Rev. Heather J. Blais, Rector
Every Sunday after the sermon, we rise together and say the Nicene Creed. Why is this important?
This ancient statement of belief was created in the early days of the Christian Movement at the Council of Nicea in 325 C.E.
At that time, there were still wide variations in practices and distinctly different understandings of the nature of God held by bishops in different localities. Bishops across the Church gathered for this special council, and at future councils, to sort through and articulate their shared common beliefs. These leaders made decisions about what would be considered 'officially Christian' and what would not.
It was not a perfect system. And given they were responding to particular teachings popular at the time, we may notice things in the Creed today that seem strange or even objectionable. Yet the Creed does not need our belief in every precise word to stand up on its own. You may be annoyed with one clause, or confused by another. You might change the gender pronouns, calling Father- Mother, Creator, or Parent; or refer to the Holy Spirit as she instead of he.
When we rise together to reaffirm our faith, we are rising together with other Christians across denominations and across time; those who have gone before us and those who have yet to come. That is part of the beauty of the Creed--not the exact words but the common experience of rising together and reaffirming our faith across time and place.
The Creed is also beautiful because it is an attempt by God’s children to articulate the mysterious relationship of the Holy Trinity. It is a bit like a young child’s drawing of their family. It’s imprecise and imperfect, if we are measuring it by artistic standards. Yet when you look at the drawing through the eyes of a loving parent--the drawing is a masterpiece ready to be hung and framed. Because in the drawing, your child gave it their all as they sought to understand their place and relationships in their family.
I imagine that is how God feels about the Creed. The Creed is the way we attempt to understand our place and relationship with the Holy Trinity. It is our imprecise and imperfect way of articulating what we hope we understand about the nature of God and the relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Somehow our God is three in one and one in three.
The Creed tells a story about God the Father, “...maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen” (BCP p.358). It says the universe is good and is the work of a single, loving God who creates, sustains, and redeems (BCP p.846).
It is a story about God the Son, Jesus; in whom God literally becomes flesh like ours to show us the nature of God is love, love, love.
It is a story about God the Holy Spirit, where God is at work in the world and in the Church, even now.
In truth, we will never fully know or understand the inner and outer workings of the Holy Trinity.
So, I cut eight pages from my sermon....
Because in the end it is a mystery.
Yet we have experiences throughout our spiritual journey, where for a moment, we gain an awareness, a deeper knowing of God. A sense of clarity, peace, and love.
As a child, I found comfort and strength in the unconditional love of God the Father. My dad didn’t know how to be a parent or how to stick around, but this heavenly parent would never go away, and there was nothing I could do about it.
As a teenager, I felt like I was on a rollercoaster ride yo-yoing between good and bad choices, sometimes by the hour.
Yet I always felt heard, seen, and understood by Christ. In every teaching of Jesus, I could see it didn’t matter how worthless I might feel, Jesus was telling every single person, that might only half be listening, that we are valuable, we are worthy, we are loved. And once that news has sunk in, go and do likewise. Help others.
As an adult, I have felt the Holy Spirit guide decisions, big and small, over and over again. First would come prayer, giving God all the uncertainties, and then, eventually, a peace that surpasses our understanding. And even when there was not peace, a trust, that the Holy Spirit was with me.
In the church year, today is Trinity Sunday. It's when we sing all the best hymns. Once a year, we join St. Patrick of Ireland in picking up that three leaf clover as we try to gain a deeper understanding of the Holy Trinity. The Celtic tradition believes that all of creation is sacramental because God the Creator, God the Redeemer, and God the Sustainer are in every living thing. God is right here with us, our Companion in this life and the next.
As we prepare to make our way back into the world today, I invite us to go deeper in pondering our relationship with our Companion.
Some possible questions for reflection:
The Rev. Jane R. Dunning, Priest Associate
As Jesus begins his ministry, he asks certain people to follow him. Some of these disciples have known him for years and have been part of his community.
Some may have already felt the power of his teachings and felt deeply drawn to what Jesus has to say, to his presence, to his vision. There was a strong certainty in their hearts that this was the call for them, above any other. They get up, leave what they are doing, and follow him. This decision will change their lives.
At the time of our baptism we make certain promises, When we abide by these promises we set the structure of our lives. These will become the guideposts and the trail markers for our future.
As a part of this Baptismal Covenant, we promise to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves. We promise to strive for justice and peace among all people, and we promise to respect the dignity of every human being. When we live out these promises, they shape who we become and where our lives will lead us.
Over the years, the focus on worship in this parish has been to reach out beyond the comfortable walls of the church and find ways to serve the surrounding community. The question then becomes “How do we decide as a community where and how to serve.”
This is a question we must also answer in our personal lives. What am I called to do? What is my vocation? What is my passion? Where can I focus my personal life in such a way that it brings me joy and fulfillment and still serves the community around me.
Some choose to be stay at home parents, building a loving family that will be a blessing to the community, Some serve as storekeepers, hairdressers, grocers, serving their community with thoughtfulness and courtesy. Some choose to be fishermen as perhaps their fathers were, some choose to teachers, educating our young people. Some choose to be doctors or nurses serving the health of their towns and villages.
Some choose to be artists or musicians adding to the beauty that surrounds our lives, some choose to be carpenters, or plumbers, or electricians adding their skills to our buildings and our homes.
Some choose to serve in the military, wanting to serve and protect our nation.
Each of these represents an individual vocation, a response to serve others unique to each individual. Hopefully it will be a fulfilling and life-giving choice and we will find joy in the life that we choose, and hopefully we will fulfill the promises made so many years ago to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves, striving for justice and peace, and respecting the dignity of every human being.
And some choose to be firefighters, or EMTs, paramedics, or police, responding to the emergencies that arise in our communities, responding to a crisis situation with all the training behind them, facing danger to protect our buildings and above all, our lives.
From January of 2016 to January of 2017 Franklin County suffered four fatal fires. The first one was in Orange where two little girls were killed. The second was here in Greenfield where two adults and child were killed. The third fire was in Erving where firefighters were unable to save the baby in the next room. The fourth fire was in Warwick where a mother and four of her five children were killed. Those responding to each of these fires were neighbors who were first responders, fire fighters, ambulance personnel, police, and representatives of the state fire marshall. These tragedies took a huge emotional toll on those who responded. Debriefings were held for those who were present to help ease the stress caused by each tragedy. We celebrate our first responders today, and offer our thanks and God’s blessing.
As Jesus is preparing to leave the disciples, he sends them out to spread his message of love and forgiveness in his name. He tells them to stay until they receive Holy Spirit, and he blesses them. In the years that they had been together these disciples had been changed and with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost they would be able to go out into the world and change the world with the message of God’s great love for all people.
The disciples have heard the call and followed that call on a journey unlike any other.
When we follow the call in our lives, that nudge from the Holy Spirit, (sometimes more like a shove) pushes us to become more fully ourselves and when we use that passion to serve the community around us, we will be changed, and the path that our life takes will be a journey unlike any other.
You each have the gifts that are uniquely yours. Now, like the disciples, go out into the world and share them. Reach out to others with Love. Go out into the world to serve.
You are unique, you are loved, and you are blessed. Whatever your age, your condition, whatever you think your limits might be, there is a calling for you to be kind, to be caring, and to reach out to others... Go out into the world in love, and may God go with you.
Meet our preachers
Lay Preacher, Faith Community Nurse
The Rev. Jane R. Dunning, Priest Associate
Coffee with Clergy
Do you want to get together to talk about your spiritual life or learn more about our community? Contact us and we will find time to get together.