Every year for Memorial Day Weekend, I can’t help but to think about my hometown’s community softball tournament. Our church always had a team in this tournament led by a church member who was our coach and pitcher. He also was the only one who had a bunch of bats and balls for us to use.
The tournament would begin on Friday evening and last through Monday afternoon of that long holiday weekend. There were about twenty adult teams who participated. Our team consisted mostly of teenagers but also had some really old guys and by old, I mean guys in their 40s! To us younger players, that was really old.
For a team that was pretty young and inexperienced, we did really well, even winning the tournament a couple of times. The church member who was our coach did a really good job of helping us to play as a team. The only broken bone I have ever had came from playing in one of those softball tournaments.
Since this was a community and not a church softball tournament, we were the only church team and the only team that prayed before each game. Theologically, I don’t think that our prayers had anything to do with our winning or losing, but it did remind us that we were representing our church when we took the field. It also taught us a lot about teamwork and giving our best.
In our Romans scripture reading for today, the Apostle Paul is reminding me a little of our softball coach. Like a good coach, Paul is reminding the church in Rome that they are children of God. They are teammates. He uses this phrase, “children of God” three times in this one passage of scripture. We are children of God. We are teammates who represent Christ and his church. Win or lose, we belong to God. “We are joint heirs with Christ,” Paul says.
I love this image of the church being like a team where we are connected with each other and with God who has made us his children. Which brings me to the Trinity Sunday part of this scripture passage.
Paul refers to all three persons of the Trinity in this very short passage. He says that when we cry, “Abba, Father,” it is that very Spirit that bears witness with our spirit that we are teammates, we are children of God.
And then Paul says, that as God’s children we are all heirs with Christ. There you have it. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It only takes Paul two verses to include all three members of the Trinity and he does so in the context that we are children of God.
This is what is beautiful about being part of the church. We all have this in common where God’s Spirit keeps us from falling back in fear by reminding us that we are heirs with Christ. We are reminded of this every time that we offer our prayers to the Father.
This scripture reading is at the very middle of Romans, chapter eight, probably one of the most hope-filled chapters in all of the Bible. It concludes with this incredible exclamation point of who we are because of this God who is known as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
After giving us this long list of things that might separate us from God and each other; things like rulers, worry about the future, powers, height, depth, and even death itself, Paul concludes this chapter by saying, “None of these things will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”
We remind each other of this hope that we have together in a variety of ways. Through our weekly worship, through bible studies, through small groups, through the sharing of testimonies, and through prayer requests that we receive each week.
Those prayer requests always remind me that we are children of God. Especially this one that was shared a while back by a member of our church who has been fighting cancer the past six and a half years.
He updated our prayer chain to let us know how our prayers for him over all these years have helped him to beat the odds of this disease and that he is truly blessed. He says “I am a winner in so many ways! Let’s celebrate!”
That’s our teammate sharing this with us. That’s a member of our family letting us know that our prayers have been a life-line to him, especially during these many months of being separated because of COVID19 precautions.
As children of the Triune God, Paul wants us to be reminded again and again that we have much to celebrate. We are joint heirs of Christ and nothing can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. We have the Spirit who Paul says will not allow us to fall back into fear but always keeps us moving forward in hope.
Heirs of Christ, children of God, Paul says. I like that. Children of the Triune God.
In reflecting on this passage, gifted speaker and author, Heather Murray Elkins says that “Trinity relationships are ties that bind and loosen at the same time. We are family because we’ve been adopted by the triune One whose nature and name is Love. We are heirs of God, not by right, not by ancestry, but by grace.”
This is what binds us together in the church, God’s grace, God’s unconditional, inclusive, and all-embracing grace. And it’s because of this grace, that the Triune God loosens us from our fears and doubts. We are freed from all that would enslave us and keep us from being the people that God has called us to be.
Next week, close to three-thousand clergy and lay delegates, representing the one-thousand United Methodist churches from all over the West Ohio Conference will be meeting online for our Annual Conference meeting. We met online last year as well because of the global pandemic.
It is amazing to me that this online option works as well as it does. We are able to conduct the business of the annual conference as well as receive new clergy into the conference, recognize pastors who are retiring, and share in worship together.
But what I miss the most is not being able to physically gather in Hoover auditorium along Lake Erie, in Lakeside, Ohio. It’s always so powerful to worship with three thousand other United Methodists in the same place.
One of the hymns that we sing when we gather at annual conference is the Charles Wesley hymn, “And Are We Yet Alive.” It’s a powerful hymn to sing when we’re all together because it’s a hymn that reminds us to celebrate these opportunities when we can gather as children of the Triune God.
The first verse says, “And are we yet alive, and see each other’s face? Glory and thanks to Jesus give for this almighty grace.” The 3rd verse says, “What troubles have we seen, what mighty conflicts past, fightings without, and fears within, since we assembled last.”
This leads to verse four, “Yet out of all the Lord hath brought us by his love; and still he doth his help afford, and hides our life above.”
These verses build upon each other in describing what it means to be children of God together. We are a family. We are “heirs of God” as Heather Murray Elkins says so beautifully. We are heirs of God, not by right, not by ancestry, but by grace.
This is what makes us children or teammates of the Triune God.
Speaking of hymns, I think it’s really interesting that when the church building before this one burnt down back in 1955, that they were able to salvage this one hymnal. We have this hymnal in a glass case here at the church.
And if you look closely, the hymn that is at the top of that burnt hymnal is the hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.” It was our opening hymn for today’s worship. It’s a hymn that celebrates the Triune God. “God in three persons, blessed Trinity.”
It would be three years later in 1958 when the congregation would be able to worship for the first time in this building. I can’t even imagine what it must have felt like for the congregation to worship for the first time here.
They say they even needed forty ushers that first Sunday to accommodate the crowd. On that Sunday, February 9, 1958 they truly were children of the Triune God, teammates, brothers and sisters who together by God’s grace were able to start anew.
I think of these past several months where we have faced the many challenges of a global pandemic. Like the Apostle Paul at the end of this eight chapter of Romans, maybe we have been asking, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or a fire, or a global pandemic?”
And we can answer with confidence. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Why? Because we are children and teammates of the Triune God!
Children of the Triune God
O God, you are holy, holy, holy. You are Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, one God known in three persons. On this Trinity Sunday, we confess those times when we have forgotten that you have created us in Your image and have included us in your family. Thank you for sending us your Holy Spirit that bears witness with our spirit that we are your children together. On this day, we celebrate your claim in our lives and your call for us to live out who you have called us to be. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.