Friday, June 5, 2020

Many Faces Of God - Sermon for week ending June 6, 2020

Modern Reading 
“To White Police from Black Jesus,” by John Pavlovitz.

You have heard it said, “Whatever you do to the least of these (or those most impacted), you do to me.”

When you slowly suffocate a man to death in the street while he pleads for breath, you are slowly suffocating me.

When you run people over with your patrol car, you are running me over.

When you mock the termination of a black life, you mock me.

I am here in these exhausted, desperate human beings, pleading for decency.

I am kneeling across from you in these protests.

I am waiting for you to stop defending Caesar and be the agents of peace you are supposed to be.

I am your black neighbor, giving you the chance to love me as you love yourself, to value my life as much as your own.

When you deny the value of black worth, you are denying my worth.

My life matters.

Many Faces of God 

I’m trying to use the lectionary for a while, because the readings are from Matthew, which is my favorite gospel. I say ‘trying’ because, in the lectionary, today is Trinity Sunday, and we aren’t doing the reading. But I am going to talk about it. Most Christians are Trinitarian, believing in the 3-in one God of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or in more inclusive language, Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit. Or at least they express God in that way. It’s in our doxologies and benedictions and communion liturgy, and I think some church leaders just got into the habit of using it, even if they don’t believe it, because I’ve done it myself.  

One problem I have with the doctrine of The Trinity Is that it is a construct, established at the Council of Nicaea, a meeting of bishops, over 300 years after the death of Jesus, as a reaction to the threat of a split in the early church over competing views of who Jesus was, mainly whether he was equal to  God, since God had no beginning or end, but Jesus did. And since Jesus was born of Mary, should she be declared divine? After a lengthy debate, the council decided that The Godhead was made up of three persons, Father, son, and Holy Spirit, who were all present before the beginning of time and were co-creators of the world. (It took a hundred more years for Mary to be proclaimed TheotAkos, ‘Divine mother of God.’)

This new doctrine became the foundation of The Nicene Creed, which says (in part), “I believe in one God, the Father almighty. I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, eternally begotten of the Father. I believe in the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the father and the son.” Even more than it being a construct created to try to hold the churches together, and the fact that I am anti-doctrine and anti-creedal to my core, what bothers me about the trinity is that it attempts to define the undefinable to put limits on something that is unlimited. It tries to put all that God is in a human-constructed box, But God won’t fit into the box, because God has so many more faces and voices than just these three. The Nicene Creed says that God is the creator of all, but it doesn’t say that we can see the face of God and feel the presence of God in creation. In the sunrise, on the mountaintop, in the forest, on the shore. Because creation isn’t one of the three. The word ‘love’ is not mentioned, yet Jesus was the epitome of love. There is also nothing about Jesus’ life, only that he was “Born of the father, crucified under Pontius Pilate, suffered death, was buried, resurrected, ascended into heaven, and will one day return to judge the living and the dead.”

If God is love, as we proclaim, then everyone who has ever loved or been loved wears the face of God, which is what Jesus showed us. He saw everyone as connected by the mysterious energy of love that we call God. If we follow his example, we will see the faces and hear voices of God are all around us. Last Monday night, Rahul Dubey was the face and voice of God. As police used tear gas, flash bang munitions, and low-flying helicopters, to herd peaceful protestors from DC’s Lafayette Square  onto Swann Street, and penned them in, Rahul opened the door of his house and shouted to the protestors, “Come in!  Get in the house, get in the house!  62 people came into his home and were given shelter, first-aid, food, and community. For hours, police waited outside. He yelled to them through the door, “We are doing no wrong in my house. These are my guests.” He gave his business card to everyone there to use if they were arrested.  And they stayed until curfew was lifted the next morning. All the protestors Rahul gave shelter to also wore the faces of God. George Floyd wore the face of God. And Aumaud Aubrey, and Breonna Taylor. Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson wore the face of God. In 1923, Frank Weston, the bishop of Zanzibar, closed the Anglo Catholic congress with these words, “You can’t pretend to worship Jesus in the Tabernacle, if you refuse to see Jesus in the street.” It’s easy for us to sit on our mountain of privilege and praise God in church. It’s only when we open our minds and our hearts to see and hear God outside the church, in our fellow humans, that we experience so much more of all that God is. Amen.


New Vision and Progressive Christianity

 New Vision is a Progressive church. That doesn’t mean that you must be progressive to be a member here. It mainly means that your pastor an...