Sermon by The Rev. Christopher W. Hogin, June 16, 2019
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Epistle: Romans 5:1-5
Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Gospel: John 16:12-15
Jesus said to the disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
The Reverend Christopher HoginTrinity of PerfectionRomans 5-1-5; John 16:12-15The Episcopal Church of The AscensionJune 16, 2019 There was once a man named Joe Rantz, born in Spokane, Washington in 1914. When he was three years old, his mother died. Racked with grief, his father sent him on a train to the east coast where he lived with relatives. He was later sent back to live with his father a couple of years later after his dad remarried. At age 10, he was sent away by his step-mother, and ended up living in a one-room school house washing dishes and stacking firewood. He again was invited to live back home. By this time the country was deep into the depression, and the family was plunged into poverty. One day and found his father, stepmother and half siblings packed up in a car. His father said, “Sorry Joe, we’re leaving. We can’t take you with us.” Then they drove off. He distinctly remembered the red taillights fading off as he was left alone in the darkness. (Something tells me his dad didn’t receive a Father’s Day card.) Joe Rantz was tough. He had grit. He foraged in the woods for food, hunted and fished. He did this all while going to school during the day earning excellent grades. Later he ended up at the University of Washington and winning a spot on the crew team. Initially Joe almost lost his position. He lost it, not because of his abilities, but because he was unable to trust his other crew mates. He could never fully get in sync with the team. Something held him back that impacted the rhythm of the boat. One of his trainers sensed a psychological and spiritual void. Joe had learned never to depend on anyone. That anybody he cared about eventually abandoned him. That mindset carried over to his relationship with his teammates. His trainer gently got him to the point where he submitted himself to his crew mates. Each member of that team came from some kind of broken situation. And yet they came together as a unit. The greatness of the team came through hard work, training and coaching. All of those elements were important. But what really mattered was the trust that each member had for one another. What mattered was how each person flowed seamlessly as a single unit. They knew one another’s rhythm and patterns. They stroked, breathed and glided as one. Years later they described that sense of unity as something akin to touching the divine. This crew team smashed numerous records upsetting the prestigious crew clubs of the east coast. They later represented the United States in the 1936 Olympics, defeating Nazi Germany and taking home the gold. You can read about this in Daniel James Brown’s magnificent book The Boys In The Boat: the best book I read in 2018. This is Trinity Sunday. I’m won’t try and explain the trinity. I’ll let the Theologians sort that out. What I propose is that the trinity embodies perfect relationship. The trinity calls us to perfecting our own relationships so that we may better endure the sufferings of this life growing closer to God. The trinity invites us into that cooperative union of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Or, as The Reverend Ann Boneman Lippencott used to say, “The creator, the redeemer, and the sustainer.” That’s the message. Paul’s letter to the Romans and John’s gospel are both trinitarian. In John, Jesus mentions the coming of the Holy Spirit to his disciples. It’s an intimate interplay between all three, a perfect relationship. Paul directly addresses suffering and how suffering leads to endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. This hope is about us opening ourselves up so that God’s love may be poured into us through the Holy Spirit. In essence, we endure the sufferings of this world by joining in relationship of the trinity. We are called to perfecting our relationship with one another, so that they may resemble the unified cooperative rhythms of the trinity. That sounds nice, but there’s a problem. Human suffering often comes from relationships. Right? How can we have perfect relationships when they are a part of our suffering? I can’t help but look to those boys in the boat from 1936. Each one suffered in their own way. Each one had their own demons to face. But something happened when they worked at forming relationships aimed at a common goal. The intentional act of knitting wills showed what can happen when humans submit to one another: they come closer to touching the divine. But that sense of unity did not come about without hard work and deep suffering. Those who attain that level of oneness work hard. Look at champion sports teams. They practice together and endure. It’s the same in marriages. The strong marriages are the ones that after decades of ups and downs difficulties and pain, eventually attain a plateau where the two know one another’s rhythms. Relationships aren’t easy. They require patience, humility, and endurance—all of which Paul mentions. But it’s not easy. We all have our baggage. We all carry with us wounds from the past. We all bring our own pain. We all are waging some kind of quiet desperate battle. We are like Joe Rantz. It’s difficult for us to trust. May we heed the call of the trinity by perfecting our own relationships. May we examine our relationships so that we may better endure the sufferings of this life. May we all take a chance by submitting to God and one another through trust, hard work, and patience so that in doing so, may become a part of the cooperative union, embodied by the trinity, and thus elevating ourselves and our communities closer to the divine. Amen