SUMMER – A GREAT TIME TO GROW IN FAITH

By the time this issue of Triune comes out, you will be vacationing with your family in India or at your favorite beach or theme park or hiking your best-loved trails. I pray that you will have a safe time with your families. I think vacation can also be a time to grow deep in your faith with some simple, day to day spiritual disciplines. I am not going to suggest serious fasting (but if that is something that you’re considering doing, go for it) or long dedicated time praying but there are other things that you can do to grow spiritually. Here is my #1 favorite thing to do while on vacation, to do prayer walks. This is assuming that you are keeping up with your regular exercise regimen even while on vacation.

Prayer walks simply stated is walking and praying. It is often intercessory in nature, meaning that you pray for the people living in the communities where you walk or praying in general for the needs of the world that God brings to your remembrance. Prayer walk can be interesting and rewarding if you choose a friend to walk with you. Remember, there is no need to carry a Bible if you’re doing a prayer walk in the neighborhood. The C.S. Lewis Institute website (you may read it here) offers some interesting insights as to the things you can do when you do a prayer walk.1 The idea is simple and doable, and it can enrich your prayer life as well as see God at work in the neighborhoods that you often walk. I hope you get to do this over the summer vacation.

The second-best thing that you can do over your vacation time is to commit certain portions of scriptures to your memory. This is one sure way to grow in the faith. The Psalmist says it better than anyone else about the benefits of committing scripture to memory. Your word I have treasured and stored in my heart, That I may not sin against You – Psalm 119:11. I like the reason the Psalmist gives for us to hide God’s word in our heart, and it is simple but often necessary – that we may not sin against God. The Guidepost has a nice article on the 10 Bible Verses to Commit to Memory. 2

I have mentioned this several times over the course of my preaching at the church about how my father will find a church to worship on Sunday even while vacationing. The Apostle Paul would often encourage the believers to not disregard the gathering of God’s people. This is my challenge to you to make every effort to attend public worship. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near (Hebrews 10:25). There is a nice article by the Ligonier Ministries on the importance of public worship. 3 Apart from hearing the Word preached to us, public worship builds community with other believers in the faith. I would encourage you, as much as you are able, to find a place to worship while vacationing.

We are called to grow in the faith both in and out of season. I believe simple disciplines kept and embraced can help us grow in our walk with God. Remember this one truth that God is interested in your walk of faith more than you are. God’s promise is to nurture and grow us so that we may reflect the image of the One who created us for His glory. I pray that even as you enjoy vacation with the family, you may also find time for God and His kingdom.

Blessings on your vacation and as you grow in the faith,

Rev. Kamalesh Stephen

THE TRIUNE GOD – IN A RELATIONSHIP, COMMUNITY, AND HOSPITALITY

The Sunday after Pentecost (May 19, 2024) is celebrated as Trinity Sunday. Trinity is a hard concept to wrap your head around but one that is central to the Christian faith. Trinity is not about three gods, but One God personified in three persons. God the creator is depicted as the Father who sends the Son to redeem the world and the Son leaves the Spirit to complete what has been started by the Son. The three persons are in perfect unity. There is no hierarchy in that relationship just absolute unity, community, and fellowship.

Perichoresis is a Greek term, which refers to the relationship of the three persons of the Triune God. Peri, which refers to the circumference or the periphery and Choresis, refers to the choreography or dance or movement between the three persons of the Triune God. One of them holds the center stage at some point while the other two are in the periphery. No one holds the center stage all the time, which means that there is absolute fluidity to their roles. It is easy to get caught up with trying to explain Trinity as some have tried to do. For example, Trinity is simplified or explained by the three parts of the clover leaf. It is easy to understand but oversimplifies the complex and mysterious aspect of Trinity. Another way we have tried to explain is by telling the three forms of water – ice, water, and steam. Again, a great way to explain but one that does not live into the mystery of the concept. It is better for us to live into the mystery of the Trinity than to explain it away. My favorite scholar and teacher, Henri Nouwen calls Christians to meditate looking at the icon of the early church on Trinity.


The famous painting by the Russian artist, Andrei Rublev, offers a glimpse at Trinity. The three figures are seated at a table with a cup in the middle and surrounded by trees and mountain in the background. Their place around the table reminds us that no one holds center stage all the time. The person seated on the left is depicted as God, the Father with the translucent blue garment signifying the role of the creator. Both figures, one in the middle and the one on the right is looking tenderly at the Father. The one in the center is obviously Jesus and the one on the right is the Holy Spirit. It is interesting that some scholars have suggested that both figures point to the cup in the middle. In Holy Communion that we do on Sunday, it is Jesus who institutes with the Holy Spirit being fully present in the event of the Breaking of the Bread. We can talk a lot more about this icon but we can keep this for another time.

