On Trinity Sunday we celebrate our belief that God is Trinity, One God, Three Persons: Father, Son, Spirit. We see God the Father as the Creator, God the Son, Jesus, as God being active in creation and our life, and God the Holy Spirit, reminding us of what Jesus taught us. The Spirit helps us have a sense how we are called to live as Jesus’ disciples in our own everyday life, and helps us grow in many ways, including recognizing God is not remote or apart from us, but intensely with us in our here and now.
In today’s Gospel Story we hear, “God so loved the world” — all of us, all of creation, everything — “that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life . .”. This passage, and indeed the whole Gospel, is about Jesus’ relationship with us, which is rooted in love. Not a manipulative or controlling love, but an accepting and encouraging love. Yet, for so many of us, it is seen as a threat of judgement and damnation. We replace God’s love for us with our need for fear and judgement. While Jesus reached out in love for the people of his time, as he said to seek out the lost sheep, so many of us feel the need to let the lost sheep stay lost, restrict whom he can approach, and who can approach him.
Jesus shows us whom to love, and how to love. He reached out to the outcast of his day, the lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors, non-Jews, Samaritans, Roman soldiers, etc., and he did this without worrying about the cost to himself. For this he was severely criticized by the religious leaders simply because he was not following their rules. They were so serious in their refusal to accept how he lived and what he taught that they ended up condemning him to death. He was upsetting the system, and this cannot be allowed.
Jesus also shows us, by how he lived, whom to love. He shows us to reach out to the peripheries, to the lonely, the angry, the hurt, the suffering, always in the name of helping him live our Father’s love where we are, and with whom we are. He shows this to all of us, but whether we accept it is our choice. The Gospel passage offers us some insight on our choice. It’s worth remembering our belief that each of us as we are is created in the image of God, and the Spirit, when we let Her, helps us grow into the likeness of God. We each reflect God in a way that no one else can, and our particularity matters. None of us is complete, none of us is perfect. Each of us in our own way is somewhere out on the peripheries of life with our own weaknesses and fears, and in them we encounter God.
There is a lot we don’t know and a lot we don’t understand, and often we tend to fear what we don’t know or understand. At times we stand in judgement, wondering why others don’t see things the way we do, believing that we have the right way for others to conduct their lives. We do our judging from our own fears, comfort level, and prejudices. God, as we see in Jesus, doesn’t have fears and prejudices, yet loves us with all of ours. It is dangerous for any of us to think that our way of loving God is the only one for everybody. We need the humility that helps us understand we don’t have all the answers, there is a lot we don’t know about other’s lives, struggles, or consciences. We might come to realize it is important for us to understand that each of us is in some kind of a battle that the rest of us know nothing about. For some we are “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God”, while for others, and this includes Jesus, we are “Souls in the Hand of a Tender God”, and this might bother some of us.
Many of us see Jesus as telling people to change how they live or not come back to him again. What he was doing then, as he is now for us, was calling folks to be their best self, to live in the fulness of how we are created in God’s image. There was no threat, just a promise that he would be with them, and us, forever, not judging, but supporting and encouraging. There is nothing any of us can do that would stop God loving us, or make God love us more. God loves us simply because God is God.
Francis keeps calling the church, and each of us, to accompany people, not to judge them, to walk with them, asking the Spirit’s wisdom and guidance, and maybe courage, as we do so. When a person is in pain for whatever reason, we do not need to lecture them with laws and rules. We need to just be with them, actively trusting that the Spirit is with us guiding us. This takes a certain humility that we are, in our own way, just as fragile and confused as they are, and God loves us as we are with our baggage.
In the Story we also hear, “that whoever believes in him might not be condemned . . .”. Whoever believes in him, not about him. Believing in Jesus means that we trust him enough to let him have an important role in how we live every day, that we are willing to let the Spirit have an impact in helping us understand how to live as his disciples. We come to recognize we are surrounded by a lot of good happening, and we can choose to be a part of it. There is so much suffering in this world that God loves, and we don’t need to add to it with our fears and judgements, when with the guidance of the Spirit, we can bring, and maybe even accept, God’s healing. Trusting in God is a good way to live. We don’t need all the answers, just trust in the Spirit. Just sayin . . .