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Holy Trinity A Sermon
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
June
7, 2020

 

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May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father be with us in the name of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.

My message today is based on our second reading for Holy Trinity Sunday this year – it is a quick one from 2nd Corinthians, so I will read it to you once again: Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. I am sure that these concluding words to Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians have been assigned today because all three persons of the Trinity are mentioned as Paul gives a farewell blessing. You may recognize it if you have worshiped in a Lutheran, Episcopal, Roman Catholic, or other mainline denominational church that includes what we call the Apostolic Greeting. I already shared it with you this morning, just after our opening hymn. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion or fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. And of course, like good Lutherans you instinctively answered, “And also with you!” We know it; we like it. It signals for us the blessing of the presence of God in our gathering. We may not understand everything about how God shares grace, love, and fellowship, but by faith and by repetition, it has become part of our entire beings. We belong to God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

There are a couple of other things that Paul encourages all who read or hear his letter - including us – to do. One of which we have to say, “No, Paul … that just won’t work for us right now.” That is to greet each other with a holy kiss. A wave, a virtual hug, even an elbow bump if we are outside and have really long arms is okay, but right now the hugs and kisses that we share as members of the Christian family are out. And for many people who like to keep distance between them and their neighbors, this has been a welcome excuse to stay away from people!!
It is the other thing that Paul instructs us to do in the name of the triune God that we should take to heart. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace and the God of peace will be with you. It seems to me that in his farewell to the Corinthian church, Paul is encouraging us to recognize that however each “person of the trinity” is identified with whatever attribute we give them – grace, love, fellowship, creator, redeemer, sustainer – our God is a God of peace. The entire essence of God is one of peace, whether the task should be creating the world and all life in it, sacrificing of himself so that love wins over hatred, strengthening and encouraging God’s people as the church. Whatever, peace is the ultimate essence of the triune God to whom we all belong.

The kinship of God in these three persons is based on their one-ness. I think that is why we Christian people in the 21st century have such a hard time accepting, let alone understanding, the Trinity. We have no concept of being so close, so intimate with someone else that we give up our own autonomy and exist as one with them. God has done that, and we see in God’s essence the call to belong to someone or something bigger than we ourselves. Kinship is how we might describe that belonging. Kinship is not only the call to serve each other; it is the reality that we are created to be one with each other, and to share a mutual belonging. Jesus, as one with the Father and Holy Spirit, was not sent to earth to do things FOR humanity; Jesus becomes one with a humanity, and that makes a huge difference in our calling to live as disciples of the triune God. It is as much about being with our sisters and brothers as it is doing acts of kindness and love for each other.

Mother Teresa once said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” As I look around our nation and our world today, I grieve the fact that all of us – including myself – have forgotten that we all belong to each other. All people created by the love of God, saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, and sustained by the fellowship of the Holy Spirit belong to each other. Paul often stated it by saying that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free. As we consider who it is that we share kinship with today, these titles don’t really have the impact they once did. Sometimes we quote the song, “Everything is Beautiful,” which begins, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world – red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in God’s sight; Jesus loves the little children of the world!!” I have seen pictures and videos of children of all races, religions and backgrounds who have this childlike sense of belonging to each other, and out of that kinship they are hugging, holding hands and simply being with each other. They have not yet been taught the sinfulness of being broken away from people who may be different from us because of the color of their skin, the clothes that they wear, how they worship, how they dress, who they love, or other boundaries that we adults have placed between us and those to whom we belong. If only instead of striving to understand through thought or reason the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, we admired how the persons of God belong to each other in such a way that we can only describe them as a God of peace, then we could begin to celebrate the fact that each of us belong to this triune God of Peace intimately too. Each of us … not just me, but the person I see speaking in a crowd of protestors or the officer in uniform or the mayor or the president or the neighbor … the list goes on. Rather than claiming that as Christians we are called to serve those who are poor or disadvantaged or who suffer because of the systems that are set up that help some people live in peace more than other people, we must see in this triune God of peace the one who has called us to belong to all people, especially those who are poor, disadvantaged, or suffering because of systematic injustice.

In 1998, a Jesuit priest named Gregory Boyle was so moved by the heartache of the people in the parish that he served in Los Angeles that he began a community called, “Homeboy Industries.” Their mission is to assist individuals and families affected by the cycle of poverty, drugs, gangs, and incarceration. Along with many homeboys – and homegirls – Gregory believes that the healing process can only happen when we are in relationship with one another. We belong to each other just as closely as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit belong to each other. That belonging – call it kinship or relationship, whatever you want – is grounded in an openness to hear each other’s stories, and to share the peace of the triune God with each other. As we watch or participate in the demonstrations in our communities, that is the most important thing. I truly believe that things began to be more peaceful this past week when people started listening to each other, both police and demonstrators, and I pray that we keep listening to everyone because we belong to each other. That is how peace is experienced.

Finally, I want to venture into some uncomfortable territory for me and close with a comment about a movement that I have personally appreciated, but have not spoken publicly about. That is the Black Lives Matter movement. Recently I see a lot of people trying to explain where this is coming from, and why it is so important to our African American brothers and sisters. A natural response for us white folks is to say, “Well, all lives matter!” I have read illustrations and anecdotes about the relationship between these two philosophies, some have been very helpful. I want to share my own way to connect with it. It has to do with belonging and listening.

I have been guilty at times, especially with my own family or close friends, of laughing off someone’s complaints with a little four-word phrase, “Welcome to my world!” “Man, my kids are challenging me” … oh yeah, well, welcome to my world!” “My joints are really aching today!” “Welcome to my world!” I have come to realize that this response, while it may have started out as a way to connect with what a person is experiencing, has the effect of turning the whole situation back to being about me … not about you and what you are experiencing. It tells the other person, “I am too concerned about my own problems to listen to yours.” When we respond to someone saying Black Lives Matter with “All lives matter,” it is like saying, “Oh yeah, well welcome to my world.”

Belonging to a triune God of peace means belonging to each other, every child of God! Worshiping this God begins and ends with Paul’s call to live in peace. To share the kinship that is ours in Jesus Christ. To strive to understand the pains that the other person suffers. And to do whatever we can to identify with all people, so that they can truly believe that to us, their life matters. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; Amen.