Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Celebrating Bob, Farewell Katie and Christine - First Trinity Sermon May 2, 2015

Texts: 1 John 4:7-21, John 15:1-8

Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed. Alleluia!


“Beloved, let us love one another,” 

“Love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”

“Those who live in love live in God and God lives in them.”

“God is love.” 

“Abide in me as I abide you.” 

“I am the vine, you are the branches.”

“No one has ever seen God; 
but if we love one another, God lives in us
and God’s love is perfected in us.”

“Perfect love casts out fear.” 

“My father is glorified by this: that you bear fruit, 
that you become disciples.”

“We love because he first loved us.” 

“Those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.”

“Those who love God must love their brothers and sisters.”

Christ is Risen. (He is Risen, indeed. Alleluia!)

Apparently… From what I can tell from the Bible… 
especially from today’s readings, reading especially from First John…

Apparently, from what I can tell…

The simple, single, center of our life in Christ, 
our life in the Christian faith…

is love. 

Who knew?

Apparently love 
is the thing 
that not only are we supposed to gather around, 
but also to live in, 
and be a part of, 

Apparently love is thing we tap into 
and that we feed from.

In love, apparently, we’re supposed to grow and to move, 
In love we’re supposed to find nourishment and life. 

Who knew? 

To be sure, we could find those things in other places. 

To be sure, we could just as easily consume and feed on and live in something like…


or greed—

or some sort of consumption—some other sort of consuming

books, or brunches, or tattoos, or golf clubs, 
or little boxes made of ticky-tacky 
or [whatever]…

Those are all fine things, of course. 

Pleasure and leisure and enjoyment are all incredibly important for life, for Sabbath, for re-creation. 


But (also) 

(apparently) for followers of Christ, 

(apparently) our main source, our “taproot” our center, 
our sustenance, 
both our aim, 
(our end) and our means,  

our road and our destination, 
is supposed to be 

(apparently) for followers of Christ, 

our main source, our “taproot” our center, 
our sustenance, 
both our aim, 
(our end) and our means,  

our road and our destination, 

is supposed to be love.

Who knew?

Of all the things in the world we could have chosen to center on, 

to gather around, 

to shout or sing or wonder or get worked up about, 

Apparently life in Christ 
at the center, 
mostly has something to do with love.

I’ve spoken before about the Question that often arises at Bible Studies or community meals here at First Trinity. 

You know the question. It comes up a lot
“What’s the difference between Lutherans and Catholics?”

Usually the answers that folks give are something like: 
“Lutherans believe in faith, and Catholics believe in faith and works.” 
(Which isn’t exactly accurate)…

or it’s:

Catholics believe in “transubstantiation” and Lutherans believe in “consubstantiation.” I guess that’s true, but how many folks coming up to communion go about day to day thinking of what that means? 

Of course, these are all good questions.  

However, the problem with these questions (and their somewhat easy responses), is that in the answers we give, 
we can sometimes keep the inquiry pretty shallow. 
Actually, even as we ask the question, 
we might miss the point. 
(We might be asking something other than waht we intended)

Lutheran or Catholic (or whomever), our identity as people of faith comes not simply from what we believe, what we can hold onto or attain or hold,  

but (rather/also/more so/additionally) 
from where we are located—
the place we choose to take a stand

the place from which we see and interpret the world

Our identity comes from our center, and our destination, 
our means and our end.

Our identity comes from Love.

And Love happens in community. 

Love (also) creates community. In love, the stranger becomes the sister, the brother, our family, the body of Christ, branches on the vine, the Vine that gives us all life, through Love. Love unites us. 

Of course, stepping into Love is scary. 

Because love might mean transformation, growth, metanoia
When love is our journey, we might end up changing along the way. And change can be freaky. 
Love, transformation, community in Christ…

Who knew? 


Believe it or not, 

At one point in history, Bob was a stranger to this community. “Leone” was not the household name it is today. 

