Saturday, June 30, 2012

What in God's Name Are You Doing?

Richwood Lutheran Church, Detroit Lakes, MN
140th Anniversary—July 1, 2012
Lamentations 3:22-33

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

A congregation is a sturdy sign of the amazing faithfulness of God.

A congregation is a tangible token of the fact that God’s mercies are never old, never stale, never outdated.   Unlike the last loaf of bread you purchased, there is no “expiration date” on God’s mercies.  They are as new as now, as fresh as this morning’s dew….and a congregation, this congregation is evidence of that fact.

A congregation marks a place and a people among whom all the promises of God become real, are available, and transform everyday lives.

I know that I’m probably just naming things you already realize, that you feel, deep in your bones….but have you thought about this stuff lately?    A church anniversary is a good time to do that!

Have you marveled at what an amazing thing a congregation is?   Have you pondered how miraculous it is that congregations exist and persist over time? 

Surely it would not have to be that way.    For any number of reasons this congregation or any congregation could have closed up shop years ago.   Believe me--as I travel out from Moorhead to congregations across our synod, I regularly pass by all sorts of boarded-up country church buildings.

Why has that not happened to you?   Why is your congregation still alive, still vital?   What in God’s name are you doing here, my dear friends?

That’s a lively question nowadays in our Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.   All of our congregations are being invited to take a step back and pause to perceive what God is up to in our midst….and then to figure out how we might align our energies around serving God’s mission of blessing and redeeming the whole creation through Jesus Christ.

So, I ask you, my dear friends:   what in God’s name are you doing here?   Why has God allowed Richwood Lutheran Church to exist and persist for fourteen decades?   And where is God taking you for the rest of your life as a congregation?

Fortunately, we don’t have to answer such big questions in a vacuum.   We needn’t manufacture our responses out of whole cloth.  As we simply pay attention, as we pause long enough to notice, we hear God prompting us and leading us to where we need to go.

Martha Grace Reese is a Christian writer and speaker who’s been lifting up the idea of “three great listenings” for today’s church—

·      listening to God speak promise and purpose through the Scriptures;

·      listening to the hurts and hopes of our neighbors; and

·      listening to one another as we discover the gifts the Holy Spirit has given to us, here and now.

1.   So what do we hear when we listen to God this Sunday morning, in the scripture readings we have before us? 

In our first lesson, I think I hear—at the heart of the Book of Lamentations—a tried and tested testimony to the fact that God’s always got our backs, even when we have some doubts about that.  God never lets us down—really!

I think I hear—in our second lesson from II Corinthians—that God meets us in the generous kindness of others, persons who’d give their last penny to help hungry folks they’ve maybe never met.

I think I hear—in our gospel lesson from Mark—that God is in the business of stopping bleeding, raising the dead, and (in so doing) restoring people to the human community.

I think I hear—in all these scripture readings—the grace notes, the foundational chords, the fascinating harmonies that have been sung by this congregation for 140 years:  God is faithful, God meets us in generous others, God heals, God raises the dead, God restores us to the community of Jesus Christ.

2.   What about that second “great listening,” though?   How are we hearing the hurts and hopes of the people who live around us?    This congregation has been doing that for as long as it has existed, because if that were not the case, you’d have had no reason to be here.    What have you heard from your neighbors, for the last 140 years, that has inspired you to live and serve as God’s people?

This morning’s scripture readings, once again, offer us some clues:

I bet you’ve listened to people on the edge of despair, at their wit’s end, wondering where to turn.   We hear such voices, in the background of our first lesson from Lamentations—the exiles of Jerusalem, wondering why God allowed their enemies, the Babylonians, to lay siege to their city.

I’ll wager that you’ve listened deeply to persons who’ve suffered catastrophic losses—losses from which they could not recover without some help from neighbors like you.  We hear such voices in the background of our reading from II Corinthians—because, you see, it was a widespread famine that led first century Christians to take up a monetary offering to feed the famished saints in Jerusalem.

I know that you’ve walked with persons stalked by illness, haunted by death.  We hear such voices in the background of our gospel from Mark—where we encounter a woman who’d been hemorrhaging for twelve years and a man whose 12-year-old daughter has just died.

