Sunday, June 15, 2014

Trinity Sunday, 2014: Because God is love

Lectionary: Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Canticle 13; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20
Preacher: The Rev Dr Valori Mulvey Sherer, Rector

En el nombre del Dios: Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.

Since it’s Trinity Sunday, I thought we’d go over a few heresies so we that can all be sure we are understanding God rightly. Why don’t we go alphabetically? We’ll start with Adoptionism which denied the eternal pre-existence of Christ. Then we can talk about Apollonarianism which denied the humanity of Christ, then compare that to Arianism which denied the divinity of Christ, and we’ll just make our way to Zoroastrianism which denied the co-existence of the persons of God.
It’ll be fun – and it’ll only take about 3 years!!!

The problem is, this leads us nowhere but into our own thoughts. And our thoughts just aren’t capable of understanding the mystery of God. Besides, as my favorite theoretical physicist, Fred Alan Wolfe (aka Dr. Quantum) says: “The trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery.

As Episcopalians, we choose to accept and live into the truth that God is mystery and, in the immortal words of John Lennon, we “let it be.” If you re-read today’s Collect you’ll see we that what pray for is steadfastness of faith and worship, not knowledge.

In the end, all we can know about God we know from Jesus who is the full revelation of God. What Jesus shows us is the true nature of God, which as our BCP says (849), is Love.

God is mystery. God is love.

Our Scripture from Genesis is the beginning of the story – the love story - of God and creation. It’s always exciting to me when we get to the part where God made us and gave us the gift of sharing with God in the love that took form as creation. How amazing is it to be invited to love and care for creation with God, as God’s hands, hearts, feet, and eyes in the world? That’s what being given dominion means. It’s about love, not power.

Because God is love.

In our Canticle we joined our voices with those of our ancestors in the faith who celebrated the magnificent, radiant, splendor of God. Being in the presence of God draws from us this song of praise. What a gift to be able to sing it together – as a family of faith. And we are a family of faith.

Paul affirms this in his epistle. Back then, one only greeted a member of one’s family with a kiss. Paul instructed that young, forming church in Corinth to greet one another with a “holy kiss.” This new church, these people who had once been divided by labels like Jew and Gentile, free and slave, male and female, are all family now - one family in Christ. And we all know how family is. It isn’t perfect, and we don’t always get along, but we are connected by our very DNA, our deepest reality, and so we remain steadfast in loving one another.

Because God, who is love, loved us first.

Our Gospel reading from Matthew contains what is called “The Great Commission.” Now, we’re post-Easter in our liturgical calendar, but this isn’t the order in the gospel. In this portion of the gospel of Matthew, the disciples are gathering together for the first time after the crucifixion and they have obeyed Jesus’ command to them to go to Galillee where they will see him. Their expectations for salvation (as they understood it) have been obliterated. Their hope is gone and they’re afraid for their lives.

Jesus appears to them and assures them with the most amazing words: He says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” This is about power. The disciples need to be in the presence of that power right now. They need to feel empowered in their faith. They need to know they are safe. But this power, the power of God, is the power of love. It’s the power of reconciling, uniting, healing love.

Let’s think about this for a moment, from the disciples’ point of view. Things have gotten pretty bizarre. The Messiah, who shows by great signs and wonders his presence on earth, has been killed. Now he standing there with them, and he isn’t dead anymore. Nothing makes sense. They can’t think their way through this.

Then, just as God shared dominion with humankind in the Genesis story, Jesus shares divine authority with them in this gospel, commissioning them to: “Go… and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

To do something “in the name of” someone, in this culture, meant to do it ‘in the possession of…’ them, ‘in the protection of…’ them. So Jesus says, Go on out there and do as I’ve commanded. Tell everyone the Good News you know. It’s OK. You’re mine. I’m with you. You’re safe. I’m protecting you.

Does that mean they come to no harm? No. But it meant what Julian of Norwich said, “All shall be well. All manner of thing shall be well.”

Like those first disciples, we too are bearers of this commission. So when we go out to make disciples, to teach others to listen and do as Christ commands, we are teaching them to love. We are not sent out to coerce obedience to a bunch of rules or to a particular understanding of God. And it is not our job to separate out from the family anyone for any reason. We are sent out to love as Jesus loved and invite into the family those who think they are unworthy or unclean or unlovable.

Because God is love.

Most of you know that Steve and I went to Texas recently to visit with his brother who had a stroke about five years ago and is incapacitated. Jackie, Steve’s brother was a pilot in Viet Nam. He was a pilot in the Air Force. When he left the Air Force he was a pilot for a commercial airline. And just as he retired, he had this stroke. It left him unable to do anything. He can’t swallow so he can’t eat and he can’t talk.

I want to read to you one little bit from my prayer journal which I wrote after we got home. I should tell you, this happened about five years ago, and about three years ago his wife, my sister-in-law, Tara, said to me, ‘This stroke saved my marriage.’ She said, ‘When he retired and we were together all of the time, we realized how far apart we’d grown.’ This stroke saved my marriage. Think of how impossible that sounds.

Here’s what I wrote when I got back: “It was a beautiful thing watching Tara and (my nephews) care for Jack. I witnessed a love that would have been impossible outside of Jack’s stroke. Given his former powerfulness and authority (military and career) his total helplessness unleashed a love that was so pure and beautiful in their living it out.”

How impossible was that, but true? It was their witness to us.

In her book, “Called to Question” Roman Catholic nun, Sr. Joan Chittister says, “We are steeped in God, but it takes so long to realize that the God we make in our own image is too small a God on which to waste our lives. God is the energy of the universe, the light in every soul, the eternal kaleidoscope of possibility that surrounds us in nature. The face of God is imprinted on the face of every one we see.” (232)

Because God, who is love, calls us to go out there and love one another as God loves us. Not so that we can grow our church, but so that we can grow the kingdom of God on earth. And everyone God leads into our lives, every circumstance we confront in our lives, brings us a glimpse of God, and is a gift – even the frustrating people, the cruel, and destructive ones. Even those circumstances like a stroke that incapacitates us. Everything and everyone is a glimpse of God and a gift for our journey.

While understanding the mystery of God who is Trinity in Unity, may be impossible for us, and the love God calls us to love into the world what may seem to us impossible love, there is one thing of which we can be certain: God is love. And God is with us always, to the end of the age. As our Mother Mary says, “all things are possible with God.” Amen.

No comments: