Sunday, June 7, 2020

To Tell the Truth: A Trinity Sunday Sermon

The common joke about this day…Trinity Sunday…is that it is often referred to as “Deacon Sunday.” That’s because the priest tends to punt on this day and has the deacon preach the sermon. And since the deacon is in charge today…well…I’m the one in Seminary—so tag I’m it.

Our reading from Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians is peculiar. It’s the conclusion, the wrap-up sentences of this missive to one of his church plants. And what’s interesting is this is the only time Paul ever uses a trinitarian conclusion to a letter. Oh, sure…he often ends his letters with citing the “grace of Christ.” But here it’s extended to include “the love of God” and “the communion of the Holy Spirit.”

The grace of Christ…Jesus’ willingness to go to the grave so that we could have life.

The love of God…so much so that God gave us God’s Word…God’s Son…so that we could taste what it means to live free.

The communion of the Holy Spirit…ah, yes! That Spirit which is our every breath…that blew open the hearts and minds of our ancestors and gave them courage to speak in every tongue their truth as followers of The Way.

Grace and Love all intertwined and knit together in communion…all three. All one.

Paul probably needed to summon the strength of that threesome for the times in which he was living. You see…as nice as this conclusion sounds, it’s coming at the end of three chapters worth of angry appeal…and calling out the corruption and the problems that were growing in the church. People had come into the community and started spreading lies about Paul claiming that he was stealing from them and wasn’t a real apostle. I imagine for the man who had worked so hard to build up this Christian community, such attacks on him and discord probably felt like a gut punch. How could this people turn on him and believe the purveyors of falsehoods? In the lines preceding this passage, Paul says something that I think speaks to us today:

Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2Cor.13:5).

This is our now. We too, have the apostle’s words saying to us: examine yourself. Is Christ not within you? We are grappling with the realities of racial division made starkly evident in the most recent deaths of Ahmaud Aubery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. Our siblings of color…many of whom are the essential workers we have depended upon during this COVID-19 pandemic and have been the backbone of American business for centuries have told us they are tired.

They’re hoarse from screaming for justice.

They are all cried out for mercy’s sake.

These events have brought us to a place where we must examine ourselves, test ourselves to see if we are living faithfully into the grace of Jesus. This type of self-examination requires us to be willing to be vulnerable and let our guards down. We have to recognize and confess to the ways in which we have been both blind and complicit to the brokenness in our nation.

We recently had a great example of what that honest assessment looks like from our new bishop, the Right Reverend Frank Logue. I don’t know if you watched his sermon from last Wednesday night’s diocesan Evening Prayer service. If you didn’t, I highly commend it to you as Must-See TV. He did truth-telling about his life, his background, and realizations that he was OK just sitting on the sidelines thinking that he was immune from what was happening around him. That is the lullaby of living in a white body in America. I have heard it, too.

When my wife and I signed the lease on the house that we eventually bought in Tallahassee, we were elated. We were in a neighborhood near parks, downtown, and had our friends as neighbors right across the street. The man who was our landlord was also pleased. He didn’t question that we were two single professional women renting this home that he had built for his father. Our friends had vouched for us as the type of people he’d want to have living there. As he handed us the keys and waxed nostalgic about this house and the one next door—which he also had built and had been his family’s home—he told us how he had been mayor during the Civil Rights era in Tallahassee, and he assured us that we would never have to worry about having “colored people” next door. We were the right people for that house…because we were white. And in the comfort of our whiteness…we said nothing.

Truth-telling is difficult work, but it is an important task and it is the work toward true freedom. Jesus in John’s gospel tells his disciples that if they continue in his word…stay true to his teachings…they will know the truth and the truth will set them free (John 8:31-32). Truth meaning that they must remain steadfast in their relationship to God. And this brings us back to Love.

Living in love with one another lifts a weight off the mind and the heart, gives us more lightness in our being and allows us to see more clearly the light of Christ in the other person. We ourselves then can live more faithfully into the grace of Christ, the love of God and in communion with the Holy Spirit. That’s the trinitarian nature of God. It is about three being bound together…being interrelated and interconnected…being unifed even in diversity. God invites us into this same relationship. Right here. Right now.

May the Wisdom of God, the Love of God, and the Grace of God strengthen us to be Christ’s hands and heart in this world, in the name of the Holy Trinity.