Trinity, infinity, Moebius and Water

Holy Trinity Sunday, which we celebrate on the Sunday after Pentecost, is in our church calendar to celebrate our God who we know as Creator, Redeemer, and Counselor or Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Trinity was famously illustrated with a shamrock by St. Patrick in Ireland. Many of our churches are decorated with triangles and shamrocks because triangles have three sides that together make a united structure. While they are good representations of the Trinity, I would like to share two other things that help me understand the Trinity better.

The first is a Moebius Strip. You can read more about Moebius here. It’s easy to make one – take a strip of paper about 1″ wide and 11″ long, give it a half twist and tape it together (watch the WikiHow). When you take a pencil and start drawing along the length of the loop, you will discover that you will eventually end up where you started. A Moebius strip is an infinite loop. There is no beginning and no end, yet we know that we started with a single 2-sided sheet of paper. Like the Moebius strip, God – creator, redeemer and counselor – is infinite and yet has had a physical presence.

The second model of the Trinity that I like is the molecule H2O. Two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen come together to form one of the base molecules for life, water. One of the reasons that water is key is that it can exist in three different states – ice, water, and steam depending on the surrounding temperature.

God exists in three – Creator, Redeemer, and Counselor. God our creator is with us in every moment of life from the beginning of the universe to wherever we end up. Our Redeemer, Jesus, was present in human form at a specific time and place. The Holy Spirit, our counselor, is with us in our hearts and minds, guiding us on our continual journey of life.

I am grateful that the Moebius Strip, a mathematical construct, and the water molecule, a physical construct have helped me understand a little more about God. I hope it has helped you a little too.

Holy Week: Humanity at its worst – and best

Holy Week, the week before Easter is the best example I know to show humanity’s weaknesses and strengths.
We begin the week on Palm/Passion Sunday with a palm-waving announcement of Jesus’ royalty “Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurray for Jesus”
and by Friday we hear “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

Why did all those palm-wavers turn into fist-shakers five days later?

An uprising against Roman control had recently been put down and leaders, including Barabbas, were in prison. The city was crowded with people who had arrived for the new year celebrations and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover). The stories were flying about the miraculous cures that Jesus was performing on a regular basis, including Lazarus’ resurrection from the dead. The Jewish religious leaders were meeting to figure out how to protect the temple and the city from Roman retaliation for Jesus’ popularity and they decided that one person’s death was a small sacrifice to assuage the mighty Roman government. It only took a few rumors and the crowd followed along, choosing Barabbas over Jesus when Pilate offered them the choice.

How often have we ourselves swung emotionally 180 degrees like the people of Jerusalem 2000+ years ago? We follow sports stars, TV personalities, and politicians as long as they are doing what we like, but if they fall out of favor, we can quickly yell “Crucify her (or him)!” It’s much harder to hold on to our faith when everyone around us is talking trash about someone.

Yet we have an example in the same story of someone who stood there and took the harsh and demeaning treatment of others and did not respond in kind. In the garden Jesus reminded the disciples that violence did no good and in front of religious and political leaders, he didn’t attack or fight back. He held to his teachings of three years. Love is greater than hate, justice is stronger than politics, and faith is powerful.

Holy week is a time to reset our moral compass so that we can remember that we don’t have to follow the crowd, clamor for retaliation, or attack to protect ourselves. This is not an easy path to follow, yet it is the path that we are on in our daily faith walk. We are human and God has already forgiven us for our human foibles and weaknesses.

Categories: Pastor's Thoughts

God’s Covenants

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So far during this season of Lent 2018, we have studied four covenants that God has made with God’s people.

  1. The covenant with Noah (Genesis 9: 8-17) represented by every rainbow in our skies.
  2. The covenant with Abraham and Sara (Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16) to be God of all people and nations.
  3. The covenant of the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) that justice and mercy will be the rule of the lands.
  4. The covenant of forgiveness (John 3:14-21) through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

It is easy to focus on the “thou shalt nots” and the punishment stories of the Bible, yet God calls us to remember that God’s covenant with us is in spite of our behavior. God made a covenant with our ancestors and reaffirmed that covenant in human form as Jesus Christ and then again in the presence of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Our challenge is to live in an ongoing response to God’s covenant by pausing, reflecting, confessing, and accepting the gift of pardon. John 3:17 says: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”  That is the covenant that God has made with us. Thanks be to God.

Hasta ahora durante esta temporada de la Cuaresma 2018, hemos estudiado cuatro convenios que Dios ha hecho con el pueblo de Dios.

