Monday, June 25, 2012

A question of trust . . .

     In many ways, I often dread when the book of Job appears in our readings.  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the book.  My challenge is trying to teach from the book in 20 minutes or so.  We have some newcomers among us, so some of you may not know that I did my MA thesis and oral defense in religion on the book of Job.  Consequently, you might say I have a particular fondness for the book.  You might also say that I have way too much information trapped up here in my head that I just need to share with everyone.  Truthfully, even before I chose to focus on that book for a thesis, I was always drawn to Job.  As a child, I was could somewhat relate, from a child’s perspective at least, to the arguments put forth by Job in response to those tossed out there by his friends.  Even 2500 years later or more, we seem to equate health and wealth with blessing and sickness and poverty with accursed by God.  As a pastor, however, I would like to think that my appreciation of the book has grown.  Many of the questions discussed in the book often flow from your lips as we discuss the many seeming injustices of events in our lives.
     I will say, upfront, that if you are looking for specific answers to your questions in this book, you will likely be disappointed.  Much of the book leaves unanswered the big questions of our lives.  If you are reading the book looking for “how to” answers, you are in the wrong book.  If you are reading the book wondering “why,” you might have an expectation about the book that will likely leave you disappointed.
     Our reading this week picks right after Job has shaken his fist at his friends and God.  For those unfamiliar with the book, Job was the subject of a cosmic discussion between God and Satan.  God is bragging about His servant when Satan opines that Job only blesses God because God has so blessed Him in return.  In response, God gives Job over to Satan.  The idea of our Lord not protecting us against the scheming of the evil one might rightly disturb us, but God tells Satan that Job will not falter.  Amazingly, through it all, Job remains faithful.  Though he loses his wealth, his family, and his reputation, Job never wavers in His worship and adoration of God.  Job does, however, plead his cause wrongly.  His friends show up and encourage Job to confess the horrible sin that he has committed against God.  Job asserts that he has not sinned against God.  Further, he asserts that he wishes he had the opportunity to confront God about this injustice.  After some bickering, and Job once again asserting that God has acted unjustly, God enters the discussion.
     Who is this who darkens counsel by words without understanding.  Put in our language: Who is this idiot that thinks I am asleep at the wheel!  Job asserts that his suffering is evidence that God’s attention is elsewhere.  If God knew Job and knew what was happening to him, He would immediately step in to protect Job.  It seems a reasonable statement.  We claim to be children of a holy, righteous, omnipotent, omniscient God.  Can He not do anything and everything to protect us?  When He fails to act to protect us, do we not feel a bit betrayed?  Do we not rail at Him and shake our fists demanding to know where He was?  If we are like Job and expect God to admit that He missed one or that He’ll make it all better in a second, we are going to be sorely disappointed.
     Similarly, though, if we expect God to explain everything to our satisfaction, we are just as likely to be disappointed.  Notice in His demands of Job, He never explains His doings.  He asks Job if He was there when He bounded the sea, or when He constructed the world, when the stars started singing, or the clouds were wrapped around the earth.  Job responds that he was not.  From there, the conversation takes a bit of a surprising journey.  We not only expect God to validate His earlier judgment of Job, but we expect Him to take the time and explain the purpose of the suffering.  Instead, God reminds Job that he and we lack the perspective to understand the significance of everything that is happening in our lives and in the world around us.  Only He has that kind of understanding.  And ultimately, though we might not get the answer that we want for ourselves or for Job, it becomes a question of trust.  Ultimately, we, like Job, are called to recognize the limits of our understanding and power and to trust that God, who is righteous and faithful, will exercise His for our salvation.
     Is God’s answer the one we want?  No.  Our pains and our sufferings are real, and we demand a real solution to them.  When we hurt, we want someone to kiss it and make it better or take out our frustrations on the ones who hurt us.  We don’t want to trust.  We want action.  And yet God, in this amazing book, reminds us that He is always acting.  We may not see it, we may not hear it, it may even seem from our perspective that He is losing.  But that is a fault of our condition.  As simple human beings, as created men and women, we lack the perspective of our Lord.  We might trust that He will redeem, but can we ever know?
     Unlike Job, you and I do have the benefit of history on our time.  While Job looked to a day when he had an advocate to defend him, you and I know that the Advocate has already come.  And everything that Job wants in this book, and we desire during those dark moments of our lives, He has already accomplished.  God’s final conquering of death, brothers and sisters, is not an unanswered question.  It is not a reminder of our ignorance (if we choose not to ask how He could love us that much).  It is, ultimately, that single reminder of His power and purpose.  Though thing may seem out of control in our lives, God is already there, ready to redeem.  That He raised Christ from the dead demonstrates His power, and that He came down in the first place demonstrates His love for us.  Ultimately, as God reminds us and Job today, it is a question of trust.  But then, when has it never been thus?

