“Love the Trees”
The opening Scripture reflection in my sermon today comes from a sermon by Dr. Paul Ladouceur. Paul teaches Orthodox theology at the University of Sherbrooke and Trinity College in Toronto, and I know him personally through our involvement in the Canadian Council of Churches at which he is a representative for the Archdiocese of Canada of the Orthodox Church in America.
On a path on Mount Athos, the monks put up a sign for passing pilgrims: “Love the trees.” Father Amphilochios, an elder on the island of Patmos in Greece, used to say, “Do you know that God gave us one more commandment, which is not recorded in Scripture? It is the commandment ‘Love the trees.’”
“Love the trees.” Why should this be important for Christians?
The Genesis account of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden contains two valuable indications of how humans should relate to the world around them. In the first chapter of Genesis we read, “God said to the man and the woman: Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and … Read more »
On the Sunday after Pentecost each year, we celebrate Trinity Sunday. We take one Sunday to ponder that mysterious doctrine of the church – the one that says that God is One-in-Three, Three-in-One; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and yet, still One God.
“Where does it say that in the Bible?” you may ask. And that would be a very good question for a Christian to ask. You probably didn’t notice any mention of “Trinity”, or a “Triune God”, or “Father, Son, & Holy Spirit” in this morning’s readings. And the readings we heard this morning were specifically chosen from the Revised Common Lectionary for Trinity Sunday.
But the truth is that there are no passages in the Bible that specifically explain, or lay out, or even name the Doctrine of the Trinity. It is a later theological explanation by the early church, a later articulation by Christians as they grappled with the content of the Scriptures and how they had experienced God coming to them first as God the Father, then as the divine Son, Jesus, and finally in the powerful, comforting, inspiring, challenging presence of the Holy Spirit within, between, and among God’s people.
Here is how “Living … Read more »
John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15
“We Will Testify to Love”
Today we celebrate Pentecost as a festival of the Christian church. The roots of Pentecost however, predate the events of Acts chapter 2, as Pentecost was one of three major pilgrimage festivals in Judaism. In today’s reading from the Book of Acts, there were “devout Jews from every nation under heaven” gathered in Jerusalem because they had all come for the great pilgrimage festival of Pentecost.
The name “Pentecost” is derived from the Greek prefix pente – meaning “five” or “fifty.” According to Deuteronomy 16, this festival (which was sometimes called the “Festival of Weeks”) took place fifty days after Passover. It marked the completion of the grain harvest that came in late spring. In later Judaism, Pentecost also became a time when the people celebrated God’s giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, thus creating a new covenant community.
But on the first Pentecost after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, something spectacular happened that transformed the meaning of that festival for followers of Jesus and established an important Christian celebration for centuries to come:
“When the day of Pentecost had come, [Jesus’ disciples] were all together in one place. And suddenly from … Read more »
“Prophesy to These Bones!”
It is the fifth Sunday in Lent. We are still two weeks away from Easter Sunday and the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. But today we have heard several wonderful scripture texts that point towards the joy of the resurrection. They proclaim the power and love of God to bring hope where there is despair, to bring joy where there is sadness and grief, to bring life where there is death.
The prophet Ezekiel uses the striking image of a valley full of dry bones. And he tells about how God will raise them up, and put them back together, cover them with flesh and skin, and fill them with breath so that God’s people will live again.
The author of John’s Gospel tells the amazing story of the raising of Lazarus. This friend of Jesus had been dead for four days. He was already in the tomb. His family were grieving. But Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out. He was still wrapped in his grave clothes, but he was alive again!
And the Apostle Paul reminds the Roman Christians, and he reminds us also, that … Read more »
John 14:8-17, 25-27
“A Spirit of Adoption”
Pentecost is sometimes called “the birthday of the church.” We gather to remember and celebrate what happened on the first Pentecost after Jesus’ death and resurrection – how the Holy Spirit was poured out in power on the gathered disciples… making them one, sending them out in mission, empowering them to proclaim the gospel to all the people of the world.
It seems fitting on this day, to begin by remembering what Pentecost is all about. And it seems fitting to share part of a reflection that was published online for Pentecost this week. It’s a message from the Presidents of the World Council of Churches. They write:
“We have celebrated with joy the feast of Easter. We have remembered Jesus’ departure from his disciples, those he loved and those who loved him at his Ascension into heaven. Now, today, we celebrate the feast of Pentecost, the day of God’s priceless gift to the world, the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are called in the power of that Spirit to turn again to God, to give ourselves to Jesus Christ joyfully and to serve our brothers and sisters who do … Read more »
On Pentecost Sunday, we celebrate the wonderful event that took place on the first Pentecost following Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension. The disciples were all together in one place, and the Spirit of God was poured out on them in power. It filled the room where they were meeting, and sent them rushing out into the streets to tell the good news about Jesus to visiting pilgrims from all over the world. Though the listeners came from many places and spoke many different languages, they heard the disciples proclaiming the mighty acts of God in their own native tongues.
Often Pentecost is referred to as the birthday of the church. Although the followers of Jesus always had a mission, and John’s Gospel tells about Jesus breathing the Holy Spirit onto his disciples even before he died, for the author of Luke and Acts, this is the moment when the Christians first received the gift of the Holy Spirit empowering them to go out and tell the good news to all the world.
As we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, many of us may wonder what the Spirit is doing today. It’s one thing to read about what the … Read more »