Saturday, June 27, 2020

Pentecost 4A

Matthew 10:40-42

40"Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward."


Lockdown continues with #StaySafeStayHome, #SaferAtHome and California Governor Newsom's orders to wear masks every time you go out.

Psalm 89:1-4, 14-18

The psalter is the prayer book and the hymnal of the synagogue.

1I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.
2I declare that your steadfast love is established forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

3You said, "I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to my servant David:
4"I will establish your descendants forever, and build your throne for all generations.'" (Selah)

14Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.

15Happy are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your countenance;
16they exult in your name all day long, and extol your righteousness.
17For you are the glory of their strength; by your favor our horn is exalted.
18For our shield belongs to the Lord, our king to the Holy One of Israel.

Backtracking: this is Matthew's lectionary year

Trinity Sunday – Octave of Pentecost – Matthew 28:16-20

• All authority in heaven and earth
• Go, sent, into all the world – make disciples
• Baptize! Immerse! into the way and the life of Jesus
• I am with you always! Refers back to Emmanuel, God-with-us, at the start of Matthew's gospel

Last week – Pentecost 3 – Matthew 10:24-30

• not peace but division
• Jesus' call of discipleship sometimes puts a disciple at odds with their family of origin or with others they associate with socially, in the workplace, maybe at church
• Jesus creates a new family of his disciples who have experienced the new birth of baptism and who follow his way of justice and righteousness
• to be worthy of Jesus, take up your cross – both the Roman empire's (and other imperial entities) literal cross of execution and giving up our own preferences to help enact well-being for the other and for the community

Today – Pentecost 4 – Matthew 10:40-42

We're in the 6-month long stretch of the green and growing season of Sundays after Pentecost Ordinary Time that's anything but common and conventional as it emphasizes the church in the power of the Holy Spirit of life, of resurrection, of love, of newness. "Ordinary" refers to structured, ordered, arranged, laid out in a pattern.

This is part of Matthew's Missionary Discourse with Jesus' instructions for living in mission as missionaries or "sent people." We also find the miss root in words like missile, commission, permission, missive, emissary. Earlier in this chapter 10 we hear the famous: 11Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 12As you enter the house, greet it. 13If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.

• Hospitality begins and ends this 3-verse long short snippet.

10:40 "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me."

We talk a lot about God's call to us to welcome others, but this passage isn't about that! It's about our getting out there and becoming a guest that others welcome.

In that time and place emissaries, envoys, ambassadors, sometimes a house-servant would represent (re+present / representative) and carry with them the full authority of the person who sent them. It wasn't very different from our elected governmental officials making decisions for us as voters. By electing them, we send those people to serve in our stead in congress, in the state legislature, in city hall. Our vote authorizes them (gives them authority) to speak and act for us. In a similar way we represent Jesus, Jesus represents God.

Reward here is about earned wages, payment you're entitled to, and not a gift of grace.

Prophet, Righteous Person, Little One

Prophets speak God's word of hope and promise for a different future; the end of the old, the beginning of the new, and call people back to the freedom of keeping the commandments. Broadly, a prophet is anyone who speaks for God; that includes us with our baptismal roles of prophet (speaker of God's word), priest (mediator between earth and heaven), and sovereign (caretaker of creation).

Righteous people work for justice, integrity, and restoration of relationships after the manner of prophets. Doesn't that include us?

Little ones are people in any kind of need, so at various times that includes all people inside the church and outside the church. The late Gourmet Chef and Episcopal Priest Robert Farrar Capon insisted God saves only the last, the lost, the little, and the least.

Whichever of these groups you happen to be in at whatever time, Jesus calls people to identify you with Jesus and Jesus with you!

What Now?

I probably can speak for everyone when I say we miss live worship, weekly Eucharist, choir that by now would be on summer break, brunch time tasty eats and interesting conversations, but with cases multiplying and too many people not complying with basic distancing or with the order for masks statewide, I'm in no hurry to return to church campus. We're not going back yet, so what now with these verses from Matthew's gospel?

From what I've observed, everyone at church does their best to welcome visitors, strangers, and returning newcomers to church, and most of us probably do well in our other spaces and places. Sometimes we discern wisely with a good outcome; other times our risk may not yield great results.

But Jesus' words here aren't about our own hospitable behaviors and actions; they're about actions of others related to our presence. This isn't about us welcoming others; it's about others welcoming us. Earlier in this chapter Jesus tells people to shake off any residue of inhospitable situations that may have gotten stuck on you and move on to the next possibility.

