Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sunday, May 31st, 2015: Tri-Unity

The understanding of the Trinity is a unique one. There is no teaching on it in the Bible, but it permeates the New Testament. The idea of the Trinity came from Scripture and seeing God at work in the world. In the NT, we see reference to the Trinity in baptism (e.g. Matthew 28:19) and benediction (e.g. 2 Cor. 13:13), and in daily life we experience the revelation of God in different ways. God is one, understood in 3 "persons." In God, we see a tri--unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The NT readings for this Sunday, Romans 8: 12-17 and John 3: 1-17, reference this this tri-unity of God by using all 3 terms. This same God is at work in the OT readings of Isaiah 6: 1-8 and Psalm 29, which would be considered sacred text for John, Paul, Jesus, and Nicodemus, whose voices are heard in these NT readings.

At Pentecost  last Sunday we celebrated the coming of the Spirit, which unites us in our different "languages," backgrounds, cultures, etc. This same Spirit has been with God and in the world since the beginning. The Spirit is referenced in the Old Testament (i.e. Genesis 1:2; Exodus 31:3; Numbers 27:18; Job 33:4; Psalm 104:30; Nehemiah 9:20), so the understanding of God having this form has been known for thousands of years.

I myself have trouble "understanding" the tri-unity of God. Maybe that is the point. We cannot fully understand God, but God still shows up in mysterious and powerful ways in this world and in our lives. The point of this doctrine is not so we can fully understand God, but so that we may open our lives to God in many ways. We may also understand that God represents the relationship we should have with each other and with this world. God is powerful, God is mysterious, God shows up, God is perfect, and God is for us. Praise God!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Sunday, May 17tth, 2015---Newness of Life:Live God's Testimony

1 John 5: 6-13 talks a lot about the words "testimony" and "testify." These words carry large weights in the world of courtrooms and congressional hearing rooms. When testifying or giving a testimony, witnesses must swear to "tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God." These witnesses give evidence. They prepare statements. They prepare proof of their testimony and their witness to a truth that they attempt to convince others of.  Then, their testimony is challenged, refuted, and subjected to what others testify as true.

Each witness, defendant, and prosecutor inevitably will have some angle, some bias, some sort of agenda in giving, challenging, and hearing these testimonies. The testing of a witness involves probing their testimony for inconsistencies, discrepancies, and different interpretations of what it testified. This is all done because the goal for these cases is to reach an objective ruling based on the facts, removed from any bias, emotion, perception, or agenda.

The author of 1 John seems to have a similar process in mind when it comes to our testimony, our witness to the truth. Other "truths" or "spirits" must be "tested" so that it may be determined that what they say represents Jesus' truth.

The truth we testify is that God has saved us through Jesus Christ. This testimony is not one that is thoroughly laid out in a courtroom, but known in our hearts and expressed through our lives. We have eternal life through Jesus. This is not an opinion; this is the truth. How will we "prove" it? Talking about it is not enough; talking about this truth is only a portion of the way in which it is testified: the majority of this testimony is expressed through our actions, our behaviors, the way in which we love God and love others. In this way, love is the language in which we testify to the truth of God's salvation through Jesus Christ to the world.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Sunday, May 10th, 2015---Newness of Life: Born of God

Two of our readings for this Sunday are intrinsically linked:  Our passage from 1 John says that "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born from God...This is how we know that we love the children of God---when we love God and keep God’s commandments," that is, as Jesus made clear, and as John 15:13 reiterates, to love our neighbor. 

As Mother's Day approaches, I cannot help but reflect on who my mom has been for me. And then I cannot help but think of how my parent's have impacted my life so much. When I begin thinking about one of my parents, I naturally turn to reflect on the both of them. The apostle John, through these texts, links together love for God to love for Christ----"Who defeats the world? Isn’t it the one who believes that Jesus is God’s Son?" “As the Father loved me, I too have loved you." 

John 15 continues, saying that Jesus no longer calls his disciples servants, but friends, "because servants don’t know what their master is doing...because everything I heard from my Father I have made known to you." Jesus seems to be saying that friendship is the ideal relationship that we can have with him and with God. And so, I think of my relationship with my parents. Surely, there was a time in my life where I simply obeyed them (or was told to obey them) because I didn't really understand the reason I should do what they say. It wasn't that I didn't love them or trust them, I just didn't have any experience to tell me that following their direction is actually the best thing for me.

Isn't that how our spiritual maturity is? As a new follower, we don't understand the depth of God's love for us; that God has our heart; that God knows what's best for us. As we grow, we begin to learn that. As we obey, we take joy in following Christ's way. As we depend on God, we grow in friendship with God. 

It is one of my true blessings that I see my parents as my friends. I understand that the way they have loved me throughout my life has helped to shape me into who I am today. I understand that when they told me what to do, they were looking out for me. They were helping to shape me into their son, a man who could love people well. 

The possibility of friendship with Christ is a gift of grace in and of itself. This grace is attainable. You CAN be considered a friend of Christ in how you love others. It is then we may say with confidence that our prayer to be freed "for joyful obedience" (UMC Communion Liturgy) has been truly answered. In following Christ, we understand Christ's motives for our lives, not for a burdensome way, but for a way that leads to newness of life. 

See you Sunday!