But for ten years now Bob has been leading us in worship and in song. And he has been leading us in love.
And doing, well.. the provocative work of the Gospel. That work that pushes us toward love, toward that risk, and that transformation, even if it’s scary. 

Bob has done God’s provocative work faithfully. 

Just when we thought we knew what church was, 
when we thought we had a handle on God’s grace, 
we believed God loved everyone, and could even articulate it, 

Bob would surprise us with a song or a speech—
and he’d insinuate, 
“maybe this is a part of God’s love, too,” 
(perhaps subtlety, perhaps not so subtly).
Bob would stretch our concept of love. 

 Maybe God’s love is even bigger, or different from what we currently think or currently thought, Bob would provoke. 

Maybe we should love in this direction, too. 

Maybe when we think about who our heroes are, 
(Bob would challenge us), 
we need to think more deeply about 
the motivation and movement of those we look up to…
Are they guided by love? No? Why not? 
Are you sure they are a hero? 

Even though in Matthew 25, Jesus tells us he is the one in prison, and it is he we are supposed to visit and care for, 

A lot of folks—a lot of Christians—still simply think that prisoners are 
“the bad guys,” 
you know, criminals, “rough elements,” or whatnot, “the thugs” 
but, then comes Bob with something like,

“I don’t know… maybe the loving thing to do is not to accuse, or to criminalize, but to send gifts, books, letters, love, with whatever help and money we can scrape up with a pizza party or a punk show. 

To do this act of charity which can’t really be returned at all. 
Maybe the loving thing to do is to love. 

Some folks will say this kind of love is uncomfortable? 


Love does that. 

Love provokes. 

It pulls us outside ourselves. 

And then “perfect love casts out all fear.” 

For ten years, Bob has provoked us to greater love. 

Bob has definitely helped provoke me to a wider and deeper understanding of God’s love.

And I am thankful that both he and his music have helped pull us outside of ourselves, and into communal activity—song, service, protest, whatever—whatever the thing is you do communally, in community to love and serve God. 

Bob, your presence here is a gift. 

It means a more than words (or even music) could express. 

Thanks, Bob! 

That brings us to Christine and Katie. 

About a year ago, to most folks here, you, too, were strangers in our midst. 

But you’ve joined us for about nine months now. 

(No, it’s not ten years, like Bob).

You’ve shared with us the word and service, 

You’ve taught us, and engaged us. 

You’ve lead us in conversation about martyrs, 
about strong women of the early church;
you’ve made up new words,  like Catechemmunity,
you’ve joined us in community conversations, 
in interfaith dialogue, talks about justice; actions at the prison and at City Hall;
(all provocative acts of love, 
that risk making us uncomfortable, 
but that might also cast out a bit of fear, here and there,
that might foster community and solidarity and growth),

It feels like you both just showed up here yesterday. 

And now, you’re off.  

On to another place on down the Vine. 

To live Christ’s love in another place. 

To share in the mission we all share, and to bring a little piece of First Trinity where ever you go in life from here. 

You go to unite God’s people in love, and to embody that love, in community, and to bring that community into the world for love’s sake. 

Even as we are glad that we get to keep Bob, 
we’re really gonna miss you guys a lot. 

I can see the love each of you has, 
in your own unique way,
both for the church 
and for all of us.

I can see the deep love you have for the people of God. 

It’s been awesome. And a joy. 

Thank you. We’ll miss you. 

As you go, remember:

the root of our identity, our center, who we are, 
is not what we believe or what we disagree on,
Rather, it’s where we stand.

And we stand in love, 
together (even if we are apart), 
We stand in God’s love. 

We provoke, in music, in word, in deed, in service
in play, in work, and so on…

And we stand in solidarity, in love, 
in sisterhood and brotherhood, 
with all who still await Resurrection.

Indeed, this is the call we all receive 
when God claims us in love, every moment of every day. 

To love!

Who knew? 

May we all heed that call, wherever the Spirit moves us. 

Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! 


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