  1. el pacto con Noé (Génesis 9:8-17) representado por cada arco iris en nuestros cielos.
  2. el pacto con Abraham y Sara (Génesis 17:1-7, 15 y 16) para ser Dios de todas las personas y Naciones.
  3. el Pacto de los 10 mandamientos (Éxodo 20:1-17) de que la justicia y la misericordia serán la regla de las tierras.
  4. el Pacto de perdón (Juan 3:14-21) a través de la muerte y resurrección de Jesucristo.

Es fácil centrarse en los “harás pobres” y el castigo historias de la Biblia, sin embargo, Dios nos llama a recordar que el pacto de Dios con nosotros a pesar de nuestro comportamiento. Dios hizo un pacto con nuestros antepasados y reafirmó que el Pacto en forma humana como Jesús Cristo y luego de nuevo en la presencia del Espíritu Santo el día de Pentecostés. Nuestro desafío es vivir en una continua respuesta al pacto de Dios, al detenerse, reflejando, confesando y aceptando el don del perdón. Juan 3:17 dice: “Porque Dios no ha enviado a su Hijo al mundo para condenar al mundo, sino para que el mundo sea salvo por él.” Ese es el pacto que Dios ha hecho con nosotros. Gracias a Dios.


Categories: Pastor's Thoughts

December 31, 2017 the First Sunday of Christmas

Today’s readings are:

Isaiah 61:10-62:3, Psalm 148, Galatians 4:4-7, Luke 2:22-40

Our gospel from Luke tells the story of Jesus’ presentation at the temple, which occurred 8 days after his birth where he was presented to God and was circumcised (Bris). In the story, two faithful people, Simeon and Ana, recognized Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation for God’s people.  In the church we talk about salvation a lot. But what does salvation mean for us today? Galatians 4:1-7 gives us some guidance as we consider that question.

Nuestro evangelio de Lucas relata la historia de la presentación de Jesús en el templo, que ocurrió 8 días después de su nacimiento, donde fue presentado a Dios y fue circuncidado (BRIS). En la historia, dos personas fieles, Simeón y Ana, reconocieron a Jesús como el cumplimiento de la promesa de salvación de Dios para el pueblo de Dios.  En la iglesia hablamos mucho de la salvación. Pero, ¿qué significa la salvación para nosotros hoy? Gálatas 4:1-7 nos da cierta orientación al considerar esa pregunta.

“My point is this: heirs, as long as they are minors, are no better than slaves, though they are the owners of all the property;  but they remain under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; while we were minors, we were enslaved to the elemental spirits of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”  So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.”

“Lo que quiero decir es esto: Mientras el heredero es menor de edad, en nada se diferencia de un esclavo de la familia, aunque sea en realidad el dueño de todo. 2 Hay personas que lo cuidan y que se encargan de sus asuntos, hasta el tiempo que su padre haya señalado. 3 Lo mismo pasa con nosotros: cuando éramos menores de edad, estábamos sometidos a los poderes que dominan este mundo. 4 Pero cuando se cumplió el tiempo, Dios envió a su Hijo, que nació de una mujer, sometido a la ley de Moisés, 5 para rescatarnos a los que estábamos bajo esa ley y concedernos gozar de los derechos de hijos de Dios. 6 Y porque ya somos sus hijos, Dios mandó el Espíritu de su Hijo a nuestros corazones; y el Espíritu clama: «¡Abbá! ¡Padre!» 7 Así pues, tú ya no eres esclavo, sino hijo de Dios; y por ser hijo suyo, es voluntad de Dios que seas también su heredero.”

Our salvation is God’s adoption of us a children with all the rights and responsibilities that come with that adoption. In Roman Galatia, the law stated that a minor child was under the control and responsibility of the father and therefore had no rights over his own person or  property, even if he owned separate property. In contrast, an adult child had rights and privileges that allowed him to make decisions over himself and everything he owned. (All these male pronouns are here because women and girls didn’t have the same rights as male children)

Nuestra salvación es de Dios la adopción de un niño con todos los derechos y responsabilidades que conlleva la adopción. En época romana de Galacia, la ley estipula que un niño menor de edad se encontraba bajo el control y la responsabilidad del padre y, por tanto, no tenían derechos sobre su propia persona o bienes, incluso si poseía bienes separados. En contraste, un niño adulto tiene derechos y privilegios que le permitió tomar decisiones sobre sí mismo y todo lo que poseía. (Todos los pronombres son de los hermanos porque las mujeres y niñas no tenian los mismos derechos.)

God gave us the law (the 10 commandments) at a time when we humans were children who needed to move from a form of justice guided only by personal power into a justice that respected others as well as self. God also promised that when the time was right and humanity had learned the value of respect, God would give us new guidance. Paul’s letter to the Galatians tell us that God decided that humankind was ready to move into adulthood.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s determination that we are adults who can understand God’s call for justice and love in all situations instead of insisting on the rigid fulfillment of the law.