Here are a few things to take away as we meditate on the theme of Trinity and as we journey thru the month of June. First, it is about the relationship between the three persons of the Triune God. The church is prompted to think about the relationship between the three persons of the Triune God, our relationship to this holy God, who came to be with us in three persons and our relationship with each other. From the beginning of time, we were created for relationship with God, with each other and with the whole of creation. This is the primary reasons that we are to cherish the relationship we have with each other and, be good stewards of God’s creation.

Secondly, Trinity reminds us that we are called to be in community. The idea of community in the Christian faith is to walk alongside with others, encourage them in their low moments and help each other to fully live out the purpose for which God has made us. Finally, Trinity reminds us that we are to extend Christian hospitality. This hospitality must be radical in nature. It will mean extending hospitality to people who will look, talk, and behave different from us. This was the experience of the disciples when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples on the day of Pentecost. In Acts, Phillip meets an Ethiopian ruler, shares the Word with him and even baptizes him after he receives the good news. In another instance, Peter will visit the house of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, who becomes the first Gentile convert to the Christian faith and all happens because Peter was willing to extend this radical hospitality. This story continues and must continue even as we meditate on the role of Trinity in the life of our church.

Rev. Kamalesh Stephen

MOTHERING GOD 

All through the month of April, we celebrated the presence of the Risen Christ among us. Jesus comes thru closed doors, appears to his disciples, and offers them words of comfort in their moments of pain, guilt and ‘locked attitudes’ of their own. Few things that really stood out for me as I read the scriptures in preparation for my sermons during this season of Easter. First, nothing will prevent- fear, guilt, disappointment, anger or doubt – Jesus from coming to meet his disciples. This is the most comforting thought that is relevant today for us as disciples of Jesus, who still deal with all these emotions. We are also disappointed when things don’t pan out the way we had planned; we also fear for the countless number of reasons and finally, we also doubt His presence, promise, and power. Despite all of these, Jesus comes and declares peace then and even now.

The other aspect that I found interesting with the Risen Christ is his deep desire to extend God’s kingdom. From the empty tomb to the Mount of Olives where he ascends to be with His Father, Jesus’ one message is to “go and tell”. He tells the women in the synoptic gospels and then to Mary in John’s gospel to “go tell my brothers and Peter” that he will be waiting for them in Galilee. The most emphatic of the commissioning comes in the gospel of John – “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” As believers and followers of this Risen Christ our task is to “go and tell.” Our excuse about “not being good enough” or “strong enough” to do this task will be met with the words of Jesus “wait until you are clothed with power from on high.” God’s kingdom will march on sometimes with our sincere obedience and other times despite our reluctance.

Two special Sundays falls during the month of May – Mother’s Day and Pentecost. On Pentecost Sunday, we will be reminded of a God who cannot be tethered but is on the loose. God will break boundaries and will charter a new course for the church. The early disciples were sent to places that they did not want to go, meet people that they were reluctant to meet and that is the central message of the season of Pentecost. Pentecost is not an event, but an experience and it is given to all who wait on Him. May we with eager anticipation await the pouring of God’s spirit as we gather on Pentecost Sunday.

On Mother’s Day, we will not only honor mothers in our midst but all women with a heart and a desire to care for all people whom God will bring their way. Most importantly, on Mother’s Day, scriptures will point to a God who personifies the mothering spirit. I was pleasantly surprised as to the countless number of references in the Old Testament and the New about a God who is portrayed as a loving mother. In Deuteronomy 32:11-12 God is described as a mother eagle: “Like the eagle that stirs up its nest, and hovers over its young, God spreads wings to catch you, and carries you on pinions.” In Hosea 13:8 God described as a mother bear: “Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and tear them asunder…”. In Isaiah 49:15 God is compared to a nursing mother: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” [1] It is my prayer that you will experience the beauty of this Mothering God as you journey through the month of May.

Rev. Kamalesh Stephen

THE MIND OF CHRIST

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

– Philippians 2:5 (KJV)

Paul describes the mind Christ had from the beginning, before he came to the world, and during his life on earth. “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:6-8).

From the Beginning: Even though he was in the form of God, he never ‘thought’ or considered himself to be equal to God. It never occurred to him to steal that equality. On the contrary he willingly surrendered his divine status, degraded himself to become a much lower being – a man. Shall we develop in ourselves this Christ’s mind of, ‘not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think’ (Romans 12:3).

