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Trinity of Love, Grace, and Fellowship

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For June 7, 2020:

Bethany PeerbolteTrinity of Love, Grace, and Fellowship
by Bethany Peerbolte
2 Corinthians 13:11-13

In the Scripture
This final verse of 2 Corinthians has served as a popular benediction in the Church. It provides a nice summary of blessings that honors each part of the Trinity. It is not an easy benediction to live out though. None of these works are easy. Paul is clear he intends the Corinthians to be working toward perfecting love, grace, and fellowship. These two letters to the Corinthians are packed with rebukes and lectures about Christian life. There is turmoil in Corinth and Paul is trying to advise for unity. Paul is on his way to Corinth after he sends these letters ahead of him. After these letters are received, and Paul arrives, he begins writing to the Romans. The letter to the Romans, however, does not reference any of the pervious turmoil in Corinth. It seems like the Corinthians have understood Paul’s advice and are now living in love, grace, and fellowship. On this Trinity Sunday we get a glimpse at what Paul believes is the work of each in the Trinity. God’s work is love, Jesus’ work is grace, and the Spirit’s work is fellowship.

The first hope Paul has for Corinth is that they live out God’s work as love. Paul wants them to see that to be in the presence of God one only needs to love. God is fully present to any act that is done in love. This is a relatively new idea for the people of this time. Gods are known to be particular with their love. Other gods of this time may show love to a few special followers, but the rest of the population lives with the anxiety of the gods wrath. The Jewish God, who now is known better through Jesus’ teachings, is a God of unconditional love. If love is shared they can be assured that God is in that place too. This is not a superficial love of acquaintances the love they are to work to perfection is one that makes a Holy greeting of a kiss feel natural.

Paul also wants the grace given by Jesus to be perfected in the Corinthian churchs. They seem happy to welcome the grace to their own lives to cover their own sins, but Paul wants them to see grace works for us, in us, and through us. We of course receive grace for the things we have done, but the work of grace does not end there. It works inside us to mend the brokenness that causes sin and correcting hurtful behaviors. Grace should also go out from within us to others. The pursuit of perfect grace will never let grace sit still. It is received, it moves within, and it is given freely to others. This is the work of grace and the work the Church should be perfecting.

The work of the Spirit that Corinth is tasked to perfect is fellowship. The Spirit works to connect. It connects the Trinity, it connects us to the Trinity, and it connect humanity to one another. This cuts through all desires to keep a friend circle small. It works to include more and more especially those who are different that the currently included. Each part of the Trinity is unique and so our fellowship circles should include people who are unlike us. In this kind of fellowship our weaknesses support others’ strengths by letting them shine in their time and their strengths cover our weaknesses so we are not left exposed.

Paul actually exhibits love, grace, and fellowship in his relationship with Corinth. It is his love for them that allows him to correct their course and advise new practices. The love may be hard to hear in some places but it comes from a place of love. We know it is inspire by love because he offers them grace in everything. He does not threaten them with wrath, but constantly reminds them God is for them. To round it all out Paul is willing to be in fellowship with them. Traveling to spend time among them and get to know them in their space on their terms.

In the News
We are over 2,000 years from Paul first asking the Church to perfect their love, grace, and fellowship — and perfection is still not within our grasp. These past two weeks have proven that humanity has a lot of work to do to achieve perfect love, perfect grace, or perfect fellowship.

The actions of Amy Cooper in Central Park made headlines with some saying she blatantly weaponized her whiteness to threaten a black man. When the man asked Cooper to put her dog on a leash, a rule that was posted in several locations around the park, her response was to threaten to call the police. In the video the man took to protect himself, Cooper questioned if the cops would believe her or him and asked who would be in more trouble. The video also shows Cooper’s dog struggling to breathe as she held and picked up the dog by its collar. Since the video’s release Cooper has lost her job and her dog. She has also issued an apology.

In Louisville, Breonna Taylor was killed in her home by police who had a warrant related to possible drug activity at the address. Two warrants were issued, one for a home where the drug dealers were suspected of living and another for Taylors home. It was thought her address was used to drop off and pick up packages. The warrant was a “no-knock” warrant which allowed police to enter without warning and without identifying themselves as police. The first house was already raided which resulted in two men being taken into custody when the police used a battering ram to gain entry to Taylor’s home. Taylor’s boyfriend fired shots at what he thought were intruders and the police fired 20 rounds back into the house, hitting Taylor 8 times and killing her. Her boyfriend was taken into custody but later released. No action has been taken against the police involved.

The death of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis has created a rip tide of news. The video of his death shows officer Chauvin calmly kneeling on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Bystanders pled with Chauvin to get off and let him breath but by the time paramedics arrive Floyd was nonresponsive. The culmination of all these tragedies flooding newspapers and news feeds has resulted in protests across the United States. Some of these protests have included fires and looting while many more have included police and civilians marching and crying for the same thing.  

