April 29, 2018 – Easter 5

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

Examples of Personification

American Idols


Words of Welcome
3 breaths: past, present, future
Lighting the Candle & Ringing the Singing Bowl

Hymn: I Can Feel you Near Me God (Jump for Joy) MV 48

Call to Worship

We just sang about feeling God’s presence near us. It’s true God’s presence is in this room. We feel it each time we gather in this space. But God’s presence doesn’t exist only in this building. Nor does God’s presence exist in any one space. When we come together to worship we come to be reminded of the presence of God in each other and in others outside of this congregation.

Opening Prayer

Holy Spirit, open our eyes to your presence in different places and spaces. Challenge us to see God when we least expect it. Inspire us to show God to others when they least expect it. Amen.

Hymn: Your Love Is Amazing (Hallelujah) MV 26

Theme Conversation: Paul Explains the Unexplainable

Readings: Acts 17:16-31

Musical Response: Spirit of Life VU 381

Sermon: Knowing the Unknowable

On Wednesday, Laura Beth and I were doing Lectio Divina – well sort of, we never really got finished the first round – to determine the theme we wanted to focus on for today’s worship.  We got to the part where Paul is trying to describe God, and Laura Beth asked me to explain to her again what I had been explaining to her at Easter.  What she was asking me what I mean when I say that the God isn’t intercessory and shouldn’t be personified.  I’d rather not leave anyone groping about for God, so today I’m going to break it down again, in the spirit of Paul – who shared his understanding of God with so many people.

When something is personified, that means it’s given human or living attributes.  Here’s a few examples:

  • Lightning danced across the sky.
  • The wind howled in the night.
  • The car complained as the key was turned.
  • The last piece of pie is calling my name.

So if I can possibly avoid it, I try not to describe God with words I would use to describe a human, because God is bigger than humans can understand and that would make God separate from us and that’s not really true either.

Sometimes, in some churches we have prayers of intercession.  These are prayers where we beg God to intervene on our behalf or on behalf of someone else.  I believe that God is always present, regardless of our prayers for intercession.  When I pray, I’m attempting to slow myself enough to connect with God because I’m feeling disconnected.  When I pray for someone else, I pray to know how I can help that person reconnect with God.  And for some people, because I’m a minister, just knowing that I’ve prayed is all they need.  So here’s the truth on this subject:  I spend most of my days praying for you all.

So keeping in mind that human words don’t describe God well enough, and God is a constant presence, this is my understanding of the Trinity with some help from St. Augustine of Hippo

God is the Source of Love, I think Augustine actually calls God the Lover, but I feel like Source of Love is a bit more accurate.  It’s less personified, and less interceding – it’s like a spring of water that bubbles up from underneath the earth.  The source of water isn’t known to us, but we can see the water coming out of the earth – we know it’s there.  God is the Source of Love.  God don’t know much about God, other than God exists.  We see proof of Love all around us, though sometimes it can feel distant.  We don’t know where it comes from, we just know that it exists.

Jesus is the Beloved.  Not only is Jesus the Beloved, but he knew that he was loved.  Think about your best adult relationship.  How did knowing you were loved in that relationship change you?  I’m hoping that your answer is that your relationship made you a better, happier, more loving person.  If that wasn’t your answer, call me to make an appointment.  We need to talk.  Jesus knew how to love other people in unconditional ways.  He was able to do this because he was loved and he knew it.  Jesus was human, but he understood how to love and how to speak in such a way that we’re still talking about it today.  It was his ability to tap into that love and share it with others that made him Christ.  Christ is still very much alive and in this world today, if we can open our eyes to it.

The Holy Spirit is the Power of Love.  I feel like this one is easier to understand.  Anyone who has loved someone knows that Love can empower you to do things that you never thought were possible.  There’s also lots of documented proof.  Love strengthens women to give birth. Even women who choose not to keep their children.  Sometimes making that sacrifice takes huge amounts of love.  People who donate organs to relatives and even more so to complete strangers.  It’s one thing to have the strength to do that for a relative.  It takes even more to do it for a stranger.  Those crazy instances when one person lifts a car so that a trapped person can be freed – that’s the Power of Love!  People who do these things for people they don’t know, they’ve totally tapped into the message of Christ – the message of unconditional love.  It doesn’t matter if that message came through the historical Jesus, through Buddah, through the prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, or through your favorite tv show.  Connecting to the Source of Love, to be Beloved and therefore share that Power of Love and to reignite the cycle for someone else is the important part.

Break this down again Annika. This time a la Paul.

Paul was telling the people of Athens that he could tell they were trying.  He was telling them that God doesn’t need a shine…much less many shines just in case there are many Gods.  There’s only one God and different ways of connecting to the one God.  Now to this Live, move, being line.  We exist because God exists.  We move, we act out because of God.  Our purpose of being is God.  God existed before humans.  God will exist after humans.  Because God is so vast we live and move and hold ourselves in God. Love existed before humans.  Love will exist after humans.  Because Love is so big we live and move and exist or have purpose in love.  Source of Love, Beloved, Power of Love.

Is. Anything. More. Amazing. Than. that???

And one more time… just in case you still don’t quite get it.  How can I see this at work in my own life?  Think back to your healthy loving adult relationship…when did you realize that you loved that person either as a romantic partner or as a friend?  Is there an exact start and stop to it?  Can you identify the source of that love?  It’s hard to pinpoint it on one specific thing isn’t it?  Faith is knowing something is there even when you can’t explain it.  Knowing there is Love present is the same as knowing that God is present, because God is Love.  When you realized what made your relationship work, well, that’s the Beloved part.  Knowing that you can accomplish amazing things with the person you love, just because you love each other.  Now, I realize that you can’t live on Love alone – you and this other person.  But being in relationship of mutual respect and compassion – you can live on that and that’s the power of love.  Being valued for who you are and the job that you do, that you get paid to do it.  Valuing the work of others and respecting them enough to pay for that work…that’s all love.  It’s not romantic love, but it’s love for humanity and community and for what we are able to create together.  And its love for yourself.  Anyone who has travelled the journey of self-loathing knows that before you can love someone else, you must love yourself.  And it’s there, love is always there, just sometimes it’s hard to see.

I know some people will have a really hard time with this whole concept.  And at first leaving the old man in the clouds with the long white beard behind was scary for me.  But I can honestly saying that it has also been liberating.  Understanding this version of the trinity, and of God in particular has given me what I thought wasn’t possible.  A deeper faith, a definite hope that anything is possible and more love than I ever imagined.  I took a chance on trying out an unknown understanding of God, and I don’t plan on going back.

Music Ministry:  Breathe On Me Breath of God
(vs 1, 2,3) VU 382

Minute for Mission

Our Offerings

Offertory: The Play of the Godhead (vs 1) MV 43

Offertory Prayer

Prayer: Music Make Me A Channel of Your Peace VU 684

Prayers of the People & the Prayer of Jesus
Ending with the sung Prayer of Jesus.

Commissioning & Benediction

Musical Blessing: I Can Feel You Near Me God (Jump for Joy) MV 48