God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; God the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier; God the Trinity, Three-in-one, and One-in-three. We have many was of referring to the Trinity and every single one of them falls short of capturing what the doctrine of the trinity is attempting to encapsulate; though arguably the doctrine itself is flawed, not because its wrong, but because it is a human creation and all that stems from us is inherently flawed. The Triune God is very real, God is the creator, God has and continues to redeem us, and God has and continues to sanctify us and because they are God, they can do all these things and more in all places, at all times, without measure. The flaw of the doctrine of the trinity is that it limits God. In our attempt to make sense of it all we end up confining God into a neat little package that we can kind of understand and set on a shelf, instead of striving to understand what the Trinity represents, which is not the physical being of God, but the Love God.
John’s gospel focuses on the relationship between God the creator, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit and if we slow down, we will find that when we read it there is far more there to help us understand the Trinity than we realize. Now I am not about to recount the entirety of the Gospel of John to you, but I will attempt to summarize.
First, God created the universe and within creation there is a natural balance and harmony between all things, everything has its purpose and when that harmony is interrupted creation adjusts and creates a new harmony. As a part of creation, God created all living things including us, and we were all created to need one another to survive; I refer you to The Lion King or FernGully for a lesson on that.
While humanity is included in the “all living things” part of creation, we were given a few upgrades. We were given emotion because we were created to develop relationships with each other and God, but we were also reason because without choice is love truly love? I say no, it isn’t. If we couldn’t think about and attempt to understand our emotions then they would have no meaning and we would not be driven to act because of them; so, giving us the choice to say no is, in fact, an act of love. That’s not the end though, we quickly turned against God, choosing greed over the harmony intended at creation, so God walked among us as Jesus, as the embodiment of their love for creation to show us how to restore balance, how to immerse ourselves in and rely on their love as a source of comfort and strength. And finally, as if Jesus was not enough, and frankly he wasn’t, God came as the Holy Spirit to reside within us, to guide us as we try to understand the teachings of Christ Jesus and discern what it means to be connected to God, to one another, and to creation in love. The doctrine of the trinity is not about what God is, it is a way to help us understand and strengthen our relationship with God so that we can fully experience God’s love.
Following the teachings of Christ and discerning the direction the Holy Spirit is pushing us in is not always easy and suffice it to say that it took a long time for me to get out of God’s way, but when I finally did let the Holy Spirit have control wonderful things began to happen. I became excited about ministry again and now, a bunch of years later I am standing before you, as a Deacon in the episcopal church, which is what I was sent here to talk about, so I guess I better get to it.
The most often asked question I get is what do deacons do? But I don’t like that question because it implies that being a deacon is a job. Instead, we should ask who deacons are? Deacons are people who spend their life on the frontier, namely the line that separates the church and the secular world. We seek to bring the two together, to show the church where the world needs God’s love and to show the world that the church has something to offer. Deacons, in a sense, are front line officers, whereas priests’ and bishops’ primary role is back at the command tent. That isn’t to say that priests and bishops don’t get their hands dirty, that they don’t do their share of frontier work, it is simply not the primary role of their orders. The purpose of the Sacred Order of Deacons is to interpret the needs of the world to the church and the church to the world. The role of a priest is to lead a congregation and tend to their needs; and the role of a bishop is to lead their diocese and tend to the needs of their clergy as chief pastor. While deacons are a part of the church hierarchy and administration, we have much more freedom when it comes to ministry.
My primary ministry is being a high school history teacher. In that role I of course teach history, but I also teach about kindness, honesty, and the importance of personal relationships. While I don’t talk about God in name, I certainly talk about the teachings of Jesus in practice. In addition to my work in the schools I work in mental health awareness and suicide prevention. I attempt to draw attention to mental health issues, specifically the lack of mental health providers and the fact that we ignore mental health as a serious illness, even though it is one the leading causes of death for teens and young adults. I of course, also play a role within the church. I am currently assigned to St. John’s in Northampton and in my capacity there I participate in the liturgy in various ways, I assist in pastoral care as I am able, I preach regularly and I provide support to my clergy colleagues. The reason I prefer the question of who deacons are is because I am always a deacon, no matter the role I may be fulfilling at any given moment. I was a deacon before I was given the title deacon and I will continue to be a deacon even after I hang up my stole because being a deacon is a calling from God, which means that it is something that God made me to be. God made me a deacon in my heart long before the bishop placed his hands on my head and asked God to do so. Answering the call of God is scary, it requires us to surrender ourselves and allow a process to unfold within us. A process that requires us to let go of the things we think we love, the things that are comfortable, the things that we think we can’t live without and surrender ourselves to God’s will, which brings us back to the trinity. God creates all for a purpose, Jesus teaches all how to live into that purpose, and the Holy Spirit grants all the knowledge and courage to fulfill that purpose. And that purpose is to love God and to Love each other, the question is how is God calling us to do so? How is God trying to restore the balance of creation through us? How is God calling us to love the world? What did God make you to be?