Sunday, June 07, 2009

Trinity, Up and the Sacraments

Jo and I were worn out from preparing for our Yard Sale. We needed a little break, too, from packing and loading boxes, from cleaning the parsonage and making ready for Annual Conference. Jo and I love movies, and so one afternoon this week we just dropped everything and went to Franklin Square to see “Up!” the new movie by Pixar and Disney.

A retired balloon salesman, a curmudgeonly old man—and he was cranky because he was old and broken-hearted, alone really--rigs thousands of helium balloons to his house and floats away, trying to leave his heartbreak behind. By a series of accidents he is joined in his adventure by a little boy who is just as sad as the old man, and just as alone. The boy’s father had left the family, had gotten himself a new girlfriend, had promised the boy over and over he would take him fishing or to the game, whatever, but he never did.

The absent father kept promising the little boy big things, big trips, big adventures—but what the little boy remembered best from when his dad was still home, and what he longed for most in his father’s absence, was the other stuff, the “boring” stuff, he called it. Sitting on the curb with his dad in front of the ice cream store, him eating a cone of vanilla while his dad ate butter brickle, counting the red cars one of them and the blue cars the other of them, and who would count the most cars before the ice cream was gone. That’s what he missed: the little stuff.

The boring stuff. The routine stuff, which is not really little at all, or boring at all, or even routine as much as it is the threads of our living, sacred moments woven together in love to make a family, to make life.

I think of that today, this Trinity Sunday, when we celebrate a big message but do it in these little ways. Here we are again at the font, at the Table. We do this stuff all the time, thank God—I sometime think about those lonely and broken-hearted folk, young and old, who would give anything, not just to have communion, at home, wherever they count home, but to be in communion, here at this place, at the curb of Jesus’ gracious promise, to know again the love he has lavished upon us when we gather here.

We can see it if we have eyes enough, can feel it if we have heart enough—that when we come together in faith at the water, when we come with receptive hearts to the bread and cup, Jesus gives his grace to us anew in the memory and presence and peace.

This is our daily bread. This is our customary bath and remembrance. Little stuff, maybe, to some eyes. Boring to others. Routine even to us.

Ordinary—that is what Wesley called the Sacraments: the ordinary means of grace, and by ordinary he did not mean mediocre or characterless; he just meant “customary.” God can come to us anytime, in any way, but God has promised to be here in this way, every time we come to the Font and Table—customarily, ordinarily, routinely God comes to us in these Sacraments.

They are the churches abiding witnesses. Preachers come and go. Congregations are born and die. Traditions grow up and wither away. Experiences fade with time and age into the shadow of forgetfulness. But these witnesses abide. They remain. They alone can heal broken hearts and help us find our true spiritual family.


Jonathan said...

My sermon title for Trinity Sunday: "Not Jon & Kate plus 8, but Father and Son plus One"

Mark Crumpler said...

What a wonderful film that was Tom! Within the span of a few days I saw "Up" and the latest "Night at the Museum." I really enjoyed the museum sequel but it didn't touch me at the level that "Up" did; not even close. There's so much there for us to ponder (especially us pastors). I heard Craig Barnes reflect on the whole image of the man pulling his house around - strapped with the dream of putting that house on paradise falls. Finally there comes a moment when he has to let go of the house to embrace what God has actually given him in Kevin and Doug and the little wilderness explorer(name?). I may be giving too much away - but that was powerful to me because I wonder what I'm pulling around: writing? vocational hopes? Whatever. Anyway, thanks as always for your thoughtful posts.

Tom Steagald said...

The little boy's name was Russell.

I cried my eyes out for the first 20 minutes. Then laughed my head off the last 20. I emerged a wounded and pitiful-lookinng man!

Have not seen Night at the a bit tired of Ben Stiller. LOVED the new Star Trek movie, especially the depth of Spock and the relationship with Uhura. And no man has ever gotten into so many fights, never to win one, as Kirk...or to hang on so many ledges! Scotty and Chekov stole the show.