So...here's a question for you, a deeply personal question. Can you think of a time when you really experienced love, when you really experienced being loved? Yes, it's a probing and personal question, but it's not one I dreamed up on my on. Rather, it was a question at the basis of a book that one of our best American theologians put together a few years ago. Diogenes Allen asked people far and wide about their experience of being loved and then wrote a marvelous book simply and accurately titled "Love."
My favorite entry was from a young woman who described her experience as a little girl sitting on her father's lap in a small church as her mother read the Christmas story from St. Luke's Gospel. She would listen to those familiar words, "In the year that Quirinius was governor, all the world went to be enrolled... And there were shepherds keeping watch o'er their flocks by night...And lo, an angel came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them...." It was such an experience of love, the message, her mother's voice, her father's embrace. She knew she was loved, and she knew, even more so, that her experience of earthly love in this way was a mirror of God's love for her.
Now, lest you think you have tuned in on the wrong Sunday and that this preacher is about to launch into a Christmas sermon, that's not my point in telling this story. I know it is Trinity Sunday not Christmas Eve. But I asked my initial question and iterated this story for a particular reason, because it gets to the heart of what this day, this Sunday, this reality of God as Trinity is really and truly all about. And it is this...God loves us...God loves us.
Actually, this is the basic truth of God: God's love for you and for me. It is the central and primary theme of Holy Scripture. It is the heart and soul of the Gospel itself. "For God so loved...for God so loved..."
The ancient belief of God as Trinity is most importantly a belief about the love of God-indeed, that God loves us enough to be the Creator who created the whole universe and every creature, the God who has created you and me and given us the very breath of life. It is the belief and experience that God loves us enough to be the Redeemer who has saved and redeemed the world from sin, sorrow, and separation so that we might be joined to that love forever. And...it is the belief and experience that God loves us enough to be the Spirit/Guiding God who is at work in us inspiring, strengthening, guiding, advocating, and illuminating us in our living.
So often we give the belief in God the Trinity over to academic theologians, and thank goodness there is intellectual reflection on this central reality of who God is. But this belief and experience belongs equally to poets, hymnists, artists, and storytellers. It belongs to all of us, because it describes the magnificent love that God has for us. And we are baptized into that love. We are welcomed into that love. We abide in that love in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We are held in the arms and embrace of that love with all the warmth, care, and intensity described by that young woman who was sitting on her daddy's lap and listening to her mama's voice. To say, "I believe in God Father, Son, and Spirit..." to say, "I believe in God the Creator, Jesus the Redeemer, and the Spirit of Life" is to say boldly and loudly, "I am loved...God loves me." It is to say, "God loves us. God loves this world. God loves everyone, everywhere and welcomes us all to God's own embrace."
All of this addresses central questions about being loved. When have we been loved? By whom are we loved? How do we know that we have been loved? These are some of the most essential and important questions of our life. And the good news is that we are loved...that we can know that we are loved...that we are loved by God. We rest, we remain, we abide in God's love throughout our lives and call upon that love in times of joy and sadness, exultation and challenge. Believing in God as loving Creator, Redeemer, and Spirit also reminds us that our relationships are imbued with that love, and indeed that God participates in and cares very deeply about all of our relationships. The picture and reality of God as Trinity is a sign of God as being a dynamic set of relationships in God's own self.
God is not static, and God is not disconnected. Rather God's very essence and being is dynamic and relational. And that means that God is relating to us and to the relationships of love that we experience in our own lives. Just think back to that picture of a little girl in a loving embrace and hearing a loving voice. This is a family relationship, but it is also something more. It is an experience of God's relationship with us and of God in the midst of family, personal, and human relationships.
The belief and description of God as Trinity mean something deep and profound in our own lives, and they mean something deep and profound in the life and mission of the Church. We see in God our Creator, our Redeemer and our Sanctifier the primary call and purpose of the Church to announce that love and to proclaim the welcome to that love...to everyone, everywhere, and always. This belief calls us to proclaim the love of God who creates, who redeems, and who inspires and directs human beings everywhere. This belief reminds the Church that loving relationship is both at the heart of God and at the heart of the identity and call of the Body of Christ.
In the Scripture which we have heard this day, Jesus himself articulates the call and mission given by the God who is Trinity. "Go, teach, proclaim, baptize..." They are the action oriented Trinity verbs found at the end of the Gospel according to St. Matthew. They stem from the love of God and suggest that this love is an urgent thing, propelling us to engage in the mission of proclaiming that love, of announcing it broadly and hopefully. Most of my ministry was spent in a parish that I loved dearly, a community of faith that shaped and formed me for future ministries as the dean of a seminary, church executive, and now parish pastor once again.
In that setting, I had a couple of parents telling me the story about their family's Sunday morning experience of a sermon that I had preached. They had gone home and during Sunday lunch were talking about my sermon. (something that warms the heart of a pastor to be sure.) In the midst of their conversation, the second-grade daughter sitting at the table chimed in. "Oh, Father Lemler's sermons, they're always the same. You know...blah, blah, blah,...love." Well I was amused and thought to myself, "Hey, this little girl really got it...the message, the repetition, the core, the redundancy.
And so it is with the Holy Trinity...the message, the repetition, the core, the redundancy. Over and over again..."Blah, blah, blah, love..."
God the Creator...I love you and give you life.
God the Redeemer...I love you and embrace you in that love forever.
God the Spirit...I love you and warm your heart and your soul with my love.
"Blah, blah, blah love...I welcome you to that love. I enfold you in that love. I hold you forever and ever in that love."
And for our part...we are called to believe it. We are called to proclaim it. We are called to invite people into it. We are called to embrace and be embraced by it.
Blah, blah, blah...love.... In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Let us pray.
O loving Creator, make in us something new. O loving Redeemer, save us from anything that might hold us back. O loving Spirit, blow afresh in our soul. O Trinity of Love, O God of Compassion, O Unity of New Life, be in us and be with us. Let us know how fully, how deeply, how truly, how completely we are loved by you and grant that we may show forth that love to others, for the mercy of your Holy Name. Amen.