Relationships, Relationships, Relationships

June 16, 2019 (Trinity Sunday)

Indian Hill Church

Cincinnati, OH

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Psalm 8

John 16:12-15

Reverend Dr. Stephen Caine

16:12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason, I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12-15, NRSV)

Let us pray: Gracious God of heaven and earth, before the foundation of the universe and the beginning of time you are the triune God: The Author of creation, the eternal Word of salvation, and the life-giving Spirit of wisdom. Guide us to all truth by your Spirit, that we may proclaim all that Christ revealed and rejoice in the glory he shared with us. Glory and praise to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

I continue to be surprised by what I learn from young people. You would think that after all these years of ministry that I should not be so amazed, but it happened yet again. As you know this past week Jennifer Taylor, our director of Christian Education, Amy Clark, our youth director, Jenny O’Maley, adult volunteer and 10 youth; Sarah Beck, Claire Boyard, Will Beyreis, Will Taylor, Elliott Caine, Marion Caine, James Johnson, Samuel Mota, Sophie Seuver, and Reese Whitman went to Mountain TOP, a Christian ministry program that serves families in need in the Cumberland Mountains of middle Tennessee.  I will share with you some of the things I learned this past week. I learned some new hip vocabulary lit means awesome or great…in a sentence “That pizza is lit.” Not lit…of course the opposite of lit, “That hat is not lit Reverend Dr. Caine.” Wacked means crazy in a bad way…” This board is wacked.” See how hip I am…not!  I also learned that “you can’t bat a thousand in baseball nor can you bat a 1000 in cutting siding…” that became our moto for the week.

I learned about music, the classic rock of my youth, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles is still popular with our high school boys, they also like Jackson Browne and the Who, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, so our van rides were lit. However, they also like this music genre called rap/hip-hop that is not my favorite so when they played this music our van ride was not lit. 

This past week I ate like was a teenager and I can’t do that anymore. These boys were constantly hungry, eggs and bacon, biscuits and gravy for breakfast and two hours later they were hungry again. Then multiple sandwiches with chips, carrots, celery sticks, and cookies for lunch. Then snacks in the afternoon. Dinner a few hours later and then snacks during the evening. My belt is too tight, and my waistline is not lit. 

Please know that I fully realize that I am embarrassing myself with my misuse of the current lingo with the youth, but I also love making them embarrassed as well.

 I also learned some very important things. I learned that the same kid that we may see as irresponsible and careless can show incredible compassion for others. The same young man who does not seem to listen to directions or instructions learned how to cut siding and put it up to make a woman’s dream come true. The same young person that seems to struggle with school and sports can also offer the most beautiful and heartfelt prayer that speaks to the magnitude of the moment. In a word this week was amazing for having my spirit lifted by these amazing young people.

This year was a totally different experience at Mountain Top because this year Jenny O’Maley, and I worked with the high school boys, Will Beyreis, Marion Caine, James Johnson, Samuel Mota, and Will Taylor.  It was special because these boys have been going to Mountain Top together for three and some four years. This week we were paired with Ms. Jennifer Parmeley, a woman in her second battle with breast cancer. She was in the midst of chemo treatments, so she did not visit with us every day and to make her situation even worse her mother was in declining health in the intensive care unit of a hospital two hours away.

Ms. Jennifer was building a small house for her mother so that she could care for her. Jennifer had beaten cancer years ago only to have it return shortly after she began building the house for her mother. So, we came to help her by putting siding on the house for her.  Thank goodness for Jenny O’Maley and her building skills. As my dear son, said when we got home, daddy, you know we would have been in real trouble if it wasn’t for Mrs. O’Maley. You are so right Marion; you are absolutely right!  Anyway.

We were able to finish the siding for Ms. Parmeley and it was so meaningful to give her this gift, knowing that she was in the midst of the fight of her life. She shared that it was her dream to have her mother spend at least one night in the house before she died. This was not lost on our boys. They were profoundly affected by her dire situation. One of them commented, “it puts everything into perspective, worrying about schoolwork and grades and the stuff we deal with in the bubble of school is nothing to what this woman is fighting for.”  I learned so much from our young people this week.

As I was writing this sermon, I was struck by how blessed I was to see their relationships develop over the past four years with each other, with God, with the people we served.  It was fantastic to witness these young people impact the life of another person in such a profound way.  And then for them to realize how their week of service meant so much to Ms. Parmeley, who cried as she hugged us and thanked us for all we did, for her, for her mother, more than we will ever know.

“It’s all about relationships!” I can almost hear my first supervising pastor telling me about working with youth.  It’s all about relationships.  Actually, so is much of ministry and all of life for that matter.  Relationships are central, whether you’re a manager of a baseball team, a business owner, a parent, a teacher, a church goer.

The Lutheran scholar Joseph Sittler writes: The great Christian words like God, love, sin, forgiveness; these are all relational statements.  Love is not a thing. It’s a relation. Guilt is not a thing; it’s a relation.  You can’t find a definition of love. Love becomes clear and recognizable only when you behold a relationship. The same is true about God. Our God is defined by relationships with us and all of creation.[1]

Our God is defined by relationships.  Our God is defined by extravagant giving.  Paul says in Romans that while we were weak, Christ died for us. God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been freely given to us.  God’s giving knows no end.  Then Jesus tells his disciples in the Gospel of John that ultimately nothing will be left unsaid or unrevealed.[2]  God knows us in relationship and is fully aware of our limited understanding and so God sends the Holy Spirit to be our advocate and to help us in our relationship with him.  Yes, God, who is by nature relational, longs to be in relationship with you and with me.  God, who is by nature loving, loves you with the love like that between God and Jesus; and God, who is by nature community, embraces us through our communities of faith, loving us and empowering us in our relationships with one another and with God’s world.  I learned this from our youth who shared their time and their lives to be in relationship with Ms. Parmeley and gave her a gift that changed her life.

A week like this at Mountain Top where the youth of this church, your church, God’s church, leave the comforts of home and take the love of God they have been taught in Sunday School, and confirmation and youth group, they take that love out into God’s world and form deeper relationships with one another and new relationships with one of God’s children who needed a community to help her.  It really is what we are about in this work of being followers of Christ.  Forming community, relationships, here in these walls, and out there in the world.  It is all about relationships, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Let us pray: Almighty and everlasting God, keep us steadfast in our faith and help us to build relationships with you and one another this we pray in your holy name. Amen.

[1] The Rev. Ann M. Svennungsen, Sermon for Trinity Sunday on John 16:12-15. Trinity Sunday June 06, 2004

[2] Rev. Jill Duffield Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15 – lectionary notes for Trinity Sunday June 16, 2019 The Presbyterian Outlook