Seven Years of Marriage

Today is my seventh anniversary. I’ve kept with tradition and had a church meeting out of town.

This is the sixth of. Our seven anniversaries that I have not been around. We celebrated each and every one, just not on the date of our wedding. We’re flexible like that. Maybe it’s because we really love each other.

Hauerwas says repeatedly that people do not come to pastors to get married because they are in love. They are in lust, but love? He contends that we won’t know if they love each other until they die. Marriage is hard he continues.

I don’t know if he is right, but I know that Courtney and I have learned to love each other more every day of our marriage, and I plan on keeping it up, as hard as it has been to go through seminary and being broke together, we’ve made it, and being with Courtney has left me feeling blessed.

Courtney deserves better than I’ve given her so far, but each year gets better, and I’m always thankful for her and for the two wonderful girls we have!

New Years Resolutions, Wesleyan Perfection

We’ve reached that last point in the year, and some of us are scrambling to find things to resolve to do better next year. New years is a time for us to reset and rewind and take up anew the things that we tried last year or to have a celebration over all the little victories won. On New Years Eve, we come either triumphant from last years wins or resolved to try again. 

Just like everybody else, I join in trying to find ways that I can better myself. I get down to taking a stark look at my life to figure out where and how I need to improve. The process of self examination is uncomfortable because it admits what most of us are pretending isn’t true.

We aren’t perfect.

I’m not anyways. 

But we all want to be. We all want to be better, happier, more complete from the most light hearted to the most painfully introspective among us. When we get satisfied or we are already making progress “pressing on towards the goal” it’s easier to be light hearted. When we are struggling with things at work, in our families, in our friendships, or anywhere closer to home, the brutal honesty comes out, and we start reaching deeper in.

I think this is where Wesley’s idea of perfection really helps me sort myself out. He makes it clear we aren’t going to be without temptation, nor are we going to be without disease, and we can’t be the hero. Perfection for Wesley is all about love, we are being perfected in love. Wesley believes we will “grow in grace unto eternity”.

This is a powerful image for me. First, we can be confident of one who began a good work in us to bring it to completion. Second, that growth, that exploration of love, that finding meaning, all go on forever. They will always be showing us a new face a new facet. 

What ever your resolutions are this year, I hope you do them out of a love that draws you in deeper. A love that draws you to get to know your significant other a little better, your parents a little better, your kids a little better, your God a little better, and yourself a little better, strangers a little better, the world you live in a little better. Because there’s always more to love and more to learn in how we love. 

Trinity Sunday

Opening Prayer

Well now let us go forward to discuss the doctrine of God,
dedicating our sermon to our sermon’s subjects, the Father, the Son,
and the Holy Spirit, that the Father may approve, the Son aid, and
the Holy Spirit inspire it—or rather that the single Godhead’s single
radiance, by mysterious paradox one in its distinctions and distinct
in its connectedness, may enlighten it. – Gregory of Nazianzus

Sermon – Joy of a Triune God

“Rejoice, Rejoice!” says the Apostle Paul to the Philippians. We have a mysterious and mighty God to worship and celebrate! Though we have suffered separation from God, we have found reconciliation to God through Christ and renewal through the Holy Spirit! The blessed Trinity has saved us, and redeemed us, and made us new. This is what we are here to celebrate. Let us step through this great mystery of our faith that we call Trinity. Let us question ourselves in exploration of the wonderful mystery of the Trinity!

What do Christians believe?

When we confess in that ancient creed to a belief in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, do we recognize that we affirm all three as God?

How can we affirm three as God when we are monotheists, believers in one God?

Have you ever stopped for a moment and puzzled over this conundrum? Christianity affirms something utterly unique in world religions. Our God is three in one, three persons of one substance. The grammar correction utility on my computer offers testimony to the inherent difficulty of that phrase. Yet some times we forget that the Trinity only points us on to a greater reality beyond our comprehension. The Trinity is mystery.