This is about getting out there and becoming a guest.

Everyone has vivid memories about surprising welcomes. I've written about the astonishing welcome a group of Tongan United Methodists in A Former City gave me, but I don't believe these verses refer to that general type of situation. I'm not convinced they're about when a family you suspected was down to their last handful of change invited you over for a dinner that turned out to be a royal feast.

• Is it about door-to-door evangelism to invite people to your new church start or revitalized neighborhood programming? That sounds closer, but I truly don't know. Tell me!

Along with asking what type of hospitality in which setting Jesus' words could refer to, an important related question is how persistent does Jesus call us to be before we shake off the dust from that encounter.

• How many times at what intervals do we reach out to individuals and organizations in our attempts to connect? Please tell me your response to this one, too?

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Pentecost 3A

Romans 6:1-11

1What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

6We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 10:34-39

34"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36and one's foes will be members of one's own household. 37whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.


Despite public spaces and retail places opening up more, #StaySafeStayHome #SaferAtHome continue. Even someone like me who has a wide libertarian streak appreciates Governor Newsom mandating wearing masks statewide. If people won't consider the needs of others, laws need to move them to act properly. We need to continue praying for effective treatment and for a vaccine. As devout Christian Nancy Pelosi pointed out a while ago, science is one of many ways God acts in the world.


God whose gracious power brings us seasons of fall, winter, spring, and summer; God whose Spirit uncovers broken systems and human failures, we thank you for another summer and for going before us and leading us to be your presence everywhere we go. Please, please continue to bless all the essential workers and keep them safe.
In the name of Jesus,

Green and Growing Season

This is the third Sunday after Pentecost; three weeks ago we celebrated the fiftieth day of Easter and the gift of the pentecostal Spirit of Life—grace, love, resurrection, God's abiding presence in us, the church, as the body of the Risen Christ. In baptism we receive the gift of God's Holy Spirit that enables us to do those "greater things" that Jesus promised. During this season, verdant green is the color for vestments, paraments, banners, etc., just as it was last winter during the few Sundays of ordinary [ordered, structured, delineated] time after Epiphany.


For today the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) that suggests our scriptures pairs Paul/ Saul's Romans 6 baptismal passage with Jesus' warning about following him and the cost of discipleship related to family members. Matthew 10:38 is the first "cross" reference in Matthew's gospel, and it's about the disciples, not about Jesus! Jesus well knew anyone at odds with the Roman occupation government was at high risk for crucifixion; most likely Jesus started anticipating his own crucifixion even earlier than we read about in the gospel narratives. Although this refers to literal crucifixion, it's no stretch also to interpret it as putting to death our own desires, preferences, lifestyles that clash or interfere with God's call to us. As we hear Paul's famous baptismal passage, we remember the cross did kill Jesus, but it didn't succeed in keeping him dead.

The nuclear family we've known and still imagine in the twenty-first century is not a fixture in the Bible, though we hear about parents, children, spouses, in-laws. Jesus instead describes a new family configuration of people who follow him. Biological heredity comes into the mix, but more than anything, this new family is by Jesus' blood, by baptismal water and word. In Matthew 12 that comes shortly after today's reading…

Matthew 12

46While Jesus was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. 47Someone told him, "Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you." 48But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?' 49And pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! 50For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."


The letter to the church at Rome is several decades earlier than the gospel we received from Matthew's community; for Saul / Paul of Tarsus, the gospel is death and resurrection. Paul considers baptism a new exodus, liberation from slavery of all kinds: sin, death, and the devil as we say in the baptismal liturgy; freedom from all forces and enticements of empire that are agents of death. In the life-changing event of baptism, the Triune God claims us forever.

The community gathered around Matthew the tax-collector well may have known the letter to the Romans since epistles were round-robin documents that circulated from church to church, often receiving edits and revisions along the way. However, as we've observed, Matthew's Jesus would not have done baptismal theology the way Paul does in Romans, or as we do in the 21st century church. In the Great Commission when he told his followers to go everywhere, teach everyone, baptize them, Jesus wouldn't have used the Father, Son, Holy Spirit baptismal formula. Most likely Jesus simply said "baptize" without suggesting words to accompany the action.

