Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Sunday, June 26, 2022

YEAR C 2022 pentecost 3

Pentecost 3, 2022
1 Kings 19:15-16,19-21
Psalm 16
Galatians 5:1,13-25
Luke 9:51-62

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Well . . . I really do not want to talk about this.  But part of being a priest is talking about things that nobody wants to talk about.  Particularly when it comes to grief and mourning or political and social controversies.

But let’s start here.  Back when I was in college, in one of my writing classes, we were told to choose a topic about which we had strong opinions, and to write a good-faith argument from the other side.  So, in my case, that meant I had to do research and make the case for why capital punishment is a good thing.  And a fellow student—though he was in favor of capital punishment—had to write an argument against executing people.

The obvious point of the exercise was to teach us how to do research beyond our opinions, and also to understand that there are good-faith arguments on both sides of most controversies.  Most controversies.  But the unspoken benefit of this task was that it moved us from extreme positions.  To a person, we came to see that the truth is always somewhere in the middle.  And, now, well this all seems sort of obvious to me.  Most people are somewhere in the middle on most things, and very few of us take extreme positions on things.  Because extreme positions are unworkable, unpopular, and only result in division and disagreement.

But Friday morning, the Supreme Court of the United States paved the way for extreme positions on one of our nation’s long-standing controversies.  Many states, including Ohio have legislated draconian measures that will now begin endangering women’s lives.  Endangering girls’ lives, in fact.  

Of course, there are two extreme positions on abortion:  On the one hand, abortion on demand up until the moment of birth, and on the other hand, absolutely no exceptions for the life of the mother or the origin of the pregnancy.  Those are the extreme positions, positions which very few people hold.  And one of these two extremes is now given full license to run rampant, on a state-by-state basis.

Sure, there is a small minority in this country who think allowing states to do this is a good thing.  But as with any controversial issue, the vast majority of Americans are somewhere in the middle.  And the extreme fringe has now made life much more dangerous and difficult for women and girls in fourteen states . . . and counting.  And given the basis of the Justices’ reasoning, marriage equality, access to birth control, inter-racial marriage, and even protection from forced sterilization are all at risk, should someone decide to bring a case.

I feel it is necessary to talk about this, because for many people it is the only thing they are thinking about right now.  People are grieving.  And we can’t pretend the church is not a place where people grieve.  Because, in fact, it is exactly the place where people come to grieve.  

However . . . since 1967, The Episcopal Church has maintained its “unequivocal opposition to any legislation on the part of the national or state governments which would abridge or deny the right of individuals to reach informed decisions [about the termination of pregnancy] and to act upon them.”  In 2018, the General Convention declared “that equitable access to women’s health care, including women’s reproductive health care, is an integral part of a woman’s struggle to assert her dignity and worth as a human being.”  That is the official position of the Episcopal Church, which means it is also the position of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church.

So to those who are frightened or who are grieving over these changes in our country, I want you to know that I grieve with you, and I am frightened for you.  We now live in a country where a radical extreme minority is in charge of the levers of power in most states, and they are enshrining their extreme views in legislation to assert control over the private choices of women and girls.  How I wish these state legislators had taken that college class with me, and had to write papers from the other side.  Because extreme positions are unworkable, unpopular, and only result in division and disagreement.

Now, in today’s gospel reading, Jesus sends out an advance team to get ready to welcome him to a Samaritan village.  But Jesus doesn’t go to that village, because he is heading for Jerusalem.  And then, James and John ask him, "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”  Now there’s an extreme position for you!  The Jews and Samaritans were sworn enemies, because they differed on how and where to worship the same God.  And Jesus and his fellow Jews are walking past a Samaritan town, so James and John naturally ask, "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?"  The opposition must be destroyed, you see?  There is no middle ground.  You are either on our side, or we will ask for permission to command fire to come down from heaven and consume you.

And what is Jesus’ response?  How does Jesus answer their request to ruin the lives of complete strangers?  “He turned and rebuked them.”  That is Jesus’ response to the extremism of those who claim to speak for God.  If I stake out an extreme position and claim to be doing so because it is what God wants . . . Jesus turns and rebukes me.  Jesus does not want extreme violence and death to our enemies.  And Jesus rebukes those who do.

