In the wake of 9/11, I’d often make the trek on weekends from NYC where I was attending seminary to my dad’s place in Kinderhook, NY. We were both asking big questions about our faiths, about belonging (or not) in our church communities, about next steps when it came to these things. On Sundays, instead of going to a traditional church, we’d go to a bagel shop there in Kinderhook center, get a bagel and a coffee and just talk. These are some of my most wonderful memories of my dad who passed away last year. We’d joke and say, we’re going to “Bagel Church.”
In many ways, our society is in the same place my father and I were back in 2001-2002. When it comes to religion and spirituality, many are collectively looking for a community where they feel belonging despite questions and doubt. Maybe “bagel church” is just what we need! Anyway, think about joining us! There will be bagels, of course, great coffee, an open mic for music, poetry, readings, etc. and meaningful discussion. This will be great for especially young people!
I think of our simple creed God is Love. It is repeated twice in 1 John 4. Have you ever stopped and reflected on how radical that simple creed is?
It may be the most radical truth ever put forth.
God, the essence and source of the very universe, is not merely loving. God isn’t just akin to love. God IS Love. Every other attribute of God – just, good, creative, etc. – is wrapped up in and reliant on the reality that God is Love. God is just on the basis that God is Love. God is good on the basis that God is love. God is creative and creates on the basis that God is love. Wherever or whenever one sees selfless, unconditional love at work in creation, one sees God. And in Christ on the Cross, in one laying down his life for his disciples and forgiving his executors, we see the embodiment of this selfless, unconditional Love. It is this Love that saves, heals, makes well and whole, liberates, and will make its way to all.
Here is another earth-shaking, radical truth our tradition teaches – that God is a loving Father. This Jesus repeats over and over again. What’s more, and we often miss this, the kind of Father Jesus describes in the gospels, one who forgives again and again, who nurtures over and over, who seeks after the lost endlessly, this kind of Father is rather motherly in the traditional sense and in Jesus’ culture. The God Jesus claims is very much, a father-mother God.
So, who is God? God is Love, a Love that loves us like a loving parent loves us.
That’s that. But there is more. God is also Triune. God is Trinity.
Now, before I lose some of you, let me say the teaching of the Trinity teaches us something so profoundly beautiful, you don’t want to miss. Don’t tune me out!
And if you love that God is Love, that God is Trinity should also be pleasing. Why? Because God as Love and God as Trinity are inextricably connected truths.
How is the Trinity related to the truth of God being love? Well, if we claim God is Love, love can only be understood if it is living within a relationship. If love is just theoretical, a theory, than it isn’t really love. Love is lived-out if it is really love.
What’s more, a Love involving only one person is meaningless (unless you are Narcissus). We say we should love our selves. But self-love is not godly love, the love we are talking about. Godly love is unconditional love that relates, that reaches out, that reaches down.
This Godly love, a love that by its very nature relates and reaches out to us, begins with the Trinity, within the Trinity, in the love shared among Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit. Love begins with the love lived-out between Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit.
Have you ever considered that the Trinity is in essence defined by the love relationship between the Three? Father God, Mother Holy Spirit, and Son of God, they are not strangers to one another. They are not aloof realities. They are not three spirits passing in the night. They are akin to a family sharing a loving bond like no other.
How could there be such a bond if the three are separate, autonomous, and unrelating?
Now, the Trinity uses familial terms to point to the fact that the Trinity is marked by a relationship, by a relating to one another, by relationality. What unites the family, what defines the family relationship? Yes, that’s right. Love. Love is what unites Father, Mother Holy Spirit, and Christ the Son.
When we read in scripture and in turn repeat the three words, God is Love, that is what we mean. At the center of the Trinity, as the hub that makes the holy family of Father, Mother, and Son turn, at the foundation of the household, if you will, is Love. Love unites the Trinity and moves the Trinity forward. Love is what moves God to create and in turn relate to what is created.
And the godly love shared among Father God, Christ the Son, and Mother Holy Spirit spills over into Creation. It spills over into us. It spills over into the church.
Love is the basis, the ground, the uniting tie of the Trinity. And Love is the basis of all things connected to God. This is beautiful.
God is Love. God is Trinity. But what else as we come to a close?
God is Diversity in Unity and Unity in Diversity. You know that phrase, e pluribus unum. Out of many, out of diversity, One. God in God’s own self models e pluribus umum.
Indeed, the Trinity points to a God who includes within God’s self a diversity. Our tradition tells us even God is diverse. There is a reason Creation contains so much diversity. Creation mirrors God’s own diversity.
You know another term we can use to describe God’s unity in diversity and diversity in unity. That’s right — community.
The Trinity says that God is community.
We worship a God who is a Community, a Common Unity, of Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit. We worship a God who as Community grounded in Love Creates a world that innately involves communities. We worship a God who loves the worldwide community and who in Christ empties self to become flesh and dwell among us. We worship a God who in Christ preached and birthed the Beloved Community we call the Church, a community that at its inception practiced equality and commonwealth. We worship a God who in Christ commands that we love God and love one another as a community.
To be a Christian means to be in a real sense a Community People, for its all about Community, from God who is Community to us here trying to live as the Beloved Community. This is beautiful to me.
So, as we begin a new church year of worshipping God together, let us voice our grateful praise to God who is love ever with us, who is Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit in Community, and who eternally reaches out to us, showing us how to be the Beloved Community we are called to be. Amen.