In the Sermon
It horrifies me to think that by the time we preach on Trinity Sunday there will be another name to add to the list of stories above. However, that is a very probable reality with the systems that make up America today. I can remember when we thought police body cameras would be the solution. I can remember thinking “brutality does not stand a chance if everyone can see the video plainly.” When videos did show brutality, I can remember thinking “why is everyone just standing there watching, they need to say something.” I have heard the arguments “the crime was dangerous” or “they resisted arrest.” Then this week I saw the video of George Floyd, plainly. I learned the accusation was using a counterfeit $20 bill (something I have accidentally done after I made change for a high school fundraiser and all I encountered was the hassle of having to pay with credit). After I saw the video of him calmly sitting on the ground in handcuffs and after seeing the bystanders beg for officer Chauvin to stand up, it was clear this is not about getting the right evidence or doing the right thing in the moment. We need systematic change at a much higher pay grade than a police officer or a civilian bystander.

Posts have flooded my social media about the best way for white people to be allies. Some say we need to speak up; some say we need to stay quiet for the black voices to be heard. Some say we need to make phone calls to public figures; some say we need to focus on our own family. While the advice can be confusing it highlights that we do not know exactly what to do because no one has figured out how to do this yet. It has not been perfected.

Maybe the answer lies in this benediction: love, grace, and fellowship. It strikes me that we have three options here that all lead to the other.

We could start with love. Learning the stories of the “other” and finding ways to love them for who they are and the experiences they have had. Even someone who has very little racial diversity around them can attempt to find something to love about the black community.

We could start with grace. There may be a hurt we have experienced by the hands of the “other” and we need to offer grace to heal. Just like we should not assume everyone of a group is bad we can acknowledge there may be some real hurts people have suffered at their hands. It is our job and the work of Jesus to offer grace and begin healing those hurts.

Or maybe the hate is too deep. Maybe the lessons about the “other” make the doors of love and grace too narrow to walk through just yet. We could start with fellowship. Simply sharing space with the “other.” Fellowship has helped the LGBTQIA+ community make great strides. It is hard to hang on to hate when the one you hate turns out to be a niece, or a son. This is of course a harder entry point for racism, but the Human Library is trying to introduce us to the “other” in exactly this way. With the motto to “Unjudge Someone,” the Human Library sets up stations of normal individuals to be “checked out” for conversation. Someone attending a Human Library event can walk in and look through their catalog and choose to have a conversation with someone with tattoos, or someone of a different religion, or different political affiliation. The human “books” have committed to not get offended by questions and are open to talking with all people. An “Unjudgment Day happens at the end of June, but it is still unclear how these events will happen during the pandemic.

It seems the Trinity has modeled for us that there is more than one way to be unified with another. Once we have one of the three, love or grace or fellowship, the other two are easier to get at. We may still be working toward perfection but the goal is still worthy of our effort, and maybe needed more than ever.


Ron LoveSECOND THOUGHTS
A New Beginning
by Ron Love
Genesis 1:1--2:4a

World War I was also called “The Great War.” Most lasting though is the phrase that it was “The War to End All Wars.” This phrase originated with a series of articles published in London newspapers beginning in 1914, written by British author and social commentator H. G. Wells. These articles were then reprinted in a book that was titled The War That Will End War. In 1918, Wells started to use the shorter “the war to end war.” This gave rise to World War I being called the “The War to End All Wars.” It was believed that ending German militarism would secure world peace. To prevent Germany from ever again being a world power, and in retribution for starting the war, the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed on June 28, 1919, was extremely punitive. In fact, the peace treaty was so severe that it made it impossible for Germany to reestablish itself as a nation. President Woodrow Wilson would have intervened for a more lenient settlement, but he was sickened and bed ridden, a casualty of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. Germany, unable to recover, led to the dictatorship of Adolph Hitler and World War II. It was a war that began to restore the German nation from the oppression of the Treaty of Versailles, but soon became a war of ambition for world domination.

There was the opportunity for a new begging; but, it was a lost opportunity.

During World War II, George C. Marshall served as Chief of Staff. All generals and admirals, including Eisenhower and McArthur, Nimitz and King, as well as all foreign military leaders of the Allied powers were responsible to him. After the war Marshall served as Secretary of State under President Harry Truman. Marshall knew in order to prevent another European war, Germany had to be rebuilt economically. Marshall then instituted the restoration program known as the Marshall Plan, officially known as the European Recovery Program (ERP). As a result, a unified Germany is now one of our strongest allies and a member of NATO.

There was an opportunity for a new beginning. And there was a new beginning.

Our lectionary reading for this morning begins with “In the beginning…” Verse after verse in the Genesis creation account we read how beautiful this new beginning was. And it was, in every sense of the word, a new beginning, because from the void came life. The entire globe was to be a Garden of Eden, a garden of community, where no one needed to hide behind a fig leaf. It took very little time for utopia to become “paradise lost.” Since then, we have only hoped to regain our sense of community — our sense of commonality.

