“I Can’t Breathe” – A Trinity Sunday Sermon On Matthew 28:16-20

Trinity Sunday – Matthew 28:16-20

I can't breathe, George Floyd, Baptismal Vows

“I can’t breathe.” 

“I can’t breathe.” 

I never imagined I would begin today’s sermon with those words. When I was planning for us to come back together I thought to myself, Trinity Sunday is the perfect day to resume in-person worship. It’s about relationships, communion, and shared life. It’s about unity in diversity, and overflowing love that cannot be contained. 

That’s how I’ve experienced our life together here at St. Philip’s. That’s a part of why it’s been so difficult to be apart the last twelve weeks. I’ve missed you, I’ve prayed for you, and I’ve loved you from afar. Today masks can cover your faces but they can’t cover your beauty. And I have to say, I am so happy to see you and it feels so good to be with you.

But I also have to say again, “I can’t breathe.” 

I don’t know how else to begin this sermon. Those words have haunted me the last two weeks. They are the antithesis of a trinitarian life and everything we will do today.

I don’t know and never will know what it’s like to have the knee of a police officer against my neck, but I still can’t breathe. 

The last two weeks have left so many in our country filled with anger, grief, and despair. And I’m one of them. I feel powerless and afraid. I don’t know who to trust. I’m overwhelmed by the violence of looters, vandals, and our government. I’m heartbroken over our self-centered politics. And I am painfully aware of my white male privilege. I cry every time I see the video or pictures of George Floyd. And I cried again this past weekend when I saw a video of police officers kneeling before protesters, and another one of police officers and protesters dancing together in the street. I’ve never thought of myself as a protester but this past Thursday evening I went to my first protest. I stood on the sidewalk of downtown Uvalde holding a sign that said, “Respect the dignity of every human being. Black Lives Matter.” And I was scared. 

That’s why I can’t breathe. Those are the things that have stolen my breath the last two weeks. 

What about you? What have the last two weeks been like for you? What have they brought up in you?

I want to be able to breathe again. I want you to be able to breathe. I want the George Floyds of the world to be able to breathe. I want us to breathe faith, hope, and love. I want us to breathe repentance, forgiveness, and healing. I want us to breathe compassion, justice, and peace. Don’t you? Don’t you want those things for yourself, for your kids and grandchildren, for the people of our country, for the world? 

That’s what Jesus is talking about when he says, “Go therefore and make disciples.” Those are the qualities we are to teach and into which we are to immerse and baptize the people of the world. And that discipling, teaching, and immersing begin with our own lives. That’s why in a few minutes we will renew our baptismal vows and immediately afterwards confess our sins.    

Let’s not back off or turn away from what has happened or what is going on within us. The trinitarian life of God is calling you and me, our country, and our world to something new and different. 

“And remember,” Jesus tells us, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” What words could be better, more needed, more relevant for today than those?

Who isn’t looking for some reassurance, comfort, and encouragement these days? I want to hear Jesus’ words again and again. I think we all do. So let me remind you of what he says.

  • “I am with you always” because “God so loved the world.” (John 3:16) “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.” No one gets left out or excluded. 
  • “Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) “I am with you always.”
  • “Remember, I am with you always” and “I will not leave you as orphans.” (John 14:18)
  • “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11), “I am the resurrection,” (John 11:25), “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), and “I am with you always.”
  • “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:27) “Remember, I am with you always.”
  • “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these.” (John 14:12) “And remember, I am with you always.”

“I am with you always.” Those are the words I want to hear. I want to hang on to those words. I want to be enveloped and held by those words. Don’t you? But I also wonder if there is more to those words than only reassurance, comfort, and encouragement. I wonder if there might not also be some challenge in what Jesus says, and an invitation to look at ourselves. I wonder if there are some things we need to hear even if, especially if, we don’t want to. 

Listen to what else Jesus says. 

  • “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.’” (Mark 7:6) “And remember, I am with you always.”
  • “I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’” (Matthew 5:44) “And remember, I am with you always.”
  • “I am with you always,” but “no one can serve two masters; for [you] will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:24)
  • “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. (Matthew 7:12) “And remember, I am with you always.”
  • “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) and “in everything do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Matthew 7:12) “I am with you always.”
  • “I am with you always” but “woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:27-28)
  • “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” (Luke 6:41) “Remember, I am with you always.”

Jesus promises to be with us always. That’s not necessarily a promise to always be on our side. Sometimes we need to make a move to something new and different. This is our time. This is America’s time. This is the Church’s time. This is your time and my time. 

That Jesus is with us always has never been in question. The only question is this: Are we with him? Are you with him? Am I with him?

That’s a question we must each answer for ourselves. But before you answer that question I want you to do something. 

Take a long deep breath.

16 thoughts on ““I Can’t Breathe” – A Trinity Sunday Sermon On Matthew 28:16-20

  1. Mike, I don’t have the words to let you understand how powerful your homily was today for me. I feel like I am still sort of gasping for breath. The Holy Spirit was your voice and in your body. It must have left you shaken.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dr. Leath, your words ring true for me. I can’t say that I wasn’t a bit fearful about preaching this sermon – not to the congregation but to myself. Thank you for your encouragement.

      God’s peace be with you,
      Mike+

      Like

  2. Power homily. This is the time when we can act and do something about the injustice in this world. Thank you for your strong words and may God continue to bless you. He IS with us always.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mike,
    Wow. Amen. I felt the Holy spirit moving through your words in this Homily. You managed to take a very politically charged subject and find a sacred space for everyone to simply stop and ponder….find God again…. and breathe. Thank you for your work.
    Jeff

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you, Mike. I’ve posted this to my FB page and noted that I wept, reading this, just as I have so often wept these past couple of weeks as I watch the news! Certainly the Holy Spirit swept through you with these words you spoke to your congregation and have shared with us! I’ve just posted, also this morning, the sermon my long-time friend Bishop J. Scott Barker (Dio. of Nebr.) preached yesterday at the Consecration of (his former Dean of the Cathedral in Omaha) Craig Loya as Bishop of the Diocese of Minnesota. What a time to move to Minneapolis–right?–and to be consecrated bishop of that diocese at this time! “Sometimes, it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble…” and this is one of those times, when I consider my own life as a professed Christian, and SEE and KNOW that MY ACTIONS MUST REFLECT MY BELIEFS AND WORDS. Thank you for your words and witness–which speak to my heart and mind. May God continue to give you the grace and strength to do the work you do! Love to you, Ann

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sr. Ann, it’s good to hear from you, and I hope you all are we. I so appreciate your support and encouragement. Weep, tremble, and act. You’ve given me some touchpoint for this time, thank you.

      God’s peace be with you,
      Mike+

      Like

  5. Thank you for inspiring words that at once unsettle and comfort. On top of the pandemic and the protests, we have had some violent storms lately – especially Pentecost Sunday – in NW Montana. It really is as if God is SPEAKING – and moving us with winds of change.

    Liked by 1 person

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