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Love and the Trinity

There is a Gospel song about a preacher who goes up to the pulpit and says Love, Love, Love and then sits down. No, I’m not going to sit down. Now you are probably wondering what this has to do with Trinity Sunday. Keep in mind that the preacher repeated love three times.

The lesson from the Letter to the Romans has just reminded us of the understanding we have of God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: The Three-in-One God of official Christian doctrine. We affirm our faith each Sunday in the words of the Nicene Creed: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty; I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord; I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life.” We baptize in the name of our triune God. We invoke blessing in the same three persons of our one God every time we make the sign of the cross. But the doctrine of the Trinity never appears in the Bible. All the persons of the Trinity are alluded to in both Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. But it is only in the last words of Matthew’s Gospel that we hear “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” used together in a sort of unity. These words are found in Jesus’ resounding call to mission and evangelism, the Great Commission: “ Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. ”

Our best attempts to describe, name, quantify, or qualify God are just that: our best attempts. We know the Father as creator; as provider, teacher, and guardian. We know the Son, Jesus, as human as we are and yet as divine as the Father. We live in his stories, his parables, and his miracles. We know the Spirit, the indwelling presence of God in each of the baptized, bringer of comfort and peace, power and fire, our great Advocate for all time. We know, in part, these three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We also know that God is one.  Deuteronomy 6:4 states “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”  Jesus tells us in John 10:30 “I and the Father are one.” In Luke’s account of Jesus’ baptism we learn of that triune relationship  “And the Holy Spirit descended upon Him [Jesus] in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My [the Father’s] beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” 

In our creed we affirm that we believe in one God and then proceed to declare our belief in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Three persons, but one God. You can see why no one wants to preach on Trinity Sunday.

Perhaps it would help to approach the Trinity from a different perspective. Yes we believe God is one, but we also believe God is love. John states in 1 John 4:8

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Note here that John equates loving and knowing God as one. We’ll come back to that later. God is love. Because God is love then it follows that the Father is love, The Son is love and the Holy Spirit is love. We see and experience that love in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In the Gospel today, we read: for God (the Father) so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Jesus gives us a new commandment that we love one another as He has loved us. And how did Jesus love us? He died on the cross for us. The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of love and the first of the gifts of the Spirit is love. The three “Persons” who are God are not drawn apart by their perfect individuality, but united into one through love. God is love. And God created us in his own image, an image of love. We were created from love; we were created by love; we were created for love. And as John said if we do not know love we can not know God. As Jesus told his disciples they would be known by all people as his disciples, if they love one another.

Each of us, in baptism, has been “born from above” in order that we may witness to God’s love and share it in the world. We too have been called to give our lives, imperfect as we are, and in that act of sheer love and obedience, been made worthy to be God’s friends, his presence, as the church in a divided world.

The unique yet united persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – are joined together in an eternal relationship and community which we can only begin to grasp through Holy Scripture and our own corporate and individual experiences of God. We can’t know all of God; God is beyond our comprehension. How can we expect to explain God, explain the Divine with only human faculties? God tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, ”declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” But we do know that we, like Nicodemus in our Gospel reading this morning, are spirit with the One Spirit. We know that not only have we been born anew in this Spirit, but we have been adopted as children and heirs of the eternal Father, and are brothers and sisters of the eternal Son. God doesn’t expect as to understand or explain the Trinity, He only asks that we believe and in believing we will share in God’s community of life-giving love. God is love, the Trinity is a community of love and as the Body of Christ we are drawn into that love.

We have been commissioned to show what real love is all about, as we are filled with the presence of God’s forgiving, restoring, compelling love. All we can reply is: “Here am I. Send me.”  Loving others should be our watch, our word, and our song. It is after all what we were created for. So the preacher’s sermon – love, love, love – says it all.

As Paul prayed in 2 Corinthians may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with us all. Amen.