Sermon Delivered on June 3, 2012 – Trinity (B)
Isaiah 6:1-8
John 3:1-17

Today is Trinity Sunday, and it is an appropriate time to consider the fullness of the Godhead. It’s appropriate and good because we are coming down from the highs of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus on Easter and the unleashing of the Advocate - God’s Holy Spirit - at Pentecost. It’s important to remember the fullness of God during this point of the year because sometimes the limitations of language get in the way of experiencing God’s presence, God’s activity, and God’s intention for our lives.

Last week I talked about hope and how good it is - in fact how vital it is - that we do not know how or when our hopes will be realized. A member of the PNC (Pastor Nominating Committee) who always gives me impeccable feedback said that he sees lots of things to be hopeful about - every day! I want you to know that I do, too. And I want you to know that I believe that the nature of God as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer is the reason why I have hope in this world.

Not only that, but the knowledge that each of us may experience God in fullness through one another gives me hope. It gives me cause to sing. It gives me cause to tremble in fear because of my unworthiness, and it gives me the desire to say, “Let me share this faith, because if I try to contain it I will be torn apart by it!”

That may not be exactly what Isaiah meant, but it’s the closest I can come to it in my own experience. I mean - I’ve never had a Seraphim attempt to cleanse my mouth with a hot coal, but I have received particular instruction from Dr. John Senick in which he, by the grace of God, rearranged the capabilities of my mouth in order to sing in worship!

If any of you could have seen the first time we worked together on a Psalm you would have laughed and cried. I’m pretty sure John was near tears. In fact he told me later that he called a colleague or two just to say, “I really don’t understand what is happening with him - what do I do?!”

But we pressed on - trying like mad to “put to death the deeds of the body” in order to orient our lives around proclaiming the goodness of God. I imagine that I am not alone in this experience, given John’s tenure of 18 years here.

It is difficult to acknowledge the ending of this particular era without acknowledging the sadness and grief that comes with separation - for to leave the pain of separation unsaid is to act as though the joy of presence did not matter. Dr. John Senick matters.

John’s ministry here matters. It matters to us, and it matters to God. As I think about today’s readings, and about John’s ministry here, the word resonance comes to mind. Acoustic resonance is the concept of frequencies absorbing the energy of like frequencies as they join together. Most instruments have a particular range of frequencies that they can offer. Most people have a particular range of frequencies that they can offer. That is why the members of the choir sit where they sit. It’s not because they like the person they sit next to, though through their time together they have come to love one another.

And that is the essence of Christian faith - through our shared experience of being drawn together, paired and combined in ways that frequencies which are both alike and different may express something greater than any of us could on our own, we experience the very presence of God. Through our experience of God we are moved to express the very heart of God. And in expressing the heart of God we become fully aware of who we are as God’s beloved children.

And somewhere along the way, God had the idea that John Senick might be a good person to help us do just that - experience, express, and explore the very presence of God. That is why John’s ministry matters, and that is why we sing. I don’t think that God really cares about music styles. God could have used anyone. God used a stick with a snake on it for the ancient Israelites, and God has used a cross that is empty for you and for me and for John.

And even though God could have used anything or anyone, God chose John. In speaking with some of our members over the last few weeks, God’s actions through John have been made clear to me. Edna Perkins told me how meaningful it was that John was the one who answered the phone when Dave called to say that their son, Layne had been in a life threatening accident. Wes Cady told me that she joined the church for three reasons: 1) there wasn’t a Quaker fellowship in town, 2) Mac Drake was a member, and 3) our music ministry enhanced her experience of God in worship.

I have already pushed him way past his comfort level by saying these things, but I want to give him a gift that someone gave me when I left a call of significance. I’ve asked Chuck Peddy, as a member of the Choir, an officer of the Church, a brother in Christ, and as a friend to share a few thoughts on the importance of the music ministry of this congregation and it’s impact on his journey of faith.

“In 1995 I was approached by former choir director Carolyn Gibson and asked "Why aren't you singing in the choir?" I had honestly never considered myself good enough to get up and sing in front of people even if I'm hiding behind a whole bunch of good singers. Sure, I had been through elementary and high school band but hadn't ever trained my voice and hadn't read music regularly for several years. I very politely dodged the topic for several weeks.

Well, apparently there was collusion between Sweet Ms. Carolyn and the nefarious Dr. John Senick. After about a month John approached me and said "So, I hear you should be in the choir." I was slightly taken aback and said that I wasn't sure if he wanted me messing up his music. To his credit, John didn't push but said that I should try out for him. Now, I don't know if anyone else has EVER had try out for John, but apparently he didn't want to get a "pig in a poke" with me.

Joining the choir helped me greatly to get more involved in the very lifeblood of this congregation. I have made some wonderful friends in the choir (some still here with us and some now in the church triumphant) and from my experiences in the choir I've actually "come out of my shell." You see, some people don't realize that I'm really a painfully shy person. Through my involvement in the choir I've stepped up to do some things that I might not have done before. These things include becoming a permanent fill-in for Phil Andrew for the Church Christmas Supper, giving sermons for Laity Sunday, and I have even sung a couple of solos.

Besides increasing my involvement, John helped me look at the liturgical meanings and scriptural tie-ins of much of the music we sing. And, because I was in choir, I had more than my fair share of conversations with Mac Drake. Mac had an incredible knowledge of liturgical music and our hymnal in particular. Let me tell you, nothing enhances your appreciation of the worship experience like good music. In fact, one of the anthems we are singing today is an adaptation of one of my favorite hymns AND if you look at the hymn in the hymnal, you'll notice it has words but you must read the music from the prior page. The tune is "Nettleton" and the hymn is "Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing."

So, to close, I will "raise my Ebenezer" (That's a biblical reference to Samuel 7 and means "stone of help.") and quote this hymn to try to summarize my choir experience:

Jesus sought me when a stranger wandering from the fold of God. He, to rescue me from danger, interposed his precious blood.”

Thank you, Chuck. It is through Christ Jesus that all of our imperfections become wrought into something more beautiful than anything we can do by ourselves. John has been as Christ to us, just as we have been to him. John has helped us to sing the songs of our souls, and for that we give thanks to God.

But in all of this talk about the importance of our ministry together, I am betting that there is one thing that John would not want us to forget, and that is the fact that we worship God - not our organ, not our experience of God, not our leaders that help us to feel that we are good people because we can do pretty things together. We worship the God that yearns for us to be transformed. We worship the God who did not just call John into ministry but who called you and me and anyone who walks through those doors or down the street.

We worship the God who created and is creating. We worship the God who has redeemed and is redeeming. We worship the God who has sustained us and is sustaining us today. And while we regret losing John and his influence on our faithful practice of worship, we trust that God will continue to work in his life and in ours. We trust that God has already called someone to enable us once more to sing a new song unto the Lord! And, unless we plan to sneak off into the night shaking our heads like Nicodemus, we will look for ways in which we can become transformed by the grace and mercy of Christ into something new. Every day holds with it the promise of redemption and the threat of destruction, yet through the grace of God we are constantly invited into a deeper and more resonant faith.

Thanks be to God for the ministry of Dr. John Senick that has enabled such faith. Thanks be to God for the challenges that lie ahead. In the name of the God who created and is creating, the God who has redeemed and is redeeming, and the God who has sustained us and will sustain us today, tomorrow, and all the days yet to come - I say amen, amen, and I invite the Church of Jesus Christ to join me in saying it once more, “Amen!”
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