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The Rev. Dr. Francis H. Wade The Rev. Dr. Francis H. Wade

The Rev. Dr. Francis H. Wade is interim dean of the National Cathedral and former rector of St. Alban's Episcopal Church on the grounds of the National Cathedral, Washington, DC.

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The Episcopal Church

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St. Alban's Episcopal Church, Washington, DC


Something of God

Exodus 3:1-13

May 25, 1997

Today is Trinity Sunday, a time when many pulpits across the nation will become arenas where good and learned people will struggle to explain the unexplainable God. In most cases the unexplainable God will triumph. And life will go on pretty much as it has before. This annual wrestling match assumes that Trinity Sunday is about theology, and it has that certainly. It's not wrong to talk about theology. But I don't really think that is what Trinity Sunday is basically about.

Trinity Sunday serves to remind each of us fallible and easily distracted sinners to keep all that we know of God up on our theological radar screens. We have a way of latching onto one piece of what we know of God and missing the fullness, the richness, the subtlety and grandeur that is outside of our chosen piece of the truth about God. Some only know God as revealed in creation and they miss the wonder of Jesus. Others love the Lord revealed in tradition but miss the dynamic of the Spirit. Others of us are so spirit filled we have no room for reason and so on.

Trinity Sunday serves as a reminder that there is always more to God than our current enthusiasm. Something more than our firm beliefs and convictions. It does not mean that our enthusiasms, beliefs and convictions are wrong. It just reminds us that there is more to God than what we can grasp, and what's more, there is something more of God that is always reaching for us.

The lessons for this day; the story of Moses and the Burning Bush and the story of Nicodemus meeting with Jesus ~ both speak of discovering something more about God. Today I would like to talk with you about those stories and the something more of God that is whispering to us from just beyond our enthusiasms, our beliefs and our convictions. Let's turn to those stories.

Moses and the Burning Bush. Now to put it in context you need to know that Moses was born a Hebrew, but raised an Egyptian at a time when the Hebrews were enslaved by the Egyptians. Moses always identified with the Hebrews and their oppressions and in his zeal killed an overseer and fled. He fled far away and found refuge with a man named Jethro, the wise and good priest of Midian. He married Jethro's daughter and got a job looking after Jethro's herds. It was not a bad situation for a refugee of felony to get a job and marrying the boss's daughter. Life was good. Very good as a matter of fact.

But there was something more ~ something of God. There was a bush that burned but the fire would not go out. Now I am prepared to believe that was an event that actually took place. But it was also symbolic, it has a meaning. Fire is a symbol in many cultures for the presence of God. It was true for Moses; it's true for us. The candles in our churches remind us that we are in the presence of God. But here there was a fire that would not go out. In other words the presence of God that just would not go away. Something nagging at it. You can almost hear Moses saying in his heart I don't need this. I've got a good life. I've got no problems. But there was something more of God that was reaching for him. And Moses finally had to return to face Pharoah and address the problems of those he left behind.

The second story is in a similar situation. The story of Nicodemus, the Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin who comes to Jesus by night to ask him about his life and his ministry. As a member of the Sanhedrin he was an elected official, the equivalent of a town council or legislature. Most of his friends dismissed Jesus as an up country preacher with a few tricks and a serious messianic complex. But for Nicodemus there is something more. He doesn't know what. He's not at all confident about it. Just something more. He's embarrassed even. Though he comes at night, he comes on the sly. And he says to Jesus no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God. In other words, there is something of God going on here; and Nicodemus just can't quite grasp it ~ but it is grasping Nicodemus.

Both of these good people struggle with something of God. Something more than their very good successful lives managed to address. They did not reach for that something. There was no crises that made them stretch, no foxhole religion here. There was just something of God that reaching for them.

It happens, doesn't it? It happens to people whose lives are going very well. Lives where there is nothing you can't handle or live with. But then something comes reaching into that good life, something of God that reaches in and disturbs our tranquility.

Sometimes it is a sense that something isn't right. Something that everybody else seems to accept or dismiss that you just can't let go of. Something about what the schools seem to be teaching or not teaching. Something missing in the life of the family. The conversation that never gets to the point. An openness that never happens. A surface we never seem to get below. It nags at us. A fire that won't go out. Something about race and the assumptions of our community. Something about the way that wealth and poverty connects or does not connect in our town. Something about the priorities of our Church. Something about our own relationship with God ~ a predictability perhaps; something gone flat, like a soft drink with a loose cap. Or it may be something that seems right. A joy that calls to us that seems to pursue us; the purposefulness that wants to be sought after. Something that flicks ahead of us. There can be something about a place that makes it holy, draws us back to it again and again. Something about a memory that makes it life giving and calls out the best in us. Something about people we admire who make us want to grow up to be like them. Something about a commitment that calls us to be brave and strong and true.

There is always something of God just beyond our knowing. There is always something in the air ~ something up ~ something going on ~ something missing ~ something about this place. And that something reaches for us and beckons us to explore the Kingdom of God.

You have it in your life ~ I have it in mine. Moses had it; so did Nicodemus. We all do. We all do because God is greater than our understanding; greater than our beliefs; greater than our certainties; greater even than our doubts. There is always something more of God just beyond the edge of who we are and where we are.

Trinity Sunday reminds us to be aware of that truth. It encourages us to be like Moses and Nicodemus when we are aware of it. Moses turned aside to see what was going on. Nicodemus came in spite of his embarrassment that made him come at night to ask about the truth. They stopped the normal routine of life to check it out. That's what Trinity Sunday is about. It's a call, a whisper a nudge that says check it out. There's something just beyond you.

And here is something that's really important. They did not just follow the instinct ~ they did not just go off half-cocked. They stopped and they wrestled with the truth that was coming to them. That's important because every notion that comes to us does not come from God. You know as well as I do that there are a lot of really bad ideas out there. They can reach for us too. But check it out.

I wish I could tell you how to know something of God from something that is not of God. I have made some pretty bad guesses over the years. People much better than me have been wrong too. So will you from time to time.

The point is that there is something of God in your life right now. Something just beyond your grasp. Something beyond your understanding; beyond your belief. It is reaching into your life to draw you further into the truth, the wonder and the glory of the Kingdom of God. Turn aside like Moses. Come to it like Nicodemus. Check it out. Draw on your courage; push your faith; stretch your life; come further into the Kingdom. That invitation is what Trinity Sunday is really about. Amen.


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