How have you and your forebears heard these voices, down through 140 years of your congregation’s life?   How has this parish responded, time and again, to the hurts and hopes of your neighbors?   Can you see how these, too, have given you purpose and meaning as a congregation—a sign of God’s amazing faithfulness?

3.   And finally, there is that third great listening:   your attentiveness to one another’s gifts, lavished upon you by the Holy Spirit, so that you might have all you need to do God’s work.

What gifts has the Holy Spirit rained down upon you since 1872?  

How about the gift of hospitality in community?   When I was researching Richwood’s history, I came across this little tabloid memento from your 100th anniversary—and I quickly noticed that half of the pictures featured FOOD being served!   Feeding one another comes naturally for those of us who live close to the land, in farm country.

What about your love for music that enhances your worship of God?   Though small in numbers your church has consistently called forth the musical gifts of your members and kept a choir or other musical groups going after many congregations of your size may have given up on that.

How about the gift of teaching the faith to the next generation?  From the early days of Richwood’s parochial school that taught lessons in Norwegian for six weeks a year…down to the last synod youth gathering that kids from this parish attended, you have been about the formation of followers of Jesus Christ.

And I know this is true because I’ve known some of Jesus’ disciples from Richwood long before I first visited this parish.

The first of these disciples was Jean Fingalson whom I first met 35 years ago, as a student at Luther Seminary.   We were co-workers and friends, at the seminary, in the SW MN Synod, and finally at Our Savior’s of Moorhead where I was Jean’s pastor.  I always knew that Jean’s primary identity, though, was that of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Then there was the amazing Marge Leegard—extraordinary teacher, winsome preacher, thoughtful leader in our ELCA.   We became friends when she served as chaplain for many years at the annual retreat for ELCA bishops and synod staffs in Minnesota and the Dakotas.  Marge was one of Richwood Lutheran’s gifts to the entire church!

And then during my first year as bishop, I met Jade Gandrud, a youth representative on our synod assembly planning committee….whose imagination shaped the theme and program of the first synod assembly over which I presided in 2008.

And I’m just sure that Richwood has produced a whole bunch of other disciples of Jesus Christ, who have served in other ways, too numerous to name.   A parish that can produce a Jean or a Marge or a Jade….certainly has some more gifts floating around, to be shared in God’s church and God’s world.   

So, what in God’s name are you doing?   Dear friends in Christ of Richwood Lutheran Church, if you ever wonder how to answer that question, engage in the three great listenings:

      listen to God speak promise and purpose through the Scriptures;

      listen to the hurts and hopes of your neighbors; and

      listen to one another to discover the wealth of gifts the Holy Spirit is giving you.

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

God's Towtruck Operators

Installation of Pr. Rob Nelson
Grace Lutheran Church, Detroit Lakes, MN
June 10, 2012
Mark 3:20-35

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Have you ever gotten stuck?  Whether you were driving a car or truck in winter….or a tractor in the spring….have you ever gotten stuck?

When I was growing up on a farm in southern Minnesota my dad warned me repeatedly NOT to get a tractor stuck in the mud.   “Go around the wet spot, but don’t get too close.”

For my dad, getting stuck was almost the unforgiveable sin.   Because if I got stuck, he would have to come with another tractor and pull me out….and if he got too close to the mud, he might get stuck.   Then there would be two of us stuck….and we’d have to call in yet someone else to help us.

Because when you’re stuck, you can’t get yourself unstuck.

In this gospel lesson from Mark 3, there are three groups of persons who appear to be stuck.

First there is the crowd—not a hostile crowd--but a crowd seemingly stuck in fascination with Jesus.   That’s how crowds tend to be—always on the hunt for something new to tickle their fancy.

The crowd that gathers around Jesus is so stuck in their fascination with him that they couldn’t even eat; they had Jesus and his disciples hemmed in, stuck, as well.

