(C) Copy Write Bill Fortier
All Rights Reserved
Jesus: Twist all my words like balloon animals in the shape of each one's heart, a tailor-made word just for them. Pop the ones they don't need. Go over and around me so that, your folks, not me, feel heard and touched Amen.
My next door neighbor, Miraj is a neat guy and hails from Pakistan. After a bunch of hubbub at his house, I couldn't contain my nosiness and, playing the part of Gladys Cravitz, I rang his door to investigate. Turns out that the President of Pakistan was his house guest. This has absolutely nothing to do with the Sermon, however. He invites me in, a guest in his home and the fun begins.
I'm suddenly in a scene from Arabian Nights. We're sitting on big pillows in a spacious empty room. He claps his hands and women bring me Pakistani delicacies, one after the next. So I have the palate of a seven year old Irish boy: Hot dogs, pizza and French fries are my range. I call up every ounce of my best etiquette and cultural sensitivities and endure this agony for hours, and with aplomb I might add. There's even this hot drink designed to cauterize my esophagus! At the end of this nightmare, we clasp hands a slightly bow, in honor of each other. He tells me his hope that I enjoyed his hospitality. I ensure that I'm deeply honored, grateful and touched and then I drag my bloody stumps home. Defeated.
In honor of Threes I thought of three truthful responses to his inquiry. Miraj, this was the third ring of hell: Pure Agony. Miraj, I would rather died in a grease fire. Miraj, I would rather perform abdominal surgery on myself with a dirty stick. I performed etiquette, however, and this brings us to the Trinity.
The Trinity gets center stage, top billing and the best seat in our theological house each and every Sunday. It shapes the opening prayer, the Creed, the absolution of sins, the prayer before the Eucharist and it's the template of every Eucharistic prayer as well as final blessing: Trinity, Trinity, Trinity! How come it doesn't feel personal then? I talk to folks about their faith a lot and, no one ever, talks to me about the Trinity. Wow! Trinity is our etiquette, the stuff we're supposed to say, our church manners. I hope that when I'm done yacking here, the Trinity will feel a wee bit more personal: Here goes!
Let's go the Gospel to start. Nicodemus goes to Jesus at night and they have a secret tete-a-tete. They toss around cryptic codes: Born Again, Born from Above, Born by Water, Born by the Spirit and Lifted Up. That's quite a juggle of symbols! Nicodemus doesn't get it though. I love that part because I don't get it all the time. When the symbols drive by, honk and wave I don't recognize them. I'm clueless. Only much later do a few of them dawn on me. Dawn seldom breaks on Marble Head. Each of these symbols is packed like the Library of Congress, with meaning, but we're going to touch on two aspects of these symbols: There's stuff we do and stuff God does.
Let's start with us: Water stands for the bath we take when we enter Jesus School. Baptism is Greek for bath. We take a bath. We always need to clean up our acts, or wash off the contaminants which stick to us as we bump along. I think it's cool that the metric for hand washing is wash as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday. We bathe as we enter Jesus School and we keep reminding ourselves of our School Anniversary. From Above suggests that we need to stand back and get a bigger picture, a wider view of things. Christians need fresh perspectives, over-and-over again: God's-Eye-View. In the Spirit of Threes, let's touch on Born Again. We get to start over, hit replay or unravel the whole sweater in Jesus School over-and-over-again. That's why pencils have erasers.
Remember the research tells is that we're mostly wrong and don't know, precisely what we think and feel we know. For instance, researchers go out and ask folks about clouds. We think we know about clouds. I think I'm a cloud-guy too. But, Lo and Behold, we usually poop out at one or two questions. We don't know much at all! And here's the fun part: We all walk away still feeling like we know! I love being a tenacious dummy. It's both fun and simple! In Jesus School we practice not being right and not knowing as well as starting from scratch, over-and-over-again. Take it from the top!
Now let's jump back to God's Side: this is the Secret Stuff the Trinity does to us, for us and in us, right in the middle of our lives. The Helper, the Assistant, the Paraclete, secretly winds her way into every crack and crevice of us and our worlds. Let's use some creepy images here to liven things up: Worms, viruses, invasive plants, weeds, parasites, even termites. God is obsessed with us, winding and worming into our lives. Besides giving us the willies and freaking us out, this is the secret and silent invasion of Dignity.
Now let's race over to our side of the fence! Dignity requires actions form us. We go to Jesus School, we learn our lessons, over-and-over-again, especially the ones that hurt like hell. Without action, Dignity is a sentimental slogan, a drunk who blubbers about his love for his kids while stapled to the barstool.
When other folks are suffering, we show up, show respect and even cherish them. We pay attention: Look, listen and feel. Remember the CPR dummy and the mnemonic device? Look, listen and feel! Learn as much as we can, step- by-step. There's no step-jumping in Jesus school which really bums me out. I love to skip the steps and bloviate. It's a gift and a family trait! Shooting from the hip, without a shred of information, is great fun and I heartily recommend vacationing there. It's no place to live, however. Settle down, return to class and learn the lessons. Eventually, we can materially help. Without truly learning, however, the Helping Hand Strikes Again!
When we do this, enemies, like Al Qaida, become persons. Our ex-spouses become persons. The business partner who fleeced us becomes a person. Serial murderers, pedophiles and rapists become persons. The other political party becomes a community-of-persons and the winner, especially when it's the other guy, becomes a person.
During the sentencing hearing for the Green River Killer, scores of the victim's loved ones lined up to hurl verbal missiles at the convict. It was unprintable, signified by the very frequent bleeps from the audio-feed. One old man stepped up and said, "For years I've hated you and wanted you dead. I wanted to kill you myself. But I'm a Christian. I've prayed and prayed and prayed. I don't hate you and I forgive you." the Green River Killer dropped his stoicism and his head and he wept the tears of absolution, the Restoration of Dignity.
When we follow the bouncing ball of Dignity, Persons start popping up in the weirdest, most uncomfortable and foul of places. This bubbling over, this fizzing, this popping, multiplication of Persons is our way into feeling the Trinity. This wild spread, contagion, epidemic of Dignity, helps us get a feel for Person-ness and Person-hood. Then we can feel that the Heart-of-Hearts-of-the-Universe, the Deepest-of-All-Depths is Herd of Persons. God is a beehive of Persons, a Person-Palooza, a Chain-Reaction-of-Persons, an Overflow, Gushing-Volcano-of-Persons! When the metastatic infiltration of Dignity takes over, then the weird chemistry-of-God begins to feel true.
Let's hop back to Gospel one more time: God loves us and our world so much that God invades it and winds a person-to-person-virus through the whole shooting match. With this secret, sneaky love potion, God coaxes us fall in love world with world too, to bring Dignity to every corner, especially the spookiest alleys. We're secret agents, on behalf of the Trinitarian Espionage. For Christ's sake, fall in love with world and lavish the beloved!
We're clueless musicians, building a Crescendo of Dignity, starting with three simple notes: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Jesus: You needle your sneaky way through our twisted and banged up lives, stitching us into the Motherly Father and the Holy Spirit. And just like Nicodemus, we miss the signals. Dumb as stumps, unsuspecting hosts, spreading Dignity on all the knobs and surfaces. Lend us your eyes, Jesus. Or at least can we borrow your glasses? Then we can see Persons, everywhere we turn and everywhere we hurt. AMEN.
Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.