Sermon – May 31, 2015 – Trinity Sunday

Categories: Church,Sermons

Rev. Joe ConnollyThe Whole Earth [1]

by Rev. Joseph Connolly

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“They {Seraphs, celestial beings with three pairs of wings} cried out to one another and said: / ‘Holy, holy, holy is Yahweh, God, the omnipotent; / the whole earth is full with the glory of God.’” — Isaiah 6:3.

Recently New York Times columnist David Brooks asked readers to send in essays describing their purpose in life and how they found it. Brooks expected most contributors would follow the commencement-speech clichés of our high-achieving culture: dream big; set ambitious goals; try to change the world. However and in fact, a surprising number of people found their purpose by going the other way: pursuing what Brooks labeled as the small, happy life.

One person responded this way. “Perhaps, the mission in life is not a mission at all…. Everywhere there are tiny, seemingly inconsequential circumstances that, if explored, provide meaning and chances to be generous and kind. Spiritual and emotional growth happens in microscopic increments.”

Another wrote purpose in life became instantly clearer once one recognizes the reality of the “decision trap.” This trap is the phenomena whereby so called ‘big decisions’ turn out to have much less impact on life as a whole than a myriad of small, seemingly insignificant decisions one needs to make on a daily basis.

Yet another wrote, “At age 85 the question of meaning in my life is urgent. But the question of the purpose of my life is another matter. World War II and life in general have taught me outcomes from our actions or inactions are often totally unpredictable and even random.”

The old soldier added, “I am thankful to be alive. I have a responsibility to myself and to those around me to give meaning to my life from day to day. I enjoy my family (not all of them) and a shrinking number of old friends.” [2] (Slight pause.)

We find these words in the Scroll of the Prophet Isaiah: “They {Seraphs, celestial beings with three pairs of wings} cried out to one another and said: / ‘Holy, holy, holy is Yahweh, God, the omnipotent; / the whole earth is full with the glory of God.’” (Slight pause.)

Something I have brought up time and time again is a question both simple and theological. “Do we happen to life or does life happen to us.” The answer is or should be obvious. Life— the big stuff: war, the death of a loved one, a recession— the big stuff happens to us.

That question, “Do we happen to life or does life happen to us,” is theological because the answer— that life happens to us, that we are not in control— understands the depth and the breath of random. And therefore, that question also challenges our understanding of God since it asks, in its own tacit way, is God an ogre Whose cudgel is the random?

That God is somehow some kind of disagreeable monster willing to inflict evil is, in fact, a position one often hears in our society. But time and time again Scripture insists the opposite. Scripture insists God is good. God is holy and (quote:) “the whole earth is full with the glory of God.”

Indeed, a segment of this passage not heard today says God blots out, removes any imperfections we might have. God is good. The community, this community is, hence, empowered to understand we are an avenue for the expression of the presence of the Holy One in the reality called life. And God is good.

Which leaves the obvious question: how can we be the avenue for the expression of the presence of God in human life? Perhaps one prime avenue we need to pursue is the aforementioned small, happy life.

Yes, larger quests, missions are out there. But they will come to us or they won’t. It’s not something we control. Dare I say it? The larger quests are more random than we are willing to admit. Further, the goodness of God is always with us. And the goodness of God will have us ready for those larger quests should they come our way.

Which is to say we need to see there are a myriad of opportunities to walk in God’s way and follow the will of God Who is good. Put another way, we need to trust God in nearly everything we do each and every day.

And God, Who is good, will prepare fertile ground on which we can walk and on which we will walk. God, Who is good, will prepare fertile ground in which we can plant and in which we will plant.

These opportunities for doing the will of God and doing the work of God range from— the small opportunities— range from visiting friends and neighbors, to folding a newsletter at a local non-profit, to helping out with church school, to dropping a card to someone you have not seen in a bit which simply says ‘thinking of you,’ to offering to do child care so a Mom and Dad can have a night out together, alone.

Is it possible these kinds of things are all we need to do to really change the world? Why yes, it is. These things can really change the world because they change how we interact.

And after all, doing these kinds of things affirm a basic and simple belief: God is good. And, if God is good, we can be and are the instruments through whom the goodness of God is seen and recognized. Amen.

05/31/2015
United Church of Christ, First Congregational, Norwich, New York

ENDPIECE: It is the practice of the Pastor to speak after the Closing Hymn, but before the Choral Response and Benediction. This is an précis of what was said: “I ran across a prayer written by Jesuit James Martin this week called A New Serenity Prayer. ‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, which is pretty much everyone, since I’m clearly not you, God. At least not the last time I checked. And while you’re at it, God, please give me the courage to change what I need to change about myself, which is frankly a lot, since, once again, I’m not you, which means I’m not perfect. It’s better for me to focus on changing myself than to worry about changing other people, who, as you’ll no doubt remember me saying, I can’t change anyway. Finally, give me the wisdom to just shut up whenever I think that I’m clearly smarter than everyone else in the room, that no one knows what they’re talking about except me, or that I alone have all the answers. Basically, God, grant me the wisdom to remember that I’m not you. Amen.’”

BENEDICTION — A UNISON PRAYER: O Jesus, please be the canoe that holds me up in the sea of life. Please be the rudder that keeps me on straight paths. Be the outrigger that supports me in times of stress. Let Your Spirit be the sail that carries me though each day. Keep me safe, so that I can paddle on steady in the voyage called life. God of all, bless us so we may have calm seas, a warm sun and clear nights filled with stars. Amen.

[1] Please note: these comments are shorter than is normal for a Meditation at the main service on a Sunday since this was Inter-generational which featured many of the church school participants (both adults and children). And indeed, if you listen to the sound file posted on the web there is some background noise at the beginning of the sermon. These are the church school children settling down after their participation in the service. The observation made by pastor these words was, “That’s a tough act to follow.”

[2] Some minor edits were made in the wording because of being placed in the context of the sermon.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/29/opinion/david-brooks-the-small-happy-life.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region

 

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