Sunday, May 29, 10:00AM
Trinity Sunday C* 5/26/16 St. John’s Church
Rev’d Jennifer Phillips Prov.8:1-4,22-31;Rom5:1-5;Jn16:12-15
Our starting places differ as we human beings discover God, but wherever we start, God is there.
God came to me first as a mystic presence in the landscapes of my childhood from earliest memory. The divine was in that invitation of the green and purple hills to “come up” - the moors above Sheffield behind our house when I was three-and-a-half, the Welsh mountains carpeted in grass and heather the green-gold color of velvet stage curtains, the milky green North Atlantic seashore and the hollow sound of flint pebbles being turned on the surf. I was, in some way I had no words for, continuous with those landscapes and the bigger reality that held them and shaped them. And later on, in the woods of upper New York State as an elementary school child, I had that sense that God was just out of sight among the trees, just behind my shoulder, just round the boundary of trunks on the path ahead. And still I have that absolute sense of God present in the Creation everywhere.
But others begin with Jesus, and this makes sense to me, too. An extraordinary, God-directed, God-infused human life lived uncompromisingly and single-heartedly, a divine personality who becomes more and more known as a companion on life’s way as stories of the past are shared and remembered and retold, as conversation and confidences are offered, as one finds that radiant companion who is part of history, yet still a living presence close at hand, Jesus the Christ, more and more trustworthy and true in a divine friendship that steers all other relationships and decisions lifelong. As we shape our own lives, it is so, so helpful to have as our guide this perfectly lived human life that shows forth God at every remembrance.
But there are many who begin with their inner light, the divine breath and wisdom that prompts their intuition and illuminates their path, the ineffable and energetic Spirit they know to be Holy. Perhaps they are those to whom the stories remain artifacts of history, to whom the uglinesses and fractures in creation prove a barrier to seeing in them more than the material rocks and protoplasm of the planet, whereas within them glows a sense of that which is larger and deeper and holds all the rest in being. Or those whose perception of transcendental wonder is rooted in that which breathers and glows through the created things of the cosmos, in which a sense of kinship arises that is more than just admiration.
Once we are baptized into the Holy Trinity, One God, no matter where our temperament or experience led us to begin, we cannot stop until we begin to explore the other two aspects of the divine. None is complete without the others. Like a Celtic knot, each loop seamlessly back into the other manifestations of the Holy One. The Child Jesus, the truly human one, shows us the Creator whom he called Abba/Father. The Father, Son, and Spirit are as the tradition puts it consubstantial- of one being and one shared substance though distinct as three persons. The Creator gives the gift of the word known in all that is created that proceeds from the divine “Let be” and “It is good,” and particularly in that crossing point of the history of creation where the Christ brings together things earthly and heavenly, the human and the divine, in one and makes - as John’s Gospel says - the Father known and shown to us, so that if we have seen the one, we have seen the other. And the Spirit within, that same Spirit which was in Jesus and is now in us and that has always brooded over and breathed in the whole creation as its life and being, is that within us which recognizes the Christ and the Creator as we encounter them. The Spirit gives the knowledge that shouts within us, “This is true! This is the way! This is the life! Come this way!”
The eternal relationship of these mysterious three Persons of the Blessed Trinity the theologian Gregory of Nyssa compared to partners in a dance. Augustine of Hippo ventured the analogy that theirs is like the relationship between memory intellect, and will; or the mind, and the intelligence with which the mind knows itself, and the love with which it loves itself and this knowledge. Scripture only takes us so far in thinking about God as three and as one - gives us hints and pointers. Proverbs and the other Wisdom books of Judaism speak of a Wisdom and Word of God which was present with and from God the Creator before the beginning of the creation and was the agency of the work being done and the joyful appreciator of all that God accomplished. That Wisdom came to be known in the world as Christ, the word made flesh dwelling among us full of grace and truth. And we become participants in holy wisdom by the presence of the Spirit within us in our wills and good desires, our love, reason, and intellect, our memory and constructive energy. This Spirit and wisdom bind and unite us to one another in the human community and in the Church, the beloved community of Jesus Christ. As the three Persons of the trinity form community together, and in hospitality invite the baptized into the life of their community, so we in turn invite others into holy community and seek to love and serve them as we would love and serve Christ and the Creator.
For some people, this divine community is itself the starting point into God. My friend and colleague Richard Valantasis speaks of his first image of God as Trinity being the sight of three Greek sisters, his aunties, dressed in identical black widow’s clothing, walking to church in single file every Sunday - which was for him an image of continuity and community directed toward the one life in God through Christ.
