SMC – Trinity Sunday (Fathers’ Day) 2019
How do we know God loves us? Do you ever have doubts as to how much God loves you or indeed how much He loves other people? I suspect we all know God does love us, but it is alright for us to doubt that occasionally, perhaps especially after we’ve done something very wrong or when something very bad happens to us. I’ve encouraged us before in the last few weeks to spend time reflecting and contemplating on what God’s love for us looks like, especially before and after we receive Holy Communion. Knowing God loves you individually, personally and intimately is not something you experienced once a long time ago and that was it: it should be a daily revelation, a fresh and exciting proposal every day, as we’ll sing in our last hymn based on the words of the Psalmist: “Morning by morning new mercies I see.” Sing that line out particularly loudly later on.
Knowing what God’s love looks like is how we know we in turn must be loved. I want to think this morning about this: about how we know we are loved and how we must ensure people continue to know they are loved by God. Think about the love described to us, for example in I Corinthians 13, a love that is patient and kind and keeps no record of wrong doing but rejoices in the truth. And we can then begin to understand that God loves us. Indeed, our main celebration today, Trinity Sunday, is an invitation to consider this mysterious and somewhat curious Christian doctrine of who God is, namely Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a unity of three persons. It’s an important name because it is the name into which we are baptised, following Jesus’ command (Matthew 28:19). It is therefore part of our identity. St Augustine of Hippo talks of the Trinity as being the living out of love: there is the person who loves, the person who is loved and the love that exists between them, three constituent parts caught up in a whole. This image of the Lover, the Beloved and the Love between them might help us see how caught up in a single unity is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. God is love.
The Church had to define this doctrine of the Trinity because of the outpouring of God’s love, as we heard in our Collect, our opening prayer, the prayer that draws us together at the start of the Mass: “by sending into the world the Word of truth and the Spirit of sanctification [God] made known to the human race [His] wondrous mystery.” Jesus hanging on the Cross and dying for us, because God SO loved the world, challenged the Church’s bishops to define that God must be in His simplicity this Trinity of persons because otherwise Jesus is just an honourable fellow doing His bit for the community and not as we shall profess later “true God and true Man.”
Two particular spheres that we are to see evidence of this love:
First, we see this love in the world God has created. He doesn’t benefit from us being here. He doesn’t charge us rent to live here. He doesn’t put in expenses or get paid fees because he’s King of the whole universe. