Trinity Sunday, June 7, 2020
“Where there is no love, put love in—and you will draw love out.” In this way, St. John of the Cross, the sixteenth-century Carmelite brother and spiritual teacher, counsels us to pray—and to follow Jesus. Today, I’d like to listen to his advice in light of the Holy Scriptures. And so, let’s listen to some words written in the Gospel again: “Go therefore,” Jesus says, “and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”
“Love one another as I have loved you,” he commands us in another place. That’s to say: “I have loved you completely. Go! Share my amazing love.” Doing this is central to the mission he shares with us. But it’s important to remember that our mission remains his own. We carry out the mission of Jesus in the power of the Spirit he gives us.
The Great Commission in Matthew’s Gospel reminds us of our mission as the Church. We are to baptize. We are to preach the Gospel. We are to teach all nations to obey him. We are to form disciples so rooted in his love, that we obey his teaching and his example.
Today, brothers and sisters, is Trinity Sunday. We are celebrating the Holy Mystery that gives this church our name. At its core, the doctrine of the Trinity is our way of talking about the self-giving, life-sharing God of love.
In today’s Epistle, Paul gives us one of the oldest Trinitarian formulas in the New Testament: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he says, “the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” We still use it as a final blessing at Morning and Evening Prayer.
Paul is reminding us here of the boundless love of God. He is reminding us of the grace of Jesus, who died for us sinners—and the communion of the Holy Spirit, within and beyond the Church. In this communion of love, which is a sign and a foretaste of God’s coming Kingdom, we are supposed to share God’s gifts—and to bear each other’s burdens. That’s how God makes us holy. In the words of Rowan Williams, this communion is a divinely-given set of relationships, in which we have been “gracefully entangled.”
God summons us to love all people—and to share his gifts with others. Day by day, by the gift of the Spirit, we are to become more and more Christ-like. God is always inviting us to expand
the circle of our love. To listen—to really listen and learn from each other—especially the most vulnerable among us. And to rethink who counts as our neighbor.
God is always calling us to put love in. Whatever the situation, God is calling us to put love into it, even where there is no love. Giving God’s love away never diminishes our supply. And so, when we find places where there is no love, we put love in. And then, we draw love out.
Wherever we find ourselves, we are to sow the seeds of love. In this way, we can answer the call of Jesus in our country today. In this way, we can participate in the healing work of Jesus among all nations and all people, beginning with ourselves.
In a climate rife with violence and fear, Jesus is calling us back to each other. We’ve not seen this level of unrest in our country since 1968, when Dr. King was murdered. Clearly, we have many, many divisions and unhealed wounds. And the deepest of these, I’m convinced, is the deadly sin of racism. This violent contempt for our neighbors, together with the structural inequities that flow from it, is harming us all. And it will end in a bloodbath, if we fail to learn how to love.
In our present situation, each of us is responsible for spreading God’s love in practical ways, whenever and however we can. We will be held accountable for the small corner of the vineyard which it belongs to us to tend. We will be judged by the standard of love.
Jesus calls us to love each other like he does. Sometimes, that’s very hard to do. He loves strangers and sinners. He loves those of us who deny and betray him. He loves even his enemies. On the Cross, he offers love and forgiveness to us all. He gives it even to the soldiers who are crucifying him. Jesus puts love where there is no love.
For all eternity, God is an ecstatic outpouring of love. That’s what the Trinity is all about. The Father of Jesus is neither selfish nor stingy. He is always giving his love away. And so, for all eternity, he gives all that he has to his Son—his own true image and likeness. Lavishly, the Father gives himself away, without any loss or diminishment. And together, the Father and the Son breathe out the co-equal Spirit of love, who binds them all in one (and binds us all in one—in a communion of love). The Spirit binds the Godhead together—in perfect love, perfect peace, perfect equality and justice.
But it is not enough for God to be perfect in himself. God wants to give himself away to a non-divine, covenant partner And so, God chooses to make the world and everyone in it out of love. In an excess of love, God puts his love where love is not, and we begin to be. We are supposed to be a good reflection of God’s good love. We are supposed to be his partners in the work of sharing his love.
And yet, we all know the ways we fall short. By painful, personal experience, we know the ways we hurt each other. From childhood onward, we learn to limit our love and protect ourselves. We multiply and pass on the ways we’ve been hurt. Our sin and violence metastasize like some malignant cancer.
And yet, God does not abandon us. God never abandons us to the ways of sin and death. He sends us his Son, to live and die for us. He sends us Jesus, to share our flesh and show us how to love. And Jesus continues to give and to give and to give, in spite of our denials and betrayals.
Without counting the cost, Jesus loves us as we are. But he never leaves us there. He gives us the supreme example of love. And, in the Spirit, he gives us grace and power to follow that example. Where there is no love, he puts love in. He draws out greater love—ever greater love. God is love—a bottomless wellspring of love.
And so, brothers and sisters, wherever you see no love today, put love in.
And you will draw love out.