And then let’s look at Paul’s letter to the Galatians.  There are two lists of characteristics Paul writes about.  The first list, the works of the flesh, are all over the place, including sorcery, carousing, and licentiousness.  And the second list are the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, and so on.  The first thing to notice is that none of these things define you.  They are activities and actions.  They are not you.  And the second thing to notice is the focus of the two sets of things.

The first group, the works of the flesh, happen when we are turned inward.  The second group, the fruits of the Spirit, are the work of God within us, turning us outward.  And did you notice who does not produce those works and fruits?  You and me, that’s who.  Paul very intentionally calls them the works of the flesh, and the fruit of the Spirit.  There is nothing about you and me in there.

We could say that flesh is to self, as Spirit is to neighbor.  When we turn inward, and focus on our own desires, the flesh is hard at work sowing division and discord.  When we turn outward and focus on loving our neighbor, the Spirit produces fruit that includes “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  But, we can also turn on our neighbors.  As the dissenting Justices in Friday’s opinion note:  As Texas has recently shown, a State can turn neighbor against neighbor, enlisting fellow citizens in the effort to root out anyone who tries to get an abortion, or to assist another in doing so.  Yes, we can love our neighbors, but we can also turn on them, sometimes with the blessing and encouragement of the state, and the rebuke of Jesus.

But as Paul writes, For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." And he adds . . . If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.  

We are living in a hard time.  An especially hard time for women and girls living in what we now call “red states.”  No matter what we think about abortion rights, we will be surrounded by extreme people who disagree with us.  There are certainly people in this room who disagree with the position of the Episcopal Church.  But we would do well to remember Paul’s words:  If you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.  There will be disagreements and arguments and protests . . . as there should be.  Some will say this court’s decision is a great advance toward protecting life; and there are many who see this as the darkest and most dangerous time in our country’s history, especially for women and girls.

These are difficult days.  And, to be honest, all I have to offer right now is to remind us of Paul’s words:  Take care that you are not consumed by one another.  Because the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  May God help us to love our neighbors as ourselves, and may God’s Spirit bring forth in all of us the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Because we are going to need them, now more than ever.


Friday, June 24, 2022

For David Sparkes

For David Sparkes, 6-24-22
Isaiah 25:6-9
Psalm 23
Revelation 7:9-17
John 6:37-40

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

I first met David about 8 months ago.  We were looking for an Organist, and he came to our October Blessing of the Animals; but he brought along his resume’ instead of an animal.  We chatted for a bit, and he came back a few days later for an audition, and we hired him on the spot.  

About a month later, we were getting ready to do our first-ever All Souls service—where we honor those we have lost, by reading their names during the prayers.  A couple days beforehand, David asked if he could come in and speak to me about something.  We sat at a table in the parish hall, and he struggled and stammered about someone he wanted to include in that list of names.  Told me all sorts of things about Sid, and the Lutheran assemblies they’d attended together, and went on and on about how important Sid was to him, and how long they’d been together, and then sheepishly pushed a copy of something like an obituary across the table, looking at me with a wary gaze that suggested, “I wonder if it’s okay to trust you with this information?”

And, though I didn’t say it out loud, my first thought was, “David, the fact that you are gay is the least surprising thing about you!”  David was like an onion. You just keep peeling layers, and there’s always another surprise behind that one. Born to English immigrants during WW2.  Student of Virgil Fox.  Avid engineering enthusiast.  Child prodigy.  Obsessed with trains.  And . . . Perfect attendance School Bus driver?  Roller skating champion?  There seemed to be an unlimited supply of surprises within David.   This very white British man could play the black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” better than any organist I’ve met.  David couldn’t seem to understand how to open an email, but he texted on his phone with abandon.  Just an endless onion of surprises.

During David’s final stay in the hospital, our Choirmaster Andrew and I went up to visit him one morning.  I offered some prayers, and anointed David with oil.  Andrew sang a lovely hymn.  And we drove the hour back to Massillon in silence.  If you know Andrew, you know that an hour of silence is an eternity of time!  But Andrew was silent because he was writing an email to the choir on that drive.  And one of things he said in that email bears repeating.