Second there is Jesus’ family, his kinfolk.   They appear to be stuck in fear—the fear that Jesus is off his rocker.  “He has gone out of his mind.”    Jesus isn’t himself, he seems out of control.  His family is worried about him….and probably concerned as well about their own reputation as a family.   “If we could just get Jesus out of here—and get him some help…”

Third there are the scribes—religious authorities from the “home office” in Jerusalem, trying to figure out all the fuss around Jesus.   And they, too, quickly become stuck…stuck not so much in the fascination of the crowd or the fear of Jesus’ kinfolk….but stuck in their own foregone conclusion that Jesus must be possessed by the devil:  He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” (v.22)

Now even in their “stuckness” these three groups all got one thing straight:  they all recognized Jesus as a Force to be reckoned with.   They knew there was nothing inconsequential about Jesus.  He was shaking things up—transforming what was happening.   In that respect, they didn’t  blow off Jesus the way folks nowadays sometimes blow him off, as interesting perhaps, but certainly not someone who demands our attention.

No.  The fascinated crowd, the fearful family and the anxious scribes all realized Jesus was having an impact, turning the world upside down.   But they were stuck in their assumption that this Force Jesus wielded would never be good for them

The scribes in particular were stuck in assuming Jesus had to be in league with the devil.

But this conclusion, as Jesus quickly pointed out, was completely illogical.  “How can Satan cast out Satan?  Jesus asks them.   “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.  And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come.”  (vv. 23-26)

In order to get the scribes “unstuck,” Jesus set before them another possibility.   What if Jesus had come, not to side with Satan, but to subdue him….to plunder Satan’s crumbling kingdom?   “No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.”  (v.27)

And that’s exactly what Jesus was doing.  With every exorcism he performed, Jesus was setting loose another one of the devil’s subjects.  With every sickness he cured, every withered limb or blind eye he healed, Jesus was undercutting the devil’s hold on humanity.  With every good-news-promise he uttered, Jesus was staking out God’s claim to a world Satan mistakenly thought belonged to him.

God is reasserting God’s rightful claim to all that God has made.

This is what’s really happening in everything that Jesus is about—in his life, in his death, in his resurrection.   To ignore that fact, to turn our noses up at God’s astounding decision to come to us in Jesus, is to miss out on all that God intends for us—all the ways God means to get us unstuck from sin, unstuck from the devil, unstuck from death.

We pass this by, we ignore Jesus at our peril.   Jesus says so when he speaks, in this passage, about blaspheming the Holy Spirit, which is (according to Jesus) an unforgiveable “eternal sin.”

Because this has been one of the most difficult and troubling teachings in the New Testament, we need to realize what’s being said here.  For centuries, sensitive souls have wondered whether they might unwittingly or unintentionally commit this “sin against the Holy Spirit.”   And if that were to happen—what hope would they have?   What could be worse than to think or say or do something for which you cannot be forgiven?

Here’s the thing we need to know, though:  If you’ve ever worried that you’ve committed the unforgiveable sin, such worrying is itself a sign that you haven’t committed the unforgiveable sin.   Because this sin isn’t the sort of thing you accidentally slip into.   No.  This is one sin you really have to want to commit.  For the “sin against the Holy Spirit” is the active, outright, defiant hostility to God and particularly God’s gracious overture to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The unforgiveable sin is unforgiveable—not because God can’t forgive it, but because the sinner doesn’t desire or seek such forgiveness.   Talk about being stuck!  Blaspheming the Holy Spirit means getting stuck so deep in sin that you no longer know or care how deeply you’re stuck in sin.

What hope is there for persons who are that far gone, that far deep in sin?

There is only one hope, really.  It is the hope that Someone will come along who isn’t stuck—Someone who is utterly free enough, strong enough and merciful enough to pull us out.

There is such a Person.  His name is Jesus.  Jesus’ own family got part of it right—he is “out of his mind” in the sense that Jesus is not operating completely under his own control.   The scribes even got some of that right—Jesus is “possessed” all right, possessed by the Holy Spirit of God so completely that Jesus is utterly free enough, merciful enough and strong enough to always pull us out of whatever mess we get ourselves tuck in.

