Sunday, May 26, 2024
Trinity Sunday

Embracing the Love of the Trinity

The Rev Mark Wilkinson, Rector
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Katy, TX 77450

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This is Trinity Sunday and the Trinity is always something that challenges a preacher and a congregation. The Trinity is our way of trying to explain God as Christians understand God. The problem is that words are just not adequate. People have tried all sorts of analogies and metaphors and they usually start of with the Trinity is like……then fill in the blank. Some of the best examples border on heresy in part because they do make the unexplainable, well explainable.

The one thing that is for certain is that the Trinity is about love. That deep, unconditional love that God shows us and every human being that we are all his beloved children. The Wednesday theology lunch group is reading Come Forth, Fr. James Martin’s book on the story of the raising of Lazarus which only appears in the Gospel of John. This coupled with celebrating a Blessing of a Civil Marriage last Saturday night has me thinking of love in the Trinitarian sense.

On this Trinity Sunday I believe is it critical to focus on this love because that is the very definition of Trinity. However we need to define what we mean by love. People tend confuse the love that is the Trinity with human romantic love that is all Valentine’s Day infatuation. Romantic love is something that often fades. I think most of us know that romantic love changes. When I speak with a couple getting married and I don’t care how old they are, I ask them to think about this. The Greeks understood the difference and have several different words for love so people were clear about what type of love.

At the wedding we read the 1 Corinthians 13 reading. This is the famous love is patient,  love is kind, love is never boastful etc.  Now the couple was in their 70s and I think they realized that 1Corinthians in not about romantic love even though it gets read at weddings. In this passage the word for love is agape, the love of God and in a real twist Paul uses the form of love which is a noun not a verb. This isn’t action it is a way of being. This love is not easy or uncomplicated but for us earth people, it is demanding. Read that passage and insert God or Christ into all the places that the word love appears and you start to get the point.  Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.8   Love never ends.

In the book Come Forth we read the chapter about the Beloved Disciple, the one John says Jesus loved. Now there is speculation that this Beloved Disciple was actually Lazarus and not one of the Apostles and he makes a pretty good case for this. But the important thing Fr. Martin writes is to remember that we are all loved by God Christ and the Holy Spirit. We are all beloved disciples, but many people find that very challenging.

There is the famous Rublev icon that I referenced last year. The one with the three figures seated around a table that resemble the angels that came to visit Abraham but Rublev intended to stand for the Trinity. Last year I mentioned how Richard Rohr explains the symbolism, but the thing I want to remind you of is that there is a piece missing from that icon. On the table under the chalice were found remnants of glue. Art historians now believe that the original at one time had a small mirror glued to it so when we gazed at this icon we would see ourselves at the table, a part of the divine circle of love that this icon represents. An invitation to us to take our place in the divine dance of love that defines the Trinity.

So many have trouble envisioning stepping into that love, acknowledging that we are all beloved disciples called to take our place at the table, in the divine dance. Yet I find people resist this, why?

I believe that many people, and I speak from experience feel unworthy of that love. They want that love but they feel unlovable because of some sin or flaw in their being. They think well if I could just do, be, fill in the blank then I’d be worthy of God’s love. When I first joined the Episcopal Church I didn’t like the prayer of humble access because I really didn’t understand.

“We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy.”

By thy manifold and great mercies is just another way of saying that in God’s manifold and great love for us transcends any “deficiency” that we may think we have. That God always has love for us. That love just like grace is always there unearned and unmerited. God’s love is unconditional. We never need to earn it just accept it.

My wife Wendy wrote the following: “Nicodemus has the knowledge of God but has not accepted the love of God manifested in Jesus. He stands in the presence of Love and is given the choice. Does he accept the love that God is offering, or does he walk away into the darkness? At this point in the narrative, it doesn’t say. The choice to accept the love of God offered through Jesus Christ continues to be offered to each person today.  Who we become is determined by our response to Jesus’ love for us. Jesus is the manifestation, the incarnation of God’s love in the world. Each person continues to be offered the choice, to accept the love of God in their own lives or to live in the darkness of the physical reality that they can see in the world. Nicodemus could see only what his senses told him was real, he didn’t comprehend the spiritual realm, that was present before him through Jesus.”

A big difference in John’s Gospel is that the focus is on Christ more than Jesus. For John the resurrection is in many respects the second coming. John has what is called a realized eschatology. Jesus has come again and comes into our lives every day. The kingdom is here now, not some time in the future. This is a very different view than the other gospels. Christ along with all of the Trinity has always been here and will always be here.

As I said last week, the Spirit didn’t somehow begin on Pentecost but the early churches awareness and receptivity to the Spirit did certainly change on Pentecost. The Spirit is alive and active in all of us whether we are aware of it or not. I encouraged you last week to look for the action of the Spirit, the evidence of the Spirit in your life.

Nicodemus was left with a choice. After his encounter with Jesus, he can go back into the darkness or join Jesus in the light. He was a good faithful person according what he had been taught, but sometimes God breaks in and says, maybe there is more for you to learn and experience. Nicodemus was an expert on Jewish law but Jesus brings a new lens with which to examine the law. Rather than a lens of strictly following the rules, Jesus’ lens is the lens of unconditional love.  That love was standing in front of him in the form of Jesus. In this scene Nicodemus is stuck in the physical world and Jesus invites him into the spiritual to be born by the spirit not just water.

Now we really don’t know what path Nicodemus chose. He appears two more times in John’s gospel. Once arguing in front of the Sanhedrin against executing Jesus and once with Joseph of Arimathea to claim the body of Jesus for burial. He was the one who brought the spices to anoint the body before it was placed in Joseph’s tomb. I like to think that maybe he did get it. There is a gospel of Nicodemus that didn’t make it into the Bible so I think he must have been active in the post resurrection community.

What is truly important on this Trinity Sunday is not whether you understand the Trinity or not, but are you willing to accept the unconditional love the Trinity offers to you. Are you willing to step into that circle, to accept your place at the holy table. Accepting that love is far more important to your spiritual health than being able to solve the mystery of the Trinity. Step into the mystery, don’t try to figure it out. Step into, live in the mystery and accept the love God offers you.