Sermon: Trinity Sunday RCL A

The podcast is available here.

“If love is the answer, could you please rephrase the question?” — Lily Tomlin

“I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury.” — Groucho Marx

“Marriage has no guarantees. If that’s what you’re looking for, go live with a car battery.” — Erma Bombeck

“Before you marry a person, you should first make them use a computer with slow Internet service to see who they really are.” — Will Ferrell

Finally, my friend, Henry Miller, writes, “The one thing we can never get enough of is love. And the one thing we never give enough of is love.”

And everyone replies, “Lord, he’s talking about love again.” Yes. Yes, I am, but you have to admit, Jesus was pretty big on it. So were the Apostles and it was Paul that gave us the big speech on it (You all know it): “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.” But why the topic of ‘love’ on Trinity Sunday. Well, have you ever wondered why the Godhead is a Trinity? Why there are three instead of one, two, four or more? The answer, at least as I have come to understand it, is because of love. What brought about this understanding? When I was in seminary, I wrote a paper on De Trinitate by Richard of St. Victor (he died in 1173) in which Richard puts forth his ‘theory’ — and theory is the best we can say when it comes to the Trinity — and it begins with that statement in St. John’s first epistle, “God is love.”

God is love and the love of God is perfect and unchanging. However, in order for love to be perfect, it must be expressed, otherwise it becomes self-absorbed. Yet, in order for God’s perfect love to be expressed, there must be one who can not only receive that perfect love, but also return it. So, God the Father gives and receives perfect love from God the Son. Richard then goes onto explain that the perfect love of the Father and the Son, must also be shared with another, but that since it is perfect love, that other must be of the same divine nature as the Father and the Son, thus the Holy Spirit. This is where I probably fall into heresy, but it is a way to think about it: boy meets girl, boy and girl fall mutually in love with one another. Boy marries girl and they have a child, who is an expression of their love and also one with whom they may share their love, and who loves them in return.

In a similar, but perfect way, the Father and the Son have perfect love and find joy in sharing it with the Holy Spirit, and it is this perfect love that necessitates the Trinity of Persons and binds them together. Clear as mud? Good. Don’t worry if it makes no sense how the Trinity operates. Salvation is not dependent upon that knowledge, besides, the main question for us is: how do we fit in? If the three of them are having this perfect love, how can we, who are imperfect, participate in their existence? This we celebrated last Sunday on the Day of Pentecost.

Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. …Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them…. Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” Did you hear that? “… and we will come to them…” and make our home. The Father will send the Holy Spirit and in doing “we” — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — will make their home in us. And what must we do to receive them? Jesus provides a very concise explanation: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Everything that God has ever commanded — from don’t eat the fruit to the most obscure of the 613 Mosaic Laws — and everything that the prophets ever spoke about God, is summarized in those two commandments: love God. Love neighbor. We participate in the Holy Trinity by loving God and loving neighbor.

It began with love in the existence of the Holy Trinity and it ends with that same perfect love working in us. Yes, that same perfect love is within us, but…

Perhaps the science is outdated, I’m not sure, but the idea is good. George Stephenson, he died in 1848, was a British civil engineer and is considered to be the “Father of Railways.” One day, he and several others were watching a train billowing smoke and steam as it came down the tracks. Stephenson asked one of his companions if he knew what powered the train. There were a few good answers, but then Stephenson said, “What do you say to the light of the sun?” Implying that sunlight powered the train. His companions said that it couldn’t be. Stephenson explained: “It is light bottled up in the earth for tens of thousand so years, light absorbed by plants and vegetables being necessary for condensation of carbon during the process of their growth, if it be not carbon in another form; and now, after being buried in the earth for long ages in fields of coal, that latent light is again brought forth, and liberated,—made to work, as in that locomotive, for great human purposes.”

We have latent, that is, hidden light, concealed love within us. It is the perfect love of the Holy Trinity, bottle up as it were, and ready to be consumed and fulfilled in the great purposes of God, but… but… unlike the coal that is thrown into the fire, we — through our free will — choose not to be set aflame or to be used for the purposes we were created. We prefer to lie peacefully in the earth rather than being ‘set aflame’ and releasing this perfect love on those around us. By doing so, we allow the hate of the world to gain a foothold, which dampens the flame of hope, the burning love of the Holy Trinity.

I suppose this all comes back to what we said last week. We are here to shine. To set aflame the world around us with love of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Some might say, “That sort of thing is not for me” or “now is not a good time,” but to quote the often used paraphrase statement of Rabbi Hillel: “If not us, who? If not now, when?” What is stopping us? I’ll answer it for myself. What is stopping me from being set aflame with the perfect love of God? What is stopping me… me. I am. How would you answer?

There is the Holy Trinity, which at its very core is love and through the giving of the Holy Spirit, we have received and been incorporated into that Trinity, into that love. And just as God could not be self-absorbed by holding that love within himself, neither can we. Don’t let the hate win. Burn. Shine. Love.

Let us pray: Glory be to the Father, Who by His almighty power and love created us, making us in the image and likeness of God. Glory be to the Son, Who by His Precious Blood delivered us from hell, and opened for us the gates of heaven. Glory be to the Holy Spirit, Who has sanctified us in the sacrament of Baptism, and continues to sanctify us by the graces we receive daily from His bounty. Glory be to the Three adorable Persons of the Holy Trinity, now and forever. Amen.

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