His Birth: Though he had the option to choose the way he would be born, God did not choose the for His only beloved son to be born in royalty to a king in a palace, but rather opted for the most ordinary or way below that! ‘And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)

His growth/childhood: He grew up ‘hearing’ and ‘asking questions’ to the elders; Luke 2:46: And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. Back in Nazareth, he subjected himself to his parents. (Luke 2:46, 51-52) and grew up in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man! Do we grow up in Christ insisting that our family, brothers and sisters in Christ, friends, coworkers, managers, or even God, listen to us, or the other way around?

Preparation for Ministry: Jesus did not rush into Ministry immediately after his baptism. He rather waited patiently for John’s powerful ministry flourish to completion, remaining in Galilee, equipping himself, recruiting his disciples and gaining their trust, (Mathew 4:12-13, 17) until John’s arrest. John 2:11: What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. Do we wait for God’s time for anything to happen, while equipping ourselves?

Ministry: He maintained His zeal for God and cleansed the temple off money changers and traders. (John 2:17). He did not succumb to the allure of being perceived as a miracle worker. “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man. (John 2:23-25). He stayed focused to fulfill his purpose on earth – both when his Sabbath healings and violating customs and traditions antagonized the Pharisees and Sadducees to kill him (John 5:16-18) and when the multitude witnessing his miracles wanted to forcibly make him their King (John 6:15), he never bulged or compromised or wavered. He never considered feeding or healing millions or extending His magnificent ministry by decades or across the globe!

Poorna Jeeva

ADVENT SEASON

There are 4 Sundays in Advent. Every year, the Sunday after Thanksgiving is observed as the first Sunday in Advent. This year, however, the first Sunday of Advent falls on the first Sunday in December. Advent simply means “coming.” For us as Christians, it reminds us of the second coming of God at the end of times. However, with every Advent we are reminded of our place between the first Advent, which came to us in the birth of Jesus and second Advent with the coming of the Lord in all His glory. Preachers, not only in this season but also, during other times speculate the coming of God with precision. They even offer us exact dates of Christ’s coming while looking at the signs that surround us. We are not called to speculate or predict but to live in faithful anticipation as if the coming will happen today. This, living in faithful anticipation for the coming of the Lord amid all our Christmas preparation and celebration, is the central message of Advent. Do we live our lives in faithful anticipation? Every scripture reading during this time will call us to live watchful lives.

I like to read the stories that surround the birth of Christ and look for details that invite us to do something or ask of God while we wait for the coming of the Messiah. Matthew and Luke are the ones that record the birth of Jesus. Matthew, like a photographer, keeps Joseph as the subject matter in all his narratives. I think we would have missed Joseph’s struggle to believe and finally accept the child to be born if not for Matthew. For Luke, Mary is the center piece and everything that Mary says and does is his way of telling the story. Both Matthew and Luke tell us about the other characters that surround the Christmas story. They (like the Magi, the soldiers, Zechariah, Mary etc.) ask thoughtful questions as they wrestle with the deep things of life. I hope you will find yourself asking the same as you go through the different seasons of your life.

On the second Sunday in Advent, we are introduced to John the Baptist who is on the banks of Jordan. He is calling people to repentance and embrace a new way of life because the Messiah has come. The crowd that comes to hear is a mixed one. Luke says that there were tax collectors, soldiers and others. After hearing the message, the crowd, the tax collectors and soldiers ask, “What should we do then?” John answers, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” (Luke 3: 10-14). So, as you begin this season of Advent ask yourself what are the amends that we will make to prepare the way of the Lord. What are the things that we will refrain from doing and what are the things that we will do more to make God’s name known to others who do not know or follow this God who came to us in Jesus.

Let me offer one more question and leave you to find the other questions that surround the birth stories of Jesus. Sometime during this season, we will also meet Zechariah, the husband of Elizabeth. Elizabeth is the cousin of Mary, who is somewhat older and the only one who understands the struggles of Mary, who conceives out of wedlock. This is a serious crime but Elizabeth shows “radical hospitality.” Zechariah and Elizabeth are old, and the scripture says that they were way beyond the “childbearing” age. Given all of this, God thru the angel Gabriel offers this hopeful message: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. (Luke 1:13) In response to this message, Zechariah asks the angel this question, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” (Luke 1:18). If we are in this season of facing impossible situations and asking God questions of this nature, be assured that questions of this kind is not new to God. God knows your fearful and doubtful heart and will journey with us during this season of Advent.

It is my prayer that you will consider reading thru the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke and make note of the questions surrounding the Christmas story and make them yours. Remember, God knows your sincere wrestling, hears, and will meet us in our anxious moments thru the person who is called Emmanuel, God with us.

Rev. Kamalesh Stephen