This sermon was proclaimed in the community of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT on May 30, 2021. It can be viewed on our YouTube Channel: Our Saviour’s Lutheran SLC.
The texts for Holy Trinity Sunday Year B
John 3: 1-17
Romans 8: 12-17
Isaiah 6: 1-8
Letter writing is a lost art in the 21st century and I wonder if we fully grasp the deficit. Pen and paper letters offer a connection to someone in the present, the past and the future. I can recall, as can you I’m sure, stories of someone holding on to all the letters their child or beloved wrote to them while they were apart because of war, economic hardship or some other necessary reason. Or grandparents who saved letters and cards from their children and grandchildren only to be discovered after they’ve died. Actually, just last night (two full days after I wrote this sermon) the national news had such a story of a letter found in the wall of an old house from a soldier in WWII dated Dec. 31, 1943. The current homeowners are attempting to find the family who had been living in the house then to give them with this precious piece of family connection. And recently, I was talking to someone who is remodeling a 100 year old house here in SLC and they found 60 year old invitation to meet the Dr. Jonas Salk, who invented the polio vaccine, hidden in a wall. Finding it made them feel a part of the former home owners lives. It made them feel apart of something beyond themselves even though they had never met and were separated by decades. Receiving a card or a letter can help us feel apart of someone’s life and that person feels a part of ours, even if we’re, well, apart. We all know what it is to be apart after these past few months don’t we? We’ve been apart from friends, family, routines. And yet, in some ways we’ve been made aware of the communities and relationships of which we are truly a part. We’ve discovered that we can be a part of our family’s celebrations via Zoom, or FaceTime. Texts, FB, emails, phone calls and yes, actual old-fashioned cards and letters helped us to be a part of one another’s lives even as we have been a part.
We long to be a part of a community, a group, a cause, a movement, and yet so often in our modern lives, we simply feel apart. Either we feel disconnected from community, family, satisfying vocation and even ourselves. We’re disconnected from creation as more and more we live in climate controlled environments, rely on corporations for food sources, and view creation as an object to be tamed rather than an entity to live with. We tend to be individualistic, that what we do or don’t do doesn’t affect the community or creation in which we live. Our choices and decisions are inconsequential and that we are apart from the challenges facing humanity and creation. The truth is that we aren’t ever apart from community or creation, even if we don’t recognize it.
This “apartness” has been a tension from the beginning of creation when God’s Spirit hovered over the waters. God separated the waters of the land and the air apart, but they were still connected, a part of a whole, functioning together for the completeness of the rest of creation to come. God created humanity to be a part of not only creation but God’s own very life, and yet, it wasn’t long before we were trying to be apart from that promise, thinking that we could be just fine apart from the wisdom and relationship of God. Humanity’s history is one of trying to be a part, separate and distinct from each other and yes, God, and the history of God with humanity is chasing us with the truth that we are never “apart” from the life, love and newness of God. God send humanity love letters in the form of angels who visited Abraham and Sarah with good news of a son, tough love letters from prophets like Isaiah, who tried to get the people to recall that they were apart from the will of God for human flourishing and justice, and of course the love letter in the Word made flesh in Jesus. Jesus who spoke words of inclusion, mercy and hope. Jesus who told Nicodemus that God is a part of the world, a part of Nicodemus’s own life, and he can never be apart from the love of God. Jesus on the cross was the ultimate love letter that all are gathered in Jesus’ outstretched arms, and that there is no where any of us can go to not be a part of what God is doing for life, hope, mercy and love for humanity and creation.
God proclaims that we are a part of the mission and work of God in and for the world and continues to send us love letters across time and space. Yes, we have the scriptures as God’s love story to us, we have Jesus as love made human and we have the Holy Spirit who sends us love letters today, through writings of creation and each other. Just as God can never be apart from Godself as creator/parent, child/redeemer, and presence/sustainer, we can never be apart from God. It’s simply not possible, even when we try, even when we resist, even if we don’t like it. We are a part of God and a part of each other. We can write love letters of connection to nature and delicate ecosystems through our actions and policies. We can write love letters of connection to our human siblings local and global through resisting being a part of systems that deny human rights, living wages, safe and affordable housing, clean water, and other supports. We write love letters to be a part of truth telling about harms being inflicted and on God’s desire for all people to be a part of God’s oneness and allness. We are a part of the kingdom of God. We are a part of the followers of Jesus. We are a part of the work of the Holy Spirit that sends us out to be a part of the healing of creation. We are always a part of God, and never apart from God. Thanks be to God.