Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 29 or Canticle 2 or 13; Romans 8:12-17; John 3:1-17
THE REV. PORTIA SWEET
Holy, Holy Holy -" For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever," Father Son and Holy Ghost, one Triune God. This is the Day - Trinity Sunday, when we praise God with all that is within us for his magnificence which is way and beyond our mortal comprehension. We just sang the Benedictus es, Domine, a beautiful song of praise extolling the glory of God. For to be able to fully understand God would be to limit that glory and power to human dimensions. Isaiah's vision, described in the first reading for today, magnificent and dramatic as it is, is still but a glimpse at the God we worship.
I believe in and proclaim a gospel of the LIVING God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit; Creator, Redeemer and Guiding, Comforting Spirit within; a God incarnate and alive in the world in which I live. Holy Scripture gives us stories of how God acts among the people of God and how God's people have acted with and against their creator. The New Testament gives us examples of who the Incarnate God, the Son of God, Jesus, was and what he said and did during his earthly ministry, as well as the story we celebrated last week of how Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to empower his disciples to take the Gospel to all people everywhere. It is in and through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Son of God that we are forgiven, born anew, and have hope for eternal life.
While all that I have just said is true and you have heard these words many times, it is in the midst of our own stories that we personally encounter the Trinity. It was when the coal from the altar fire touched Isaiah's lips that he was prepared and willing to go forth as God's prophet. Nicodemus, a learned religious leader, a Pharisee, knew all the Hebrew scripture and taught others in it. Yet, it was in the personal meeting with Jesus that he began to see beyond the written words and know the Incarnate God. Nicodemus had to sort of sneak around at night to avoid being seen and reprimanded or accused of heresy in order to meet Jesus. He had to risk his reputation, and he was empowered to do so. Month after month I have stood here and in one way or another encouraged whoever would hear to go meet Jesus in the world; to seek the face of Christ in all you meet; to be transformed in faith as you yourselves spread the Good news; to come from whatever darkness of night you are experiencing to find the Incarnate God, in the everyday mundane-ness of your ordinary lives.
How many of you listen to TED Talks? If you do not know, these are brief soliloquies by well-known people on a variety of topics and are available on line. Well, I want to present a little TED talk. Some of you know that a couple of weeks ago I attended a conference on homiletics (a fancy word for preaching) in Denver. There, some 1800 clergy from many denominations and sects gathered for several days of lectures, sermons, workshops and worship services in the downtown Presbyterian, Methodist and Roman Catholic/Lutheran churches. We were everywhere in the downtown area, identifiable by our nametags. To get to these events from the hotel meant taking the shuttle then walking up a steep hill a few blocks. The hill was a challenge for me in the thin Denver air, so at the top I would pause a moment to catch my breath.
On the first morning, as I crossed the intersection, I saw a young man selling papers and initially turned to proceed in the other direction toward my destination. I had barely caught the large bold headline of the paper he held, "TOILET TALK". Thinking I had best keep moving, I was about to step off the curb when "something" told me to turn around and inquire.
"Hello", I said, "What is this paper about?
"We are trying to get public toilets in Downtown Denver," he replied.
Relieved, and curious, I asked his name and in just a few moments heard something of his story how he came to be selling that paper.
Ted was a gay teen from Louisiana who had aged out of the foster care system and, unprepared to support himself and cope in society, found his way to Denver, CO. He lives on the streets and in cold weather spends the nights in shelters, which he, like most with whom I have visited here in Houston, finds to be unclean and unsafe. The paper he was selling, "The Denver Voice" is sponsored by a large number of donors: individuals, foundations, businesses and churches. It features issues, stories, and events of interest to the homeless population of the urban area. Vendors like Ted are hired by the paper and get to keep a portion of every paper they sell - immediate change in their pockets. Their current campaign, which is by all accounts progressing quite well, is to provide public toilets throughout the downtown area - and not just for those who live on the streets. I learned much from Ted and others and from the paper about this issue and this campaign.
I bought his paper and since he told me as he thanked me that it was his last one, I gave him a little extra for a hot breakfast as well. In the course of our conversation I told him I was in town for the preaching conference and he shared something of his own beliefs and spiritual experience. And so it was that I met Jesus at the top of a hill in Downtown Denver on that crisp May morning. And, having done so, I looked for Christ in earnest on the streets during the remainder of my time there, and was abundantly blessed with rich faith encounters, both among the street people and conference attendees. Further, when I shared this experience with a couple of friends who were there, they took courage to also seek ways to meet Jesus on the streets of Denver.
Jesus said to Nicodemus, "The wind blows where it chooses and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." And Nicodemus replied, "How can these things be?"
Indeed, these things are from the immeasurable love of God, the love relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, powerful community love poured out on all creation; all around us and within us; to believe IN the Triune God is to act on and in this love. It is in this acting that we gain eternal life. Here, ETERNAL LIFE means abundant life. Sharing spirit-filled moments with another in the Name of Jesus is about as abundant as life can ever be, whether that is on a downtown street, in the grocery store, the classroom, the family dinner table, or across the back yard fence. With this love and with this wind, we are invited into the community of the Trinity.
We come here together to praise and worship our God. God the Father, creator of all of us, fully equips, through the Holy Spirit, all who are willing to step out of our shadows to meet Jesus. We are fed at the table where Christ is both host and guest and believing in that food, we may be given both words, courage and direction to carry the Gospel out into the world.
Holy Holy Holy, Lord God Almighty. All the earth shall praise your name in earth and sky and sea.
Pause, take a breath, hear the voice directing you to turn around, and meet with Jesus.