The Hope Canteen Podcast, Episode 53: “Understanding” the Holy Trinity

Icon of the Holy Trinity with the Hope Canteen Podcast logo

Can anyone really understand the Holy Trinity? Many people have fought and wrestled and argued over how to understand God through the many different ways that God is revealed in the Scriptures.

We approach this topic from two angles this week. First is the Gospel reading from John 3:1-17. Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night to try and figure out what Jesus is all about. Jesus doesn’t give a direct answer. Instead, he talks about the Holy Spirit, and God’s only Son given for the love of the world.

A Long Struggle to Articulate the Nature of God Faithfully

From there, the church through time has extended and developed its understanding of the nature of God through prayerful study in community. You may have noticed that the word trinity doesn’t actually appear in this reading, nor indeed anywhere in the Bible. Jesus just talks about God, the Son, and the Spirit, but he doesn’t say anything about how they all relate. Are they the same? Are they different? That was left for the following generations to wrestle with.

So, we must turn to how Christians have articulated the one God as three ‘persons’ in the centuries that followed. This is the reason we celebrate Trinity Sunday, the great feast of the church that takes place this week.

Knowing God More Through Understanding the Holy Trinity

Don’t make the mistake of assuming this is just a dry, dusty intellectual exercise! Indeed, the doctrine of the Trinity is the best way the Christian faith has found to capture the heart of a God who is both perfectly united and relationship-driven, willing to dive into the messiness of human existence. Paradoxically, the mystery of the Holy Trinity gives us the clearest possible picture of who God is, and who we are in relationship to God.

Please join us around the virtual table this week for this celebration of God as unity and trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Click here to listen.

The Hope Canteen Podcast, Episode 46: Doubt and Faith

Doubt and Faith in the Story of Thomas

Episode 46: John 20:19-31

In today’s podcast, we turn to John 20:19-31 and one of the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus. This story centers on one of the apostles, Thomas the Twin, who is sometimes called Doubting Thomas.

It begins a week earlier, when Jesus appears to the disciples, showing them that he is alive. However, Thomas is not present and has to hear about it from the others. When they tell him that they have seen Jesus, he says, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” Then one week later, Jesus comes again, and this time Thomas is there. Jesus does exactly as Thomas asked and shows him his hands and his side. Seeing this, Thomas exclaims, “My Lord and my God.”

This story is one of the most relevant to us today, because following Jesus means giving our lives to someone we have not met in the flesh. That the Bible addresses doubt and faith so soon after the Resurrection tells us how important this topic is.

Join us around the virtual table as we talk about what it means to believe, how doubt can lead us deeper into faith, and how Jesus empowers us to follow him.

The Hope Canteen Podcast, Episode 42: For God so Loved the World

Podcast #42: For God So Loved the World
Episode 42: John 3:14-21

In today’s podcast we are looking at a passage from the Gospel of John that contains perhaps the most famous verse in the Bible: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.

The passage flows out of a conversation between Jesus and a religious leader named Nicodemus. Our topic for the podcast today comes from this longer passage, John 3:14-21. It hangs on an important question: how to we know heavenly things? And more specifically, how do we attain to eternal life? The answer of the passage is through Jesus.

To help us understand it, the speaker points us back to a much earlier episode in Israelite history. It is a story where, centuries earlier, people were being bitten by poisonous snakes and getting sick. Moses was instructed to put an image of a snake on a pole. Then, if the Israelites looked at it, they would be healed. By referring back to this story, the Gospel of John is telling us that if we look to Jesus and believe in him, we too will be spiritually healed and receive eternal life.

Join us around the virtual table as we talk about what “God so loved the world” has to say about condemnation and love, staying close to God, and what it really means to believe.

In Search of the Good Life (Six Questions for Every Christian to Ask: Introduction)

In Search of the Good Life

Discipleship is such a churchy word. Why should we bother with it? Before I tell you why I think it is important, I want to tell you why I became a priest. This story contains what I love about discipleship.

Once upon a time, I was going to be an academic. I know that won’t surprise anyone who knows me, but the reason was that I loved the big questions of life: Who am I? What is my purpose? What does it mean to be a good person? I was in a graduate program in philosophy. My goal was to be a teacher, but for me this was less about sharing knowledge and more about being a life coach. I was after the concept of THE GOOD LIFE, a life lived well. Often the culture will give us a vision of the good life as sipping champagne, driving our Porsche, and not having to work.

But studying philosophy challenged that for me. I found that what we often call the good life is really the pleasant life. Beneath the glittering surface, it is the shallow life. Once one starts to look deeper, one finds that being so self-centered is really destructive. Philosophy’s answer is that if you want to get to your deathbed with no regrets, you need virtues and values such as responsibility and purpose; tempering the appetites; having a mission in the world, and so on. I got such joy out of pursuing these virtues that I wanted to share the good news of a life lived well. Then I met Jesus, and he changed everything. Well, sort of changed everything.