The One . . .

Who is this then, that even the wind and the sea obey him? – Who, indeed, is God, and just what do we really know about Him? Part of the problem that presents itself when we begin to think on that question is the cultural milieu in which we live. To a great extent, you and I are children of Renaissance and all that flows from it. Truthfully, I cannot be sure that David Hume (he of the Hume & Locke fame of poly sci majors everywhere) was the first to articulate the modern understanding of God, but his postulates about God have certainly been accepted as true by scientists ever since. Hume was adamant that God was orderly, rational, predictable and the like. Though he never explicitly declared science to be the true language of God, I do not doubt that he would have agreed with the sentiment. Like many of his contemporaries, Hume assumed that God had placed certain natural laws in place and could in no wise violate them. For him and those who follow his way of thinking, miracles were impossible because God could not contravene what He had ordered.
We see this attitude play out on cable television a lot during the week. This year alone I have watched terrible programs on the “discovery of Christ’s tomb”, one of David’s great victories (I forget which ite he conquered in the battle discussed), Sodom & Gomorrah, and on the Palm Sunday events (both Pilate and Christ entering Jerusalem at the same time). I say terrible for different reasons. Some archaeologists seem to have forgotten their own principles which are supposed to guide their inquiry. Military researchers simply discount what those who have survived to write about battles call the “fog of war.” And, the biblical narrative is simply dismissed as myth. Jesus of Nazareth, a rural section of the Roman Empire, could never have foreseen the events and leaders in Jerusalem conspiring to take his life.

The problem, of course, is their simple presence. Mark records a series of so-called nature miracles to help readers understand who Jesus is. The story from this week, the calming of the storm on the Sea of Galilee, is the first. As we have talked many times, most Ancient Near East cultures were afraid of sea. With the exception of the Phoenicians, most cultures that ventured out on to the waters of the Mediterranean tended to hug the coasts as much as possible. You and I, in modern boats and enough fuel, might choose to sail in a straight line from Egypt to Rome, but would we in a rowboat or sailboat? The waters of the big seas were terrifying. Storms blew up out of nowhere. Great big leviathans lived in their depths. Against the forces of nature, the powers of humanity seemed puny. Not surprisingly, the sea came to be viewed as the embodiment or child of chaos. Land could be irrigated, transformed, conquered for human existence. Water changed by the minute. Just when you had it subdued, along came a rogue wave or a storm!

In many ways, the storms on such seas came to remind human beings of the human predicament. We could fashion our lives with a semblance of control and then, boom!, everything was changed. In agrarian societies, plagues, droughts, storms, and the like could undue a lifetime of security. In trading societies, wars and political upheaval could undo all that an individual had accomplished. A great work ethic could be destroyed by any number of diseases. And all bowed, ultimately, to the authority of death.

You and I should have the same understanding. How many here had plans in their youth for other than we are living? Maybe you were ravaged by a disease, cancer or some other pernicious evil. Maybe the recent depression simple changed your economic situation or outlook. Perhaps the company you dreamed of retiring from was acquired and you were deemed “redundant” in the newly merged corporation. Most of us here have experienced the untimely consequences of a natural disaster such as a fire, a tornado, a flood, and we know what such disasters can do to the orderliness and predictability of life. And like those of old, we all lack an answer for death. Maybe our current situation is attributable to the untimely death of a loved one. Each one of us can certainly relate to the fear of the disciples and the frustration of Job in our readings today. Each one of us gathered here has learned, at some point in our lives, that our power is insufficient.