As he wrote to our choir members, “I was not prepared to see [David] so diminished, particularly how a man who loved to talk so much has been reduced to inarticulate groans. But I'm reminded of the Scripture from Romans that ‘the Spirit helps us in our weakness.... and intercedes for us in groanings too deep for words’." 

A man who loved to talk could no longer speak.  And his voice is now silenced forever.  And, so, we speak for David. We tell his stories. Since David cannot speak for himself, we will speak for him. Telling of his life, and keeping his memory alive, in the days, weeks, months, and years to come. The legacy of this onion of surprises will go on.  But there is more!

As we heard in the gospel reading just a few minutes ago, Jesus says “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away.”  Jesus promises that he will lose nothing the Father has given him, but will raise it up on the last day.

And this means, David has not gone anywhere he has not already been all along. If Jesus is with us, then David is with us.  Jesus meets us at his altar in the bread and the wine. Jesus has not let go of David, and Jesus will not let go of you.

And I am convinced that as we gather around this altar, with the Saints of every time and every place, David is with us.  And David will once again be singing with us.  David gave his voice to Jesus, and David has his voice back, because Jesus does not lose what is his.  David and Sid will both be singing, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” right along with all of us. And it will be a beautiful sound indeed, because Jesus loses nothing that the Father has given to him.  Not David, not Sid, not you, and not me.


Sunday, June 19, 2022

YEAR C 2022 pentecost 2

Pentecost 2, 2022
Isaiah 65:1-9
Psalm 22:18-27
Galatians 3:23-39
Luke 8:26-39
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

This is really a perfect gospel story for today.  I mean, on Father’s Day, what could be better than demons flying out of a guy, landing in a herd of swine, and dozens of possessed pigs jumping off a cliff into the sea?  It’s like the ultimate first-century Monster Truck Rally!  The only thing missing is a pig roast and a keg of beer!  

But there are other reasons why this lesson is particularly good on this day, and it has to do with families, and relationships, and loving those nearest to us.  And in some ways, when we take the readings together as a whole, we get a more balanced view.  

Let’s start with that seemingly mild reading from Galatians.  First, we have to see the environment.  Paul is writing to people living in an oppressive system that only functions by keeping oppressed people separate.  Jews and Greeks and slaves were all oppressed people under the Roman occupation.  They were intentionally kept away from from one another, in order to diffuse their power.  The oppressor wants to keep them fighting with each other, rather than fighting the oppressors.  Paul suggests a radical (and subversive) idea, claiming there is no distinction between them, because the Roman system wants to keep them separate, wants the distinctions, wants to keep them fighting each other.  From a Roman perspective, to say there is no distinction between slave and free, Jew and Greek undermines the plan to stay in power.  If these people came together, they could topple the whole system!  

Today, Paul might say there’s no distinction between the poor black people and the poor white people, or between the gay and the straight, or dare I say between Canton steelworkers’ Bulldogs and Massillon steelworkers’ Tigers?  When the oppressed are distracted and convinced to fight amongst themselves, the people in power win.  When poor people are fighting each other on the poor side of town, there’s no need for the rich people to be concerned.  But to tell those people that they are actually one, that they are on the same side . . .

I mean, don’t get me wrong.  We lived in Los Angeles during the Rodney King riots.  As long as the blacks and Koreans were fighting each other downtown, nobody much noticed.  But when riots suddenly started to move north . . . That was a wakeup call for those in power.

But all that Galatian stuff is just Paul, rocking the boat.  Let’s look at Jesus . . . rocking the boat, which is even MORE uncomfortable.

You heard the Father’s Day setup.  A guy who is called crazy has been chained to a rock in the tombs.  (Notice that location.)  He is naked and vulnerable and people have no idea what to do with him.  He has been cast off from society and is living among the dead.  “You’re crazy, and we don’t know what to do with you, so you go and live over there with the dead.”

It’s a system that works . . . you know, okay.  You keep your distance, and we’ll pretend you don’t exist.  That you aren’t a person.  That you don’t even have a name.  You shall be called, “A man of the city.”  And here comes Jesus.  And what’s the first thing Jesus asks?  “What is your name?”  Did anyone else ask that?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But it’s the first thing Jesus says.  What is your name?  What have you been called?