The limitations of human tongues to describe the divine gives us only one way to talk appropriately about the divine. We are, first of all, utterly dependent upon the self-revelation of God to have any comprehension of God. The Holy Spirit works through the words of scripture to pull back the veil for us to peer with dimly lit eyes into the mystery of the Godhead. What we see there, we cannot barely begin to describe. In 2nd Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul describes an unknown man experiencing revelation. This man ascended into and returned from the third heaven. Upon his return, the man knew describing the vision was impossible. He had seen and heard what words are inadequate to describe. The concept of the triune God steps beyond our ability to fully describe.

The affirmation of the Trinity gently places us at the feet of Christ. Humbled there, we cry out that we cannot see God unless he opens our eyes; we cannot hear God unless he unstops our ears. We are humbled and know our very words themselves are insufficient to the work at hand; those words are unable to describe the Godhead. Look to the common example used to describe the Trinity to explore the limits of our language!

Maybe you have heard the Holy Trinity described in terms of the works of the persons of the Godhead; God creates, Jesus redeems, and the Holy Spirit sustains. In these terms – creator, redeemer, and sustainer – we find a relatively simple way of looking at the roles of the three persons, and the model is useful, but only points back to the greater reality of the Trinity. Human roles shed light upon these roles!

A human being can wear different hats or have different titles! I am a husband to my wife, a student to my teachers, and a preacher when Eric is out. My dad is my dad, husband to my mom, and son of his father. Each relationship functions differently with only one person, but do the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit refer to different roles of the same person?

Does God wear different hats, or titles like us? What does scripture tell us? Is God in one instance a child, one instance a parent, and one instance spirit? Or does God operate in only one mode at a time? Scripture shows the different roles of God occurring simultaneously and separately.

Looking at the creation, the opening passage of the Gospel of John tells us that, “in the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.” God and Christ together were there at the beginning, but what about the Holy Spirit? In Genesis, God hovers over the water as a spirit. All three were present at the beginning.

Looking at the redemption, it is clear that redemption was orchestrated by God, and through the obedience of the Son, the sacrifice was made for our sins. Through the sacrifice of the Son we are reconciled to God! Participation in this sacrifice occurs only through the Holy Spirit! Each person of the Trinity operated in harmony to redeem us.

Looking at the sustaining, the activity of the Spirit intercedes for us with God. This Spirit makes known to us the will of God and makes us participators in the sacrifice of Christ. We as the Body of Christ are the witnesses of Christ in the Spirit!

What does this mean if all three were present at the beginning? What does it mean if all were active in the Redemption? What does it mean if we are sustained as the Body of Christ through the Spirit? Can we no longer use that poetic word picture? We cannot describe God as one person with three different titles, but I think we can uses the word picture of creator, redeemer, sustainer to point back to the greater reality of the Trinity. It is utterly necessary to remember that these are only a limited way of expressing the reality and complexity of the triune God functioning in harmony.

In the acts of creation, redemption, and sustaining we encounter the Godhead operating through each person and yet in harmony with single purpose. We cannot eliminate the persons or the singularity of the Godhead or reduce them to specific roles. Our language can go no further than to state quite simply that our God is triune. Our God exists as three persons in one God.

I have to bring out my science background for an insight. It is yet another limited example, but it points back to the mystery of the Trinity. Matter exists in four different phases. The four phases are simply solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. We will ignore the later, because plasma is incredibly rare – at least on Earth. The first three we are all familiar with: water can be skated upon when a solid, drank when a liquid, or power a locomotive when a gas – or just make the hot weather sticky and steamy. If we look at the three we could compare God to the rock or solid upon which we stand, Jesus the blood or liquid in which we are all washed, and the Holy Spirit as gas or steam empowering us as with steam trains. Remember that these are only word pictures that cannot represent the complexity of the actions of each person of the Trinity! Here is where the science gets interesting.

Have you ever heard of a triple point? It is a point where the pressure and temperature combine to produce a very odd phenomenon. At the triple point, solid, liquid, and gas exist at the same time. Ice, liquid water, and steam exist at the same time. God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit exist all at the same time as the same substance just as ice, water, and steam all exist as the same substance at the triple point. As all other metaphors, this metaphor fails. It points back to a God beyond our understanding and helps us to grasp at the concept without fully portraying the idea. The peculiarity of the conditions required to cause the three phases to exist concurrently does not equate to the Trinity. God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit exist not under special conditions, but under all conditions.

There is great Joy in this Triune God that we believe in. A month ago I attended a wedding in the Appalachians near Asheville. After the beautiful wedding ceremony, the guests were invited to the reception at a nearby retreat center. For the reception, the couple had hired a blue grass band whose main singer doubled as a line dance caller. Line dancing gave us a chance to dance to celebrate the Joy of the new union. Two of the dances were the Virginia Reel and a modified square dance. It was an incredible experience, and I believe it was a small foretaste of the Joy we will experience when Christ returns and another wedding is celebrated. The celebration to come will encompass all of creation in dancing and singing for Joy in worship of the triune God! We are invited through our salvation to participate in the great dance of heaven; Here are three tunes for dancing to worship the triune God.

God is sovereign over all! We do not have a God that we can fully understand because we are not God. We have no control over the cosmos or the world, but our God, who surpasses all understanding, controls all. A God that we could understand fully would not be God. Such an idol would invariably have limits because of the very limits of the human mind. Our God stretches beyond our boundaries of understanding and mental acumen. We cannot through our own reason and abilities come to knowledge of God. The Godhead must initiate any knowledge we have. God must lift back the veil upon our minds. Knowing that the concept of God is beyond us, we are free to experience God without complete understanding. We share a common faith in God, who surpasses us all.

The mystery of God is the very soil and sky of our growth in holiness! There is no end to the room we have to grow in God. Our growth in holiness will not reach a predetermined ceiling. The creation continually occurs and expands. We are made new through the death of Christ and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. All things shall be made new at the return of Christ. We shall continually be made new for time beyond measure. In the creed we affirm the life everlasting, and in that time we shall never arrive at a full knowledge of God. There is no end in sight. Our relationship with God will never end and will always build from self-revelation of God to greater self-revelation of God.

The great God of heaven loves us! God loved us and sent the Son to die on the cross and the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. This love that God loves us with goes beyond human understanding and beyond the realm of our language to express. The capacity of God to love goes beyond our needs, beyond our wants, and beyond our wildest dreams. The Holy Spirit groans for us with cries to deep for words to express the love of God.

As we contemplate upon the mystery of God, rejoice with me in the complexity that shows us that God is sovereign! Rejoice in the simplicity of God’s desire for our hearts! Let us celebrate the Trinity with our finite understanding, and rejoice in the love of God remembering always and everywhere God is with us!

Moving Day

Three days ago, friends came down from Henderson and up from Cary and loaded us into our truck in two hours. Courtney’s mom had even flown down a few days earlier to help with the packing. During the madness of packing we mourned the fact that we have not lived in one place for more than a year since we were married nearly three years ago. Durham put up a good fight but lost in the end. God directs our path, and we hold on for the ride. God willing this new place will be our home at least these next three years, until I finish Seminary.

Two days ago, Courtney and I were greeted by a host of volunteers whose help could not be appreciated more. Complete strangers helped unload a 26′ Penske truck on one of the hottest days of the year.

How long Courtney and I would have struggled to unload the truck by ourselves we are glad not to have found out. The people of Sander’s Chapel UMC and First UMC Pine Level managed the feat in 45 minutes. Although, it may not seem a Herculean task, no horse stalls were washed out by the changing of the course of a river, anyone that has moved recently can tell you that  a little help is always an incredible blessing. A lot of help is a lot to be thankful for!