Fortunately, our readings this day do not leave us hopeless. In both the OT and the Gospel lesson, God reminds us that He has power over all things. There are no exceptions! And while we might wish that He would intervene in our stormy lives as He does for the disciples in Mark’s Gospels, His lack of immediate intervention is by no means a sign of His disfavor towards us. Quite the contrary! Because He has already demonstrated His authority even over death, you and I can face the storms of our life certain in the knowledge that He loves and cares for us, confident that our suffering glorifies Him, and secure that, in the end, He will redeem us. Put another way, our faith in Christ gives us a peace that this world does not know and cannot possibly give. You and I can face literal and metaphorical storms, natural and even supernatural enemies, certain that we are His children, inheritors of His promises and covenant.

But in that faith reminder, there are no promises of a life without storms. In fact, the opposite seems true more often than not. Job was a righteous man who followed God no matter what assailed him or his family, and if you have read the book, you know what Job suffered. Similarly, none of those early disciples and apostles described in Mark avoided the trials and pains of life, and many died the deaths of martyrs. Truly, there seems to be little in the way of worldly security when we choose to follow God. But then, that should not surprise us at all. After all, He was THE Suffering Servant, the pattern for our lives. But rather than focusing on our plight, we should focus on the One who calms the sea and the One who speaks out of the whirlwind. It is He who has bound our redemption to His glory, our salvation to His righteousness, our life to His eternal promises. And when it comes right down to it, only the One who fashioned the earth, set the limits for the sea, and created you and me can act to accomplish His will.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Rose that fails the smell test?

     When I was first approached by ministry partners about joining them in the opposition of a nominee to the federal judiciary here in Iowa, I considered it to be too far outside my ministry to give it serious thought. My opinion of most politicians above the local level was not good long before I got involved in the effort to eliminate slavery. I can only say my experience with politicians about Human Trafficking has served only to confirm my prior opinions. So why would I want to step into another battle and ask others to join me?

     For those who live outside Iowa, my willingness to join might seem odd, so let me explain. Back in May of 2008, the federal government executed a raid against illegal aliens working at Agriprocessors, Inc., a kosher meat packing facility outside Postville, IA. Press accounts of the raid are easily googled, and I commend the movie abUSed: The Postville Raid to anyone interested in the topic of immigration, legal or otherwise. But, suffice it to say, a sizable force of ICE, FBI, ATF and other agencies invaded a small town in Iowa.

     Where the raid becomes more than tangentially related to the issue of Human Trafficking is in the discovery and investigations which followed the initial roundup, herding, separation of families, incarceration, and deportation of those arrested. During the review of particular cases, it was discovered that a number of individuals (some place the estimate as high as 75) had been enslaved in Postville. As hard as the work is in a meat packing facility, imagine doing it for no money. Simply put, coyotes allegedly had trafficked victims to Iowa and got them jobs at the plant. The coyotes collected the money that the employees had earned. Additionally, some women had been trafficked into the area to “service” individuals in the area. So, in addition to the problems of immigration, Postville also involved several cases of alleged Human Trafficking. Unfortunately, much of what went on with respect to the raid, the subsequent arrests, and prosecutions has never been made public.

     Why do we care about this four years later? Stephanie Rose, then the Deputy Chief of the criminal division of the US Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Iowa that was assigned to handle the various cases, has been nominated to fill a soon-to-be vacant position on the Federal bench in the Southern District of Iowa. Her nomination has been much ballyhooed here in Iowa as she would be the first woman to sit on the federal bench in the Southern District of Iowa and only the second ever in Iowa. Certainly, there is a need for more qualified women to be nominated to fill vacancies on the Federal bench, particularly in Iowa. My question, however, is whether Ms. Rose should be the one so honored.

     Ms. Rose was one of the key players in the prosecution of approximately 300 undocumented immigrants who were working for Agriprocessors, Inc. at the time of the raid. Her actions, both at the time and after, have sense come into serious question. Nearly all the undocumented immigrants who were arrested were charged with felony-identity theft rather than the simple undocumented immigration crimes which would have been sufficient for the purpose of a trial and deportation of those who were here, in fact, illegally. While many of us can appreciate zeal on the part of our prosecutors to enforce the laws of this land, Ms. Rose efforts were beyond the pale. Judge Mark Bennett, who accepted the resulting plea deals for almost 60 of those accused, termed the effort “personally and professionally offensive.” David Leopold, the president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, wonders whether she would engage in this type of prosecution again or allow it to occur under her watch as a judge, if faced with similar circumstances. Apparently, the United States Supreme Court sided with Judge Bennett’s evaluation and Mr. Leopold’s questioning of Ms. Rose’s efforts, unanimously declaring in 2009 that felony identity theft charges cannot be applied to individuals like those rounded up in Postville. The questions of her suitability for a position on the federal bench, however, do not end with her passionate efforts to get convictions quickly, nor does her passion and zeal atomically disqualify her.

     According to documents that had to be obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the US Attorney’s office was involved with Chief US District Judge Linda Reade from October of 2007 until the execution of the raid in the spring of 2008 regarding the raid and the prosecutions of those arrested. Given the fact that we expect our judges to be impartial arbiters of justice, the public needs to know whether the rights of the accused were abridged prior to any hearings. Looking back on the prosecutions, we can see some disturbing trends. While the accused were provided attorneys, as required under the law, we must question the ability of the defense attorneys to provide the best possible defense for their appointed clients. Few, if any, had any significant experience in immigration cases. Complicating the effort to defend their clients, most court appointed attorneys were assigned up to 20 defendants (the average was 17 defendants per lawyer according to the House Judiciary). In a matter of a few days (yes, the cases were expedited), attorneys with little or no immigration experience were expected to learn the law and the circumstances of their clients and present an adequate defense. It is no small wonder that so many defendants pled guilty to lesser charges.

     Why should the plea deals offend Judge Barrett or concern us? Little publicized is the fact that 140 of those individuals who were deported have received U-visas (specific visas granted to particular victims of crimes) and returned to the United States. Those deportations should never have occurred in the first place. The defendants eligibility for U-visas was not altered by their deportation. All 140 should never have been forced out of the United States nor separated from their families.
Finally, we must question the treatment of those arrested, and whether that treatment meets established norms for humane. All those rounded up and arrested at Agriprocessors in Postville were bused to National Cattle Congress in Waterloo, Iowa where they were held and tried in a makeshift jail and courtroom. Some of the accused allegedly were denied access to attorneys and to communicate with the families from which they had been seized. Perhaps the cattle building was a fabulous setting for incarceration by 3rd world standards, but it fails the “smell” test in the United States. Herding people like cattle? Did Ms. Rose really see nothing wrong with that image?

      It is entirely possible that Ms. Rose is, as Senator Harkin describes in his glowing praise of her as a nominee to the federal bench, a superb, ethical attorney, one who has the potential to be an outstanding federal judge. It is entirely possible that Ms. Rose may be the best candidate for the opening here in Iowa. The problem, as I see it, is that there are still too many questions. Her efforts to misapply felony laws in what should have been a civil proceeding have already been unanimously overturned by a divided US Supreme Court. The consultations with Judge Reade indicated by those released documents suggest that Ms. Rose either does not accept our Founding Fathers’ intention that the Judiciary powers be inherently separate from those of the Executive and legislative branch of government, or she is simply a modern version of Colonel Klink. Certainly, the actions can cause those of us on the outside to wonder whether the nominee accepts the roles of the judiciary as defined by Hamilton (Federalist #78) or Madison (Federalist #47). This is important as our judges are appointed for life. They can only be removed from office by impeachment.