This One, this Stronger One, our Lord Jesus, has gone down to death and the grave for us…to drag us out of the muck and mire and mud of our waywardness….and to set our feet on a wide, dry, level, safe place once again.

Pastor Rob, this morning we are asking you to do that, by Jesus’ authority, here at Grace Lutheran.   Being a pastor is a little like being one of God’s tow truck operators.   You have been called by this congregation to go wherever persons are stuck in sin, death and the power of the devil….and you are invited and authorized to be Jesus’ voice and hands and feet—to get them unstuck.

You will not use a winch or a cable with a big steel hook on it to get persons unstuck.   Jesus gives you simpler, more basic tools:  Words of promise and grace, Water for washing away the mud, and the Bread and Wine of the New Kingdom that God is establishing even now, in the midst of Satan’s old stronghold.

And you are not called, Pastor Rob, to do this all by yourself.  You know that!   You are called to equip others to join Jesus’ “get ‘em unstuck” force in the world, right here in the Detroit Lakes mission field.   You are invited and authorized to get others unstuck and to help them get still others unstuck.

And as you do so, you will help people see how wide and far-reaching is the scope of Jesus’ astonishing mercy.   Toward the end of our gospel lesson, there is a verse that is also sometimes misunderstood.  It sounds, at first, as though Jesus was setting aside his own earthly family….when in reality, Jesus was radically expanding his family…opening the door so far that anyone and everyone can gain a foothold in God’s Kingdom:  “Here are my mother and my brothers!,” says Jesus.  Whoever does the will of God” is no longer stuck…but “is my brother and sister and mother.”

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Crystal Sugar Community Prayer Service

Prayer for Healing, Reconciliation and the Common Good for Crystal Sugar Management, Workers, Family, Friends and Communities

June 3, 2012

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Crookston, MN

Matthew 18:15-20

15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.
Several years ago I was preaching on this passage in one of the congregations of our synod.   After worship, while shaking hands at the door, a woman came up to me all excited.   “Thanks for what you said in your talk.    Folks in our electric coop could really use this sort of advice.  Where’d you get this stuff?”

To her question I replied, simply:  “Jesus.  I got this stuff from Jesus.”  

What struck me about this brief encounter is that this woman moved directly from what I had said in my sermon to something that was obviously bugging her in her daily life.   “Folks in our electric coop could use this sort of advice.”   Whether it was a spat among employees, a disagreement on the board of directors, or a struggle between management and labor….this listener was searching for a way through a thicket in her daily life.

And she thought that my “little talk” (a.k.a. the Sunday sermon) might be of use.

Preachers like myself often get overly focused on the internal life of the Christian community.   We are church folks, speaking to other church folks, doing our church thing.   We forget, all too easily, that God so loved the world (the cosmos, actually) that God entered this world in Jesus who gave everything he had, including life itself, to rescue and redeem, to save and heal this whole world.

So, no doubt, we who live within Christ’s church will do well always to keep in mind the broader horizon, eyes peeled for all the ways God’s whole Word is meant for God’s whole world.

So, I wonder, what vision Jesus lays out here that might have meaning for the broader world in which we live out our daily lives….including struggles like the one we’re having in one of the major agricultural industries of our Red River Valley.

Jesus begins by assuming that people will have rubs with one another.   We will sin against each other.  We will get sideways with one another.   We will disagree.  What shall we do with that?

Don’t sit on it, Jesus says.   Go, and visit with your brother or sister.   Speak to them directly, openly, honestly.   If you can’t make yourself heard, take along friends.   Don’t assume the problem will fix itself or go away on its own.  Go.  Speak.  Stay connected.

Secondly, Jesus enjoins listening.   Not arguing.  Not piling up facts or figures to overwhelm the other person.  Not trying to win a debate at all costs.  Not proving the rightness of your cause.   But listening.

Such listening involves more than keeping your ears unplugged.   Such listening means taking time, stopping what you’re doing, absorbing what the other person is saying, grappling with the deeper levels of meaning in all that.

Jesus places a high premium on the simple act of listening, listening deeply to a brother or sister who seeks you out.   “If they listen to you, you have won them over.”

