First Congregational Church
June 16, 2019
First Sunday after Pentecost, Trinity Sunday
John 16:12-15 & Romans 5:1-5
"Divine Choreography, Deferential Joy and Deliverer of Truth"
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
About a hundred years ago, I stashed away an article I had come across from who knows where. I know it was a hundred years ago, because I didn’t have the common sense back then to include references to the stories I kept.
It was an article about UPS Pilots - those people that do the long haul maneuvering of the packages those wonderful brown trucks deliver. The story goes, that after every flight, the UPS pilot fills out a form called a ‘gripe sheet,' which tells mechanics about problems with the aircraft. The mechanics correct the problems, document their repairs on the form, and then pilots review the gripe sheets before the next flight.
The very nature of some of those particular gripes seemed appropriate for this Fathers Day, because there are some dads that are so good at these sorts of exchanges. Gripe: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement. Service Solution: Almost replaced left inside main tire.
Pilot: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough. Service report: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft. Pilot gripe: Something loose in cockpit. Service report: Something tightened in cockpit. Pilot: Dead bugs on windshield. Service report: Live bugs on back-order.
Pilot: Suspected crack in windshield. Service report: Suspect you're right. Pilot: Aircraft handles funny. Service report: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right and be serious. Pilot: Mouse in cockpit. Service report: Cat installed. Very truly I tell you, part of the reason for the delight of these gripe and service reports is the simplicity of them. In regards to our scripture passages for this morning, well, that’s another story.
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
Peace and Hope
5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b] boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Thank you, Andrea. There’s a word in the Danish language that is getting a little publicity these days. It’s the word hygge, and it means cozy. We all know what cozy is, mostly, but as with some words, a description fits better than a definition. So imagine a couple of your best friends and/or family members, curled up on couches, perhaps about 8:00 or 9:00 in the evening, on a cold winter’s evening, fire place crackling and popping, any number of candles silently adding to the conversation, you and your people sharing a little sweet thing and a cup of tea or hot chocolate. That’s hygge.
Or sitting on the front porch, during the height of summer, it’s early evening, the lemonade glass is sweating on the coaster, the watermelon squares are still a little cool in their plain bowl, and neither you nor the person next to you needs to say a thing, because in between the walkers and passers-by, you both realize the depth of the goodness of the moment. That’s hygge.
I sometimes think it’s a little easier to describe what the Holy Spirit does that to try to define it. James Packer at bible.org gave a great example of the Holy Spirit. “When floodlighting is well done, the floodlights are placed so that you do not see them; in fact, you are not supposed to see where the light is coming from; what you are meant to see is just the building on which the floodlights are trained. The intended effect is to make it visible when otherwise it would not be seen for the darkness, and to maximize its dignity by throwing all its details into relief so that you can see it properly. This perfectly illustrated the Spirit’s new covenant role. He is, so to speak, the hidden floodlight shining on the Savior.
Or think of it this way. It is as if the Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over our shoulder on to Jesus who stands facing us. The Spirit’s message to us is never, "Look at me; listen to me; come to me; get to know me", but always, "Look at him, and see his glory; listen to him and hear his word; go to him and have life; get to know him and taste his gift of joy and peace.”
Part of the reason I thought this was a good example to describe the Holy Spirit is that it’s a real, practical example that most of us have seen in real life. Another reason the article caught my attention is that Mr. Packer reminds us that the Holy Spirit is not an “it,” but a person, a person like Jesus is a person and God is a person, which seems weird, but hang in with me.
When the Bible writes about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, the Bible speaks of each of them in terms of “he.” If we aren’t diligent in our readings, we can miss the idea that these persons are more than genders, more than a particular kind of person. When the Bible talks about God as a father, look closely, because it’s just as likely that there is a description of God as mother close by. To be sure, my point here is not to support or disprove the gender of God, but to remind us that ours is a living God, a relational God, a God that is not like a statue with no life, but a God with depth and personality, along with energy.
Timothy L. Adkins-Jones, Senior Pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Newark, N.J, suggests that the Holy Spirit, as painted in the passage from John, is described as a sage-like presence that will care for and guide the entire community after Jesus departs, offering exactly what these disciples need in a moment of grand anxiety.