     Finally, when asked whether the Postville Raid and prosecutions would be an issue in her confirmation hearings, Senator Harkin seemed to choose his words carefully. According to Senator Harkin, the Judiciary Committee and the DoJ both determined that she had no knowledge of nor any hand in the implementation of the raid. If she had no knowledge of the raid, who in the office was communicating with Chief Judge Reade regarding the upcoming prosecutions for a raid that had not yet occurred? Who made the decisions to fast-track the Postville cases, resulting in at least 140 people being wrongly deported and separated from their families? Who made the decision to charge the accused with felony identity theft in a civil immigration case? Efforts by the House committee to get answers have portrayed a government that functions more like the three stooges than what we as American citizens expect of our officials. ICE, Homeland Security, the Department of Labor and other government officials claim that other agencies made decisions. Before we agree to a lifetime appointment for someone so intimately involved in the cases, we should endeavor to get the facts. Our Senators should demand that the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings not rubber stamp Ms. Rose’s nomination but, rather, seek to discover who made what decisions. It is entirely possible that Ms. Rose will be the judge that Sen. Harkin envisions. But, in the case of federal judges, it is far better to make sure the right person is elevated that justice might be served for all. We as citizens ought to contact our Senators and encourage them to take a closer look at the events of Postville and Ms. Rose’s actions in it, that our Founders’ intent that the administration of our laws be impartial might be fulfilled.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Community and Intimacy . . .

     One of my colleagues here in Iowa posted on Facebook this week “Trinity Sunday: That special Sunday when every member of the clergy feels the need to dazzle their congregations with their theological education, and that special Sunday when every member of every congregation really would rather that we not.” All kidding about the Ceiling Cat and lolcats aside, there is an uncomfortable truth in that post. As a church, we set aside a special day when we specifically talk about a mystery. More often than not, it ends up being a day when assistants and substitutes “get the honor” of preaching to a group such as this. I always ask, whenever anyone approaches me to tell me in the next couple of weeks how bad the sermon was, whether it was given by their regular clergy or someone else. If it was a substitute, I ask them to show a little more grace. If it was the regular clergy, then it is fun to explore what set them on edge or turned them off. At an “average size” church such as ours, however, there is no avoiding of the problem of preaching on the Trinity for the regular clergy. And with school just ending, there was no way to foist this privilege onto George or Robin or anyone else’s shoulders by taking an early vacation.

     It is just as well, however, because the Trinity has been much in my mind since my spring travels back east for Human Trafficking. As many of you know, I stopped in at my seminary. One of my professors was finishing up her PhD in theology (she finished a few weeks ago). A sociologist has pointed out that our society, for all its technological innovation, is becoming more isolated. We used to have friends and neighbors. We would gather on front porches, in bars, in homes, and at all kinds of places to interact and cement those relationships. That has certainly changed. Nowadays, we have “Twitter” followers (or those we follow), “Facebook friends,” “online pals,” and other such detached relationships. They are not detached in the sense that they are not real (there are other human beings on the other side of the relationship, after all), but they are detached in the sense that the depth that used to describe our most important relationships is missing. If I ask a parishioner about a particular comment on one of their posts, I usually get the “hey, it’s not like we are friends in rl (real life), we’re just fb friends” excuse. It is a very telling answer. People may have a 1000 Twitter followers, hundreds of fb friends, lots of listserv co-posters, but how many friends do we have in real life.

     And, lest you think this is a new phenomenon, I was reminded yet again of the truth of Ecclesiastes by another professor. He sent me a link to a Phillip Jenkins sermon from over 100 years ago. Phillip Jenkins was an Episcopal bishop from the early 1900’s. In this Trinity Sunday sermon of a century ago, preaching on our Isaiah 6 text, he was complaining that men (we were a little more sexist then) like to praise and glorify doubt. When speaking of high and lofty things, such as God, human beings tend to like to celebrate what is not known. Ignorance, we like to pretend, is bliss. Worse, we place our focus on the wrong knowledge. We begin to think we are the measure, that we are the determiners of what is to be valued. And, the end result is that the glory to which God calls us is obscured by our “man-made” efforts and idols. Sound familiar? His solution? Rather, God’s solution? Sometimes our forests of achievement need to be laid bare. We need to be reminded of the glory to which we are called, and the glory and righteousness of the One who calls us each by name.

