Sunday, June 11, 2017

It’s difficult for some people to wrap their mind around the love that God has for us because of the image of the parent. For those whose parents are good, loving, and kind; the idea of a God who loves them unconditionally comes quickly and easily. How about those whose parents abused them? (Click the link to read more)

June 11th, 2017: The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
Lectionary: 164
EX 34:4B-6, 8-9
DN 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 5
2 COR 13:11-13
JN 3:16-18

It’s difficult for some people to wrap their mind around the love that God has for us because of the image of the parent.  For those whose parents are good, loving, and kind; the idea of a God who loves them unconditionally comes quickly and easily.  How about those whose parents abused them?  Neglected them?  Or even twisted them against their other parent because of a bitter divorce or anger?  How can we reconcile the love of the Father with the father who does not love?  In the inner cities of America alone we have twenty million families living without fathers in the home.  Many of these men have walked away from the responsibility of being a dad and left their children to wonder if they loved them?  Some even wondering who their dad is.  Others angry and hurt because their dads did not love them.

My grandfather was a hard man.   I remember clearly some of the things that at the time I did not understand.   The prohibition of poker cards in his house.   The fact that some of our textbooks had to stay on the porch.   The times he would tell us we weren’t allowed to continue the conversation we were having because it was sinful.   Yet, this man also gave me my first bible.   He spoke to me of the love of God.   Back then I thought if God had a thing against biology and games, if God disliked having fun, why would I want to be a part of that?  These days I understand what my grandfather was trying to show us.   I still don’t agree with his methodology, but I know in his own way he was trying to protect us from things he had seen lead people down the wrong road.

My own father is also sometimes a hard man.  He is quick to anger and slow to forgive.  Growing up we knew that he worked night shift and I can remember learning to walk softly upstairs and that if we were to make too much noise his voice would thunder throughout the house.  He provided for us well.   He worked hard as long as his body would hold out.   He did everything he could to make sure we had what we needed.  The rules were the rules though.   When my brother and I decided at one point to teach dad a lesson, it was he who taught us.  I don’t remember exactly how but my 5’7” father left me upside down in the corner and my brother didn’t fare much better.

These were the images of dads that I had growing up.  So when the preachers in the various churches spoke of God the Father and Jesus the Son, I already had an image of what that was supposed to look like.  Dad makes the rules, and the Son follows them.   When He doesn't dad thunders and the house shakes, and someone has to pay for breaking the rules.  If you don’t get rid of the things that he tells you to, they will either be taken from you forcefully or you get thrown out.  That became sort of an image of God for me for years.   The thundering, stamping angry man in Heaven just looking for a reason to erase my name from the Lamb’s book of Life, yet again.  That’s not to say that either of those men in my life weren’t good men or loving men.  They were.  They were examples of men doing the best they could with what they had, with the education they had been given, and the understanding of what God expected of them that they had received.

They fell short though, just as I fall short, of displaying the love of God in the world.  Today’s Gospel is from John and is one of the best known Gospel verses in the world.  John 3:16 has been quoted by people in every venue, and even used for a popular wrestler at one point.  The thing is this verse shows us the truth about two things.  The depth, breadth, width, and height of God’s love for us; and the sacrifice the Son made and what it truly meant.  As a father now myself, I understand even more the fear that my father and grandfather had about the things of this world.   The moment I saw my daughter born into this world I knew there was nothing I wouldn’t do for her, even to die if I had to in order to protect her.  I feel that way about all four of our girls.  This verse though says that God gave His Son for us, that we too might be saved.  To give the life of your child for those who do not appreciate you?  For those who do not appreciate the child either?  For those who won’t even accept the gift?

I’d be hard pressed to let my child even get her feelings hurt for someone else.  To choose for her to die that others might live?   I don’t know that I have that in me.   God did.   That’s the love of God for us.   A love so pure, so powerful, so complete… that it formed a third divine person.   The Holy Spirit is the living personification, the embodiment of the love of God sent into the world.  That’s because the mystery of God is so deep, so powerful, so complex and profound that God becomes family.   Father and Son love each other so much that the Holy Spirit proceeds forth from them, showering their love to the four corners of the universe.    The gift of the Paraclete is a gift of love!   That’s something we forget so often.

It also shows us how we should interact as a family.  The scriptures today remind us to meditate deeply on this mystery.  On the Father who is “merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”   The Holy Spirit who unites us in peace, joy, and fellowship; guiding us to love one another as a family born out of the sacrifice of the Son.   The Son who is obedient to His Father, accepting even death, death on a cross.  With all of this mystery comes the simple truth that we Christians can count on… that it is in belief and obedience to the life and teachings of Christ that we can find our way to eternal life.  Not because we deserve it.  Not because we have learned to walk quietly to avoid the Father’s anger, but because we have a mediator, an intercessor who stands between us, who died in our place that we too might be a part of that eternal family.

Do you think about that when you think about the Holy Spirit?   The Holy Spirit is the love that flows between the Father and the Son.   Much like the love in our homes makes us family, that it reminds us that even when we aren’t getting along, that we are a unit.   That choice we make to support one another even when we don’t understand one another.   Something more than just a feeling, something more about action and submission, giving and taking.   That the perfected version of that love, the third person of the Holy Spirit, now chooses to reside in us as His Temple?   That love… that pure, unadulterated love… is in us and flows from us to the Father and back, making us a family of God himself?

There are no words to explain how powerful and immense a gift that is, one that was purchased with the blood of a child, a brother, a friend.   A gift that should overwhelm us with joy and gratitude, but is often left dusty on the shelf like the Scriptures themselves.  True love is right here.   It’s among us inspiring us, reminding us of His words, guiding our Church and if we let it, our families.  As I said above, I fail often.  Sometimes my dad comes out of my mouth and my children hear me roar, especially if I’m napping and they stampede through the roof of my room.  Then at other times, my grandfather comes out and I demand this or that be removed from the house.   Yet, God reminds me to love.   To choose the better part.  To be like the father of the prodigal son, ready to run out and embrace them with open arms before they ever get to where I want them to be.   Better yet, to walk with them toward the Father himself and ask His love to continue to flow in our lives, that both of us can experience a glimpse through the veil, past the cloud of unknowing, into the realm of God himself where words no longer have meaning and all that exists is love and mercy itself.

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins.

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. - Psalm 19:14