Would it be over simplistic to state that every story and every lesson in the Bible is a presentation of a “new beginning?” The possibility for a new community of understanding and acceptance, forgiveness and respect. Perhaps the best place to begin is with Israel, a chain of stories of new beginnings. Though, each of us has a place in that community, and our new individual beginning is a new beginning for all. Let us look to Nicodemus to be inspired. But, there is also Moses, David and Joseph. Even the story of Peter is a story of a new beginning, and can we ever leave out “doubting” Thomas or Zacchaeus.

Every moment in the life of an individual, every moment in history, is a moment for a new beginning. Though some moments, like Covid-19, are a watershed moment for a new beginning.

Arundhati Roy is novelist who lives in India. She wrote an essay that was titled “The pandemic is a portal.” It was published on April 3, 2020. The essay has gone viral. The essay has set the stage that coronavirus, as tragic as it is, could be the opportunity for a new beginning — a global new beginning. Roy makes many poignant points in her essay, but what is being most discussed is her closing statement:

Nothing could be worse than a return to normality. Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.

This is a time for a new beginning.

In my theology, bad is bad, and suffering is suffering. We should never pretend otherwise. But, also in my theology is a message of the Resurrection. The resurrection informs us that we can bring some good ought of bad. It means that we can find some redemptive quality in suffering. It would be best if there was no evil in the world, but there is. The resurrection teaches us that this evil can be defeated if we use it as an opportunity for a new beginning.

Over 100,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus. Have they died so life will go on as usual when face masks and “sheltering-in-place” are just shadows of the past; or, will we learn that there can be a “new beginning?”

The new normal will not be “sheltering-in-place,” but it will be a renewed understanding of community. This is the message of a poem that went viral, calling us to forgo judgment and embrace understanding. The poem was written by Damian Barr, and it was called, “We are not in the same boat, but we are in the same storm.” The poem continues to reflect that the problems associated with the coronavirus are universal — which is the meaning of a pandemic — but how it affects each one of us is different. Realize then, that we our all equally affected by the ravages of this microscopic enemy.

Kathleen Parker, who is a columnist for the Washington Post, wrote that the virus has shown us that we are a global community. She wrote: “The coronavirus pandemic isn’t the worst problem we’ve faced, but it is evidence of the globalization of all things, good and bad. What begins with one person in a remote place, whether an upper respiratory virus or a tectonic-shifting technological advance, can infect and affect millions around the world to dazzling or deathly effect.” In the same essay she made the statement that the virus has shown that “Americans hunger for an aspirational message of unity and optimism.”

Pope Francis has also made the plea that in the aftermath of the virus we will have a renewed sense of community. Hoping for this understanding of community, he prayed with Jews and Muslims for the restoration of the land from this virus. Conservative Catholics criticized him for praying with “infidels.” The pope’s response, “But how can we not pray to the father of us all? Each one prays as they know how, as they are able to. We are not praying one against the other, one tradition against another ... (but) as brothers…”

Pope Francis also hopes that the virus will make us aware of the dispersity between the rich and the poor, the “have” and the “have nots.” With this realization, coming from the pandemic’s “time of trail,” the pope hopes that these inequalities will be abolished. On Sunday, April 19, 2020, the pope walked a few blocks to the Santo Spirito church, where he officiated at Mass. In his sermon he said, “May we be profoundly shaken by what is happening all around us. The time has come to eliminate inequalities, to heal the injustice that is undermining the health of the entire human family!” The pope further said, “This is not some ideology. It is Christianity.”

In an interview, a man named Mitch says that his earliest childhood memory is attending the polio treatment center at Warm Springs, Georgia. In fact, during some of his visits, President Franklin Roosevelt was there at the same time to be treated for polio. Mitch says he does not know how his mother did it. She was alone, as her husband was in the military and deployed overseas during the war. His mother, Julia, would drive him an hour each way for his treatments. Mitch referred to this part of his life as “eerie” times. Mitch was asked how his mother paid for his treatment, as there was no health insurance or government financial assistance programs at the time. Mitch was stumped and answered, “Honestly, I don’t know the answer to that.” Mitch grew up to be Senator Mitch McConnell, who is the Senate majority leader. The Republican senator from Kentucky who is blocking any further financial assistance to destitute Americans displaced by the coronavirus.

A new beginning is what we desire, but some still wear fig leaves.


ILLUSTRATIONS

Dean FeldmeyerFrom team member Dean Feldmeyer:

One small step toward ending racism
Mr. Tim Bales, of Amelia, Ohio, relates this story on his Facebook page:

“When I was 4 years old, I was staying in a hotel with my grandfather. We went to the dining room for breakfast. It just so happened that Harry Bellafonte was having breakfast in the dining room at the time. For those young people out there, he was a very famous black singer at the time. My grandfather told me to ask him for his autograph. When I did, Harry Belafonte invited me to sit down and have breakfast with him. My grandfather agreed and Mr. Bellafonte bought me a huge plate of pancakes. We had a great breakfast while the rest of the diners looked on in astonishment. Remember, this was when we still had Jim Crow laws. Black men did not have a meal with young white kids. This experience in kindness and, frankly, bravery on Mr. Bellafonte’s part combined with my grandfather’s desire to teach me, shaped the rest of my life. My grandfather never tired of describing the looks on faces of the white people in that restaurant dining room.”

(Used by permission.)

* * *

How many is 100,000 people?
• 1 person fills a chair.
• 10 people fill the average home dining room.
• 20 people fill the average office conference room.
• 50 people fill an average hotel meeting room.
• 100 people fill the sanctuary of a small, country church.
• 500 people fill the sanctuary of a large suburban church.
• 1,000 people fill a large theater.
• 10,000 people fill Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, North Carolina home of the Durham Bulls baseball team. (International League)
• 20,000 people will fill Roy Kidd Stadium in Richmond, Kentucky, home of the Eastern Kentucky Colonels (NCAA)
• 50,000 people will fill Stanford Stadium in Stanford, California, home of the Stanford Cardinals (NCAA)

The Ohio State Stadium, home of the Ohio State University Buckeyes in Columbus, Ohio is the third largest stadium in the United states (after the University of Michigan, and Penn State) and it holds 102,000 people, roughly the same number of people killed by the Covid-19.

* * *

How many is 100,000 people? 2.0
The number of Americans who died in combat since the start of the Korean War on June 25, 1950 (70 years):

Korean War: 33,686
Vietnam: 47,424
Gulf War: 149
Afghanistan: 1,833
Iraq: 3,836
Other military ops: 528
TOTAL 87,456

TOTAL American war dead from all causes: 102,020

TOTAL Covid-19 deaths in the US as of May 29, 2020: 103,027 in roughly 112 days.

* * *

Creativity starts with a question
All great creations start not with an answer, but with a question.

During times of fast change, as we live in today, answers don't last very long. They come and the next day, it seems, they are gone. But questions linger.

The word question is derived from the Latin quaerere (to seek), which is the same root as the word quest. A creative life is a continued quest, and good questions are useful guides. We have found that the most useful questions are open-ended. They allow for many answers. They are the kind of questions children aren't afraid to ask.

Jon Collins of Stanford's Graduate School of Business has compiled the following list of questions of wonder:
Albert Einstein: What would a light wave look like to someone keeping pace with it?
Bill Bowerman (inventor of Nike shoes): What happens if I pour rubber into my waffle iron?
Fred Smith (founder of Federal Express): Why can't there be reliable overnight mail service?
Godfrey Hounsfield (inventor of the CAT scanner): Why can't we see in three dimensions what is inside a human body without cutting it open?

Many of these questions are deemed ridiculous at first.

* * *

How not to be creative
Roger von Oech, in his book A Whack on the Side of the Head, offers these ten notions that block people from being creative:

1. The right answer
2. That's not logical
3. Follow the rules
4. Be practical
5. Avoid ambiguity
6. To err is wrong
7. Play is frivolous
8. That's not my area
9. Don't be foolish
10. I'm not creative

* * *

The peace of God…and knowledge
Tim Hansel, in his book, Holy Sweat offers this little story about how to obtain peace of mind:

In my late twenties, a bunch of my friends and I decided to sail around the world. I have to admit, though, at the time I was a bit worried. I hadn't even sailed before. I was uneasy and anxious. So I spent a lot of time reading the Bible and praying about it, until it dawned on me that God was whispering,

"Tim, I'll give you peace if you read some books on sailing. The reason you're anxious is not due to lack of prayer, but to your lack of sailing knowledge."

I wasn't unprayerful; I was unskilled. So, I took a step I needed to take to "let" God work his peace in my heart. I began reading about sailing.

* * * * * *

Mary AustinFrom team member Mary Austin:

Psalm 8
Two Pockets

Locating humankind in between God and the rest of the creation, the Psalmist asks and then answers, “what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.” The delightful and familiar story, told by Martin Buber, of the Hasidic rabbi with two notes in his pockets captures this balancing act. Rabbi Simcha Bunim often said that “Every person should have two pockets. In one pocket should be a piece of paper saying: "I am only dust and ashes." When one is feeling too proud, reach into this pocket and take out this paper and read it. In the other pocket should be a piece of paper saying: "For my sake was the world created." When one is feeling disheartened and lowly, reach into this pocket and take this paper out and read it. We are each the joining of two worlds. We are fashioned from clay, but our spirit is the breath of Adonai.” (Tales of The Hasidim Later Masters, Martin Buber, p.249-50) One version of the story is told here.  Another is here.