In Search of a Jesus-Shaped Good Life

My excitement and vision were still the same. I still wanted to encourage people to live deeper life, and to build their lives around higher virtues and values. But now all these virtues and values were Jesus-shaped. When I read the Gospels, I found that Jesus was doing this with the people that came to him. They heard his teachings and were profoundly impacted. As they stayed to hear more, they also started to observe how he lived, how he treated other people, how he prayed to God. They became his students, not in the sense of enrolling in a class, but in learning and imitating. They became students of wisdom and life. The fancy word for student is disciple.

When I put my first love of philosophy with my greater love of Jesus, I found that something providential happened. Jesus leads us into the true GOOD LIFE. It is also a life well-lived, but centered now on God and God’s plan for our lives. It is powered not by willpower, but by grace, and ends in a heart of love.

Living Well

This means different things to different people. But when I think of it, I often remember one of the funerals that impacted me the most. It was for a woman whom I had not met. When I started at my first parish as a new priest, she had already been sick with extreme dementia for quite some time. But I got to know her husband well. When she finally died, I led the funeral.

When her four children got up and spoke about their mom, it was the most moving testimony about a human being that I have ever heard. She had not lived publicly in the limelight. Instead, she focused on her family and volunteer work. But the love and grace she had given to her family and friends was remarkable. As I sat there, I remember thinking that if my children spoke like that about me when I died, then I would have lived well. I would have led a good life. So I prayed to God that I would be the person my children could speak about like that.

Becoming that person is not quick or easy. It is made up of small decisions and actions over the course of years, and the process is what we call discipleship. My invitation to you is also to strive to be the person that God has made you to be. Be a disciple.

Building Treasure in Heaven: A New Series on Living for What is Most Important

Reflect on what is most important in this new series on Building Treasure in Heaven from the Hope Canteen blog

Did we miss the rest of the Lessons of the 20th Century Series? Not at all! Now that your hosts are back from vacation, we will be running both series together for some variety. You can use the categories to help you navigate between them.

Our desire here at the Hope Canteen is to serve up spiritual nourishment to help you grow in your life of faith. Our spiritual life is about answering the big questions and finding ways to live with integrity in light of them. As Christians, we believe that we have found those answers in Jesus Christ. But faith is only the beginning of our journey! Jesus calls us to follow him and be disciples.

Continue reading “Building Treasure in Heaven: A New Series on Living for What is Most Important”

Faith and Belief

Call no one teacher.

— Jesus (Matthew 23:8)

God has no grandchildren.

— Evangelical saying

They don’t make you check your mind at the door.

— Anglican Saying

Christianity has gone back and forth through its history. Sometimes, it emphasizes the value of having an educated clergy teaching the faith to an often illiterate laity. At other times, it values the need for universal literacy. This includes the responsibility for all Christians to read the scriptures themselves and learn to discern God’s purposes in the world and in their lives. With the rise of near-universal levels of literacy in North America and Europe, we are well into a time of emphasizing the need for all Christians to read and discern for themselves. As the institutional forms of the mainline churches diminish in the years to come, I foresee a time of revival as Christians take ownership of their faith and live it out in creative ways in their lives and in community.

I was raised in a Christian tradition that took belief very seriously. It was a tradition that was skeptical that you were a real Christian if you didn’t hold their beliefs. Growing up, I learned that the central task leading to salvation was ensuring that you had the right beliefs. Therefore, much of my Christian training was learning the correct understanding of Justification by Faith, Atonement Theory, the ‘correct’ creation timeline, the ‘proper’ understanding of the schedule of events of the end of time, and so on. However, as I got older and found major disagreements even within my own narrow tradition, I discovered the need to go to the scriptures to see for myself, and figure out for myself what they meant.

Faith Grows with Wrestling

There were two important wisdom lessons I learned from this. First, my faith in God actually grew by leaps and bounds as I wrestled with questions. I didn’t always find answers, but I found God personally. I didn’t just learn what my parents and teachers taught me ABOUT God, but I found the living God in the wrestling. It is no accident that the word Israel means “One who wrestles with God.”

Faith Grows in Community

The second lesson I learned is that I did not grow as a Christian alone, but in community. Part of it was in the community of the church of the ages. There, I read great saints who challenged me deeply. I found both commentaries on scripture and rich daily devotional practices that opened my heart. This is the inheritance of centuries, alive in the present-day community. By having conversations, praying with people, being helped by compassionate saints, and by watching their lives, I learned and grew. I laughed, prayed and learned with hundreds of people over the years. In all of it, God spoke to me and continues to speak to me to this day. I love God in Christ so much.

Discipleship for All

As we move into a new chapter in the life of the universal church, all of us need to take a greater and greater ownership of our faith. God is doing new and amazing things bringing the Gospel of hope, mercy and love to people around the world. This is a difficult time, and God is calling us to be the church in the world, not just in our building. For that to happen, we all need to know deeply how much we are loved by God. We need to know that God calls, forgives, renews and transforms us. It is not enough for me to tell you about the love of God; you need to pray that you would know deeply that you are a child of God. And that changes everything!