Monday, June 20, 2011

The Chore List

Holy Trinity Sunday, Year A
19 June 2011

Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Psalm 8; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20

            For me, this is the “most wonderful time of the year” because it’s my favorite Sunday. As most of you know, I love the concept of the Holy Trinity. The Three-in-One and One-in-Three God. A relational God whose love outpours in a variety of ways- creating, redeeming and sustaining the world. We have the Father who brings us into a holy and eternal family, the Son who is our brother in faith, and the Spirit who is our advocate.

            I spend a lot of time thinking about the Trinity- possibly more than you do. In fact, I worry that when I mention the Holy Trinity, your eyes glaze over and you stop listening because it is a difficult concept. Thinking about God is challenging enough. Thinking about God in Three persons can seem nearly off-putting.

            So, let’s back off from the idea of the Trinity for a minute and just think about God. Or rather, what do you think God thinks about us? It’s often taken for granted that God thinks about us. We think of what we believe about Jesus and the Spirit. Believing that the coming of Christ and the presence of the Spirit are signs of God’s love for us, then surely God does think about us.

            But the question that the psalmist (the writer of the psalm) asks today is why should we expect God to think of us? When we considered the sky and the stars, for us in Alaska the ever-present sunshine this time of year, when we think of the depth of the ocean and the expansion of creation… why should we assume at all that God thinks of us? Who are we, but blips in human history, in creation history?

            But loving fathers, loving parents, remember each of their children. So surely God does remember us and does think on us. How can we know that? Well, one of the pressing memories I have of my dad is the Saturday chore list. We’d get up on a Saturday morning and there would be a list of things to do on the dining room table. Some of them were standard (clean the bathrooms, wash the sheets, vacuum, etc) and some of them were unusual or depended on the season (stack wood, move the chicken coop, turn the compost pile).

            Here’s the thing with a chore list. In order to write it, my dad had to think about my siblings and me- what he knew we could do and we couldn’t. We might not have always wanted to do the list. We might have thought it was unrealistic or unfair and maybe sometimes it was. Nevertheless, the list meant that our dad was thinking of us. He could have done these things himself, but then we wouldn’t have learned how and we wouldn’t have understood what it means to work together as a family.

            Similarly, we know that God is thinking of us because God gives us a chore list. God could do these things without our help, but that’s not how God decided to work with people. The psalmist notes that from the beginning, what we heard in Genesis, God has given us the responsibility of caring for the earth. This is chore list of stewardship, of creation care. We are charged with caring for animals and plants, for helping the earth to produce and for using what is before us to its fullest and healthiest extent.

            From God, we have a chore list that extends into our life in Christ. The risen Jesus tells his disciples to train others in the way of the godly life, in the way of discipleship. They are charged with extending the care of creation into caring for their neighbors. Caring for them means helping them to understand the realities and possibilities of abundant life in Christ, of joyous life in God.

            We know that God thinks about creation and about people because we are charged with carrying out these activities in the world. When I remember back to the chore lists of my youth, I recall that my siblings and I spent a good amount of time yelling at each other to do more work and pointing out who wasn’t doing their fair share. Now where do I see that behavior repeated…?

            Ah, yes. Many times, that’s how God’s faithful people use our time and talents- pointing out who isn’t holding up their end. We know what the chores are. We haven’t been asked to do things that are out of the realm of our possibility. God could do everything without our help, including making disciples, but then we have no role and, furthermore, we won’t understand what it means to work together as a family.  Without our chore list, our relationship to God and to one another is limited. We just exist, our tasks having very little meaning except to move us to the next day.

            Being given responsibility for creation care and for sharing the good news of Jesus means that God knows us and trusts us. It means that God is thinking of us and trying to include us in the building of the kingdom. Having a list of things to do bring us into a working relationship with God and with one another.

            In the story of creation, all things are relational. Nothing exists on its own. The day has the night, the sky has the heavenly bodies, the land gets the water, and the living things work together. Nothing that is made is declared good until it has a relational counterpart. Those counterparts work together for good, for wholeness.

            So it is between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Three-in-One God works together for good, for wholeness. There is a relationship there that may well be beyond our understanding, but it exists because of the love that burst forth from the heart of God. There is not, there cannot be, one expression of that love and God has three expressions… a Loving Creator, a Healing Redeemer and an Ever-present Inspiration. The chores of being God are shared between the members of the Trinity and the love in that relationship flows forward into God’s relationship with us.

            It is easy to feel overwhelmed by what it seems like we are called to do, but it’s a short chore list and it’s specialized to what God knows we can do. God has even given us the gifts to do these things- to care for creation and to share Christ with all whom we encounter. We are able to do these things because of the grace we have received through Christ. We are invited to do these things through the urging of this Spirit. We must do these things for the sake of God’s name in the world.

            What did Jesus tell his disciples when he gave them their chore list, that Great Commission? “I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up until the end of the age.” (Message) You aren’t doing this alone. You’re not even doing it just with other people. The amazing grace of Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God and the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit is with all of you!

Amen. 

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