Pastor Caitlin Trussell with Augustana Lutheran Church on May 22 2016
[sermon begins after 3 Bible readings; they’re all too good]
John 16:12-15 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 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. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 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. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 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.
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 1 Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?
2 In the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand;
3 beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
4 “To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live.
22 The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago.
23 Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water.
25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth—
26 when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil.
27 When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28 when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep,
29 when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
30 then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always,
31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.
Jesus tells his disciples that, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” That’s about as frustrating on the listeners’ side as it can get. Imagine someone telling you that they’d fill you in on the main things if only you could understand them. This happens all the time when we’re children. The kids in the room know what I’m talking about. In fact, Jesus starts his speech that includes the reading from John today by calling his disciples, “Little children…” Judas betrays Jesus, skulks off into the night, and Jesus starts talking using the endearment of “little children.” There is a kindness in the endearment but there is also a limit that Jesus places on his listeners. He knows and tells them that they cannot bear the weight of what he has to say.
When I was four, my feet found their way into a pair of ballet slippers. There’s was a lot to learn. A lot of strength to be gained. But mostly, from my newly slippered perspective, there was love of the dance. Body and music working together to make something new along with sounds of Bach and Tchaikovsky. Classical ballet was a fairly consistent part of life even with the family relocations. I don’t know how my mother did it through some of the family chaos. It’s possible it made me easier to live with. But truly, in hindsight, dance made it more possible for me to live.
Around the age of 13, my ballet teacher started talking about point shoes. You know these shoes. They’re part of the classic image of ballet dancers moving around on their toes. For the dancer, point shoes are a big moment. The joy of that moment of readiness is heady and alive. There is much that goes into being ready. Dancing en pointe means the strength and coordination are there to bear the weight of the body. When the strength isn’t there – the toes can’t bear the body weight and it’s highly possible there will be pain and a lot of it.
Similarly, Jesus knows his disciples aren’t ready to bear the weight of what he has to say. At this point in the story, Jesus is still alive. There is no crucifixion or resurrection to give the disciples perspective. Paul’s letter to the Romans is well after the crucifixion as the early church is making sense of what happened to Jesus. Paul talks about the experience of suffering moving to endurance, character and, finally, hope. Hope that comes through the love of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s a lot for him to put in one or two sentences. Let’s slow it down a bit.
In the midst of suffering, it’s hard to have perspective and even harder when someone tries to give you their perspective. It’s like the time-space continuum starts moving really differently. This happens when you’re sick enough to land in the hospital or losing a loved one or lost a job or making a tough move or fighting depression. Perspective is possible typically only after there’s been an experience and time passes. Even then it can be a stretch to look back on the experience, realize you’ve come through it, and make any meaning out of it – framing it with other experiences.
We tend to think of this individually. But the Proverbs reading tells us that Wisdom speaks publically. “On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out…” Wisdom speaks publically in the places where people are together. Also in the Proverbs reading, Wisdom holds the perspective of time. Before the beginning of the earth, before the heavens and the deep, Wisdom was there. Part of wisdom is public when people are together and part of wisdom is time. It’s difficult to gain perspective when we’re alone in the middle a mess.
Before seminary and becoming a pastor, I spent about 10 years as an adult worshiper. Listening to sermons was a highlight of worship and my week. Scripture and life come together – sometimes like a breath of fresh air and sometimes in a gnarly collision. Sometimes I agreed with the preacher and sometimes I didn’t. Mostly I was thankful for the reminders week-after-week that the people described by scripture were often just as lost, just as forgetful, just as gifted, and just as loved by God as I am in this beautiful struggle called life.
I needed and still need the forgiveness and strength that are given freely week-after-week in confession, preaching, bread, and wine and reinforced by the worship liturgy both in words and body motion. When I worship now as a pastor, I’m still grateful for the chances to hear another preacher remind us that we’re just as lost, forgetful, gifted, and loved as everybody else. That is a gift of perspective. A gift of wisdom.
For ballet dancers, being ready to dance is partly about practicing coordinated movement with other dancers. For people of faith, living this beautiful struggle called life is partly about regularly practicing the faith with other people. Just as the disciples are together with Jesus in the Bible reading today, we are together with Jesus through scripture and worship by the power of the Holy Spirit. So together, the Holy Spirit draws us into perspective and hope through the love of God.
This Sunday, we celebrate the Holy Trinity – God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is shared experience of otherness within itself – separate yet whole. A mystery revealed to us by Jesus who suffered, died, and lives again. The Trinity integrates us into shared experience with God and with each other through worship and life in the world.
The dance between Father – Spirit – Son makes it possible for us to live.
No one says it like Paul says it to the Roman church and also to us:
“Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 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. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 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.”
Amen and thanks be to God.
Hymn of the Day sung by everyone in response to the sermon.
Come, Join the Dance of Trinity (ELW 412)
Come, join the dance of Trinity, before all worlds begun –
The interweaving of the Three, the Father, Spirit, Son.
The universe of space and time did not arise by chance,
But as the Three, in love and hope, made room within their dance.
Come see the face of Trinity, newborn in Bethlehem;
Then bloodied by a crown of thorns outside Jerusalem.
The dance of Trinity is meant for human flesh and bone;
When fear confines the dance in death, God rolls away the stone.
Come, speak aloud of Trinity, as wind and tongues of flame
Set people free at Pentecost to tell the Savior’s name.
We know the yoke of sin and death, our necks have worn it smooth;
Go tell the world of weight and woe that we are free to move!
Within the dance of Trinity, before all worlds begun,
We sing the praises of the Three, the Father, Spirit, Son.
Let voices rise and interweave, by love and hope set free,
To shape in song this joy, this life: the dance of Trinity.
 John 13:33a [Jesus says to his disciples] “Little children, I am with you only a little longer…”