Now we are people of science and technology in an age of science and technology, with its many developing facets, so it quite easy for us to allow our fascination with the material world and its workings to occupy our entire minds as though it were all there is; to see trees but no forest, creation but no Creator. All this world around us is so diverting that many never look further. But you are here because you have looked further, wondered why and what for and what next and where from. Your hearts have been restless, as Augustine famously put it, and will not rest until they rest in God. This restlessness, this curiosity, this spirit of exploration, is a great gift - but a gift some choose to set aside unopened all of their lives, never knowing what they have missed. The essence of the gift God gives each of us, should we open it, is that it does not contain stuff - not certainty or knowledge or magical power, none of that - but we discover it to be a doorway into a reality for which words fail us. What might we call this place of invitation - the eternal dimension? the ground of being? the heavenly realm? the Kingdom of God? resurrection life? enlightenment? the heart of God? the abiding place? home? love, itself?
In all of this life we barely cross the threshold, and yet sometimes, often fleetingly, know ourselves to be there. But then I am a person of landscape, and so I speak in terms of a ‘there’ and a ‘here’, a path and a territory. Perhaps you will prefer other terms. We must not dismiss one another’s different starting points for approaching God or believe we can sum up that infinite reality like Jain story of the three blind men who get hold of different parts of an elephant and each think they can describe the beast accurately - as rope, tree-trunk, or wall. The Holy Spirit draws us into community together so that we may bring together all our various perceptions and understandings of the divine in order better to know how to love and serve God in this world, a dynamic dance of knowing and loving that images back to us the community of the Blessed trinity in all its welcoming, vibrant life.
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Are you challenged with senior care matters?
Many of our St. John's parishioners have faced senior care challenges with a family member or friend. Our own family's experience has shown this is a complicated and emotionally charged matter. It involves healthcare, financial and legal planning, social and spiritual wellbeing and navigating changing family relationships. Managing all of this is also enormously time consuming and stressful.
There are professionals who help folks sort some of this out, but they tend to be experts in one specialty such as care management, law or estate planning. There is also a tendency for their advice and representation to end upon placement of the family member into an assisted living or memory care facility. In fact, the challenges have often just begun!
Even though we are surrounded by some of the greatest medical institutions in the world who conduct much of the latest research in geriatric care, it's easy to feel lost when managing these family situations. Through my own personal and professional experience, I see firsthand what is lacking and how hard it is on seniors and their children.
I am doing an independent study with family, friends and professional colleagues. My focus is on using a more holistic approach to easing the impact on families to improve their experience and the outcomes with long term senior care. I would welcome the opportunity to meet in confidence to hear about your experience and offer my recommendation if you wish.
I can be reached at church, by phone (617-413-6314)
or email VLKingsley@comcast.net.
June 14, 2015 6-9pm The Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston
Episcopal City Mission celebrates its new partnership of ministry with the Reverend Arrington Chambliss as its Executive Director.
Mission statement: “Episcopal City Mission is a faith-based ministry which promotes social and economic justice through partnerships with congregations, community-based organizations and people within the Diocese of Massachusetts with special emphasis on the urban poor and oppressed.”
If you’d like to attend, please speak to Rev. Jennifer within the next 2 weeks.
Living into our Membership as Christians & Episcopalians – a short course
Classes are open to all – Middle & High school youth and adults
Wed. May 25 - at the rectory 7:00-8:00pm – Prayerways: some practices of prayer you might not have tried yet – getting started
Wed. June 1 - at the rectory 7:00-8:00pm- Refresher on our Book of Common Prayer and a waltz through Episcopal Polity – how our denomination works. How we make decisions and policies.
Sunday June 5 - Instructed Eucharist at 10 – learn more about why we do what we do in worship.
Flowers enhance the beauty of our church and greatly contribute to our worship. We place flowers near the altar to remind us of Creation, which brings us to the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, which we celebrate every Sunday. Here at St. John’s, rather than have a general budget item for flowers, we invite our parishioners to provide the flowers in memory or honor of loved ones, or in thanksgiving for special events. There is a sign up sheet on the bulletin board on which one may select a Sunday, (or Sundays!), for a special tribute. The cost for flowers, which the Altar Guild orders, is $35. (Please be sure to note on your payment that it is for flowers.) We are grateful to Westwood Gardens Florist, which, for many years, has provided beautiful arrangements to us for a modest price.