I got to thinking about that. What is it that we long for when we are anxious and/or lonely? I wonder if often times it’s a presence we long for. Not necessarily someone to say anything, but someone that helps us to not feel alone. I wonder, too, if in our anxiousness or the chaos of a moment, we forget that God’s design was that we are never alone, just as God is never alone, because God has the Trinity, and we have God as Father, God the Christ and God the Spirit. That design that God created, it’s like the choreography of a dance. Whether it’s like the dances of grand waltzes, two-steps, or even the Twist, God’s choreography draws us into relational patterns for joy, delight and appreciation.
That part of the Trinity that belongs to Christ is an interesting piece. We know a whole lot about Jesus, and we are generally cognizant of his part within this complicated relationship of the Trinity. But I somehow came across this idea of Christ and Deferential Joy, and it surely made me think - and perhaps you.
Most of us know the word, deferential, as opposed to differential, which is a car part. These are some of the words my computer thesaurus used for deferential: respectful, humble, dutiful, obedient, submissive, meek, subservient, yielding, compliant. As much as some of those terms can be deemed derogatory, they are far deeper and richer than merely bad character tags. Christ set aside his royalty, his intimacy with God and the Spirit, his eternal existence, to become like us, making the way for a joy that we would never know on our own.
On this day of shining the light on the holy Trinity, the idea of God’s Spirit as Deliverer of Truth might be a helpful understanding of this yielding, rug-cutting relationship. I don’t know about anyone else, but I can certainly remember Tom and Jerry cartoons, or Popeye cartoons or any number of old cartoons, when a character faced a decision, a little version of the character with a halo appeared on one shoulder and one with a pitchfork appeared on the other shoulder, symbolizing the choice between good and evil, so to speak. While the Holy Spirit isn’t an angelic figure that stands on our shoulders, it is that voice of truth that whispers in our hearts and minds, urging us to do the right thing and the good thing, even if those things are hard things.
While all this glorious gab may or may not win a Pulitzer Prize for Preaching, what real difference does this Trinity thing make, and why should we care?
We are all wired in certain ways: introverts, extroverts, musically inclined and those not as much, Swedes and everyone else. We all have unchangeable histories of upbringing and learning: survival vs. thriving, how we were or weren’t nurtured, sheltered or experiential childhoods. And we all have differing brains and bodies - for good and ill. Despite all those differences, we all have a responsibility to make the best of ourselves with what we have.
In that Divine Choreography, Deferential Joy and Deliverer of Truth, all of them not only compliment each other, but they hone each other, so that they are more perfect than perfection. We won’t reach perfection ourselves, but we have this Holy Trinity to help us hone all of our selves, individually and as a church family, that we become the best of what God has always seen in us.
Sometimes it means literally learning new ways of communicating, even unto asking for forgiveness and forgiving. Sometimes it's practicing that art of holding one’s tongue, especially in an age when it seems that tongue wagging is all the rage. Sometimes it’s reframing our understanding of the world, determining to find goodness where bleakness abounds, or determining to do what is right and good, not even for the sake of doing right and good, but for the sense of knowing you have been honorable and therefore able to sleep without regret. Inviting that larger than life, more eternal that we can imagine Trinity into our everyday breath and consciousness of the world allows us to take steps back when necessary, to change directions when that is needful, that humility and honor become more a part of us than words would ever need to define. As we once again realize this dance of life, in all its dimensions and effects, let us pray.
Divine Choreographer, Deferential Joy and Deliverer of Truth, we thank you for your life, so long before ours, so long after our earthly life, and larger than we can even begin to imagine. We are grateful that you allow for our frailties and humanness, giving us opportunities to begin again and change direction whenever it is needful. For those moments we have stepped on your toes, running over your will and desire, we ask for your forgiveness. Enable us to let go of those things that we don’t have any business carrying and strengthen us for those things that need taking up. More than anything, near and dear God, help us to practice your presence in our present moments, so that when those times come on us that threaten our senses of security, we are able to resist the temptations that would lead us to apathy, disinterest and even isolation. For the blessings of you as Trinity and God and all else that you are, all your people say, Amen
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.