* * *

Genesis 1:1--2:4a
What This Generation Knows
As we imagine a new creation coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic, Lise Ragbir is watching her young daughter navigate this time at home, and imagining that Generation Z (people born after 1997) will create that different world with the skills they have. She observes, “I’m a Gen Xer with a 7-year-old. Since March, I’ve been a stay-at-home-working-mum-home-schooler and have spent unprecedented time with my (occasional) bundle of joy. Accordingly, I’ve learned that I’m a terrible math teacher, I should lock the door when I’m on a Zoom call, and I should have appreciated the precious alone time on my morning commutes. My daughter, on the other hand, has learned to whip around an iPad, make her own lunch, and negotiate, well, everything—from the length of “recess” to extended bedtimes. And she’s not alone in her expedited learning. A friend of hers was bored enough in quarantine to learn all the states, and provinces of Canada, along with their respective capitals. Another friend learned to do his laundry. But perhaps more significant than who’s learned what during this unprecedented time is how the pandemic is shaping these young lives.”

She imagines these strengths in the new world her child and others will inhabit. “As I see it, those in this new generation: Won’t trust that things will be the same from one day to the next. What will this do to their sense of security? Won’t know the term “germaphobe” (because they will all be germaphobes.) Will this mean they’ll never know the layered meaning of a handshake? Will know how to celebrate, or mourn, without physically convening. Will the ways in which we honor life’s milestones trigger new technologies? And how will new technologies affect our social rituals?”

In this new creation, she says, her daughter and others will be “a generation of creative problem-solvers (I draw this hope from watching her make dragons from toilet paper boxes when we’re too preoccupied to entertain her.) I imagine her generation will have an appreciation for homegrown and DIY efforts from planting vegetable gardens and self-done haircuts. And while social-distancing might spawn a comfort with solitude, the distance from each other might also create a generation that appreciates the value of community, more than any other.” In this new creation, this generation may lead all of us into new ways of doing things.

* * *

2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Live in Peace
“Live in peace,” the end of the letter to the churches in Corinth instructs. One of the challenges of life is finding peace after a deep and terrible grief – the loss of a beloved person, or the loss of a way of life. The 100,000 deaths in the United States from Covid-19 are leading us into a national conversation about communal grief, and how we share that burden with those who mourn. Poet Gregory Orr has been thinking about the weight of loss his whole life. He recalls, “I grew up in upstate New York, rural Hudson Valley. We had one stoplight, two drugstores, one jukebox in the dark drugstore, and seven or eight churches. My father was a country doctor, so we lived out in the country. And as you say, one of the rituals, one of the realities of that world — there are two realities, I guess. One is going to church, and the other is going hunting.” On his first hunting trip, at the age of twelve, he shot and killed his brother in a horrible accident.

Orr says that he believes mourning can be transformed, when the story is told. He tells us, “Isak Dinesen, the Danish writer, has a wonderful saying that I think is true. She said any sorrow can be borne if it can be made into a story, or a story can be told about it. I’ll go to the consolation first, and then I’ll go to the despair.” He adds, “My experience of trauma was — as a 12-year-old, was, there’s the board with the game pieces on it, and in one gesture, all the pieces are scattered off the board. But it’s such a powerful gesture that the board itself is erased. There’s no longer Chutes and Ladders, CLUE, Monopoly, whatever game you want, checkers, chess. The pieces are gone, but the board itself is erased, as well. It’s just a blank. This is the abyss. This is the world of no meaning. And of course, with trauma, you also get this threat to the integrity, not just the meaning of the world around you, but the integrity of the self is also threatened, even destroyed. What we know about trauma is that it shatters us.”

Our world, as we knew it, is being shattered, and we need to find our way from sorrow back to a new form of community with each other, where we can all “live in peace.”

* * *

2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Making Community, One Cupcake at a Time
“Put things in order…live in peace,” Paul urges the churches in Corinth. Michael Platt, a young baker, has his own ways of putting the world in order. At the age of 14, Michael “is the founder of Michaels Desserts. Born with “an epic sweet tooth,” he fell in love with baking at age nine, helping his grandmother make a cake. Intrigued, he began watching baking videos. Michael was also learning from his parents about income inequality and childhood hunger, and he wanted to fight those injustices. Since his diagnosis with severe epilepsy at 10, Michael has been homeschooled by his mother, Danita. With his activities restricted, he threw himself into baking. After his parents gave him Toms shoes, he discovered that firm’s one-for-one model of giving—and inspiration struck. In 2017, with his parents’ help, he founded Michaels Desserts. For every dessert sold, the bakery donates one to the homeless or hungry. Michael deliberately left the apostrophe out of his company’s name as a reminder that he’s baking for others, not himself.”

