Sunday, May 27, 2018

Trinity Sunday

Readings for Today.

Listen to the Sermon.

On Wednesday this last week, my husband Julien and I were marvelling at the fact that Michael Curry’s sermon at the Royal Wedding last Saturday was still at the top of the news cycle.  In the past couple of weeks, other religious items have made national and international news, like the two black women who were elected bishops in the US Lutheran Church last month, or that the new Bishop of London (who happens to be a woman) is now a senior member of the House of Lords.  None of those news items lasted more than about 24 hours in the news cycle.

What is being called the “Power of Love” sermon [1] had another news story yesterday!  There is something powerful about the message of God’s love.

I would not dare to try to out-preach Michael Curry on this subject, but I may riff off him a little because our lessons today are all about love.

Yes, I know it’s Trinity Sunday.  The Trinity, the idea that our One God is known to us in Three Persons, three dimensions, is a core doctrine of Trinitarian Christianity.  The doctrine has a fascinating history, filled with armed showdowns among 4th century theologians - who knew theology could get so exciting?!  And in trying to explain the actual doctrine, thousands of preachers are committing heresy from the pulpit today by attempting to simplify God’s-own complex and dynamic relationship so our human brains can comprehend it.  

So let’s just talk about love.  Clearly, it’s something we and our world need to hear and think and talk about some more.  It is the best good news we have to share!

Let’s start with John 3:16:  For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.  Yes, this verse is over-cited and used as a theological battering ram. However, it’s incomplete without the next verse: Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him (John 3:17).

God loves us - not in judgment or anger or condemnation, but with love that redeems and saves us.  The word John uses for love in this passage is agape - the same word he uses when, 10 chapters later, Jesus is telling his disciples to love one another as he has loved them.  

The same love about which Bishop Curry quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: “We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love.  And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world, for love is the only way.”

Why do we need so much to hear about this love, again and again?  We humans have a hard time believing that we are loved, without strings or judgment.  Each of us carries within us that niggling knowledge of our anger, our violence, our unfaithfulness, our fear that we are deeply unloveable.  Sometimes those feelings seep out around the edges, and we act on them by bullying, by being sarcastic, verbally or physically abusive, overly critical toward others or ourselves.  So we can add shame and regret to the human faults we hide away.

And here comes the good news - God loves us so much that God looks beyond our human frailties and short-comings.  In Romans, Paul says “you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption” (8:15).  We do not need to be slaves to our fear that we are unloveable. That fear keeps us from accepting that we are deeply and truly loved. It binds us, like slaves, to scarcity, to self-preservation, to anger and competition.  

We have been freed from those bonds by our holy adoption.  God adopted us at our baptism - and that relationship of love can never be undone.  As an adoptive parent, I can tell you that an adoptive parent has a sense of how precious, how not-to-be-taken-for-granted that amazing relationship with your child is.  We are children of a God who loves us, who forgives us, who makes us and all creation new.

And we are children of a God who calls and empowers us, through the Spirit, to spread that news of love to the world.  Not just by the occasional Facebook post or side comment, but by actively working to resist evil, to create justice and peace in the world, and respect the dignity of every human being.

Bishop Curry used some powerful and far more elegant language to describe what that looks like:
When love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again.
When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook.
When love is the way, poverty will become history.
When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary.
When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside, to study war no more.

Every one of us is loved.  Every one of us is God’s beloved.  Every one of us can make God’s redemptive love known to the world.  And, God knows, the world needs to know and hear about God’s love.

The Reclaiming Jesus movement, of which Bishop Curry is a leader, reminds us and our national leaders that “Our faith is personal but never private, meant not only for heaven but for this earth.” [2]  Sharing the redemptive, life-changing, world-altering love of God is not someone else’s job.

God asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”  Forgiven, fed and blessed, we reply, “Here I am, send me!” (Isaiah 6:8).

Let us pray.
Enfolding God, Trinity of love, you are our source, our goal, our life: may we be born again in you, no more to live alone and unconnected, but sharing your Spirit’s breath and carried to your heart; through Jesus Christ, who lifts us up.  Amen. [3]

[1] The full text and video of Presiding Bishop Curry's sermon for the Royal Wedding can be found here:

[3] Collect for Trinity B in Prayers for an Inclusive Church by Steven Shakespeare (Church Publishing, 2009), p.61

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