How are we doing, my dear friends, in speaking directly, openly, honestly with one another?   How are we at listening—not just politely pretending to listen, while our eyes wander and our minds prepare the next thing we’re going to say—but how are we at that deep listening that sustains the bonds of trust we need so desperately.

Thirdly, Jesus urges persistence in this good work.   Working through a dispute takes time, demands fortitude of us all.   Jesus asks us not to walk away from each other too soon.

Fourth, Jesus asks us to keep our eyes on the prize—the prize of reconciliation with one another, the restoration of one tattered corner of the fabric of our common life.   We dare not—let me stress:  we dare not under-estimate the profound value of that—being reconciled with one another.

Fifth and finally, Jesus promises to be right in the thick of it, whenever and wherever his people are seeking reconciliation, shaping a new future with one another.  This is a Jesus thing—we could even say, it is THE Jesus thing:  pouring ourselves out for the sake of one another, even as Jesus poured himself out for us on the Cross.

As we gather for reflection and prayer this evening, and as we continue to pray and ponder and speak with one another, may God open us up to his will for all of us in everything that we think and say and do.  

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Trinity Roadmap

Zion Lutheran Church, Lake Bronson, MN
Maria Lutheran Church, Kennedy, MN
June 3, 2012
Trinity Sunday
 In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

This is the Sunday when many preachers wimp out, “duck and cover,” sidestep a golden opportunity to preach and teach God’s triune love for us, God’s three-person-ed overture to us.

Yup.  Today, Trinity Sunday, is when many preachers pray:  “Dear Lord, please let Trinity Sunday fall on baccalaureate or senior recognition Sunday or even Soil and Water Stewardship Sunday.   Please, please don’t expect me to get all tangled up in the intricacies of an ancient doctrine.  It’s summer, after all—folks can just barely stay focused on any sermon—let alone one on the Trinity.   Next year, God, I promise—Scout’s honor—I’ll take a crack at it!”

Why do preachers flee, why do they pass up the chance that Trinity Sunday offers them?   I think it’s because the doctrine of the Trinity seems like a bad math problem—like trying to explain how 1 + 1 + 1 = 1.   I suspect that we preachers are flummoxed by all those strained analogies we’ve heard over the years—you know:  “God is like water, which can be solid, liquid and gas”  We get lost in all the abstract language that highfaluting theologians have passed on to us.    

Or are we simply intimidated by the Holy Trinity?  Do we avoid preaching and teaching this dogma simply because we know we’ll never get it right—we’ll never, ever do justice to God’s “Godness”—so why even bother?

In his book Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, Eugene Peterson suggests a way out of the preacher’s dilemma.  “Early on,” writes Peterson, “the Christian community realized that everything about us—our worshiping and learning, conversing and listening, teaching and preaching, obeying and deciding, working and playing, eating and sleeping—[everything] takes place in the ‘country’ of the Trinity, that is, in the presence and among the operations of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.”[i]

If the Trinity is a whole “country”—a field of divine action—well then perhaps the doctrine of the Trinity is more like a useful roadmap than a bad math problem.  It helps us avoid blind alleys, detours and thickets.  It guides us on the path, it helps us go where God is leading us.

What if, what if our teaching and preaching of the three-in-one God were more like spreading out a roadmap on the hood of our car…getting ready for a journey through the world, toward God’s future?   What might such a roadmap tell us?

Let me suggest three possibilities:

I.    First, the Trinity roadmap helps insure that our God is big enough—his grace amazing enough.

The Trinity roadmap keeps us from settling for a too-small God.

This doctrine prevents us from limiting ourselves to a Father-only God, a kindly watchmaker who "way back when" wound this world up and then left it to run on its own....while he dozed off in heaven, like a cosmic grandpa--fast asleep in his rocking chair.

The Trinity roadmap refuses to let us settle for a Son-only, hero-God, whose selfless sacrifice settled our accounts, removed our guilt and left us a model worthy of our imitation.

The Trinity roadmap leads us to more than a Spirit-only God, who like an unseen, invisible force...unlocks doors, deciphers puzzles, reveals secrets, inspires seekers, enlightens searchers.

