A world that builds walls, a God that builds bridges

Spoiler alert: I’m preaching on May 18, Trinity Sunday, at Good Samaritan Episcopal Church. and this post is a preview of my sermon-in formation.

A couple of weeks ago The Rev. Chris Chase preached about Ascension and referenced a commercial for iPods. It features dancing figures with the iconic white headphone cord and a song by the Ting Tings “Shut up and let me go.”

Far be it for a visiting preacher to critique the rector’s sermon…but I do have some serious qualms with this ad. (In Chris’ defense, he was referencing the images of dancing, rather than the lyric.) This sentiment, “Shut up and let me go,” repeated over and over again in the ad, is becoming a central sentiment of our culture. “Shut up and let me go.” The message is conveyed on campus every day by those white iPod headphones worn as students walk around in public spaces. They say, “I am busy and I can’t hear you: Don’t Bother me.” Those white cords function as a wall.

I confess, I LOVE my iPod, and I have used the headphones on bad days to quiet the noise of people I don’t want to hear, my parents or siblings on long trips. My most frequent use of headphones happens on airplanes where I resonate with Anne Lammott when she says, ” My idea of everything running smoothly on an airplane is that A) I not die in a slow motion fiery crash, and that B) none of the other passengers try to talk to me. I use my white iPod headphones to shut people out: “Shut up and let me go.” This is something we say over and over again in our culture, with gated communities and a wall between San Diego and Tijuana. “Shut up and let me go.”

This however is completely antithetical to what we learn about God as Trinity. The Orthodox Christians talk about God’s inter-penetration, God’s three-in-one-ness, as a dance. The one-ness of God is the dancing, the RELATIONSHIP. In the Gospel for Trinity Sunday, Jesus uses the standard formulation of the Trinity “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Another rendering of Trinity that goes all the way back to Augustine, speaks of the Trinity as “Lover, Beloved, and Love Itself.” God bridges the gap of difference: God’s very one-ness is a RELATIONSHIP.

Here is the scary part. In the face of that world that says, “shut up and let me go” God is inviting us, God is inviting you, here, this morning, into relationship. You see the relationship of the Trinity wasn’t enough for God. It isn’t by coincidence that we also hear the creation story this morning. From the beginning, God has desired relationship. We are created out of God’s desire for relationship. The dance of the Trinity, the community of the Lover, the Beloved, and Love itself results in SO MUCH LOVE, that it cannot be contained and spills out into humanity, into creation. God creates our world, God comes among us in Jesus, and God comes as Holy Spirit to never be apart from us. The God who is Relationship, reaches out, bridges out, for relationship with us.

And it doesn’t stop there. 1 John 4:11 “Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.” God calls us into relationship with one another. Again in the Gospel, Jesus calls his followers into relationship with “all nations.” God calls us to build bridges.

And yet we throw up walls. The same society that teaches us to put on our iPod headphones, builds fences to exclude our neighbor, causes us to fear others and shut them out because of differences of race, of gender, of political party, of religion, of orientation. We live in a world that excludes and builds walls. We have a God builds bridges.

This Church is working with God to build bridges. By inviting a group of students from UCSD into this space to worship, by naming campus as a mission priority for this parish, you are bridging a barrier that has separated you from your neighbors. By inviting Roman Catholics to share your space, you are bridging religious divides.

And you helped to send a group of students to El Salvador crossing barriers of class, race, and nationality. There they built a bridge. Literally, they built a bridge. There is now a bridge to a community called “El Carmen,” a community which during the rainy season was often cut off by flood waters from food and health care. Children often missed school. Now there is a bridge. You can see a picture of it.

God wants us to build bridges. Over Spring Break, with your help, we got to take God literally. Where in your life is God calling you to build bridges?

Our God reaches out beyond the self. Our God demands that we take off our headphones, we cross over the walls that our world creates to separate us from one another. We need one another. If we are to be whole people, we cannot go it alone. That is the take home of this sermon friends. We live in a deeply troubled world. The economy, the price of oil, the price of food, terrorism, war, racism, sexism, poverty, depression, anxiety, none of these things can be solved by saying, “Shut up and let me go.” We need each other. We need God, and God needs us to build bridges.

Published by Mike Angell

The Rev. Mike Angell is rector of The Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion in St. Louis.

One thought on “A world that builds walls, a God that builds bridges

  1. Hey Mike, I just stumbled upon your blog here. I really needed to read this post, right now. Thank you for sharing.

    Hope you are well. You are always an inspiration!

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