For his business, “Michael sells about 170 treats a month, mostly cupcakes, made in the family kitchen. He delivers to domestic violence shelters and transitional housing as well as to the homeless in McPherson Square in Washington, DC.” His creative side comes out particularly with “his monthly “Freedom Fighter” cupcakes, which honor such figures as abolitionist Harriet Tubman, whose cupcake is mint chocolate chip (her nickname was Minty), and Martin Luther King Jr., whose cupcake has a sweet potato pie filling based on a traditional African-American dessert.” Michael’s cupcakes are a way of building connection. He says, “My faith means it’s part of my and everyone’s responsibility to take care of others. When I see people are hungry, I want to give them something. It’s my way of telling them that they haven’t been forgotten.” Michael plans to continue both his advocacy and his baking, with the goal of creating a pay-what-you-can grocery store.” Food is a way to make connections between people, and to add to their feeling of community.

* * * * * *

Chris KeatingFrom team member Chris Keating:

Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Creation’s choreography
Close study of the protests roiling across American cities reveals fascinating and contrasting choreography. Protestors march, waving signs, chanting passionately. Their movements are informal and free, but emotion-filled and focused. Meanwhile, battalions of police move in precision, flanking out to block streets and enforce order.

Both movements reveal the anguish and division around racism. Both also evoke images of the churning, relentless energy of creation as described in Genesis 1. It is not hard to imagine light sparking out of the darkness, and life erupting from the void. Genesis’ vision of creation is both chaotic and orderly, with both forces held in tension by the creator God who delights in what is happening.

The interrelated choreography of creation is also apropos for Trinity Sunday. In contrast to the opposing forces of protestors and police, creation (and the Trinity) points to the connected, mutuality of life in God. The Eastern Orthodox tradition has gifted the church with the understanding of the three Persons of the Trinity living in “perichoretic” relationship. (Shirley C. Guthrie, Always Being Reformed, Westminster/John Knox Press, 2008), p. 36.) “Peri,” meaning “around” and “Choresis,” meaning dancing, were blended by John  of Damascus in describing the movement of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As Guthrie says, they are “like three dancers, holding hands, dancing around in joyful freedom.”

“It follows,” says Guthrie, “that if in God’s own deepest inner being God is God-in-community, then that is also what God is in relation to us. The freedom and power of such a God is not freedom and power to do anything God pleases, to dominate and control. It is God’s freedom to be with and for us, setting us on our feet and empowering us to be God’s faithful covenant partners in God’s work in and for the world.” (Guthrie, p. 37.)

* * *

Diversity and the imago Dei
The recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many others have once more highlighted the systemic grip of racism and white privilege. Far too often, theology has been conscripted into the service of white supremacy, creating distorted views of God. Richard Rohr notes that instead of “reflecting the One who created all things in God’s own “image and likeness” (Genesis 1:26-27), we instead make God into a mascot who, as Anne Lamott brilliantly quips, hates all the same people we do.” A view of God’s radical diversity, says Rohr, is “most beautifully revealed in ‘all the array [pleroma, or fullness] of creation’ (Genesis 2:1). God is forever ‘making room’ and ‘infilling’; this is the Way of the Flow.”

* * *

Psalm 8
When I look at the heavens and see dollar signs
Between racial protests and the launch of SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on Saturday, it almost seemed as though the 60s were making a comeback. (And this time, marijuana is legal in 11 states, and available by prescription in 33.)

But this is a psychedelic revival with a capitalist bent. Elon Musk launched his SpaceX company with the intent of landing on Mars. The New York Times  notes that SpaceX Crew Dragon craft is the cheapest human-carrying spacecraft ever made for NASA. (Did astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken know they were taking the equivalent of Southwest Airlines into space?)

To reach Mars, CNBC says that Musk’s company needs to prove that reusable rockets can be used safely. The launch could propel NASA’s hopes for chartered space flights, with companies taking on what was previously restricted to nations. Those who work with Musk say his interest in space is driven more by getting to Mars than making money.

Aerospace consultant Jim Cantrell told Wired magazine in 2018 that he does not think making money is Musk’s primary motivator.

“Elon really doesn’t care about the money — he wants to go to Mars,” Cantrell said. “It was always focused on Mars, none of this was focused on the market. I was the guy who had the market focus, and I was like, ‘Hey, look Elon, we’ve got to have a return on investment.’ His response to me was, ‘I don’t really give a #$%! about return on investment.’”

* * *

Genesis 1:1--2:4a
What the coronavirus reveals about the Trinity
Theologian Gregory Hillis believes the coronavirus may be a helpful way of illustrating the doctrine of the Trinity to students in his college religion class.

The Trinity, Hillis explains, describes the mutuality and unity within God’s self as a community where each Person of God retains individuality while giving to each other freely in love. The implications of this for humanity becomes clear, Hillis argues, when we recall that human beings were created in God’s image:

If God in his essence exists in community—and if we are created in the image and likeness of God—then we, too, are created to exist in community with one another. We were not created to live lives of isolation focused solely on our own well-being. We were created for one another, to exist relationally, giving of ourselves to one another as God exists relationally.

