‘Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.’ 2 Corinthians 13:11
Brothers and sisters, today we arrive at the great feast of the Holy Trinity. Before we head off in to Ordinary Time, today’s great celebration pulls together all that has gone before like a rainbow pulls together each and every colour. Christmas, Easter, the Ascension, and Pentecost are Sundays which rightly focus on, if you like, one colour, one aspect of the Faith. But on Trinity Sunday all these colours, all these events, find their unity. Christmas and Easter focus on the Son. The Ascension focuses on the Son going to the Father. And Pentecost focuses on the giving of the Holy Spirit. But today we step back and look at the whole picture, as each aspect, each colour, is seen as part of the whole.
Now the Trinity is in many ways difficult. It’s almost easier to say something wrong about the Trinity than it is to get it right (watch the humorous video I linked to in the notices to see some of the many ways of getting it wrong). As a result Trinity Sunday is known as the ‘preacher’s nightmare’. But the Trinity is SO essential to our faith that the Church rightly forces us to focus upon it at least once a year. Why is it so key? Because this feast is about WHO God is in his ‘bones’. Get God wrong and anything else you say about Christianity will be at least askew.
Ok, then, who is God? Well the Christian God has been rightly summed up as ‘Love’. ‘God is love’ says the apostle John (1 John 4:8). In our reading today, Paul writes to the Corinthians and says ‘the God of love and peace will be with you’. Notice the nuance in these statements. Not that God HAS love as one option, or as one tool He can use, but that God IS love. Only Christianity makes this claim. Other gods, other religions, may talk about their god loving certain things, but only the Christian God claims to BE love. Now stick with me, because this is crucial. If God IS love, if that is who He is in His very essence, then He must have been like this always. We talk about God loving the world; about God loving His people; about God loving the Church. But all of these things are finite. There was a time when they did not exist, when in fact nothing existed except God and thus there was nothing external to God which He could love. How can God BE love even when nothing else exists, when there is nothing else to be loved? For there to be love, there must be a lover, a beloved, and the love that exists between them. And if God is just ONE, then He has no-one to love, and thus cannot BE Love before the creation of the world. BUT, and here is the crucial point which brings us back to our celebration today: God is NOT just ONE but also THREE. There is a lover - God the Father. There is a beloved - God the Son. And there is the shared love between them - God the Spirit. And because these three persons have always existed in the Unity, there has ALWAYS been love at the centre of God. God IS love, and has always been so. As the great G.K. Chesterton put it the Trinity is just the technical way of saying ‘God is Love’.
Now what difference does knowing this make to our lives? All the difference in the world. This is who God is, and thus why He saves us (because He loves us) and why He sends us out to tell others (because He loves them), and why He calls on us to love the least, and the worst, and everyone in between (because God loves us all). Therefore, if we are to call ourselves Christians then we must be people of love. And the only way we can properly love God and love others is if we let Him send His love into our hearts, which is the gift of the Holy Spirit, which we celebrated last week. Get God wrong and our discipleship goes wrong. Conceive of God as having love merely as one option among many, and the result is that His followers have love merely as one option among many. But if God IS love - if God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who have always existed in a loving Trinity - then our discipleship, our witness is simple, even if it is not easy. God IS love. And so WE are to love. First Him, and then our neighbours. That is why the Trinity matters. And that is why we must never be afraid to confess that God is One and God is Three. This week let us follow our God by loving those around us, ‘and the God of love and peace will be with [us]’. Amen. (from Rev. Mike)