And then we come to the dramatic Father’s Day pyrotechnics of demons flying into a large herd of pigs who then jump off a cliff and hurl themselves into the sea.  Awesome!  But then what?  Well, here’s where things get tricky.  Because we’re about to look at relationships, like I mentioned earlier.  And there’s a whole bunch of interesting details and questions here.

First of all, what about the owners of the pigs?  We hear there are shepherds who were watching over the pigs, so maybe they’re the owners.  But more likely they are hired hands who watch over the pigs.  So, they’re responsible for these animals, and they have to answer to the owner of the pigs, and explain how some demons flew into the pigs and they just jumped off a cliff and were drowned.  Good luck with that, fellas.

But then they go and tell the people of the city what happened.  And the people come out to the scene and they see the man, “clothed and in his right mind.  And they were afraid.”  Afraid!  Things have been set right, one who was lost has been found, a beloved child of God has been rescued, and they were afraid.  What were they afraid of?  Maybe that the status quo has been disturbed?  Maybe that they wouldn’t have this man to project all their hate onto?  Notice this is before they are told the story of what happened.  Just seeing this man “clothed and in his right mind,” that makes them afraid.

And then, "all the people of the surrounding country” ask Jesus to leave because they are afraid.  Everyone is filled with fear, and they ask Jesus to leave.  And now this man who has been healed, the man who is clothed and in his right mind, wants to go with Jesus, and well . . . can you blame him?  Put yourself in his position.  You’ve been chained to a rock among the tombs—naked—by your neighbors.  Kept under armed guard.  You are the literal definition of outcast.  Left for dead among the tombs.  And then, Jesus turns everything around.  Brings you back to life.  Restores you to who you are meant to be.  Are you going to go back to the people who left you for dead?  Who saw you at your absolute worst?  Of course he wants to get in the boat with Jesus!

Get in the boat with Jesus and go on the rock star P.T. Barnum tour, telling strangers what Jesus has done.  If I were Jesus, that’s what I would do with this man.  Put him in the boat with me and go on a PR tour.  “Hey everybody, check out this dramatic story from a guy who was left for dead among the tombs, and then I pulled demons out of him and sent them into fifty feral hogs who jumped into the sea on their own!”  And then move on to the next town and do it all again.  What a marketing opportunity!  But a marketing opportunity for what?  There’s the question.

It’s easy to go town to town visiting a bunch of strangers and giving them your best performance.  I mean, I used to play in a band, alright?  And I can also tell you that my four years doing supply work between calls were the easiest preaching gigs of my entire life.  I’d waltz into a random parish, deliver a sermon I’d had weeks to work on, to a group of appreciative strangers, and waltz back out.  Never had to make any connections, never had to deal with any fallout if I said something controversial.  Just show up, lead the service, preach a sermon, eat a couple cookies, and head back home.  

In this story today, everybody would like nothing better than for that formally naked crazy guy to get in the boat with Jesus and leave town.  “Just hop in the boat with the healing guy and we’ll all pretend none of this ever happened, okay?”  Everybody wants that.  Everybody except for Jesus.  He says to the man, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.”  Home?  Return to your home?  You remember how this story started?  We heard that this man “did not live in a house but in the tombs.”  How can he return to his home?  Where is his home?  Who are his family?  His friends?  

We don’t know the answer to that.  Maybe he has family and friends from before.  Maybe he doesn’t.  But Jesus tells him to return to his home, and to “declare how much God has done for you.”  And that’s what he does.  Is it uncomfortable?  Oh heck yes.  Is it a powerful story?  Yes it is.  And you know what makes it even more powerful?  The fact that they know him.  When he declares how much God has done for him, he doesn’t need to start with, “You see, I used to be chained to a rock among the tombs,” because everybody knows that.  They’re quite aware of the scariest guy in town.  Though the strangers in some other city would not know that, his neighbors sure would.

He has seen the power of God in his life, and so have they.  And though he wants to climb into the boat with Jesus and proclaim it to the ends of the earth, Jesus tells him to stay with those who know him.  Jesus is usually telling people to go somewhere.  Not sit and tell.  Go and tell!  But here’s a perfect example that we’re not all called to do the same thing.  Some are called to be missionaries, sure.  But not everyone is.  In fact, it seems most people are called to be staionaries.  Stay in your place and proclaim what God has done and is doing in your life to the people who know you.  Warts and all.