Dios nos dio la ley (los diez mandamientos) en un momento en que los seres humanos eran niños que necesitaban para pasar de una forma de justicia guiados solamente por el poder personal en una justicia que respete los demás así como legítima. Dios también prometió que, cuando era el momento adecuado y la humanidad aprendió el valor del respeto, Dios nos daría nuevas orientaciones. La carta de Pablo a los Gálatas nos dicen que Dios decidió que la humanidad estaba listo para entrar en la edad adulta. El Evangelio de Jesucristo es la determinación de Dios de que somos adultos que podemos entender el llamado de Dios por la justicia y el amor en todas las situaciones, en lugar de insistir en el cumplimiento rígido de la ley.

I’m reminded of my own 18th birthday which occurred early in the school year ahead of many of my friends. At the time, along with being able to vote, 18-year-old’s could buy alcohol and cigarettes legally here in Texas. For many of my friends, it seemed much more important that I could buy alcohol than that I could register to vote in local, state and national elections. That thinking came from juvenile minds which only saw the restrictions of the law under which we lived. Yet as adults, we understand that the right and responsibility of participation in our government processes is much more consequential than being carded in the grocery store.

Me recuerda a mi propio 18 cumpleaños que ocurrió temprano en el año escolar por delante de muchos de mis amigos. En ese momento, junto con poder votar, los de 18 años de edad podrían comprar alcohol y cigarrillos legalmente aquí en Texas. Para muchos de mis amigos, me parecía mucho más importante que pudiera comprar alcohol que que pudiera inscribirme para votar en las elecciones locales, estatales y nacionales. Ese pensamiento provenía de mentes juveniles que sólo veían las restricciones de la ley bajo la cual vivíamos. Aún como adultos, entendemos que el derecho y la responsabilidad de la participación en nuestros procesos del gobierno son mucho más consiguientes que ser cardados en la tienda de comestibles.

God’s gift of Christ Jesus is our salvation. We have changed from being minor children, living in the fear of  the consequences of breaking a law, into God’s heirs with all the rights and responsibilities of living God’s law which Jesus stated as:  ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

El don de Dios de Cristo Jesús es nuestra salvación. Hemos cambiado de ser hijos menores, viviendo en el temor de las consecuencias de quebrantar una ley, en los herederos de Dios con todos los derechos y responsabilidades de vivir la ley de Dios que Jesús dijo como: ‘ Amarás al Señor tu Dios con todo tu corazón , y con toda tu alma, y con toda tu mente. Este es el mayor y primer mandamiento. Y un segundo es como él: ‘ Amarás a tu prójimo como a ti mismo. De estos dos mandamientos depende toda la ley y los profetas.” (Mateo 22:37-40).

Categories: Pastor's Thoughts

Fourth Sunday in Advent – Acceptance

Sunday, December 24, will be both the fourth Sunday in Advent and Christmas Eve. The readings for advent are:

El domingo del 24 de diciembre es ambos el cuarto domingo del adviento y la nocha buena. Las lecturas son:

God has promised good to the house and lineage of David, so the selection of Mary as the mother of Jesus makes sense. She and Joseph were in that lineage and described as devote followers of God by the Gospel writers. What I find really fascinating about this story is Mary’s acceptance of her task. Could you or I have said yes to God so quickly?

Dios ha prometido bien a la casa y el linaje de David, por tanto la selección de Mary como la madre de Jesús tiene sentido. Ella y Joseph estaban en ese linaje y describieron como dedican a seguidores de Dios por los escritores del Evangelio. Lo que encuentro realmente fascinante sobre esta historia es la aceptación de Mary de su tarea. ¿Podríamos decir sí a Dios tan rápidamente?

Mary’s song (Luke 1:47-55) is not a song about her qualifications to be the human mother of God, but instead is an announcement of the liberating power of God. Her song proclaims that God is coming to lift up those who are without power and privilege, to proclaim that God’s justice and mercy is here for all people.

La canción de María (Lucas 1:47-55) no es una canción sobre sus calificaciones para ser la madre humana de Dios, sino que en cambio es un anuncio del poder liberador de Dios. Su canción proclama que Dios viene a levantar a los que no tienen poder y privilegio, a anunciar que la justicia y la misericordia de Dios están aquí para todas las personas.

We are liberated and loved children of God who are called to accept the gifts that God gives us. Can you respond to God with the same liberating joy as Mary?

Somos liberados e hijos amados de Dios quien llaman para aceptar los regalos que Dios nos da. ¿Puede responder a Dios con la misma alegría de liberación que Maria?

Categories: Pastor's Thoughts