves and begin to experience the Triune God in a communal way. It is in this community where we are called to live, with disciples of all nations.

            Our God will not let us be alone. Even when we think we are alone, there God is, Three-in-One, calling us into relationship, calling us to be part of our own Trinitarian circle to sit at the table with angels, to grow in our faith with others, bound in love, celebrating, mourning, living together. And God will be with us until the end of the age.

                        +To God be the Glory