     Much as with the bishop of a century ago, this professor with whom I was speaking wondered whether the reminder of the doctrine of the Trinity was the cure for what ails society. Clearly, her advisor thought she was on to something, and the faculty at Gordon Conwell agreed that might have a solution to a problem confronting churches around the country, else the degree would likely have been denied. As I have reflected on what she shared of her work and some of the ministry to which I am called, I wonder that we diminish ourselves by relegating the consideration of the Trinity to a single Sunday each year? I wonder that we withhold necessary medicine for that which ails us when we send unsuspecting or unprepared clergy into the pulpits on this day?

     Both in the Church community and outside the Church Community, there is an antagonism toward certainty. I get that uncertainty outside the Church. They have no reason to trust anyone or anything. Those old institutions which we used to esteem have proven themselves fallible. Even the Church, through the actions of unsavory individuals, has earned a reputation outside itself for being no better an authority than any individual conscience. Truth, as one comedian often jokes, has been replaced by truthiness. Think I am wrong? How many here think government and elected officials really care about you and your situation? Is that the same position you held three decades ago? How many of us gathered here think that the companies for which we work or worked, giving an honest day’s labor for an honest day’s wage, really care or cared about us and our welfare? Did you feel that way a decade or two ago? Did your company? And, to be sure, the Church has had enough high profile failures to convince everyone that we are a bunch of hypocrites. Between the embezzlers, the scam artists, the pedophiles, the cheaters, the tax fugitives, and whatever other group that happens to be in the headlines at the time, it is no small wonder that people quit looking to the Church for answers.

     But in the Church, many have fallen prey to the same whispers of doubt, to the very ignorance which Bishop Jenkins was decrying more than a century ago.  And rather than causing us to delve deeper into the writings which He has revealed to us, many in the Church choose to celebrate the uncertainty.  Who can really know the mind of God?  How do we know what He really wanted us to know?  God really doesn't hate sin, does He?  After all, He says He is love and love cannot hate, right?  We are smart enough to figure out which parts of Scripture were God-breathed and which parts of Scripture were the editorial result of human beings.  For reasons known only to God, we seem to forget that He is a revealing God, that He tells us what we need to know about Him and about relationship with Him.  We convince ourselves that we cannot really know Him, and the world hears and watches and turns away from the One who would save them, the One who created them.

     This lack of certainty or lack of Truth has terrible consequences for those in the world around us who have forgotten or have never heard who it is that calls them. There is a terrible shallowness and a terrible sense of isolation plaguing our society. many in the world around us fear they are unlovable.  We eschew real friends for FB friends or Twitter followers. We give up on getting to know others in real life, and spend our energy and efforts creating superficial relationship via technology. How many of us here know a single person who complains of finding a mate for life? How many of those complaining spend most of their time, energy and effort looking via the computer, only to be disappointed when the other is pretending to be different than they are in real life? One of the pernicious evils of the addiction of pornography is the simple fact that fantasy does not match reality. Men who “don’t have a problem” but continue to look find their senses dulled to the women around them. On too many occasions I have had to counsel couples where the man is simply not excited by the real woman in his life. Add to that fear the magazine covers in our supermarkets and it is no wonder that young girls have a crisis of image. Heck, I frequent an imaginary world where somewhere around 12 million people change their cartoon characters like my 4 year old daughter changes outfits to suit her mood. I can have a heartfelt, agonizing conversation with an individual on line, only to see that toon deleted in the weeks and months ahead.

