Saturday, June 2, 2012

Parts is parts?

I believe it was in the 1980’s, there was a Wendy’s commercial. A customer was at a fast food counter asking for some chicken nuggets. The customer wanted to know if the nuggets were pieces of chicken meat, or a ground-up and reformed concoction shaped like a piece of chicken. The person behind the counter found that a difficult question to answer. The chicken in the nuggets came from chicken. Just how it became a nugget didn’t matter. “Parts is parts,” he said. Of course, it’s all chicken meat and the various parts of a chicken, cut up or ground up, do all come from chicken. (at least, we hope so)
In a way, we can say the same is true about God. Father, Son, Holy Spirit; Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier; Lover, Beloved, Love ... these are all ways of describing our God – One in Three/Three in One. Parts and yet not parts, inseparable, constantly and perfectly connected and interacting. We know that. And yet, we do tend to think of our One God as three parts.  

When we are very sick or in serious trouble, we need a very big, very powerful, very caring, and very holy God. We need a God so big that the divine hem won’t fit in the largest space we know; not even the Grand Canyon can contain our God.
We need a God big enough and powerful enough to create the world in which we live, land and sea, mountain and plain; trees and vegetables and grains. We need a God powerful enough and caring enough to create life, from the tiniest gnat and bacterium to the grandest T-Rex and Sequoia and everything in between. We need a God powerful enough and caring enough and holy enough to create human beings in the divine image – to share in divine creativity and divine caring for all of God’s creation.
We need a God big enough and powerful enough and caring enough and holy enough to save Noah and his family from the Flood, to call Abraham and Sarah to a new land, to guide Moses and the people out of slavery into freedom, to raise up kings and prophets to lead the people into a faithful relationship with their God.
We humans are always finding ourselves in situations, large situations like deadly diseases and extreme poverty, and small situations like broken bones and broken cars. We need a God so big and powerful and caring and holy that there is no way to confine or limit God’s ability to fix the fix we’re in.

When we are feeling alone, or unlovable, or unforgivable, we need a very human God, who can wrap us in human arms and assure us that we are loved and lovable and forgiven. We need to hear in words we understand that the big, powerful, and holy God really does care about little, insignificant us. We need a God who is able to communicate with us in no uncertain terms.
God knew this, and so became human, in order to speak God’s love to God’s people. Summing up the Torah, Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul, and all your mind, and all your strength. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” God’s words for us, plain and simple. Put God first in everything, and treat everyone with love. These words on Jesus’ lips make clear how important each one of us is in God’s eyes.
Jesus healed many, raised a few from their deathbeds, or from the grave. He welcomed those who were unwelcome anywhere, and forgave those who never thought they could be forgiven.
But, God didn’t stop with words and healings. Knowing that the most important relationship we have is with our children, Jesus gave himself, his own life, so we might now the extreme love God has for us. “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Beyond our friends, no parent wants their child to die first. When a child becomes ill, most parents cry out to God, “Let it be me instead!” God sent the Son to die to show how much love God has for us.
When we are feeling alone, unlovable, unforgivable, or in a real fix, we can look at the cross and remember that God gave God’s own son to live and to die, so we could know the extent of God’s love for us.

When we are feeling like we don’t know what to do, God’s Holy Spirit brings us whatever we need to hear from God. What we need to hear may be words of assurance, and it may be words of challenge. As Linda recovers from major surgery, she is encouraged by the prayers we have all prayed for her, and feels the Spirit’s presence through us.
As our youth and young adults make their way through school, and move on to college and careers, and try to find their places in the world, we pray that they will be open to God’s call on their lives. As adults we continually learn that God calls us to new situations and ministries, and the Holy Spirit constantly nags at us until we respond.  
As Anthony is baptized and confirmed today, he opens himself to God’s call for his life just as Isaiah heard God’s call about 2500 years ago. Fortunately for Anthony, we will pour warm water on his head, and not burn his lips with a hot coal. We pray today that he will be open to God’s call for his life, that he will put God first, and love all people the way Jesus does.

We need a God who is all this and more – creator, gatherer of people, rescuer from slavery and danger, healer, crucified and risen one, comforter, forgiver, and challenger. Today as we celebrate Holy Trinity Sunday, it is right to take time to think about the many ways in which we know God, and the ways in which we are rightly mystified by the God we can’t fully know.
It is right to remember that if we try to separate one part of God from another – assign one set of jobs to one part of God and not to another part of God – we have forgotten that God is One. When we pray to the Son, we also pray to the Father and the Spirit. When we praise the Father, we also praise the Spirit and the Son. When we thank the Spirit, we also thank the Son and the Father.
In this case, we may be right in thinking that parts is indeed parts – all part of the One God we worship and serve and love, and who loves us enough to die for us and to have an ongoing relationship with us.

Please pray with me. Holy God, we give you thanks for the many ways in which you reveal yourself to us and are available to us no matter what we need. Amen