Emancipation Proclamation / Juneteenth

President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of September 22, 1862 took effect New Year's Day 1863. Texas was slavery's last outpost; in Galveston on June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger announced all slaves had been freed. The attention news media and social media gave to Juneteenth this year has been exciting! The Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified December 6, 1865.

Baptismal Connections

In the previous chapter 5 of Romans, Paul is astonished how sin could have taken over even something as life-giving as the Ten Words or Commandments. In today's passage from Matthew, Jesus alludes to sin and divisions taking over the gift of family. Households will become divided until they claim Jesus' forgiving love, mercy, and justice that obliterates boundaries sin has caused between human families (tribes, clans, countries, every kind of group). Baptism unites us to God's entire family in every place and every time; as Jesus explains, God's family consists of those who follow Jesus by acting like Jesus. In short, God adopts all of us into a reconfigured family in which Jesus' relatives include everyone who follows him.

In this week's passage from Romans, the Apostle Paul asks "Do you not know?" in a way that suggests they don’t know – or if they do know they don't yet get it, possibly haven't quite claimed it. In baptism we have died with Christ. We have been buried with Christ. We already have been raised with Christ into a new future. Do you not know that? Do I not know? Do we now live that?

Baptism unites us to God's entire family in every place and every time. In baptism, every one of our human stories intersect with each other, plus, the waters of baptism first connect us to the story of the entire universe, of this created world.

Aside from Easter Vigil, in actual baptismal liturgies, and often at funerals, this Sunday is the only place in the 3-year lectionary we hear this baptismal passage from Romans. During the baptismal liturgy and during the great fifty days of Easter, thanksgiving over the water begins, "We give you thanks for in the beginning your Spirit moved over the waters and you created heaven and earth. By the gift of water you nourish and sustain us and all living things." Do you remember Emily beautifully pouring water into the font from a lovely pitcher in previous years? Sigh…

The story of our own baptism takes us back to "in the beginning" of Genesis 1, expands to include our current relationship to planet earth as well as to our human siblings, and stretches into the future of all creation. Our present and our future as people of the resurrection is bound up with that of the earth.

"… I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother … one's foes will be members of one's own household."

"foe" in the NRSV is a word we don't use very often, but I left it rather than looking for a different translation.

In Romans, Paul mostly is concerned with divisions between Jew and Gentile. But humans cause divisions in countless ways—between nations, political groups, religious groups, ethnic groups, coworkers, nuclear families, extended families. You easily can expand the list. Racism, sexism, ageism, classism, (another easy et cetera you can continue) are among life-negating behaviors that destroy our own and one another's humanity. These lists imply insider-outsider language. Insider-outsider realities. What are our frames of reference? Ethnic? Cultural? Denominational? National?

Saint Paul asks if we do not know? In baptism our primary familial kinship and identity is under the reign – or kingship – of the crucified and risen One. It is a gift we already have received. It's truly a gift to be the sister, brother, parent, niece, or cousin of [insert name here], wonderful to live as a citizen or resident of the USA, of Italy, of any country that gives people the right to vote, free markets, the rule of law, but those identities are not primary.

Change is Gonna Come!

Similar to how it was in Jesus' time, we've become aware people opposed to contemporary legal, social, economic, cultural systems of … insert one of hundreds here … can expect to be silenced by … insert typical organizational or popular or governmental action here. Especially over the past few weeks, more and more death-dealing structures of sin and systems of oppression have been exposed.

As we gaze with horror and sorrow on (for example) products with packaging that displays ethnic stereotypes, statues of known slaveholders, we need to be careful to read the present through the past (historicism) and not make the easy mistake of reading the past through what we know in this present moment (presentism), by interpreting past events through current values, lenses, practices, and even preferences. A book review I read complained that the book was "so 1983." The book had been published in 1983, and who knows what year the author started writing. We can't live in a future that hasn't yet arrived, but we can learn from the past to help create a better now, and a greatly improved future.

In the power of the cross and the empty grave, by grace we can deal with the past and trust it no longer will enslave us.

How can death and resurrection inspire us to face hard past realities while also working together into a hope-filled future?

Baptism incorporates us into all humanity's history and into the history of planet earth with all its varied flora and fauna. No one is free until every one is free. No person is free until all creation is free. When I was facilitating some and helping teenagers lead other after-school activities in a previous life, my search for songs with solid theology that didn't use explicitly Christian language turned up "Free to Be, You and Me," that somehow I'd missed when it was current.