     I could go on and on of the problem. Hopefully, as you reflect on my words, God is speaking into your hearts where this “superficiality” seems to reign in your life. Hopefully, it is not within your life, but in the lives of those with whom you work and live and play. I say hopefully, because this day we remind ourselves of the God who calls us back to Him, of the God who desires nothing more than to embrace us as prodigal sons and daughters returned to ourselves and to Him.  And if there is a superficiality in your life that He is bringing to mind, it is not too late.  The same God who forgives and redeems your life stands ready to cut that superficiality out of your heart.  But it is by no means easy for us.

     Trinity Sunday is that day where, to use Bishop Jenkins words, the Lord strips our forests bare. Over the seasons of Lent and Easter, we have spent time concentrating on the human condition and God’s work to restore us to Him. The only begotten Son has come down from heaven to teach and to restore. He has come to do the Father’s will and to reveal that will to us. Upon His Ascension, we have waited impatiently for the coming of the Holy Spirit. As much as we would have liked for the Son to stay with us, we know it is for our own good that He ascended. He has sent the Spirit to equip us to do amazing works to the glory of the Son and of the Father. Given the way our liturgical season and readings have progressed, it is easy to see why some people might forget the importance of the Trinity. You see, we spend so much time focusing on the will of the Father who sent Him, on the work and person of Christ, and on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, that it is easy for us to forget the Unity of that Mystery. Put another way, we can sometimes get too focused on the Persons of God that we forget the Oneness of God. To be sure, our liturgy reminds us each week during the Nicene Creed of that Mystery of the Trinity, but do we really digest what we are saying? If we find ourselves isolated, if we find ourselves seeking meaning, if we find ourselves shallow, I would assert that we do not.

     You see, an important part of the Gospel related by the Trinity is the simple truth that you and are called into, and completed by our participation in, the community described by the Trinity. Lamentably, we buy into the world's idea far too often that we are captains of our own ships and masters of our own domains, when in truth, everything bows to His will and His command. We love to think we are in control.  But when we are truly honest with ourselves, most of us recognize our floundering, our impotence.  Of course, for gracious reasons beyond our understanding, God calls us back into complete community with Him. That description in the Garden of Eden is not fanciful. You and I were created to enjoy complete fellowship with our Creator. That is the end He had in mind for each one of us! That is the calling to which He calls each one of us and those in the world around us!

     For too long we have sat idly by as the world bought into the myth of the Enemy of God. We might be good at sharing our faith when it comes to redemption from sin or relating powerful healings in our life. But when that insidious sense of isolation crops up, how do we behave? What is our story? How do we tell the other in our life that they were created for so much more? For those of us who have forgotten the mystery of the Trinity, we may well be impotent in the face of such radical individualism. But for those of us who recall the mystery, we have been given an awesome reminder.

     Best of all, it is not dependent upon philosophical proofs. It depends only upon His revelation. Had He chosen not to reveal Himself in this manner, you and I could never have apprehended such a teaching on our own. We accept it as a basic tenet of our faith because He revealed it to us by the loving God who came down to save us from our sin and from our selves! Brothers and sisters, the truth and hope of the Trinity is that we need never be alone again. You and I and the whole world is called into an eternal community, an eternal community of true love, true joy, and true hope. So strong is His desire to draw us into that blessed relationship that He chose to act to redeem us, to make us worthy of being in that relationship again, even though our own efforts failed miserably. And even when, through well-intentioned but misguided efforts, we forget that simple truth that we were made for community with Him, every now and again He lays our forests bare, that we might be reminded of that for which we were created and have our being. Will we make mistakes? On this side of the grave you can count on it. But on the other side of the grave, you and I will be swept up into the relationship for which we were formed, a relationship describe by some theologians as a holy dance, and by others as an intimacy which this world cannot know. We may not know how it works. We may have to accept the Trinity on faith. But, if the One who revealed that about Himself is true and trustworthy, no other doctrine has a greater implication on our lives. And no other teaching of the faith speaks to the superficiality and sense of aloneness which plagues the world. We would do well, when confronting that hopelessness and sense of isolation, to remember the glory of the Trinity, which He reveals to us and calls us to, not just in this life, but for all eternity.