St. Paul’s Congregational Church
June 7, 2020 – Trinity Sunday
Genesis 1:1 – 2:3; Matthew 28: 16 - 20
We Christians are people both with a story – and of a story! A story handed down through for so many generations – remembered – it’s a story that inspires us, that challenges us, that even scolds us sometimes – but it’s always a love story: of how God loves us, of how God will do anything to bring us back and keep us in relationship, of how God is always with us: a story that’s more awesome than any other.
Today we hear where and when this story starts: In the beginning…God. And then we move to Jesus’ final words to his disciples – to the great commission – go forth and make disciples of all nations, to ALL nations, baptizing them, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And that awesome promise: I am with you always, to the end of the age. These are Jesus’ last instructions to his disciples – to us!
The Story’s not finished, though. God is still speaking – now, thanks to the coming of the Holy Spirit, we are part of this ongoing narrative. The process of Creation continues. We are the stewards of this story – not only do we tell it, but we also live it, grapple with it, grow in our understanding and work to follow Jesus’ instructions – and it’s striking that we reflect on all this during these days of pain, anger, chaos, uncertainty, disruption. We also remember, though, this: And God said it was good.
How can this be? Doesn’t seem to fit, does it. But I believe it does.
This has been a very difficult week. An exhausting, intense, tumultuous week for us all: I’m feeling drained myself after participating in 2 vigils, attending an online seminar sponsored by the UCC, countless conversations with colleagues, being drawn to watching much more televised news than usual, being incredibly moved by the funeral of George Floyd – honestly, I couldn’t NOT do these things. And as a result, I’ve spent a lot of time looking inside of myself to understand my own biases, my own racist thoughts, my own complicity – and there came a lightbulb moment when I understood for the first time deep within me why the words Black Lives Matter are so important and profound – not simply All Lives Matter. And, I’m beginning to find a voice to express that new learning.
It is an exhausting and sometimes painful process to learn and grow, isn’t it. But we really don’t have a choice now: we are in a new normal. God’s creation is continuing and at some point I heard the words loud and clear: and God said it is good. A new normal is a good thing.
And I heard Jesus’s words of reassurance: lo, I am with you always – go and make disciples of ALL people.
So where do we go with this process, this exhausting and intense process, of learning and growing? As individuals? As church at St. Paul’s? Are we willing to do the hard work of learning and growing into the new normal? Are we willing to trust Jesus’ words of reassurance? Are we willing to be partners in bringing about this new normal, this new creation? How will we live out the commandment to love God and our neighbor in this new normal, this new creation? How will we define the mission of our church as we begin to look ahead to resuming our in-person worship? We must not go back to the way things were. We can’t go back. God is bringing about a new creation – and it is good.
Walter Bruggemann has written a new book, Virus as a Summons of Faith, meditations and prayers for such a time as this. One of his chapters is entitled, “God’s New Thing” – he says, “In our moment of fear and insecurity, we may be tempted to hold on to what was once safe and secure. Prophetic tradition knows, to the contrary, that the future does not reside in old treasured realities – rather, it belongs to bold faithful thought that evokes bold faithful action. The new thing God is making possible is a world of generous, neighborly compassion – it is before our very real eyes! The good news is that we need not go back to those old ways – we can embrace a new normal that is God’s gift to us.”
How will we as individuals and as church contribute to the effort of creating a world of generous, neighborly compassion?
The chapter ends with a prayer entitled “At the Edge of a New Normal”: listen for God’s call as we pray:
Oh God, our “normal ways” are reassuring to us;
It is our normal way to slot people for wealth or poverty;
It is our normal way to classify people as “us” and “other.”
It is our normal way to prefer males to the other gender;
It is our normal way to distinguish heteros and the “other”;
Our usual normals make us safe,
make us happy,
leave us certain.
Only now our normal ways are exposed as constructs of privilege that cover the reality of our neighborly situation.
In the midst of the virus we notice that the others are very much with us,
and we are all vulnerable together.
We sense the disruption, the loss, the deep dis-ease among us, and
we want our old normals to be “great again.”
Except that we cannot!
Except that you summon us to new futures made sober by the pandemic;
You require us now to imagine, to risk, and be vulnerable
as we watch the new normals emerge among us:
the blind see, lepers are cleansed, the poor have good news;
students have debts cancelled; the poor have health care;
workers have a living wage, the atmosphere breathes fresh air.
We want to return to the old normal that yield (for some) safety and happiness
but you dispatch us otherwise.
Your new normal for us requires some adjustment by us,
And adjust we will. We will live and trust and share differently.
“All things new” is a huge stretch for us.
But we know it is your good gift to us; with wistfulness, we receive it
we embrace it, and
we give thanks to you. Amen.
Friends, this new thing that God is making possible is a world of generous, neighborly compassion. It is before our very eyes! Let us see it! Let us adjust! Let us embrace it! And let us live it! Let us live it together! And we ask that this begin right now, right here as our lives be changed by the breaking of the bread! And then may we hear in our ears and in our hearts the words of our Story: and God saw that it was good. Amen!