The Trinity roadmap will not let us settle for any single one of these too-small gods by insisting that we must talk about all three of them if we're going to talk about any one of insisting that we speak of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit in order to have a big-enough, gracious-enough God on our hands. 

Where God is concerned we need to say it three times before we've said it right--even once!

We need to talk about God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth...who has indeed put this world together like a master craftsman...but who, instead of leaving it to run on its own, has remained intricately involved with the Creation from Day One.   We must speak of God the Father almighty, who to rescue us from our waywardness dispatched his only Son into the world to liberate us.  We need to talk about the Father who sent the Son and in the power of the Spirit continues to grant new life...and who will one day usher in a New Creation.

We need to talk about God the Son...who at the cross has won us back, in order to restore his Father's creation to its original that after rising from the dead he might continue in the power of his Spirit to be with us day by day...enlivening us in each moment to walk as his disciples.

We need to talk about God the Spirit as well...a Spirit who doesn't just reveal anything or everything to us...but who constantly focuses on and confesses with our lips what the Father and the Son are up to...the same Spirit who hovered over the waters at the dawn of time...the same Spirit who makes the Son's story more than a tragic martyr's tale...the same Spirit who loosens our lips and frees us to proclaim God's mighty deeds in history.

The Trinity roadmap helps make sure that our God is big enough and gracious wooing us to talk about the Father and the Son and the insisting that we haven't said a true enough word about God until we've said that Word three times in three different ways.

II.    Second, the Trinity roadmap helps our worship to be deep enough, our prayers passionate enough, our spirituality focused enough. 

The Trinity roadmap reminds us that it’s never enough to occasionally tip our hats to the "Man Upstairs"...that we need more than an occasional encounter with God in the beauty of nature out on the lake or the back nine...that we will not be sustained by a cozy "me and sweet Jesus" love affair...that our private spiritual experiences will take us only so far.

The Trinity roadmap exposes us to the beauty of creation, but also its brokenness, its birth-pang longing and groaning for the new creation in Christ the Son that is already dawning upon us in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Trinity roadmap guides to a love for our Savior that is always more than a private matter...never oblivious to the Father's intention to save everyone...never ignorant of the Spirit's calling, gathering, enlightening and sanctifying of the whole Christian church on earth.

The Trinity roadmap insists that our spirituality...however satisfying it might be...must bring us to a deeper awareness of all that the Father and the Son have done for us...catching us up in the whole scope of the Spirit's restoring, reconciling work in the world.

The doctrine of the Trinity keeps our worship deep enough, our prayers passionate enough, our spirituality focused enough…always reminding us that we pray to the Father only in the name of the Son and through the power of the Spirit.

III.  Third, the Trinity roadmap points us to a mission and ministry in the world that is wide enough.

Whatever it is we may think God is up to...God is always up to more. 

Whatever it is that we hear God calling us to do in partnership with is always more.

The Trinity roadmap helps keep us from narrowing mission to the this-worldly work of rescuing the creation and liberating God's creatures.

In the same breath, the Trinity roadmap keeps us from narrowing mission and ministry to the other-worldly work of saving scattered souls from future hellfire.

So also, the Trinity roadmap prevents us from defining ministry consumeristically, as the meeting of our needs, wants or desires.

The Trinity roadmap attracts us toward a mission and a ministry in the world that is wide enough...never letting us forget that God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son that whosoever believes in him [through the power of the Holy Spirit] shall be saved.

But enough!  I’m starting to repeat myself, in case you hadn’t noticed.  And yet, after all, isn’t Trinity Sunday a day for repetition? 

The Trinity roadmap, if it reveals nothing else, reminds us that in the “country” of the Holy Trinity we always need to say things three times before we've said them even once.   As in any good story or any decent sermon, the “rule of three” applies:  we believe, teach and confess the Holy Trinity to make sure that

·      our God is big enough and gracious enough,

·      our worship deep, passionate and focused enough, and

·      our mission and ministry wide enough and compelling enough to be worthy of the one we invoke as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

[i] Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places:  A Conversation in Spiritual Theology (Eerdmans, 2005), p. 6.