Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Early Christian writers see in the account of Abraham’s encounter with the LORD as the earliest direct scriptural proof of the Trinity.  Abraham looks up and sees three men standing near him.

He immediately runs out and bows down to the ground before them.  Now we don’t know what God looked like nor whether Abraham is reacting to God’s appearance or just to a distinguished visitor but he shows wonderful hospitality.

Notice he offers a little bread before dashing into the tent to demand that Sarah use the finest ingredients to make some cakes then dashing off to select a fine calf to be prepared.  Talk about understatement!

And when God inquires as to where Sarah is, Abraham replies—Oh, she’s in the tent.  The truth being that she is racing around trying to back up her husband so it is no wonder that she laughs in frustration when God mentions that He will again appear so she might bear a son.

But in the course of time, Sarah comes to laugh with God, not at God and invites all to share in her joy.

There is joy today at our 10 am service because the daughter of a young woman whose wedding I officiated has come all the way from Virginia to be baptized.  We will embrace her and welcome her into Christ’s Body the Church and set the stage for her life in Christ back where she lives.

It is my hope and prayer that Arianna will grow into a continuing relationship with Jesus.  That relationship as St. Paul says, is dependent upon our faith.  God’s grace is available to all; those who accept it in faith will enjoy peace with God.

Paul goes on to talk about suffering.  I think many Christians have the mistaken notion that God causes suffering to make us stronger.  No, God suffers with us and has suffered on behalf of us.  Some form of suffering is part of the human condition, and God’s spirit working within us helps us to endure without feeling completely destitute.  In retrospect we like Paul come to understand that our reaction to suffering has demonstrated a strength of character we may not know we had and gives us the assurance of eternal connection with God.

Paul says that while we still were sinners Christ died for us, and I will say that before we were even born, Jesus Christ suffered for bringing God’s love to humanity.  Whether one embraces the traditional atonement understanding or believes that in order to achieve God’s purpose of bringing the good news to humanity Jesus opened himself to the real possibility that he would be killed for the new way of being that he proclaimed.

That proclamation is as true today as it was almost 2000 years ago.  And as Jesus sent forth his core disciples to do the work of God in making the lives of the common people better, He calls upon us to do likewise.  Perhaps it is not our charism to cast out demons, cure the sick, raise the dead or cleanse the lepers, but it is within our charism to ease the loneliness of those who are alone; to help ease the spiritual or physical hunger of another by a kind word or a bit of food.

But as the Baptismal Covenant says, we too can proclaim that the realm of heaven, God’s realm, has come near and remains to today.

Arianna will grow up in a world in many ways different from the one bequeathed to those born in the shadow of World War II.  People will conserve or fail.  We will all learn to be green; Arianna may remember little from the time before, when like the grasshopper we thought nothing was really going to change.

Despite the prospects that face us or even the time of tribulations that have come and will come, what will not change is God’s abiding love for us, for God loves us better than we love each other or ourselves.  God’s call yesterday, today and tomorrow will be to open ourselves to God’s love and truth.  I pray that all of us will be open to our Loving God and the hope we have in God’s promise to be with us always.

Amen.