Today was the day. Amy asked if I was nervous, and I told her I was anxious to do well, but not gripped with fear; I told the truth. I delivered my first sermon, and things went very well. I didn’t rush, and I got the giggles in all the right places. Before I gave the sermon I went to Amy for a blessing, I wanted it, and needed it, and I also felt it was appropriate as she is the canonical head of the parish, and represents the Bishop. After the sermon when I sat down, she gave me a big hug. It was quite an experience, but the grace was not over.

Since I was vested, Amy asked that I stand on her right at Eucharist. I did so, and when we came to the offering of the Gifts of God to the People of God she handed me (to my total surprise), the consecrated bread and sat down. I was able to dispense the bread. It was the first time I had ever done this. I am licensed, but had never been given the opportunity. Where grace kicked in was that the song being sung as a solo, by a bass-baritone with a marvelous voice was Amazing Grace. I had finished feeding the congregation, and sat in the chair listening to the song. My mind suddenly flashed back to when I had been just released from hospital, with my swollen feet almost unable to walk, making my way to Eucharist, the first I had in years. From that moment until now I was transformed, I never would have imagined that many years later I would be delivering a sermon on Trinity Sunday much less placing the consecrated host in people’s hands offering them the Body of Christ, the bread of heaven. With the strains of Amazing Grace, and after the experience tears began to fall down my cheeks; it was a spirit moment, and one of quiet redemption mixed with the awesome awareness of God’s grace. Now, more than ever, the song Amazing Grace has a deeper meaning, and each time I hear it will install a fond intense personal reflection of that moment, and moments to come.

Sermon delivered June 3, 2007 at St. George’s Church: Trinity Sunday

Today may be the only Sunday in which we celebrate the feast of a doctrine. What is a doctrine? Well, it can best be described as an agreed upon set of beliefs. Over centuries theologians have devoted considerable energies of thought, bishops with counsels have argued and prayed, and a thousand years ago armies with knights have bloodied the countryside all in the name of a doctrine. A doctrine, in the worst of its incarnations, may not always be about trying to explain the expansiveness or the mystery of God, much to our amazement, doctrines can sometimes be more about saying “you are wrong” and “we are right.” I’m happy to announce we shall not take this path, but we shall explore the depth, of our spiritual journey contained within our understanding of The Holy Trinity.

When Pastor Amy first suggested I preach this Sunday I asked what had been written into the lectionary. When Amy said it was Trinity Sunday the first thing I thought of was  cooking. Yes, cooking! You see, in preparing a stock one uses the trinity: onions, carrots and celery. It might be interesting to note that when people have been invited to my home for dinner they will ask what I might be serving. When I’m really going to cook something special I’ll announce that I’ll be making something from the bible. “The Bible”, they will ask, asking me if there are recipes found within scripture. No, there are no recipes in the Bible; I’m making something from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child….the bible!

Actually, her book teaches the foundations of cooking. Her goal in writing this famous book is to teach people enough about food preparation so that they can eventually make up their own dishes. One thing I learned from her book was that many great classic sauces begin with a stock, and all great stocks use the trinity: onions, carrots and celery. I’m sure some of you remember what a kitchen smells like when making a slow cooking stock. All of the flavors added separately slowly simmering and all the ingredients uniting to become one glorious concoction. This sense of unity, these separate ingredients, struck me as it can be found in our collect for the day in which we’re asked “to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity.” I found the choice of the word “Unity” quite interesting.

Neil Douglas-Klotz has written a book which attempts to decode the spiritual message of the Aramaic Jesus. What the author has done is translate the Gospels into comparative English using the ancient Syriac, the Middle Eastern language closest to Jesus’ Aramaic tongue. In Jesus’ teachings when he speaks of God, the word for God in Aramaic translates to “Sacred Unity.” As we try and get our minds around the concept of the Holy Trinity, acknowledging God as the Sacred Unity, might helps us understand how 3 spiritual concepts can be found in one being.

In God, we find the essence of truth and wisdom which in proverbs states that “she” was created at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts long ago. In some ways this reminds me of the first sentence of John saying that in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. In Jesus, we have God’s love incarnate, God amongst us which showed the ultimate compassion, or as the Hebrews named it, the Hesed; the living acts of good commanded by God as they ARE a part of God. Today in Romans we read of Christ that the hope given to us has been poured out because of God’s love being poured into us. It could be said we are a vessel containing God’s grace, shared by the love of Christ which he gave to the world. Finally, we have been given the spirit of truth; what we call the Holy Spirit.

I know for a fact that the spirit of truth is alive and well, and is amongst us.

One June I was taking the Metro Rail into West Hollywood where Episcopalians along with Bishop Bruno march and participate in the Christopher Street West Parade. The t-shirt designed that year displayed an Icon of Jesus, and under the picture were the words, “Personal Trainer.” On the back of the shirt in bold letters was our all too familiar saying, “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You.”

As I got on the red line a young woman sat next to me who caught the train from South Central, Los Angeles. She asked questions about our church, and I answered them. As we became more engaged, she explained that her father was ex-military, and very strict in his Biblical leanings. She also explained that due to this, she had been ostersized by her family. I spoke of the closeness, and the joy I experienced being a part of a community of faith, and then I used a word which was not a normal part of my vocabulary. I looked into her eyes, and with the sounds of the rattling rail, and people talking it seemed as though the noise around us came to a halt. I put my hand on her shoulder and said, “The Episcopal Church is here to cherish you.”

She burst into tears, and I hugged her, and at that moment the spirit of truth was speaking, and the spirit of truth had to tell this woman that there is a community of faith out there which can appreciate the total person that she is, no matter where she is in her private journey of faith….that my friends, is the power of the spirit, and the compassion of Jesus, and the love of God living in the world.

The spirit of truth is alive when we feel a sense of compassion tugging at our hearts. The spirit of truth is alive when we read something which moves us, and takes us to a place where wisdom resides. The spirit of truth speaks to us when we see a need, and tells us to do something about it, or share this need with someone else. This spirit of truth gives life to this worship space, and calls us to listen to its longings hopes and dreams. The spirit of truth is alive because it is within us. It is within us because Christ has given us the hope to know that we are made in God’s image, and God’s image is THE SACRED UNTIY.

Almost all of us at some point have made the sign of the cross. I feel the sign of the cross can remind us not only of the Trinity, but our call to manifest this sacred unity into the world. When we touch our heads we acknowledge God, the wisdom of the word. We take that word and it goes into our heads, into our brain. As we think about the word, it moves to our hearts. Inside our hearts compassion begins to move us. From the heart the spirit takes over, it stirs us so much that it calls us to do the work with our hands. When the spirit of truth works with our hands amazing things can be done. Amazing things are possible because all that God has was given to Jesus, and all that Jesus had was declared to us. From the head, to the heart, from the holy spirit to our hands and out to the world.

So, good people, I leave you with a question., Just like that pot of stock slowly cooking on the stove, with the trinity of onions, carrots and celery, are we, by our Baptismal Covenant, sealed as Christ’s own, going to remain on the stove, or are we going to be transformed by the spirit of truth into people who will be willing to serve God’s united banquet to the world?

O God our mystery,
you bring us to life,
call us to freedom,
and move between us with love.
May we so participate
in your dance of trinity
that our lives may resonate with you,
now and for ever.

Amen