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John 3:1-17

Today’s gospel reading is charged especially in today’s political climate as we seek to avoid anti-Semitism. Jesus is meeting with Nicodemus, a Jewish leader, and sadly there is a history of reading this dialogue in a supercessionist way, when Christianity is seen to supersede or replace Judaism. We repudiate supercessionist readings of the New Testament. We know too well the dangers that lurk when we entertain such readings. One corrective is remembering that Jesus is Jewish, so this isn’t an insider/outsider conversation as we might hear it initially today. We also do not believe people of the Jewish faith are in need of baptism or being “saved.” While also supporting Jewish friends who have found a home within the church.

               With that preface we can look at what the gospel is saying to us today. One thing that stands out is the intimacy of the conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus. While Nicodemus calls Jesus teacher, they speak freely as friends. Granted it is an odd conversation where Jesus appears to speak past some of Nicodemus’ questions. Jesus’ answers are mystical and confusing. “The wind blows where it chooses, you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.” This sounds like Joni Mitchell lyrics, poetic. At another level Jesus is telling us something about God. How the Holy Spirit is like the wind, unpredictable, changes directions, isn’t visible, a bit mysterious. This image of God is either reassuring or unsettling depending on your perspective. A cool breeze off the Salish Sea can be refreshing on a warm day. But we’ve also seen those days when the BC Ferry is rocking side to side and car alarms are going off.

The Holy Spirit is a little of both, reassuring and unsettling.  And that is how the Spirit calls us into community together as Trinity. There are times when community tests us and times when it grounds us. And by far God is grounding us in love. Last week Pr. Lyle and I were at a local ministerial gathering with colleagues. Not everyone had heard the news that Pr. Lyle will be retiring in September. One colleague asked, “How are you feeling Lyndon? If I was you, I would be running for the hills.” Well, I am not running for the hills because the community we enjoy together here. I trust your support for me as we enter a time of transition. And many of you have already offered to help with the increased administrative load, scheduling various things, and so on, while we discern the shape of the congregation going forward. I look forward to being part of that process. This will all take time and it is important for us to have opportunities to share stories, to share worries and concerns, and also to celebrate joys. Giving thanks for the joys we have celebrated together with Pr. Lyle and joys we look forward to celebrating together in the future.

For Pr. Lyle’s sake I won’t make this the focus of every sermon for the next three months, but it’s important to name the things that we are all thinking and praying about.

We have community grounded in the Holy Spirit. We also have community through the Creator’s gift of the Son. In our gospel we have what is often referred to as the football game verse John 3:16 that we read aloud in many languages last week: “For God so loved the world, God gave God’s only son so that any who believe in him may not perish but have eternal life.” It is unclear how many people have undergone faith conversions seeing John 3:16 stencilled on a piece of cardboard. Only God knows. This interplay between Creator, Son, and Holy Spirit is one of community. We recently journeyed through Lent and Easter, tracing the arc of John 3:16, Jesus’ gift of himself to us.

Today on Holy Trinity Sunday, we have a moment to reflect upon the community at play within Godself. We say there are three persons, one God. God sees it fit for love to be grounded in community. Love pours forth from the Creator into the world, through incarnation of the Son, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. And this dance of Trinity is continually renewed through plurality.

I am reminded of the ways God’s plurality pours out into our midst here at Church of the Cross. Last week we had Eli preaching, sharing about her experiences serving as a pastor in Brazil and making the plunge immigrating to Canada. Next week, while Pr. Lyle and I are away we celebrate the gifts of Craig preaching and Karen leading music and presiding. And the gifts of seminary students Boston, Ben, and Dave C. Not to mention all the wonderful gifts of council leadership and people serving as chairs of boards, committees, singing in the choir, helping with landscaping, helping with hospitality, and so many other ways.

A story about finding community in the wider church. Last week I visited Saskatchewan for the campus ministry chaplain’s gathering at Camp Kinasao, God’s country as Jeanie calls it. We had a good gathering with colleagues and I got to know some of them for the first time. I look forward getting to know them better in the future. There was also the serendipity that the night we got back to Saskatoon, a friend and colleague Rev. Dr. Matthew Anderson was giving a talk on his newest book “A Good Walk” at McNally Robinson Bookstore. The evening was a real gift, beginning with folk music from a Swift Current musician, whose kids I grew up with, readings from Matthew, and also poetry reading from Louise Bernice Halfe, Poet Laureate of Canada. “The Good Walk” is reflections on several months worth of walking pilgrimage that Matthew undertook together with Hugh Henry, my cousin, and a dozen or more other people for different legs of the journey. Together they sought to retrace historic routes including a trading route Indigenous people used in the Southwest.

This route also ran alongside the route the Northwest Mounted Police used traveling to Fort Walsh near Cypress Hills. Weaving settler and Indigenous voices into the storytelling, the walk was also about reconciliation. Louise Bernice Halfe said she had to try hard to see the beauty of the prairies, not only the erasure of her people. For her the farms and fencing they encountered were a reminder of land that was stolen. She also writes about the beauty of the land and taking time to walk in community.

Matthew asked us how many of us had read books about people walking. He asked how many of them were about solo walkers. It made me think about “Walk In the Woods” which was made into a movie. There are a lot of stories about the solo adventurer, often a man, encountering nature in some extreme way. “The Good Walk” is grounded in community and conversation, one that wouldn’t be the same when one person undertakes it alone. Matthew’s question made me think about the centrality of community in tackling something as challenging as reconciliation or any justice issue. It’s about wrestling through these questions together. And consider all the different ministries we are tackling together here at Church of the Cross.

Recently Pr. Lyle and I have had challenging conversations with multifaith leaders in the community. One good thing that happens through challenging conversations is that we aren’t afraid to do hard things. Sometimes conversations lack a spirit of generosity from others, but what is important is that we listen to the pain others are feeling. Sometimes a conversation isn’t even about us. Have you ever talked with a friend who needs to vent? Often there isn’t much you need to say, just to listen.

Wrapping up, be reassured that the Holy Trinity, one God, is with us, a God in conversation with Godself, sustaining us to do hard things. This is why as a congregation we can host a speaker series on the toxic drug crisis and homelessness. We can offer worship centring queer voices. We can pray for students at the encampment at UVic, pray for our Jewish neighbours, and everyone in the Holy Land. We can do all this and more through the love of God who like the wind refreshes and unsettles. We give thanks to God who keeps us grounded in community and love for neighbour. Amen.