Free To Be

There's a land that I see where the children are free
And I say it ain't far to this land from where we are
Take my hand, come with me, where the children are free
Come with me, take my hand, and we'll live

In a land where the river runs free
In a land through the green country
In a land to a shining sea
And you and me are free to be you and me

I see a land bright and clear, and the time's comin' near
When we'll live in this land, you and me, hand in hand
Take my hand, come along, lend your voice to my song
Come along, take my hand, sing a song

For a land where the river runs free
For a land through the green country
For a land to a shining sea
For a land where the horses run free
And you and me are free to be you and me

Every boy in this land grows to be his own man
In this land, every girl grows to be her own woman
Take my hand, come with me where the children are free
Come with me, take my hand, and we'll run

To a land where the river runs free
To a land through the green country
To a land to a shining sea
To a land where the horses run free
To a land where the children are free
And you and me are free to be you and me

Music by Stephen J. Lawrence; Lyrics by Bruce Hart

Just as the constitutional justice and liberty the Emancipation Proclamation granted for everyone still isn't complete, the freedom and fulness of life Jesus' birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension granted all still isn't complete. Death still rules many social, economic, political, ecclesiastical structures and systems, as well as aspects of our lives as baptized individuals.

The story of our own baptism takes us back to "in the beginning" of Genesis 1, expands to include our current relationship to planet earth as well as to our human siblings, and stretches into the future of all creation. Our present and our future as people of the resurrection is bound up with that of the earth.

Our individual lives and our living together are full of the paradox of already done but not quite finished.

• Poet Wendell Berry counsels us, "Practice resurrection!"

• John Cena reminds us, "Hope and effort together is a great recipe for making [seemingly] impossible possible."

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Pentecost 2A

Exodus 19:2-8a

2They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain.

3Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: 4You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. 5Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, 6but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites."

7So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. 8The people all answered as one: "Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do."


Despite some public venues cautiously being allowed to carefully reopen, #SaferAtHome continues countywide for everyone who can rock it.


God of the desert, God of abundant provision, God who claims us in Jesus Christ as your specially treasured ones, events around the world and in this city have unsettled us; they've disrupted everything, but they've also been helping us imagining possibilities for our future. In the power of the Holy Spirit of Pentecost, may we listen to your words, may we see our neighbors needs, may we be your presence wherever we go; in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Ordinary Time

The church's year of grace has journeyed into a 6-month long season of green and growing Ordinary [ordered, arranged, structured, organized] Time when we count Sundays after Pentecost. Matthew's year continues, so most of our gospel readings will be from Matthew.

Pentateuch – Exodus

Today's first reading is from Exodus, one of the five books of the Pentateuch or Torah. Like "Pentecost," Pentateuch starts with the prefix Pent or five. Exodus mainly tells the story of the Israelites (Children of Israel in some versions) making their way or exodus out of slavery in Egypt, into freedom in the promised land of Canaan. In the chapter after today's reading we find the Ten Commandments or Ten Words [decalogue: deca=10 logo=word].

You also can find the Ten Words of the Sinai Covenant in Deuteronomy 5:5-21.

These Are the Words

3 Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say…"

5"If you obey God's voice and keep God's covenant … then you shall…"

God's love always is unconditional, but God's protection and the fulfillment of God's promises usually require human obedience.

Verse 5 calls God's people a "treasured possession." The Hebrew segullah is a fun word and concept! "Treasured possession" in verse 5 of today's first reading goes beyond a simple object into the idea of a real treasure that's highly valued and monetarily or emotionally precious. Because the King James Version says "peculiar people," it's no surprise I needed to know the etymology of the adjective peculiar. I found it all over the interwebs, so no need to cite a specific site.

From mid-15th century, peculiar is from Latin peculium that literally means property in cattle originating from when cattle (pecus) or flocks were the most important form of property. Even now we sometimes say something is "peculiar to" (or particular to) to indicate belonging to a situation, item, place, or person. Later on "peculiar" started to mean distinguished, special, particular, or select—mostly in terms of wealth. Around 1600 it became unusual, odd, unique, uncommon. English has the related word pecuniary.

So when God calls people peculiar, the root of the word tells us those people are God's treasure, God's wealth, God's bounty.

7"So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him."

We've mentioned the Ten Words or Commandments of the Sinai Covenant are working papers for our life together. On Lent 4 2019 we discussed Covenant in Scripture if you'd like to review it—or if you weren't there.

