Monroe Congregational Church, U.C.C.
June 10, 2001 - Pastor Bill Comfort
Let us pray: Loving God, crack our hardened hearts this morning that we may receive your word afresh and anew. Send the refreshing wind of your Spirit into our very being today God that your voice may resonate throughout our existence as we speak and act today and throughout this coming week. Bless your word to us and us to your will for you are our rock and our redeemer. Amen
We people of the United Church of Christ are a people with a Trinitarian faith. We proclaim that we know God in three ways:
Trinities abound in our scriptures, lives and our consciousness. One example from Corinthians is the threesome of faith, hope and love. Another example that comes to mind most readily is the unholy trinity of sex, drugs and rock n' roll. This later is an example of how in our egoic process we manufacture facsimiles of all that is holy in worldly form. In this trio sex substitutes for the creative power at the center of the universe, drugs offer holy wisdom and rock n' roll represents the spirit. The raw power of this worldly trinity meekly reflects the awesome power of the real Trinity.
The apostle Paul uses another Trinity in our reading from Roman's today. Paul proclaims wisdom, suffering and hope. Wisdom is easy enough for us to include in a three faceted statement of God and hope sounds like it belongs as well. Suffering causes me to pause however. I like to think that the path to god need not involve suffering. One of the complaints I hear from non-Christians is that ours is a religion which places too much emphasis on suffering. Many questions spring to mind: Must we suffer? Is Paul telling us that suffering leads to salvation? Isn't there another way?
Perhaps we should start with another question, What is meant by suffering? I offer you the following definition - Suffering is having a hardened heart.
Having a hardened heart may not cause us to turn from our primordial union with God in the first place, but it resists penetration of the Holy Spirit and holds us separate from God in our daily experience. It also has the effect of setting us up for the life saving work of the Holy Spirit. Our hardened hearts provide a target for the Spirit and since we cannot resist they are broken and we have the choice of life and death, god and mammon. Since we are human beings we choose mammon over and over again. But, each time we are overtaken by the spirit and brought low in this we can remake our hardened hearts in a looser more easily broken way for the next time. Sometimes we never harden our hearts again at all.
In a church council meeting recently two men offered different visions of working together which I believe illustrate the idea of hardening and breaking apart. Clancy held forth at the beginning of the meeting, " There's only one management style that really works," he stated, "The hierarchy. You have to have a strong leader at the top and people down the chain of command who understand who is in charge and do as they are told." Clancy held sway in the meeting for several minutes. People around the room were nodding their heads at the wisdom of his words.
Finally, a man named Dewey rose to speak. He told a story of sailboat racing. A crew of women had entered a racing organization of which he was a part a few years earlier. They were the laughing stock of the races at first. The captain of their crew didn't seem to easily embrace her authority and the crew questioned everything she said. In fact, the crew questioned everything about operating a racing sailboat. The symbol of this entry in most of the races could have been a question mark. The all-male crews thought it was great sport to clobber this unorganized again and again. Then, sometime in the second year of their participation, the new crew began to do better. One race they finished in the middle of the pack and the next race they finished near the leaders and, finally, near the end of the second year, the won a race. "Now," said Dewey, "This team of women is one of the strongest crews and their boat wins regularly."
This is not a story to illustrate the superior approach of women to teamwork. The crew in question could have been a group of men. It works today for this group to be women as it ties to the female voice of Wisdom, which we heard in our reading from Proverbs this morning. Wisdom was with God at creation and all things come into being through the Wisdom of God. In our sailing story today Wisdom riding on the Holy Spirit entered the hearts of the crew and helped them become a strong team of independent strong members working together. This is a worldly example of the way wisdom can penetrate our separateness from God, break our hardened heart, and lead us away from suffering to the glory of God. Our hope is that our suffering will to be in vain but will lead us ultimately into the kingdom of God.
And so we celebrate the Trinity today -- Some of us in Wisdom, Some of us Suffering and all of us Hoping that our hardened hearts will be broken again for the last time and we will dwell in unity with our Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit in the New Monroe of God's fully realized reign. Amen.