Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Holy Trinity Sunday, Year B
May 27, 2018
Lessons: Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8:12-17; John 3:1-17
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people live not in fear but rather in the sure and certain knowledge that we are part of God’s family. Fear discourages stewardship, while belonging encourages it.
Key Scripture: For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. Romans 8:14
This Sunday provides an opportunity to celebrate the rich relational nature of the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Notice the emphasis is on celebrating God rather than trying to explain God or wax eloquent about the theological concept of the Holy Trinity. God doesn’t need our attempts at “humansplaining” the Divine—that which is truly beyond our comprehension and will not be contained in our neat little boxes and compartments.
No, the only way even to begin to know God is to encounter God through relationship. It is in relationship with God that we learn to appreciate the fullness of God that is expressed in our reading from Romans this week. Paul’s words to the church at Rome are filled with hope and promise, and in them we also get a glimpse of the vastness of God.
The good news begins with the liberating reality that we no longer must live in slavery to sin. We no longer owe our lives to death and destruction. Instead, thanks to the gift of Christ’s amazing love and of the Holy Spirit living and working within us, we have been adopted into the family of God. We belong! We have a place at the table both now and forever. Therefore, our obligation is not to live lives of selfishness and self-centeredness, but rather to embrace this new reality and follow the Spirit’s leading.
The good news of belonging is amplified by the promise that we are no longer slaves that must live in fear. This, my friends, is a word that so many people need to hear today. We live in such a fearful and polarized age. So many competing claims vie for our attention and our allegiance, often using fear-mongering and scare tactics. This is not what God desires for us. God wants us to live as secure members of the family. And isn’t that perhaps our most deep-seated need beyond food and shelter—to belong and to be loved and valued for just who God created us to be?
We humans find meaning in belonging, and there should be plenty of opportunity for finding meaning and purpose AND for making connections in God’s family. Church, the Body of Christ, should be that place where all are welcome to come as they are to a safe and welcoming space where they are valued as God’s beloved.
Unfortunately, this has not been the experience many people have had with church. Faith communities are too often seen as places of judgment and hypocrisy, as social clubs where it is difficult to gain insider status, and as locations of deep wounding. The loudest voices of Christianity are often not the ones of inclusion and welcome.
How do we tell a different story? How do we make sure that our welcome is genuine? How can we truly be a body that is fit for Christ? Short of live coals (Isaiah 6:1-8) and other drastic purification practices, we can rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us. Because we are adopted children of this unbounded yet highly relational God, we can work on our faith family dynamics and relationships. As we have been set free, we can offer that same freedom to all whom we encounter, building bridges and forging relationships, experiencing God and others in a spirit of expectant joy and hope.
In addition to Trinity-themed hymns this week, why not consider singing All are Welcome by Marty Haugen? What kind of house are we building as Christ’s body in this place? Consider who is welcome in your house of worship. How do you practice hospitality? Who is not at the table who needs to be there, and how will you invite and welcome them?
This week’s gospel lesson from John tells the story of Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night in hopes of having some of his faith questions answered. Does he leave with all the answers all neatly and tidily packaged? No. Invite youth to consider what questions about the faith they may have. Consider what it means to live in holy tension between certainty and the unknown. Are we able to live faithfully without absolutes? The doctrine of the Trinity is one example. It’s tough to wrap one’s mind around the concept of a Triune God, especially when so many visual explanations fall short of the mark. Encourage youth that it is okay to not have all the answers, that we do indeed live by faith.
What does it really mean to be adopted into the family of God? Invite the children to start at the font and talk about how in their baptism the pastor made the sign of the cross on their forehead, signifying that they are signed and sealed as children of God—adopted into God’s family. They also received the gift of the Holy Spirit that lives in them and shows that they are part of God’s adopted family. Remind them that we have birth families, but we also have families of choice—like God’s family. If you have any children who have been adopted or families who are going through the adoption process, invite them to share their story with the children. Give thanks in a simple prayer for families, for the family of God, and for families who are formed by choice and blessing.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
We like to think that our congregations are welcoming places and resemble one big happy family, but sometimes we miss the mark. Do you believe that all are welcome in our congregation? Does everyone have a place at the table and find a warm welcome just as they are? Radical hospitality is a stewardship issue. Let’s all consider whether we are being good stewards of radical welcome and inclusion, and whether there are those who would not find us to be a safe and welcoming space.
Stewardship at Home
“Here I am; send me!” says the prophet in our Old Testament lesson from Isaiah (6:1-8) in response to the Lord’s question “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” We are sent from worship every week to love and serve the Lord, commissioned as God’s people to address the needs of a beloved and hurting world. This week consider how you have been commissioned to make a difference in your daily life and vocation. Whether you are in the workforce, are a student, or are retired, the Lord has work for you to do. Consider how you may be a blessing to others, to speak a word of God’s love, mercy, and grace. You may, however, be called to speak a difficult word just as Isaiah was. Perhaps you will need to speak on behalf of those who lack voice and cannot advocate for themselves.
Keep a record this week of how God is using you in daily life to be a witness, to speak a prophetic word, and to proclaim God’s love, mercy, and grace. Pray for the strength, wisdom, and guidance of the Spirit to do so.
Here’s a look back at our 2012 Lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2012/05/a-holy-wholly-relational-god/
Here’s a look back at our 2015 Lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2015/05/how-can-these-things-not-be/
Photos: Larry Koester, and Richard Wagoner, Creative Commons usage license. © Paulus Nugroho R – Fotolia.com. Thanks!
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