God Is/Are Love: A Sermon on the Trinity

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Today is Trinity Sunday,
a day when, presumably,
your clergy are supposed to stand before you
and say something intelligent
about the nature of the Trinity.
(A daunting expectation, to be sure.)

To be honest, on this day most rectors
love to leave the preaching to someone else,
but alas, Mother Galen was not available!

In all seriousness, I think the reason we clergy
are timid about preaching on the Trinity
is because deep down we all know
that we do not understand it,
and that we cannot explain it.

How is it that God can be three persons—
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—
yet still one indivisible God?

To tell you the truth,
that’s a kind of metaphysical mathematics
that my heart can kind of understand,
but that my brain can’t touch with a ten-foot pole.

Perhaps the great British theologian C.S. Lewis
put it best when he said that
any person trying to comprehend the Trinity
is like a square trying to understand a cube. [1]

If you’ve lived your whole life as a flat square,
and you start trying to visualize a three-dimensional cube,
chances are never going to get it because
you are a square,
and it is a cube.

In the same way,
you are a human,
and God is a Trinity.
We’re not going to get that figured out.

So today, I cannot explain to you how it is
that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit
are three-in-one and one-in-three.
I cannot make logical sense of that,
and if I tried, I would bungle it up every time.
But here’s what I can do:
I can tell you the most important truth we learn
when we know that God is
three-in-one and
one-in-three.

That truth
(surprise, surprise)
is love.

*     *     *

The fact that we believe in the Trinity
means that we believe in a God
who is in constant relationship.

Christians believe
God the Father,
God the Son, and
God the Holy Spirit
have always existed together
in perfect harmony,
perfect union,
perfect love.

None of them try to outdo one another.
None of them supersede the others.
They are collaborative;
they are interdependent;
they are loving;
they are one.

That’s why I think
the best metaphor for the Trinity
that I’ve ever heard ofcomes from St. Augustine.
He didn’t go for three-leaf clovers.
He didn’t fool with ice/water/steam.

Instead, he merely suggested
that the Trinity—
the Father,
the Son, and
the Holy Spirit—
are best described as
the Lover,
the Beloved,
and the Love. [2]

If that is true,
then God isn’t just in relationship . . .
God is relationship.

Now let’s take that a step further.

If God himself is the true, first pattern of relationship—
if God’s very essence is to be
in harmonious love with Godself—
and if you and I are made in God’s image,
then that means
that we are built
to be in constant, loving relationship, too.

Do you understand what that means?
That means that every loving relationship
you’ve ever had in your whole life
has come from God himself.
This, I believe, is exactly what our Presiding Bishop
was saying in his captivating sermon
at the royal wedding last weekend.

Every loving relationship
you’ve ever had in your whole life
is a divine echo—a ripple effect—
of that eternal loving relationship
in which God has been engaged
since all eternity.

*     *     *

A few years ago our bishop, Scott Benhase,
wrote an article in which he asked,
“Have you ever wondered
why God created the Church
to bear his message?
If God were better organized
he would have used a satellite
to beam his message directly into everybody’s home.
We’d get the message without ever having
to leave the comfort of our lazy boy recliners.
We wouldn’t have to ever be in relationship with anyone else.
Everybody could get the same message
without ever having to be dependent on anyone else,
without having to collaborate with other people.

“But,” he says, “it’s not in God’s nature to work that way.
Instead of pristine wave particles from a satellite,
we have one another to bear God’s love to the world.
God has so ordered the Church that instead of isolated individuals,
we have to be in relationship with one another.
Instead of being self-sufficient,
we have to be dependent on one another.
Instead of being isolated operators,
we have to collaborate with one another.” [3]

In other words,
there is no such thing as a lone-ranger Christian,
because there is no such thing as a lone-ranger God.

That’s part of what it means
to be a Trinitarian.

*     *     *

Brothers and sisters, on this day,
I stand before you a stupefied and inarticulate man.
I am not smart enough to explain the holy Trinity
in all of its theological glory,
and anyone else who says he or she can
is either an idiot or a heretic.
(A well meaning idiot or heretic, perhaps,
but an idiot or heretic nonetheless.)

But here’s what I do know,
and here’s the grace for you today:

God the Father,
God the Son,
God the Holy Spirit—
by their very nature—
is/are love.

And if God is love,
then you and I
are made for love
as well.

It’s as simple as that,
and everything else
is just the details.

Amen.

 

 

[1] C.S. Lewis. “The Poison of Subjectivism.” Christian Reflections. Ed. Walter Hooper. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967. 79-80.

[2] St. Augustine. “On the Trinity.” Basic Writings of St. Augustine. Vol 2. Ed. Whitney J. Oates. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1992. 790.

[3] Benhase, Scott. Ecrozier. 26 May 2010. http://ecrozier.georgiaepiscopal.org/?p=197.