Fear and Love

Trinity Sunday
June 7th, 2020

Today’s readings are:
Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Psalm 8
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Matthew 28:16-20

If you don’t have a Bible handy, you can click here to read these lessons.

            Happy Trinity Sunday, everyone! Today is the feast of the Trinity, the three in one, the one in three, the all for one and one for all. It’s the feast of not just the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, nor just the one single God who lives and moves and has our being, but all of them together: the Trinity, that group that is not a group but a single Being; that’s not a single Being but a community of Love and Life.

            We often get lost in trying to explain the Trinity. Is God a single God? Yes. Is God revealed to us in three different persons? Yeah. Doesn’t that make God three gods? No, there’s just one God. You can go round and round all day with that.

            The thing is, the Trinity is a mystery. And not a mystery like Sherlock Holmes solves but a mystery of love. It’s the kind of mystery that we encounter in our relationships – our marriages and our friendships. It’s like the mystery in another person, that sacred mystery that we can never wrap our heads around just who a person is and what makes them tick. And it is our work as friends, spouses, human beings, and Christians to live into the mystery of another person, of Creation, and of God.

            Holy mysteries aren’t things you figure out; you live into them. So how do we live into something like the Trinity? I mean, I know kinda how to live into a friendship – you hang out, talk about things you both like, stuff like that. For a marriage, we live into one another by sharing our lives, our homes, our hopes and dreams. We give up ourselves to the other person, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, so that our lives become intertwined.

            But how do we live into the Trinity? How do we live into the beating heart of the universe, the source of all Life and Love and Hope, all Goodness and all Truth. I mean, it boggles the mind! But Jesus Christ invited us into that Life, into the Life of the Trinity. That was, really, why he came to us to begin with.

            Now, different Christians answer this call from Jesus differently. For some, it’s about the music. It’s about lifting up their hands and their voices and singing with Jesus. For some, it’s about service to others, about giving their time and their hope to help the poor, the suffering, the outcast. For others, it’s about the Sacraments, about aligning our lives with these mysterious gifts from God, and especially through Communion. But whatever the case, whether you got your hands up in the air or your knees bent down, it’s about community. It’s about entering into community with one another and community with the Trinity, who is a community of Love, the Father’s love for the Son, the Son’s love for the Father, and the Holy Spirit breathed out between them in love.

            For us Episcopalians, that community is based on a few things, but one important foundation is our Baptismal Covenant. You might remember this from the baptisms we had last year. And we say it every now and again throughout the church year to remind ourselves what we promised when we became adult Christians and Episcopalians. And during those baptisms, we promised to raise Cooper and Fiona, as a community, into those promises, until they can make those promises themselves as adult members of the faith. And this covenant, it forms our community, directs our community, and all of it to the service and love of God, who is the perfect community, three in one and one in three. That community is the basis of our lives as Christians.

            But there is something that can break that community apart, and it is fear. The Bible warns us about this fear all the time. Jesus tells his disciples often, and through them he tells us, do not be afraid. When angels come to Mary, or to the shepherds on Christmas, or to the women at the tomb, they’re always saying, “do not be afraid.” And they do this because they know how fear can break things apart. It can break apart communities, and it can break apart relationships. It can make us feel like God is miles, miles away. Fear makes us alone.

            There is a lot of fear around nowadays. I can’t read the news without hearing about fear, and that fear leading to violence and hatred. And that fear is close to home. Just this past week, there were rumors that protesters were coming to Coquille, and many of our neighbors came out to counter protest. Some brought their guns. And these acts caused even more fear, fear of seeing armored cars and assault rifles on our peaceful streets. And all these fears risk breaking our community apart.

            But it is our job as Christians (and, I think, our job as human beings) to see past fear. What is at the heart of these fears? For those who came to counter protest, beneath their fear of others was a love for Coquille and a desire to protect their town. And those who were afraid of seeing our city armed to the teeth because of a rumor, beneath that fear is also love for our town, a love of little old Coquille, where we don’t have to lock our doors and where we can stop to talk to our neighbors even if we don’t know them.

            What unites us is our love for Coquille, our town, our home. And even deeper than that, we’re united by our shared humanity; and even deeper than that, what unites all us humans, regardless of creed or color or whatever, is that God loves us, each of us, and loves us so much that he came down to be with us just to tell us he loves us. And to bring us all – all of us – to our true home. And love for that home should help us see through fear to the humanity in others.

            But if we continue to look with eyes of fear, or to act through fear, that community is broken. A community – be it a town or a church or a country or the whole human race – a community cannot live if it is afraid of each other. It will break. It will fall apart.

            Se what do we do with our fear? Pick up a gun and head to the streets? No, Peter tried to use a sword, but Jesus stopped him. Violence solves nothing. Arming ourselves is nothing to be proud of.

            So, then, should we go and gather flower petals and toss them at those who are angry and afraid, because peace and love and all that? No, that’s just a stunt. It doesn’t actually see the other person. No, we are to see the fear of others, and our own fear, and ask, “What is beneath that fear?” What do you love so much, what pain do you have, that makes you so afraid? Or that makes you so angry? And when we ask this question of others, we should be ready to listen. And the next question on our lips should be: what can I do to help so that you aren’t afraid anymore?

            In our Baptismal Covenant, which we’ll say together in just a few short minutes, there are two questions. They are: Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbors as yourself? and Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? These questions, and our answer that “I will, with God’s help,” they’re at the heart of our faith as Christians and as Episcopalians. And they’re at the heart of how we are to live in this world as followers of Christ.

            So will you? Will you put down your fear and see the humanity in the other person? Will you put down your fear, your weapons of words or bullets, and see to and live into the dignity of the other person? Will you live as Christ asked us to and follow the two great commandments: to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your spirit, and with all your mind; and to love your neighbor as yourself. For in these two commandments is the gate to true community. And it is the gate to eternal life.

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