A Sermon from the North Yarmouth Congregational Church
A sermon offered by the Rev. Nancy J. White in the public worship of the First Congregational Church of North Yarmouth, UCC of North Yarmouth, Maine on Trinity Sunday, May 22, 2016.
Principal reading John 16:12-15
Today is Trinity Sunday on the church calendar. The word ‘Trinity’ never appears in the Bible. But many texts imply it. Most notably, Matthew 28 where the disciples are instructed to go and baptize all people in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. There are a number of other scriptures which speak of the Father and Jesus the Son and the Spirit. The reading from John’s Gospel today is one of those. In it we hear Jesus saying, ‘I‘ve got lots of information for you but I don’t want you to be overwhelmed by all of it so just remember this’ and then he goes on to explain that when the Spirit of truth comes, the Spirit will guide believers in all truth for all comes from Jesus and all that the Father has and knows is in Jesus and this is what the Spirit will help us with.
In the early church theologians debated and it still goes on today, who came first, God the Father or Creator, God the Son or Jesus the Christ, or God the Holy Spirit. In my mind it is a kind of which came first the chicken or the egg thing. If you research it thru the Bible, you will find mention of the spirit as far back as creation “And God said, Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness;’ and at the beginning of John’s Gospel we hear how the Word was in the beginning and nothing came to be without it and the Word became flesh and dwelled among us – that was Jesus. In the 4th century some 300 years after Jesus lived on the earth, there was heated debate about who came first, Father , Son or Holy Spirit.
Augustine comments about it this way:
“It is the Father only who is not of another. For the Son is born of the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. But the Father is neither born of nor proceeds from another. Any yet this should not occasion in human thought any idea of disparity in the supreme Trinity. For the Son is equal to him of whom he is born just as the Spirit is equal to him from whom he proceeds.”
Clear? Not really… regardless, it was in the 4th century that the concept of the Trinity came to be. I remember the discussion in Theology class and clearly remember that I was confused about it. What I gleaned from it was that for me, this question of who came first was not of utmost importance but rather what informed my faith was the relationship of the three in one. God in one person, blessed trinity. Three distinct beings but one God. Living in a relationship of mutuality – living in communion as separate beings yet one God.
We are created in the image and likeness of God. We are to look to God for how to live. God in three persons, God living in community. So much of our faith journey revolves around community. As children, we are instructed and nurtured in our faith; as youth, we are given safe space to explore our faith and life’s questions, as adults, we continue to grow and are guided by the Holy Spirit moving among us.
Jesus told his disciples, the Spirit of Truth is coming after me. He knew he would no longer physically be with them and he promised them and continues to promise us that the Holy Spirit will be our guide – our guide in all truth. What does that mean? Jesus told many stories recounted in our Gospels, stories that were not necessarily factual or actual events but that contained a lot of truth. As we reread them throughout our lives, the Spirit guides us in learning new truth. The Spirit helps us to apply God’s truth to our everyday lives.
The Spirit comes to us as individuals, yes, but my experience is that the most powerful movement of the Spirit is among the faith community as a community. God’s Spirit speaks to and through whomever it wants. As a community of faith we need to listen to each other and pray with each other so that we might discern the Spirit’s guidance. We also need to listen to what the Spirit might be saying through believers outside of NYCC.
Last week, I asked each person here, to write on a rock a dream they have for the church. All of what was shared gave me lots to think about.
To illustrate a few:
Love of God – how do we see that in our midst? How do we enlarge that? Perhaps through Bible study and prayer both communally and as individuals – more time in God’s presence will bring us closer to God.
Serve – how? What new ministries might we consider in serving our community and the world? What are we doing to help our world?
Harmony – is this the absence of conflict? Or is it respect for each other’s views? Do we listen with respect and love? Do we voice our opinions with respect and love?
Justice – do we stand up for what is right and good? Even if it doesn’t directly affect us? Do we use our voices and our influence to say something is unjust and not what we as Christians believe?
Growth – if growth is a dream we hold, how does it happen? What new ministries might we try to engage more people for Christ?
These are just a few of my initial thoughts. Each word or phrase brings up more in discussion. This will be the Spirit at work. The Spirit will guide us in all truth. We are in this together. Together – all of us – should pray and listen deeply to hear what the Spirit has to say through our brothers and sisters – young and old, meek and bold, life-time member and new person from away – we are in this together and it is an exciting time for our church. With trust in our God, we will prayerfully consider what the Spirit is telling us. The Spirit will guide us into all truth helping us to live into god’s kingdom here on earth and we can plan accordingly. It may be hit and miss for a while until the habit of listening for God’s Spirit of truth becomes an innate part of who we are together as a community. And in the doing we will realize some of our dreams along the way.
Youth in our culture look at the church and say it is no longer relevant. We know that is not so for God has never changed so if God was relevant 50 years ago, then God is still relevant today. God calls us as a community to figure out how we reach our world with God’s love. Maybe not easy for us for it will probably mean new ways of being God’s church in our world. Life has changed. It is a new day and wonderful new God-experiences lie ahead if we but listen to the Spirit with the ears of our heart. It will take some time for deep listening does take time – listening to God, listening to each other. Blessings abound for us together as we embark on this journey.
At the end of worship, I will hand out a list of all the words shared last week. I invite you to think about them, discuss them among yourselves and/or at coffee hour and/or with your board/committee and /or me. What do these words mean/imply? Are there words that surprise you? Do you want to add words? Do you see a theme? How would you categorize these words? Are there words that make you want to know more? How do these words lead you to hear the Spirit of truth?
Words shared Pentecost Sunday, May 15, 2016: Love God; Growth; Vision; Sustainable; Justice; Life; Peace; Spirit of growth; Unafraid of innovation; Believe; Church forever; God filled; Love all; Harmony; Hope; Serve; Unity; Passion; Sense of worthiness; Thrive; Place where people want to be; Survival; Create love and charity in the church; Strength
May the Spirit of Truth guide us in our thoughts, our discussions, our discernments. Amen.