Love’s Trinity – A Sermon for Trinity Sunday

Year B, Trinity Sunday (Romans 8:12-17, John 3:1-17)

(The Sermon may be viewed HERE beginning at 15:00 minute mark.)

In the name of the Loving, Liberating, and Life-giving Trinity – Father, Son, and  Holy Spirit – Amen

Good Morning. This Sunday is Trinity Sunday. It is the only Sunday in the church calendar that celebrates a doctrine and not a person or an event. The challenge on Trinity Sunday for any preacher is to explain the nature of the Trinity, and, even more importantly, make the doctrine of the Trinity relevant to the Christian message and to our daily lives.

Where do we begin? Whenever a question arises in Christianity as to the meaning of a passage of Scripture, a doctrine, or simply “what would Jesus do” we should always return to the most fundamental of all Christian doctrines. That is “God is Love.” During Eastertide this year, the epistle lesson was from 1 John. If you recall those readings, it seems that about every fifth word was the word “love.”

Jesus tells us that all of Scripture is based on the two-fold commandment to Love God and Love your Neighbor. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13 “If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have the faith to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” The word Paul uses for nothing comes from the understanding of Genesis 1, that God created the heavens and the earth from nothing. In other words, if I do not have Love, I am not merely wrong, but it is as if I never was created and do not exist.

Love is the very foundation of existence and the most fundamental of all Christian doctrines. As our President Bishop Michael Curry likes to say: “If it’s not about Love, it’s not about God.” For God is Love.

So, how does “Love” answer the doctrine of the Trinity, and how does Love make the Trinity relevant? The answer lies with St. Augustine. In the early 5th century, Augustine began to write down his reflections on the Trinity. As he begins his conclusions, Augustine asks his readers to suspend their inquiry of the divine and simply focus on the word “love.” Love must necessarily have three components. When I look at Amy, and say “I love you,” that love has three distinct parts.

The first part is the Subject, the Lover, and the initiator of the Love.

The second part is the Object, the Beloved, the focus of the Love, who hopefully returns the Love back to the Lover.

And the third part is the Love that flows between them. A Love that connects the Lover and the Beloved, binds them together, and envelops them.

If God is Love, then God is necessarily three – the Lover, the Beloved, and the Love that flows between them: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Three parts, one entity. When I first read of Augustine’s understanding, I pictured Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory with the cathode and anode and the electrical charge bouncing back and forth. Because God is Love, the Trinity is a necessary understanding of who God is. (hand motions) God must be the Lover, the Beloved, and the Love that flows between the two.

But how is this understanding of the Trinity relevant to the Christian message and to our daily lives?

You see, what we experience and what John will tell us in the opening to his Gospel, is that we perceive a two-storey universe. There is heaven – a place of light, life, and love. And there is our sinful fallen human existence here on earth – a place of darkness, death, and despair. The question is always how can we who are in this world be reconciled to and be made at one with God. Our readings today for Trinity Sunday, give us this answer.

Again, picture the Trinity in heaven (horizontally). The Lover, the Beloved, and the Love that binds them together. Let’s re-read John 3:16 in light of the Trinity as Love:

For the Lover so loved (that’s what lovers do) the world, that he sent his Beloved into the world so that whoever places their faith and trust in the Beloved shall have Life and have it abundantly. (Light, life, and love)

Now what happens when the Beloved comes into the world, taking upon himself our flesh and our nature (turns vertically)? The bond between the Lover and the Beloved remains. This bond now not only binds them together, but it now binds the two-storey universe together. The gap between heaven and earth has been bridged. The separation has now been erased. In the descent of the Beloved, as John says, Heaven and Earth have now been reconciled and made at-one. In the Incarnation we no longer live in a two-storey universe, but in a one-storey universe where God has become one of us. It is the Trinity that makes this reconciliation possible. The Gospel message of reconciliation and atonement depends upon the Trinity and flows from the Trinity as Love.

John’s Gospel speaks on a cosmic level, but Paul in Romans makes it personal. Paul writes using the example of inheritance or succession – Paul says that we have a spirit of adoption and thereby we are joint heirs with Christ. We are the adopted children or heirs of God. But if we put Paul’s message in the words of the Trinity then he is saying that we have a spirit of adoption and thereby we are joint-Beloveds with Christ. We are the adopted Beloved of the Love that is God.

The question of Salvation is not about where we go when we die, but where we go to have Life and have it abundantly. It is about participating in the Light, the Life, and the Love of God in Trinity. In Christ, we become the adopted Beloved of God. Therefore, we too experience that Love between the Lover and the Beloved for we too are the Beloved. That Love, the Holy Spirit, that connects, binds, and envelops the Lover and the Beloved, we too participate in. In Christ, we too are now at-one with God. The atonement through the Trinity is not simply cosmic and metaphysical, but particular and personal to each one of us.  

In Romans, Paul is making an objective statement – That we who are in Christ (baptized in his name, placed our trust in him, obey the two-fold commandment to Love God and to Love our Neighbor), we are reconciled and at-one with God through the Incarnation. Paul urges us to see that reality. In Christ, You are the Beloved of God. You participate in the Light, the Life, and the Love of the Trinity.

Last point. But, of course, the question remains as to how we see this Reality. How can we know that we too are the Beloved of God? How can we not only understand the Trinity but experience it in our lives? How can we be assured?

I grew up at a small Methodist Church in Conway where we had a minister who would issue an altar call about every Sunday – if you want to give your life to Christ or simply be prayed for, please come forward. The great beauty of the Episcopal Church and all apostolic, liturgical churches in general, is that every Sunday is an altar call.

In about ten minutes, Father John will begin the celebration of the Eucharist. The church teaches and we believe that Jesus Christ, the Beloved of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, is very real and very present in the Eucharistic prayers and the elements of bread and wine. When we participate in the Eucharist, we participate in his Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection. Listen to the prayers Fr. John will say – “In your infinite Love, you (the Father, the Lover) sent Jesus Christ (the Son, the Beloved) to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to you.” The Beloved became one of us so that we could become like him.

And, as you come forward with an empty hand to receive the very real and very present Reality of the Beloved in the bread and the wine, open your mind’s eye to see yourself, at that very moment, as the very Beloved of God as well. See yourself as the very Beloved of the Lover and experience the doctrine of the Trinity. See, Experience, and Understand the Holy Spirit, that Love between you and the Lover (the Father, the initiator of the Divine Love), move powerfully like that electric spark that jumps between the cathode and anode. As that Love of the Lover comes mightily upon you at the moment, see, experience, and understand that you too are now bound to, connected with, enveloped, enraptured, reconciled, and at-one with God in Trinity in Love, so that, as Paul writes, you too have the power to cry out – “Abba, Father.”


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