Doing the Word

You have seen –  therefore – if – then you shall

8The people all answered as one: "Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do."

As a result of liberating the people from slavery in Egypt and gracing them with presence and supply in the desert, God had convinced Israel this God was worthy of obedience, so they received the commandments as a gift of grace rather than as random untethered demands. Moses announced, "these are the words" and the people agreed, "we will do the words." In God's words spoken through Moses, [because] "you have seen" God's mighty acts of deliverance, the people knew obeying God would lead to life.

Let's update into this year 2020 and make that, "we have seen – therefore – we shall do." Because we have experienced Jesus crucified, dead, risen, and ascended, we know keeping covenant with God and with one another will lead to life for all creation.

Identity Formation

Israel left imperial Egyptian slavery and trekked through a series of deserts on their way to the land of promise. We know life teems beneath the still appearance of the desert's surface, and ecology hasn't changed all that much, but without easily available food, water, and shelter, they needed to trust God for everything. In addition, in a desert you can't plan or plant, administer or stockpile anything.

Like Israel, when we're in a geographical desert or one of life's metaphorical deserts, we only can receive life as gift. In the desert you can't plan or plant, administer, manufacture, or stockpile. Both COVID-19 and the strong recent revival of Black Lives Matter with its call to justice for everyone everywhere qualify as uncharted desert wilderness? We need to fully trust God in these matters? Yes! It's both painful and reassuring, but trials, difficulties, and disappointments shape, form, and refine us to a far greater extent than when "stuff" happens as we planned or expected or hoped.


5"…if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples… 6you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation."

God making Israel holy meant Israel would take on God's characteristics and nature, just as (we discussed last Sunday) baptism immerses us into the characteristics and nature of the Trinity. As the scriptures tell us, as Jesus showed us, God's nature includes passion for justice and mercy, care for the stranger and the marginalized—and love of a party with good drinks and tasty eats!

God called Israel to represent God by caring for each other and for strangers, foreigners, sojourners (literally resident aliens!), widows, orphans, all who don't have legal or social protections and may already have fallen through the cracks. Lacking legal protections and falling through the cracks? Wouldn't that include the environment? In the same way God called Israel, God calls us to represent Jesus everywhere we go. The Old Testament outlines God's Ten Commandments as Words of Life for living in covenant with God and with one another; the New Testament gives us Jesus' capsule version to love "God, self, and neighbor."

Doing the Word – Where We Live

The baptismal hymn in 1 Peter 2:9 we recently heard on Easter 5 closely parallels this OT passage and describes us in the church as chosen, royal, holy, God's own people. "Holy" means sanctified like God; it also means being set apart for a particular purpose. Doubtless the writer of 1 Peter knew the Hebrew scriptures well, so probably composed this as a riff on our Exodus passage.

The past few months have torn open expectations of every kind of stability: economic, social, religious, etc. Even essential workers who've regularly left their homes for work have more unscheduled time, more time to consider what now. What's next.

The people Moses helped get out of Egypt announced they'd do God's word in the world. God calls us to speak out and act out words of life wherever we are, wherever we go. How do we bring God to life for people we encounter?

What's now for us? When we get back to the church campus, we'll have a lot of discussion about the direction of our existing ministries and about new possibilities. For example, will we revive and continue CERT training?

I don't have any suggestions or questions this week. How about you?

Saturday, June 06, 2020

Trinity Sunday 2020

Rise, Shine, You People!

1. Rise, shine, you people! Christ the Lord has entered
Our human story; God in him is centered.
He comes to us, by death and sin surrounded,
With grace unbounded!

2. See how he sends the powers of evil reeling;
He brings us freedom, light and life and healing.
All men and women, who by guilt are driven,
Now are forgiven.

3. Come, celebrate, your banners high unfurling,
Your songs and prayers against the darkness hurling.
To all the world go out and tell the story
Of Jesus' glory.

4. Tell how the Father sent his Son to save us;
Tell of the Son, who life and freedom gave us.
Tell how the Spirit calls from every nation
The new creation.

Text by Ron A. Klug with the tune Wojtkiewiecz, after composer Dale Wood's original Polish name


Trinity Sunday initiates our fourth month being together away from the church campus.

