Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Dance of the Trinity

I recently visited a friend of mine to catch up on life. We shared dinner and conversation for nearly three hours. At one point in the conversation, he remarked how nice it was to actually sit with someone and have a conversation rather than simply have a series of email exchanges or electronic messages. While texting and email dominate the way we stay in touch these days, there is no substitute for face to face, one on one conversation.

On the same trip, earlier in the day I had great plans to visit an art museum in Washington DC. As it happened, the weather was spectacular. The sun emerged and the day was beautiful. Blue sky, sunshine, and warmth conspired to derail my plans. So, instead of visiting the museum, I walked around a bit and eventually took a seat on a park bench. While sitting on the bench, I had the opportunity to meet Mark. He has extended family that live in Harrisburg. He grew up in the Southeast quadrant of DC. He said it's a rough place to live anymore. So, as it turns out, he lives in this park in the Northwest quadrant of the city. It's a relative haven from the chaos of his home neighborhood. He doesn't have a cellphone. Nor does he have what most of us would consider necessities.

For the next couple hours, Mark and I and some of his friends sat there on that park bench enjoying not only the beautiful weather, but also the blessing of conversation and community. Mark told me about the time he was stabbed in the stomach while trying to break up a fight on the Metro. He lifted up his shirt and showed me the scare. He said he lost a lot of blood, but was grateful that he could get to the hospital in time for the necessary care.

Mark also told me about a friend of his that has been in jail for nearly two years for stealing a slice of pizza from a street vendor. While he admitted that stealing the pizza was the wrong thing to do, he was frustrated over such a punishment. As it turns out, the fine that was set as his initial punishment was beyond his ability to pay. So, he was locked up. While he was locked up, he lost his job. And because he lost his job, he lost the ability to pay the fine on time. The result of all this is that he has been in prison ever since.

I experienced what I can refer to as emotional whiplash. This one-on-one conversation with Mark on the park bench reminded me how much I take for granted. Not only did it open my eyes to see the fallout of racial prejudice and systematic stereotyping, it also was a pointed reminder of the blessings that are available when we take the time to encounter our neighbor where they are. At the end of our visit, Mark asked me to pray for him. I asked him to pray for me as well.  Then he gave me a hug and a handshake and invited me to visit again. (He apologized for not smiling for the picture, but he was self-conscious because he is missing most of his front upper teeth.)

This Sunday (tomorrow!) as we gather for worship, the Church celebrates the Holy Trinity. This is a reminder that God has been revealed as a community. The unity that is God is revealed as Trinity. There is much room here for acknowledging the mystery. And we appropriately consider our own invitation to participate in the dance of the Trinity.

Weather its a lofty doctrine or the ordinariness of a park-bench conversation, God shows up. Have you had any God-sightings this week? Have you allowed your own plans to be derailed long enough to recognize the ways in which The Triune God is still a God of incarnation? Blessings abound when we take the time to attend to the Christ in our midst.

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Tomorrow is a busy day.  We will also be observing Celebration Sunday. Our 2020 Vision campaign has lead us to the point where we will all be asked to consider what type of commitment we will make in support the mission before us. I'm looking forward to our time together tomorrow. Rain or shine, may our fellowship be one that is graced with the Holy Trinity as we remember our identity as baptized children of God who have every reason to grow in boldness and hope!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Priority One

I'm pretty sure that I've previously shared this story, but it is worth repeating here. The Dean of Students at my high school (Lebanon Catholic High School) also served as one of the religion teachers. His name was Hubert Conner. Mr. Connor was an intense and passionate lover of God. Flawed to be sure, yet wholly driven by a desire to serve the Lord.  He was fond of regularly pronouncing, Seek first the Kingdom! He taught me many other things, but this counsel has reverberated for decades -- sometime softly, sometimes loudly.

As we approach the Festival of Pentecost this coming Sunday, we are also mindful that we are hip deep in week-four of our capital campaign, 2020 Vision: Growing in Boldness in Hope.

Being hip deep in something means you're in it as active participant and not simply as passive observer or feckless victim. Holy Baptism was like that once.  We used to wade into the water, hip deep if you will, and both actively engage and willingly submit to being buried with Christ in the water so that we might rise with him in newness of life. (Now, we sprinkle, dribble, and pour water across the forehead -- still a viable means of God's grace -- a practical if not timid expression of God's extravagant, amazing grace!)  

Heeding the call to seek first the Kingdom of God, necessitates an examination of our priorities. Not everything and everyone can be at the top of our lists. It's of no surprise that most would rather not do this work. And it is a discipline -- a practice, not a punishment. Yet, the good news is that we don't have to do it alone. We are surrounded, empowered, and equipped to be faithful to that which God calls us. 

Practicing our principles is no exception. Pentecost is a reminder that the Holy Spirit of God is still active and alive. Maybe it needs to be stirred up on occasion, like chocolate syrup in the bottom of a cold glass of milk.

Don't let the fog get you down. The burning light of Holy Spirit fire comes upon us! May we continue to shine this light through our lives into the lives of our neighbors, seeking first the Kingdom of God!

Early Saturday Morning in May near Mercersburg

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Day of Pentecost
May 15, 2016
Prioritize: Practice our Principles
Matthew 6:19-33

Prayer of the Day
God our creator, the resurrection of your Son offers life to all the peoples of earth. 
By your Holy Spirit, kindle in us the fire of your love, 
empowering our lives for service and our tongues for praise, 
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.