Sermon for Trinity Sunday, Lay leader Karen Wilford 18 May 2008
God is Like a Mars Bar
May the Sacrament of the Word and the hunger of our hearts meet, and lead us ever more deeply into the experience of God. Amen.
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations ." There are probably fewer words in the Scriptures that have had a more profound effect on our common history as the men and women of the Christian faith in that simple phrase: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations." This passage is known as the â€śGreat Commissioningâ€ť given by Christ to his disciples â€“ the essential and yet daunting job description of what it would mean to be a Christian.
Those few words set in motion the entire missionary movement of Christianity through the centuries. It was on that basis, that we had been commanded by Christ to go into the world and share our faith with other men and women of different cultures, different traditions and faiths, and in doing so, win them over, convert them to the Christian faith. This created the historic missionary movement that has touched every continent and every culture on earth.
As Christians, we are the heirs to that tradition. And if I look back historically at all that the missionary movement of Christianity has meant, I have a very mixed reaction. There are moments when I can see truly noble and wonderful acts of selfless dedication to the Gospel, where missionaries have lived out in their lives, doing wonderful things in the name of Christ.
But I also see a littered legacy of hurt, of pain, of loss and suffering, all in the name of Jesus, all because we are a missionary church.
And that ugly side of Christianity has played out in the colonialism that impacted on all North American Native cultures including our Inuit brothers and sisters among whom we live.
It can be hard to reconcile what we know as the Good News message of the church. At its essence is a message of hope and light and love. But the manner in which that message has been brought to many peoples of the world has resulted in cultural extermination and oppression.
So how do we take todayâ€™s Gospel message, which continues to command us to go forth and baptize, and make it meaningful, even palatable to us today? Do we say, that because of the terrible way in which missionary work has been done in the past, that we should just stop doing it? Are we imperialists and oppressors if we try to share the Gospel with others? Many people in our faith back away from any hint of missionary activity because of the embarrassment and shame of the past.
And Iâ€™m not sure where I stand on the issue, now that I have had some time to reflect upon it. Until now, I would have counted myself as one of those embarrassed people. And I know that my reaction to an Evangelical group that was scheduled to come last year was very negative. All that public witnessing, bringing people to the faith, the drive to get our numbers up. It leaves me feeling really squeamish.
But reading todayâ€™s lesson causes me to ask myself, how can we be missionaries, how can we carry out the Great Commission, without being extremists. And for me itâ€™s about being a welcoming church and about tolerance. Where we come into contact with people who are hurting, who are the lost sheep, we treat them in the way that Jesus taught us. We make opportunities available for others to also experience God as a God of light and goodness, of mercy, compassion, justice, forgiveness.
Recall that earlier in the passage Jesus reminds the disciples that â€śall authority in heaven has been given to meâ€ť. Not to you and I, not the church goers who are judgmental and zealous, not to the various Christian sects who impose the faith upon vulnerable peoples. When we make the mistake of arrogance, we are not carrying out our Commission. Because that authority was given to Jesus.
We are proper ambassadors when we live our lives in the example that Jesus gave us. When we are able to see the face of Christ in all whom we meet and when all whom we meet can see the face of Christ in us.
Today is Trinity Sunday. The day when we reflect upon what is referred to as the triune God. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
In my research and reading to prepare for today, I learned some really interesting things. Such as the fact that this day was created by the organized church in about the 3rd century because the people were backsliding into the previous pagan worship practices with a number of different Gods. And the thought was that to emphasize the 3 fold nature of our God would make Christianity more attractive, while still separating it from the single God of the Jewish faith. You see, itâ€™s all about the marketing.
And that was when I thought that perhaps I should market my sermon, so I decided to call it â€śGod is Like a Mars Barâ€ť. See? Youâ€™re already enjoying it more.
The other very interesting thing (to me, anyway) was the passionate debate about how women in the church could celebrate a trinity that excludes them. The father, the son and the holy spirit. The old guy, the young guy and the dove. And to be honest, as much as I wanted to, I just could not get my head around that debate or discussion. Because I did not want to dissect the mystery of it all.
St Augustine apparently wrote 15 books, over a period of 10 years, on the subject of the Trinity. And I suspect he did not unravel the mystery of the nature of the trinity â€“ nor should he, in my view.
To quote Albert Einstein: The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closedâ€ť When I am in church and when I am trying to find my Christian way in the world, I want that mystery. I donâ€™t want to dissect the impossibilities. Faith ceases to be faith for me when it can all be explained. You all know from the times I have stood up here that for me, it is all about being in relationship with God. About offering up a form of Love to Him and experiencing his Love in return.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the mystery beyond us, the mystery among us and ultimately the mystery within us. All the same God, all the same power, all the same love.
Chocolate is good. Caramel is good, Nougat is good. But a Mars bar is not a Mars bar without all three in harmonious combination.
So as you go forth at the end of today, to be examples of Godâ€™s love in the world, remember these words from the Great Commissioning. "Make Disciples of all the nationsâ€¦in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spiritâ€¦I am with you always, to the end of the age."