God, the one we call father probably entirely too often is the one who creates, the one the hem of whose robe fills the Holy temple of God, the one around whom there are seraphim and cherubim and other members of the heavenly family flying and singing and in whose very being there is praise and glory.
It’s a good job, it would seem, to make and to love and to shape and to rule. It would seem like the kind of majesty that people all over the world might aspire to. We look upon people like Steve Jobs as almost Godlike, remember the categories, the one who creates, the one whose reach, much like the hem of the Lord’s robe, reaches the very ends of the earth, I mean where can you go where the iPhone is not present?
If we can count the number of books and movies and blog postings and magazine articles hailing the genus of the late Mr. Jobs as the shouts and songs of praise, well, then we can check that box off as well.
Jesus is a little harder. Jesus is the one we call savior, the Christ, the daystar, the messiah. Jesus is the one who takes away fear and death and despair and allows for us to live lives that are full.
It is harder to find someone like Jesus in the mortal world. It is really too large, really too grand and holy. Our saviors are short term, they bail us out of this or that; they swoop in and fund a ministry or underwrite the purchase of new hymnals. They make things better, not overturning-the-power-of-death better, but better.
The Holy Spirit is the advocate, at the point of the spear that is Sin and death the Spirit is the guide and the voice, the calling from beyond the grave that reminds us of Jesus and His love as the song goes, enlightens us, keeps us in faith, the Spirit is the one who calls you into faith, the Spirit is the key to the whole shebang.
We’ve all got someone like this in our lives, many such people if we are lucky. Marybeth Stowell, a teacher who enlightened me, Joe Holub, a pastor who facilitated, as best as he could, the Spirit’s reaching out to me to give me the gift of faith. Teachers, parents, friends, people who have influenced us all, these are our Holy Spirits, our models of doing the hard work of reaching out across space, risking some or all to find us.
Of the three, only the Spirit seems at all accessible because the works of God are just too vast. We have a trinity but the face is Jesus and the voice is the Spirit and God the Father is somehow lost on the horizon, too remote, the creation is the whole of everything and we just cannot wrap our heads around it.
But there are pretenders to the throne. We do this from time to time, make of many of our greatest industrialists the very same idol, the godlike character bestride the earth, think Carnegie, think Buffett, think Rockefeller; and we think of that as the very apex of human achievement, never noticing that it is appropriating the character of God in order to give glory to humankind and the achievements of mankind, distracting ourselves from giving the glory to God.
We lift up the creative impulse that creates the thing, the impulse that seemingly remakes our worlds and clearly the creativity of God has an echo there, we can feel the power of God’s creative nature in these characters from our world, how else is it that these ideas come into being? How is it that we do not see the hand of God in these efforts?
The first person in the Trinity is often spoken of as the creator of the universe and so it is but in addition to the galaxies and the Rocky Mountains and the glorious sun in the sky, God also created the slug and the blade of grass and the grain of sand and we praise and glorify God’s name in those creations also.
Jesus is not just the savior of the world, the good shepherd and many other nicknames, Jesus was also the incarnate man who walked alongside the disciples, among us to show us how to live and to walk and to see one another.
The spirit too, even though we hold on to the old translation and make a Holy Ghost, some otherworldly being of the Spirit of God, it too abides within us and we have all heard the Spirit’s urgings, we have all felt the Spirit’s ministry.
In things both great and things small, in the grandeur of the universe and in the bleating of the lamb God is to be found, God is to be praised, God is to be worshiped.
But the things that beset us here in this life more often than not seem too large to handle, to vast to deal with. We look at the problems on our own streets, the streets of this not that big town in this very big world and they seem just too terrible, too intractable.
We throw up our hands and pray that God will come and help us, that God will help the hungry and the homeless and the lost and the environment and the drought and all the other things that seem to be so prevalent but seem to have no solution.
The problem is, the homeless are not some vast problem, faceless and abstract. The homeless are people, beloved of God just like you and just like me. They do not have mysterious or bizarre needs, they have the same needs that you and I have, only a little more desperately. They are not just the same as us, but they are just the same to God.
To God the Father, God the Son and to God the Spirit, and they need all three just as we do.
Let me introduce them to you.
He is forty six. She is sixty one. He is twenty, seventy three, forty nine. When he was nineteen years old the world was his oyster; she lost it all in a divorce fifteen years ago. It will be alright if she can just get some stability for a couple of months. A place to clean up, regular meals and maybe some help with her wardrobe. He did the last meaningful work he is capable of nine years ago and no support will ever bring him back into the fold of taxpaying citizens.
