Sunday, May 26, 2013

A God of MORE

John 16: 12-15
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 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. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Libby Montana is in the far, Northwest corner of Montana on the Western side of the Rocky Mountains.  Because its on that side of the mountains the climate is milder.  They call it the banana belt of Montana but I never saw any banana plants there.  There is a river in Libby that begins at the Libby Dam.  The lake behind the dam goes all the way up into Canada and the river is a blue ribbon trout stream.  The town of Libby is on US Highway 2 and along the highway there is a Pamida, which is sort of a junior K-Mart and a grocery store and off the highway a couple of blocks is Christ Lutheran Church where I did my internship for seminary.  Running perpendicular to US 2 is the Main Street which has the library, the county court house, some stores and restaurants and at the other end, Dave Blackburn’s fly fishing shop.  A couple of blocks off that street is St. John’s Lutheran Hospital which has around a dozen beds and is where our daughter Maggie was born.  

That’s my experience of Libby Montana and if you went there I am sure you would see that it is accurate.  Libby is mountains, river and town.  I’m equally sure that if you asked someone else who has experienced Libby to tell you their experience they might very well add something else and if you went one day you too would do the same.  It’s not that I told you wrong, it is just that Libby is always going to be MORE than the sum of words and ideas about it than I can put together.  

The Trinity works in a similar way.  While the words, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are accurate in telling about God; God will always be MORE than the sum of the words and ideas we humans have put together.  I think at it’s best, the Trinity helps us start from a place where God, in our minds, is flatter and works in a single dimension and expands that notion so that we remember and understand that God is always MORE.

For me, THAT is the Good News of the Trinity.  God is MORE.  More than I had thought before.  Bigger, more powerful, more present, more loving, more compassionate, more in control than anything else that we might come across in this life.  THAT is Good News because I think we all need God to be MORE; I know I do, because the things we encounter in this world that work hard to make us less than what God created us to be seem also to be MORE than I can bear on my own.  

In the book The Heart of Christianity by Marcus Borg, he talks about the human condition.  The things in this life that cause us to be less than we were created to be; the actions, the situations, the circumstances that take life from us every day.  At some point in the past, Christians took all of that; all the things that bring us down, that make us less than God created us to be and lumped them all under one enormous heading and called it “sin”.  Sin is our problem, our one and only problem and of course the solution for sin is forgiveness.  The great thing about sin being our one and only problem in this world and forgiveness the solution, is that God, in Christ has fixed that problem with forgiveness!  Problem solved!

But what I’ve noticed in living this life and what Marcus Borg described in his book is that sometimes the things that plague us; the things that make us less than what God created us to be don't perfectly fit into that category of sin.  It’s not that sin isn’t a problem; it is.  And it isn’t that forgiveness isn’t the solution; it is.  It is just that sometimes the thing that is keeping us from living as God made us to live isn’t best described by the word “sin”, but is better described as something else... maybe captivity.  

Held captive by economic situations, by prejudice, by discrimination, by hate, by physical abilities the solution for being in captivity isn’t really forgiveness.  What you really need when you are held captive is to be set free!  The Good News of the Trinity is that God is MORE!  God is more than just a God of forgiveness.  God also sets the captives free!  Remember the people of Israel held captive in Egypt.  They were there living beside the Egyptian people until a change in the political situation caused them to suddenly become slaves.  The people of Israel hadn’t sinned, they hadn’t done anything that needed forgiveness, but in slavery they certainly were not living as God created them to live!  The solution for what was plaguing them was not forgiveness but freedom and because God is MORE, that is exactly what God gave them.  

Sometimes though, the problems in our lives are neither sin nor captivity.  Sometimes it is being disconnected.  Disconnected from support, from family, from friends, from the ability to make ends meet, from our home or even from God.  Certainly sin may have played a part in getting us disconnected, but not always; and no matter HOW we end up disconnected the solution to that terrible feeling situation is neither forgiveness nor freedom.  When we become disconnected, when we find ourselves (as the Bible calls it) in exile, the solution that we need is to be brought back and be reconnected.  The Good News of the Trinity is that God is MORE!  More than a forgiver of sin and more than a freer of captives... God is also one who brings home the exile.  

But the God of MORE doesn’t stop there either.  Throughout Scripture we hear lots and lots of words and images that describe our human condition when things are not going as God intended them to go and every time our God who is MORE has just the solution we need.  Sometimes it isn’t sin or captivity or exile.  Sometimes it is that we are hungry.  It could be physical hunger or maybe we are hungry for meaning, a place to belong, hungry to be heard or to be loved.  When we hunger we don’t need forgiveness or freedom or a return from exile.  When we are hungry our God who is MORE gives us what we need and we are fed!  And the list goes on and on.

When we are blind, God gives us sight, not just fixing our physical blindness but allowing us to SEE the world around us, the creation, the love, but also the suffering and the needs of our neighbors.  When we are deaf, God allows us to hear.  Not just the sounds but to really hear the good stuff... the difference we make in each other’s lives but also hard stuff like the cries of the hungry and the lonely and allows all those sounds to work themselves all the way down into our hearts. 

When we’re thirsty we are given a drink, when we’ve been forgotten we are remembered, when we grieve we get the comfort we need when we are sick we are healed and when that nasty, ugly voice comes to us in the middle of the night and lies to us and tells us we are no good, our God who is MORE punches that voice in the face, casts out that demon and tells us the truth; that we are loved, that we are worthy, that we are needed, that we matter!  

There is another thing about our God who is MORE that we need to keep in mind on this Trinity Sunday.  And that is that our God who is more loving, more compassionate, more forgiving and more powerful than any of those things that make us less than what we were created to be, is also MORE present than we could ever ask or imagine.  

This is the part of our God who is MORE that I often forget or underestimate.  When the things that plague me seem so gigantic, enormous and overwhelming, I look for God’s presence in equally gigantic, enormous and dramatic ways.  I forget, in those times of anxiety and worry that our God of MORE works really big solutions into relatively little packages and I need to be reminded that, for example, God worked the solution to sin and death for all of creation through the relatively small package of a poor Jewish carpenter’s son from Galilee.  With that in mind, the solution to my problems will likely be given in something or someone a little more subtle than I might think.  

That is the message of the Trinity.  God is MORE than we could ever ask or imagine; bigger and more powerful than anything that plagues us in our lives.  And, at the same time, God works the biggest solutions to those things that plague us through the smallest and sometimes most unsuspecting packages.  

On this Trinity Sunday, you and I are called to tell the world about the God who is MORE, because everyone struggles with those things that plague our human existence but not everyone knows about the God who is MORE.  You and I are also called this Trinity Sunday to allow God to work those big solutions through the seemingly small and unsuspecting connections you and I have with the people around us every day.  After all, if God worked the solution to sin and death through the relatively small package of a poor man named Jesus from rural Israel, what solution to someone’s seemingly insurmountable problem might God be trying to work for them through you?  Amen.