Bearing Witness

Sermon preached at Crescent Springs Presbyterian Church on Trinity Sunday.

Romans 8:12-17

So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh– for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ–if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.


Trinity Sunday is all about math that doesn’t make sense.

If you’re me, that’s most math, but even I can usually figure out that 1 + 1 + 1 doesn’t equal 1.

But on this day, we throw everything I learned in Ms. Smiraldo’s kindergarten counting lessons out the window and declare that our God defies the laws of mathematics. That God is One and More than One. That God is a mystery neither words nor numbers can ever truly explain.

This is the day we celebrate everything that God has done, as far as we as humans can comprehend it—from creation of the stars and seas and salamanders, to the crucifixion and resurrection of a small-town Jewish rabbi, to the spirit that swirls around in our hearts and lets us know that God is not an old story but a force, living and active, breathing new life into the world even now.

This is the day we celebrate that because of God we are more than the sum of our own parts; that we have a strength and power and vision that comes directly from the source of all life, and a mission to share it with those who need it most.

The apostle Paul called that “living by the Spirit.”

You can live selfishly, for yourself and yourself alone, chained to the idea of being number one, the only one that matters—Paul would call that living according to the flesh. Or you can live fearlessly, cherishing your connections with others and with God, serving as a vessel of God’s love and mercy for others. In other words, living by the Spirit.

Those of you who are here this morning have made your choice, and I expect, continue to make it day by day, minute by minute, to live by the Spirit. To live like other lives than yours matter, like other lives are precious, like other lives show you the face of Christ. It’s beautiful to see.

Paul’s words are familiar, but I noticed a line for the first time this week, wedged right in the middle—“When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”

So often when we talk about living by the flesh and living by the Spirit we act as if the way to do that is to deny ourselves, to pretend our own lives, and gifts, and passions don’t matter. It seems appropriate to say it’s all God’s doing, and none of our own.

But I don’t think that’s what brings God joy. It sounds to me like what brings God joy is when we do bring our whole selves—our spirits, with all the gifts and quirks and uniqueness with which God made them—to the work God has called us to. When our spirits work alongside God’s Spirit. When God’s spirit can bear witness alongsideour own spirits that we are children of God.

It is then that our own math falls apart, and we’re not alone any more. It’s then that we become part of the community of the saints, all the people who ever have and ever will live who eagerly take God’s hand in all they do.

One of the great joys in my work as a pastor is that I get to see this happen. I get to see when you all live by the Spirit, when you make choices, not from fear, but from love. I get to see when you bring your spirits to worship, or Sunday school, or committee meetings, and put them to work alongside God’s spirit. I get to see you all bear witness to the Spirit working at this church, and it knocks me flat every time.

I wanted you all to see it too, so I put together a bit of a slideshow today of the work we have done alongside the triune God these past 12 months. It’s going to involve a lot of numbers (and most of the math is mine, so don’t quote me on it), and I want you to keep two things in mind when you hear them:

  1. By the flesh, the amount of what we pull off—in terms of time, energy, finances, all that stuff—is mind-boggling. We are not sitting on a goldmine of an endowment or an extensive professional staff or a hidden reserve of volunteers. This is all you guys. This is what you do with the time and energy you have to share with all the other demands on your life, and it’s beautiful. It’s incredible. These numbers tell the story of people who are dedicated and generous and whole-hearted.
  2. But even more, by the Spirit—the amount of what we pull off doesn’t even begin to cover what this church actually means. I can tell you about hours and dollars and baskets and projects and every one of you sitting here will be able to tell that that does not begin to explain what our church is. Our parts are pretty incredible, folks—and yet we are more than the sum of them. By God’s Spirit bearing witness with our spirits, we are something I can’t begin to describe, and am filled with joy to have found.

So, I’m going to ask Shannon to help me as we look back on 12 months at CSPC, and see what God has done through us here.

Click here to see the video of how the Spirit has been working at CSPC!

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