Along the creeks of Sonoma County, on the streets, in the parks we see them. Or do we? How many of us give a look up in that odd little green sward between Farmer’s Lane and the Synagogue and give a thought to the folks who call that particular slice of land home, such as it is for them? They call that Homeless Hill, you know, and despite all of the thoughts about where and how the homeless in our community should be dealt with, most of the time they are there, just out of sight, either by their design or by ours, but they are out of our sight because it is too hard to look at them.
We try and avoid eye contact as they stand there, hour after hour at the end of the off ramp. We hope they don’t talk to us as we walk past them on the corner, we don’t look up onto the hill, down in the creek because the images, the problem faced by our society, let alone the homeless themselves, seems entirely too vast to fix and if there’s one thing we hate in this world, it is feeling powerless.
We feel powerless because we are not God and cannot simply create weal and woe with a wave of our hands and since the problem seems that big, then the solution must also be that big, big enough for God, too big for us, right? As a societal problem it is like El Nino, something to be ridden out and prayed over, but not something you can influence.
But we are the people of God, the Children of the Most High, the ones saved by Christ who hearken to the voice of the spirit in our lives. How is it that we confess ourselves powerless?
We make a mistake when we think that we have to do it all, that we have to solve Homelessness with a capital H and not make Wednesday better for Crazy Bob on the corner, not make life a little more bearable for our neighbors without an address in our own town and only our own town.
We celebrate the Creator and we celebrate the Godlike industrialist but do we praise the one who builds the food pantry, labors to fill it, finds a way, touches a life, makes it better, creating something good, even if they don’t solve the whole thing? Do we seek to be the person who sees the need, invents a solution, makes it better, strives to embody God’s creativity in the world right outside of our door?
We praise and worship the Savior, who gave, not just some of His divine self for the sake of the world, for the sake of us all. What of the ordinary citizen who reaches out and just listens, just hears the story, validates the humanity of the other, of the one whose humanity is more often than not obscured by their struggles, their dire situation? Jesus did a lot of walking, could we not emulate Christ and share a brief walk with those among us who face trials we cannot imagine? It is not a God-scale problem; it is a person-scale problem
The Spirit calls us through the Gospel, enlightens us with its gifts, and sanctifies and keeps us in true faith each and every day, bringing to us the teachings of Christ and advocating for us, comforting us. The Spirit is the mouthpiece of God, the presence of God every day for the entire creation.
The Spirit is teacher and friend, and it does not speak of its own accord, it speaks what is given to it by God, by Christ, it is the truth and it is holy.
What do we speak when it comes to be our turn? Do we speak of the unalterable love of God for the whole of creation, even the ones we struggle to see, struggle to look at? Can we call upon the Holy Spirit of God in those moments and allow ourselves to speak God’s truth into being in the world and can we celebrate tht alongside God, the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit?
We need Creators, and Saviors and Spirit-filled and led people to work on the problems that face the world we live in. Not solve them, even Jesus said that the poor would be with us always but that didn’t mean we should just accept it and move on.
If we are to be God’s will at work in the world, if we are willing to stake it all on that notion, then we need to chart a course, locate the path that uses our creativity, our willingness to serve and our ability to speak the truth.
Our keynote speaker at the Synod assembly used a quote but only a part of it and I thought the whole thing was appropriate. It is from Luther’s commentary on the preface to the Letter to the Romans and it says, “Faith is a living, unshakeable confidence in God’s grace; it is so certain, that someone would die a thousand times for it. This kind of trust in and knowledge of God’s grace makes a person joyful, confident, and happy with regard to God and all creatures. This is what the Holy Spirit does by faith. Through faith, a person will do good to everyone without coercion, willingly and happily; he will serve everyone, suffer everything for the love and praise of God, who has shown him such grace. It is as impossible to separate works from faith as burning and shining from fire.”
The trinity is a totality of what it means to be God and also what it means to be a child of God. It is by grace alone that we have access to this love and this knowledge but we do know, we have faith, we have been born from above.
Fear is banished, loss is gain, power is found in vessels as weak as us to emulate the trinity, Father, Son and Spirit; Creator, redeemer, sanctifier and bring a bit of grace into the world. We don’t have to solve God-sized problems, just make human sized improvements in the world around us. In this is God to be found.