Remaining with the people you know, and who know you, that is where the power of God in your life can be proclaimed.  The people who know you best are the ones who can witness the power of God in what you do and say.  

Just as in the case of the healed man, we are not all called to do the same thing.  People are different.  Circumstances are different; families are different.  And we are all called to live out our different lives as best we know how, in the places where we are right now.  And that calling is different for each of us.

But the one calling we all have in common is the call to gather at the altar of God, to share in this meal, and then to go out and proclaim what God has done in our lives, in the places where we live.  And when we leave here today, we will go forth rejoicing in the power of the Spirit, to love and serve God, bearing witness to the One who has done great things for us.


Saturday, June 18, 2022

For Fr. Erv. Smuda

 Fr. Erv Remembrance
June 18, 2022

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

There is a little triangle of Episcopal Churches in this part of Stark County, and Fr. Erv played them all.  St. Mark’s, St. Paul’s, and St. Timothy’s where I am rector.  Historically, parishioners have often moved around among these three parishes, based on their family’s needs, and what each church was able to  offer in that season of their lives.  Because of this, some families ended up with Fr. Smuda as their interim priest at more than one location.  Which kind of undermines the purpose of an interim, when you think about it.

As I thought about Erv’s lengthy transitional ministry, I realized he was sort of like John the Baptist.  Preparing the way, and making the paths straight.  Of course, that simile quickly breaks down because it puts a whole lot of other clergy in the role of Jesus, and we sure know that isn’t true!

But without Fr. Erv serving as interim rector at St. Timothy’s for over a year, I never would have stood a chance of succeeding as rector.  Erv provided the cooling off period.  The pressing of the pause button.  Someone willing to step in and take whatever the people want to throw at him.  It takes a special kind of person to do that.

A fair number of folks at St. Timothy’s never knew any rector other than my predecessor.  The people had no experience with how to call a priest, or how to prepare to do that, or how to celebrate what they had done in their history, or how to take an honest look at what needed to change.  

And in partnership with the Diocesan staff, Fr. Erv Smuda walked them through all that.  He brought stability and stasis and—essentially—neutral ground.  I will be forever grateful to Fr. Erv for making the paths straighter for me, for raising the valleys, and making the rough roads smoother.  And because of all that—though I am clearly not Jesus—the comparison to John the Baptist still holds up for me.  Thank you Erv, for all you have done for so many who came after you.


Sunday, June 12, 2022

YEAR C 2022 trinity

Trinity 2022
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Romans 5:1-5
John 16:12-15
Psalm 8

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

So today is Trinity Sunday, the day that strikes fear into preachers around the world.  Every pastor and priest I know struggles over what to say on this morning each year, because you don’t want to get it wrong.  And actually, a lot of blood and ink have been spilled over the centuries trying to get this right, this idea of what we mean by “the Trinity.”

People don’t take this getting it right lightly.  I mean, St. Nicholas himself is said to have punched Arius in the face in 325 at the council of Nicaea, over whether or not Jesus is eternal.  St. Nicholas, I tell you!  (I’m guessing Arius got coal for Christmas that year.)  There is not a lot of room for opinion on the Trinity; you don’t want to get it wrong, and everyone struggles to get it right.

So in trying to explain the Trinity, people end up using fancy words in other languages, debating the difference between homOIousios and homOousios.  (The difference being one iota, which is where we get that phrase.)  Or, you end up describing some interaction between the Father, Son, and Spirit as being a perichoresis, which some people call a dance.  Or you end up talking about the same person wearing different masks, or persona in Latin. All these Greek and Latin words are supposed to help, but some of us doubt their usefulness.  Using these words and concepts is supposed to make it easier to understand the Trinity, but . . . well, I’m not supposed to be telling you this . . . it doesn’t.  Using fancy words and complicated concepts just makes it easier for the person talking to have something to hide behind . . . in case St. Nicholas is listening.

But then you have theologians who go to the other end of the spectrum, trying to use everyday shapes and materials to make their case.  The three-leafed shamrock of Ireland, or the three physical forms of water, or a tri-colored pinwheel, or a simple triangle.  The physical objects are supposed to help, but they’re only so useful, and they break down under scrutiny.  So we end up with this big long continuum that runs from St. Nicholas punching a guy back in 325, all the way to a triangle on a piece of newsprint in some Sunday school room.  That is a long line of people struggling to get it right.

