Sermon,  Sermons

Encircling Love

6th Sunday of Easter

Ginny Dietmeier,
Amazing Grace/Chains Are Gone
Acts 17:22-31; John 14:15-21

sermon video

Last Sunday, sometime after the service, Dan texted, “This was just another awesome day in God’s Country – I finished planting yesterday.” I was just taken by the brilliance, the evidence of God’s love – through Dan’s joy, by the gorgeous sunset, the hope in planting seed, the promise of new life. It’s evident everywhere if we have eyes to see.

The people of Athens sensed it too, and Paul had eyes to notice. He explained that the one whom they designated as “unknown” was One they could know: because The unknown god, “does not live in shrines made by human hands…” Acts 17:24

In fact, this unknown God doesn’t need anything from us because God is the one who gives us our very breath. (v25)

God designated the times, gave us enough space, so we’d search, find God – though God is always near. Through time, across cultures, we find God, are finding God together.

 It is not a one-person show. It is not a one-denomination’s show. It is not for a single entity to decide who God is because it takes millennia and worlds of discovery to even begin to know this God. Still, this God is not unknown, unknowable. Just unfathomable.

God is not static, not an idol, a temple/building, an entity to be defined, categorized. God is not Methodist or Lutheran.

It is this God – in whom we live and move and have our being – by whom we are “judged in righteousness” Acts 17:31 Remember, righteousness is about making things right. And judgement is about discernment – discerning when something isn’t right in our relationships.

So Judgment is the culmination of God having already made everything right – between us and God, between one another, and with all creation. The Greek tenses in these words suggest the day was already set, while giving the sense that we are experiencing that day already. And the proof (assurance)? Jesus is alive! Jesus was not bound by death – the proof for this day of so-called judgement is that Jesus overcame death – it is the proof we need so we know that we, too, can live:

We do this by living, existing – as if we believe this!

The people of Athens sensed the Divine, they knew in their core – in their bones – that this unknown god that does not live in shrines made by human hands, exists. This God that cannot be contained by buildings, constrained by human ideas of what God should look like, or do, or be. IS.

This unknown god is known to them because God is in our very breath! We breathe the Spirit of God. It is because God is not enshrined, not a piece of wood, not high above – beyond anything we know or experience (sure, God extends beyond anything we can even conceive. Still.) God. Is. Near.

Indeed, It is IN God we exist.

The Spirit of God lives in us. The Word of God enfleshed, and God the Creator are one. And the Spirit is for us – hearts on fire – to give us all we need to truly live!

And what does it mean to truly live? Be in right relationship with God, with one another and with all creation. How do we live in this way? By having eyes to see this knowable God – in each other. By not holding grudges. By reconciling with one another. By holding one another with high regard – even (and especially) those who bug us, or whom we don’t really get. In a word: Love.

Julian of Norwich understood this:

“[God] makes no distinction in love between the blessed soul of Christ and the least souls that shall be saved.”

“I see no difference between God and our essence, but just as if it were all God, and yet my understanding accepted that our essence is in God—that is to say, that God is God, and our essence is a creation of God. The all Powerful truth of the Trinity is our Father, for He created us and keeps us within Him; and the deep Wisdom of the Trinity is our Mother in whom we are all enclosed; the exalted Goodness of the Trinity is our Lord and in Him we are enclosed and He in us.” (ch 54, p142-3)

“Our high Father, God Almighty, who is Being itself, knew us and loved us from before any time, and from this knowledge in His wondrous profound love, by the foreseeing endless agreement of all the Blessed Trinity, He wills that the Second Person should become our Mother, our Brother, and our Savior.

Whereof it follows that as truly as God is our Father, so truly God is our Mother. Our Father wills, our Mother acts, our good Lord the Holy Spirit strengthens. And therefore it is right for us to love our God in whom we have our being… for in these three is all our life—nature, mercy, and grace….

[this is who we ARE, what we are made for]

(and in that is a great reaching outward, by the same grace, of length and breadth and of height and of depth without end) and all is one love.” (ch 59, p158-60)

Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, Tr by Fr. John-Julian, OJN
Dressing for the Carnival (Detail), Winslow Homer, 1877, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York.

We have as the essence of our being, in the power that made death absolutely inert – nothing – we are held within the very bosom of – the Holy Trinity. And this Triune God Is Love. Encircles us. Holds us together – In Love. All of us. This same God. This same Love. Encircles ALL of us! How does that inform how we live in this time of pandemic?

         Love has no limits!

So why do I feel so helpless?!

Rev Dr Donna Schaper (Judson Memorial Church, NY)

“Raymond Carver, Poet
How to find purpose in times like these?  Especially since we don’t know the name of the times or what the old name for the old times really was or what the new name for the new times will really be.  What story will we tell about ourselves during the pandemic?  I was “fine.”  I “survived.”  I “coped.” 

Or I called myself beloved and the earth called my name back to me.  I found my mission central and my mission consistency.

 Pentecostal Ventilators
Blow a new wind into our lungs, ventilate us, let us breathe all the way to freedom, by the power of your holiest and most whole spirit.  And make us allies of those who can’t breathe, whose breath is halt, whose pace is slow and who have been too hurt for too long to go on.  When we look at the people who had to die alone, or who are gone unremarked and unnoticed, as we remember the nurses sitting alone on the stairs wondering what to do next, or the doctors who could do nothing to establish breath, let us point to a new Pentecost, a fresh wind, new ways for new days.  Amen.

Flunking the Racism Course again, NYC so great but not in this subject.
The white people in our congregation knew very few people who had died from the virus.  The black people in our congregation attended multiple zoom worships per week.  I won’t forget.  New York is the kind of place that even if it wasn’t an epicenter, it would think it was. Our arrogance is usually rightly placed.  It is NOT rightly placed around how racist we are.  More transit workers died per percentage of population than in any other field.  Likewise, people of color work there.  We have had a crash course in racism.  Let us not flunk it, again”

We breathe the Spirit of God. God, Who is Love lives IN us, and we are enclosed IN God, and we share the same Spirit, contained within the same God. This God Who is love. Encircling us. Empowering us. How do we live like we believe this in this time of pandemic?

With faith…

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