Sadly, humans do not often display this unity—as illustrated by the Fall in Genesis, or by the nightly news. “We are divided along national and racial lines,” Hillis writes.  “We are divided by gender and sexual orientation; we are divided socioeconomically and politically. We fragment within our societies, our communities, our churches and even our families.”

Yet Covid 19 has revealed a deeper truth. Hillis sees the virus as highlighting the “fundamental unity of humankind.” We are connected – much like the Trinity – and are thus summoned to love each other in order to become the strongest antidote to the virus’ threats.

* * *

2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Know God, know peace
Cries of “no justice, no peace,” fill our streets and screens. But the chant is neither just a slogan nor a threat of unrelenting violence. Instead, it is a reflection of a biblical theology.  In a blog post from 2014, David Streever provides a helpful insight:

Justice and peace are not opposing ideals; they are complementary, and without one, we do not have the other. The enduring protest chant “No Justice, No Peace” refers to the experience of victims of injustice. It is a statement that exposes the hypocrisy of referring to the quietly oppressed as ‘peaceful’. Peace is not found in the submissive acceptance of oppression, but in the absence of oppression. It is neither a call to violence nor to disruption of the peace of others, but a call to bring justice and peace to all.

Rolf Knierim suggests that from a Biblical standpoint, there can only be “at best” a “false but no true peace where there is no justice.” Biblical understandings of justice, Ollenburger says, justice remains the primary criterion for peace, though peace is not necessarily the true criterion for justice. (Knierim, R., in Old Testament Theology: Flowering and and Future, p. 276.)




* * * * * *

George ReedWORSHIP
by George Reed

Call to Worship
Leader: O God, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
People: You have set your glory above the heavens.
Leader: When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
People: the moon and the stars that you have established;
Leader: what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
People: or mortals that you care for them?
Leader: Yet you have made us a little lower than God.
People: You have crowned us with glory and honor.
Leader: You have given us dominion over the works of your hands.
People: O God, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

OR

Leader: Let us worship the God who is one and three.
People: Praise to our God who is community.
Leader: God created us all to be God’s children.
People: We are all children of the Most High God.  
Leader: Let us live in community with God and one another.
People: We will join with God in loving for all people.

Hymns and Songs
Come, Thou Almighty King
UMH: 61
H82: 365
PH: 139
AAHH: 327
NNBH: 38
NCH: 275
CH: 27
LBW: 522
ELW: 408
W&P: 148
AMEC: 7

All Creatures of Our God and King
UMH: 62
H82: 400
PH: 455
AAHH: 417
NNBH: 33
NCH: 17
CH: 22
LBW: 527
ELW: 835
W&P: 23
AMEC: 50
STLT: 203
Renew: 47

For the Beauty of the Earth
UMH: 92
H82: 416
PH: 473
NNBH: 8
NCH: 28
CH: 56
LBW: 561
ELW: 879
W&P: 40
AMEC: 578
STLT: 21

This Is a Day of New Beginnings
UMH: 383
NCH: 417
CH: 518
W&P: 355

Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life
UMH: 427
H82: 609
PH: 408
NCH: 543
CH: 665
LBW: 429
ELW: 719
W&P: 591
AMEC: 561

Let There Be Light
UMH: 440
NNBH: 450
NCH: 589
STLT: 142

What Does the Lord Require
UMH: 441
H82: 605
PH: 405
CH: 659
W&P: 686

Where Charity and Love Prevail
UMH: 549
H82: 581
NCH: 396
LBW: 126
ELW: 359

Help Us Accept Each Other
UMH: 560
PH: 358
NCH: 388
CH: 487
W&P: 596
AMEC: 558

One Bread, One Body
UMH: 620
CH: 393
ELW: 496
W&P: 689
CCB: 49

Walk with Me
CCB: 88

Shine, Jesus, Shine
CCB: 81
Renew: 247

Music Resources Key:
UMH: United Methodist Hymnal
H82: The Hymnal 1982
PH: Presbyterian Hymnal
AAHH: African American Heritage Hymnal
NNBH: The New National Baptist Hymnal
NCH: The New Century Hymnal
CH: Chalice Hymnal
LBW: Lutheran Book of Worship
ELW: Evangelical Lutheran Worship
W&P: Worship & Praise
AMEC: African Methodist Episcopal Church Hymnal
STLT: Singing the Living Tradition
CCB: Cokesbury Chorus Book
Renew: Renew! Songs & Hymns for Blended Worship

Prayer for the Day/Collect
O God who is one unity in community:
Grant us the grace to understand that we are one people
expressed in many forms and figures
but all your children;
through Jesus Christ our Savior.  Amen.

OR

We praise you, O God, because you are one God who exists in community within yourself. You have created us like you and we, too, though many are one. Help us to live into the community you created us to be. Amen.

Prayer of Confession
Leader: Let us confess to God and before one another our sins and especially our failure to live and love as one people.