Trinity Sunday…

…is the octave of Pentecost that celebrates a doctrine or teaching rather than a time-and-place event. "Octave of Pentecost?" The church long has celebrated important days for eight (think an octave on a keyboard) days rather than only one. "Trinity?" Scripture strongly implies a Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier God as three-in-one / one-in-three triune, but never uses the word trinity. Although the Trinity is that copout word mystery, human brains still try to describe it, with most attempts turning into the heresy of modalism. Those include ice, water, vapor; son, friend, accountant, father… oh. That equals a quadrivium of four.

Matthew 28:16-20

16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

"The Great Commission"

We baptize using water (an element of creation) accompanied by the words Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Baptism incorporates us (literally immerses us) into Jesus' death and resurrection, into the trinitarian nature of God as Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier.

Although Jesus' great commission in Matthew 28:19 is the only occurrence of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit baptismal formula in the bible, it was one of many later additions to the original text. When we read and interpret scripture, we sometimes need to remember Matthew's gospel is the most heavily redacted or edited of the four canonical gospels. The early church baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus, Jesus the Savior, or similar words. The first recorded mention of the Trinitarian baptismal formula was in the late fourth century!

None of us was there when Jesus sent his disciples into the future with a promise to be with them forever—neither was Thomas Aquinas, Julian of Norwich, Martin Luther King, Jr., or Mother/Saint Teresa of Kolkata. Jesus probably said something like go everywhere you can, teach everyone you meet by word and example, and baptize (immerse) them into my way of life that brings heaven to earth, the lifestyle I've been showing you and you've been learning.

Perichoresis=Describing the Trinity, Anyway

• peri=around
• choreo=dance

Instead of analogy or simile, early church fathers and mothers wrote about the perichoresis of the Trinity. Peri refers to around, nearby as in perimeter, peripatetic, peripheral, pericope, perigee… Choresis has the same root as choreography, so perichoresis means dancing around. Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier / Father, Son, Holy Spirit interact with each other in harmony, agreement, consonance, integrity, shalom, etc. Humans casually assign characteristic traits to each Person, but in reality they all participate together in every aspect of the life of the world.

Experience and Scripture and Jesus

The discovery of God as trinity first came from everyday human experience, then got talked about, then written down, then organized into books that eventually got further compiled into a book of books we acknowledge as scripture. Our knowledge of God still comes from everyday human encounters with God who always is with us, never leaves us, always loves us, and baptizes us into participation in the life of the triune God in the world, for the world.

How did people begin to realize Jesus of Nazareth was God in a human body?

Backtracking: although God promised the Exodus desert wanderers a place and a space, ultimately their identity as the people of God depended upon keeping Torah. This God of liberation from Egyptian slavery uniquely was a God of commandments (ordinances, laws, statues, precepts) spoken and given – and written down – as grace-filled gift for the well-being of all creation. Unlike other gods in that vicinity, Israel's God was not connected to a particular geographical or physical place, but accompanied the people everywhere they went.

Along came Jesus. Like all Jews of his day, Jesus knew the words of scripture, but more than anything, he lived those words every day in every way. He showed up around strangers and outcasts, reminded everyone of God's call to justice and love, rocked a good party yet provided basic bread before bringing in all the flourishes and fancies. Jesus was a regular guy, but rumor had it his conception and birth had happened in an unusual manner. Besides, when Jesus spoke in synagogue or in the public square, he had authority unlike no other local. Hmmm… "All authority in heaven and on earth?" Jesus was a regular guy who claimed to have fulfilled the Hebrew scriptures; on at least one occasion, he announced anyone who had seen him had seen God. Then there was the third day after Friday when Jesus who had been undeniably dead suddenly was undeniably alive…

People of church, synagogue, or mosque aspire to make the witness of scripture part of everyday family, community, and civic life. For people of the church, Jesus Christ is the ultimate interpreter of scripture because Jesus is God's living word that literally has jumped off the pages of scripture into history, into our lives, promising to be with us always, wherever we go.

Challenge – Backwards and Forwards

The creative, redemptive, inspiring triune God baptizes and calls us as partners in lives that speak grace, love, justice, hospitality, and newness in words and actions.

• Look back to an especially striking two or three times you experienced God's presence in a special way from someone else and/or when you suddenly realized you had been Jesus in that situation in an exceptional way. Maybe even during this past week?

• Peer into the future and claim a particular dream you have for (1) your nearby family, friends, and community—church, neighborhood, workplace; (2) the country and the world at large. Maybe related to this past week, or possibly to yearnings and hopes you'd had so long ago you'd almost forgotten them?