And at the end of the day . . . well, how much does it matter?  I mean seriously, how much does it matter whether the Spirit proceeds from just the Father, or from both the Father and the Son?  (Which is a distinction that keeps the Eastern Church split from the rest of us.)  How much does it matter whether Jesus was there from the beginning of time or just from the beginning of his earthly life?  (Which is what can get you a roundhouse from St. Nicholas.)  Even before the Council of Nicaea in 325, the Church has claimed that it is of the utmost importance to get this right, this definition of the Trinity.  

So important to get it right, but so hard to even explain.  It’s more a case of, as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once wrote, “I know it when I see it,” about . . . a different matter entirely.  Nonetheless, we live in this confusing tension of wanting to get it right when talking about the Trinity, and yet admitting it’s unrealistic to try, since the word “Trinity” isn’t even in the Bible.  Every explanation of the Trinity has its downside, and many will legitimately still doubt whether it really matters in the end anyway.

And, you know, if this parish were called “Trinity Episcopal Church,” I would feel a strong need to press these various metaphors on you today in the hopes that one would stick.  That way, when your friends ask, “Why is your church called Trinity?” you could have a pithy little response all set to go, with Latin and everything. But since we are called, “St. Timothy’s Church,” instead we get to explain why our patron saint’s seal has a club and a bunch of stones on it.  Such is our fate.

So, let’s talk about what we do know.   In this morning’s Epistle reading, from Romans, Paul writes “We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

Now FIRST off, we have to avoid the temptation to read that as though suffering is a good thing, being the first step leading to hope, right?  I mean, if we’re not careful when reading that little contorted sentence, we might end up thinking that an increase in suffering is actually a good thing, since it leads to endurance, which produces character, which produces hope.  Two key words to notice in that passage are “also,” and “because.”

Paul says we ALSO boast in our sufferings.  That whole thing about suffering is preceded by “We boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.”  He makes that statement, which we generally agree with.  We boast in our hope.  And the word that gets translated as “boast” is related to the word for “neck.”  Boasting is not bragging.  Boasting is holding your head up, keeping your chin up.  Standing tall in our hope of sharing the glory of God.  Right.  Totally makes sense.  But Paul goes on . . .

And we ALSO boast—or, hold our heads up—in the midst of our sufferings.   We ALSO walk in confidence with our chins up when we are suffering (or feeling hopeless), because suffering leads us through a pathway that leads us right back to to hope.

In essence, Paul is talking about hope.  No matter what happens, we can walk with confidence and hope.  And that whole little riff on having hope either way starts with Paul saying, “since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God . . . we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand.”  We stand in peace with God through grace, with our heads held high, because of Jesus.

Today at St. Timothy’s, we celebrate our 186th anniversary of ministry in Massillon.  For 186 years, this congregation has been gathering together to worship Jesus.  We hold our heads high in hope, and we hold our heads high in suffering as well, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts, just as Paul says.  For generation after generation.

This parish would not exist if God did not want us to be here.  Or, in a more positive way: we are here—in our little postage stamp of Massillon—because God wants us here.  God has a purpose for this congregation.  And that is why we will continue together toward our 187th anniversary and beyond.  

And that, my friends, is the most important thing to remember about the Trinity.  It might not matter one iota how you define the Trinity . . . especially since nobody who is honest is able to do so.  What matters about understanding the Trinity is the full presence of God in our common life together.  The most important thing to take away from here on Trinity Sunday is that God is with you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  God walks behind you, and beside you, and in front of you.

And this morning, the Trinity meets us at this altar, in bread and wine, in the body and blood of Jesus, which is sanctified by the Holy Spirit, who was sent by the Father to inspire us to faith together.  And when you come forward and stretch out your hand, you can hold your head high, knowing that God welcomes you unconditionally.  The Creator is with you, and the Spirit is leading you, and Jesus is coming to meet you once again in the Bread of Heaven and the Cup of Salvation.  So, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Happy Anniversary, people of St. Timothy’s!