People: We confess to you, O God, and before one another that we have sinned. We are one people created by one God and yet we constantly look for way to divide ourselves into camps and oppose one another. We look for division where there is, in truth, only unity. Help us to see unity in your diversity so that we may find unity in the midst of our seeming diversity. Amen.


Leader: God is community and invites us to return to our community that includes all humanity, all creation, and God. Receive God’s welcome as you return to unity with God and one another.

Prayers of the People
Praise and glory to you, O God who is three in one. You are community in your own being.

(The following paragraph may be used if a separate prayer of confession has not been used.)


We confess to you, O God, and before one another that we have sinned. We are one people created by one God and yet we constantly look for way to divide ourselves into camps and oppose one another. We look for division where there is, in truth, only unity. Help us to see unity in your diversity so that we may find unity in the midst of our seeming diversity.

We thank you for all the blessing you have given to us. You have blessed us with being your own children and you have blessed us with countless siblings. You have made us one people so that we may live in harmony and peace with all.

(Other thanksgivings may be offered.)

We pray for one another this day. We pray for those who feel separated and isolated from others. We pray for those who feel that they do not belong. We pray for community and peace for all your children.

(Other intercessions may be offered.)

All these things we ask in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together saying:

Our Father....Amen.

(Or if the Our Father is not used at this point in the service)

All this we ask in the name of the Blessed and Holy Trinity.  Amen.

Children’s Sermon Starter
In the story of creation we are reminded that God made all people and so we are all God’s people, all God’s children. Talk to the children about how in families we are not all alike but we are all part of the family. In God’s family we do not all look alike or talk alike or act alike but we are still part of the same family.


* * * * * *

Tom WilladsenCHILDREN'S SERMON
Talking to Oneself?
by Tom Willadsen
Genesis 1:1--2:4a

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our own image, according to our likeness….” (Genesis 1:26)

You probably already know that this portion of Genesis drew on a number of different sources. Most scholars believe that a different source was used starting at verse 26, than had been used for the preceding text. The most obvious difference is that suddenly the Creator is plural. “Let us make humankind….”

Ask the kids if they ever talk to themselves. I love to ask groups of all kinds to raise their hands if they ever talk to themselves. Usually about 2/3 of the hands in the crowd go up. I joke that the other third sits there and asks, “Do I talk to myself? I suppose sometimes….”

One way people have understood that God starting referring to Godself as “us,” is that God may have been consulting with, or informing, the angels that God deciding to make humanity.

Another way that Christians have understood the change to plural is that God was having a sort of committee meeting with all three “persons” in the Trinity. In a sense, one could think of it as God talking to Godself.

Another less satisfying answer — at least when the audience is children — is that God suddenly shifted to speaking in “the royal we,” which was a sort of highfalutin way monarchs used to lord it over commoners. Queen Victoria’s most famous quote is “We are not amused,” though historians differ about the occasion when “they” were not amused. Mark Twain said the only people who should refer to themselves in the plural are newspaper editors and people with tape worms. It might be tough to work that into the kids’ message, but it’s a good insight.

See what the kids think about God’s sudden pluralness. They’re always good at creative thinking!

1+1+1=1?

You’ll need a white board or newsprint or something large enough to write on so the kids and congregation can see

Ask the little ones whether they are good at math. You can start really small. Write 1+1= and ask if they know the answer.

Write 1+2= and call on someone else.

Depending on their ages you might want to go a little harder

7+6= or 13+24= for examples.

Next write 1+1+1=1. If you’re lucky one of them will speak up and tell you that you’re wrong. If not, try counting on your fingers and keep counting 1…2…1 over and over. You want to appear a little dense at this point; pretend you’re the disciples.

At this point you can refer to “Holy, Holy, Holy,” especially if you’ve just sung it. We sing “God in three persons, blessed trinity.” That belief, that God is three distinct though inseparable “persons” makes Christianity unique. Jews and Muslims believe there is only one God. Christians believe that God is “3 and 1.” Or “3 in 1.”

We sing that idea every time we sing the doxology and the Gloria Patri. We sing them so often, they’re so familiar, that we don’t realize how extraordinary this idea is.

Before you dismiss the kids, you can lift a prayer something like this:

Creating God, we thank You that You surround us as the Holy Spirit and that Jesus has redeemed us and filled us with grace and love. Keep reminding us that You love us, and keep startling us with your goodness. Amen.


* * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Immediate Word, June 7, 2020 issue.

Copyright 2020 by CSS Publishing Company, Inc., Lima, Ohio.

All rights reserved. Subscribers to The Immediate Word service may print and use this material as it was intended in sermons and in worship and classroom settings only. No additional permission is required from the publisher for such use by subscribers only. Inquiries should be addressed to or to Permissions, CSS Publishing Company, Inc., 5450 N. Dixie Highway, Lima, Ohio 45807.
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