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Homily: 6th Sunday of Easter 2017

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This Sunday we heard a continuation of John’s Last Supper Discourse where there is no mention of bread or wine – rather he speaks of being in relationship – about being part of the Trinity. To understand what this means I invite you to look at God – not as a noun – but as a verb. If you do, you just may understand that going to mass each Sunday is not about “going to” communion – but rather “being in” communion. This shift in your viewpoint may just allow you to see Christ everywhere and in everybody!
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Homily: 6th Sunday of Easter 2017

  1. 1. 21 June 2017 6th Sunday of Easter Princeton, NJ This Sunday our Gospel picks up where we left off last weekend, in the middle of John’s 14th Chapter – which is better known as the Last Supper Discourse. Each year, when we stand here proclaiming these Gospels from John which talk about: “you know him, because he remains in you, and will be in you…and I live in the Father and you in me and thus you will live…” Well, I have to tell you, that we can just see eyes rolling into the back of the heads of many sitting in the pews…who have to be saying to themselves – what is John talking about! For one of the key differences is that unlike the other Gospels John does not write about the events of the Last Supper – of the breaking, the blessing and distribution of the bread – and the passing of the cup. Instead he talks about relationships. And the model he gives for how we are to enter into relationship is the Trinity. The language of the text we heard last week and this week is all about Trinitarian Relationship and our place within it. Since that Gospel was penned, over all the centuries, countless volumes have been written on this doctrine of three beings in one God. Hindered by the use of language we have been relegated to using metaphors – such as St. Patrick’s classical shamrock, where the Trinity is like a 3 leaf clover – 3 leaves but one stem. Or you may prefer a musical metaphor likening the Trinity to 3 distinct notes that one plays on an instrument which make up one harmonic chord. But what if we pause this morning and stop looking at God as a noun…and instead considered God as a verb? Now what I am suggesting is nothing original or heretical - actually it is rooted in our faith. For it was in the 3rd century that the Greek fathers used the word “perichoresis” to explain the Trinity. And the best translation of this Greek work is “dancing”. The way that the early Christians looked at the three persons (or personas) in God is that whatever is going on in God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is like a dance and God is not the dancer – rather God is the dance itself. Brother Elias Marechal, a Trappist monk from the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, in Georgia writes: “The ancient Greek Fathers depict the Trinity as a Round Dance: an event that has continued for 6,000 years…and beyond the time when humans first knew time. An infinite current of love streams without ceasing, to and fro, to and fro, to and fro: gliding from the Father to the Son and to the Spirit and back to the Father in one timeless happening. This circular current of Trinitarian love continues night and day…the orderly and rhythmic process of subatomic particles spinning round and round at immense speed echoes this flow.” This reminds me of the years when I studied Organic Chemistry in college and the many lectures on the fact that besides the inherent energy in the atom there is a great amount of energy that exists between them – that molecular energy comes from the dance or the flow between the atoms. So too, the Greek fathers did not necessary focus on the pyramidal Trinity that many of us grew up with – God at the top (old man – grey beard) and then the Son (cool looking blond with flowing blue robes) and the Holy Spirit (that dove that is always flying around) – but their metaphor dealt with a circular sense of this infinite flow and movement of love between Father who generates, the Son who is begotten and the Holy Spirit who proceeds. 1 Deacon Jim Knipper
  2. 2. And part of the reason God sent forth his son is so that we would know that we are all invited into this divine flow. This participation is depicted in one of the most famous icons created by the Russian iconographer Andrei Rublev in the 15th century, entitled The Trinity. The icon depicts three figures in union, sitting around a table – eating and drinking in infinite hospitality – and in total relationship with each other. But one has to note that the image depicting the Holy Spirit is pointing to the fourth place at the table. And at that spot on the icon is, what art historians claim to be, possibly some residual glue which indicates that perhaps a mirror was affixed to that spot – and thus allowing the viewer of the icon to see themselves sitting within the Trinity. That this icon is reminding us that there is room at the table for you and for me. That our God is not a distant God….but as John points out in today’s Gospel: “[for] you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you.” You see - the flow is always there…the invitation is always present – never earned. And we are awakened to this flow at the very beginning of our Christian life when the baptismal waters are being poured over our head while the minister intones the Trinitarian blessing of Father, Son and Spirit. The challenge is that just about all of us are too young to remember that. We are reminded of these waters at the begging of our Easter Sunday liturgies with the sprinkling rite. For it is up to us to remind ourselves and our children and our grandchildren that we need to show up and respond to the invitation to enter the dance. But unfortunately many of us get hung up on the “performance-for-reward” or the “worthiness” model of Theology. But hate to tell you - we can follow all the rules and laws and earn all kinds of degrees and write all kinds of books and publish papers and gives lectures…and still not know God. For the only way to know God is to surrender to the Flow. Thus, the best definition I have for “sin” would be those actions we take which have us turning our backs to the flow…ignoring and blocking the flow…when we turn away from being in relationship. But here is the kicker – even when we do that…even when we sin…even when we are not at our best…even when we are at our worse…even when we feel abandoned…even when we have given up hope. God is there. God can’t love you any less…nothing you can do can change God’s mind about you…and the Divine Flow is always coming through you, with you and in you…always present, always available. It is we who have to believe in it, have faith in it, permit it, share it…and rejoice in the fact that we are called to join in the Divine Dance – we are called to jump in the circle…and invited to participate in the Trinity - invited to come to the table of the Lord. Now can you see why John had no reason to speak of bread and wine in his version of the Last Supper? Instead he tells us what gift we have been given – that being IN communion – being in relationship means: you are in Christ and that you know him, for just as Christ is in God he will be in you and remains in you - and thus we are in him and he is in us. For once you believe his great words from his Last Supper Discourse – only then will we be able to see and believe that we are the living Body of Christ – which then allows our eyes to be opened to seeing Christ everywhere…and in everybody… and thus become ever more aware and awakened to the Divine flow of God’s eternal love. 2 Deacon Jim Knipper

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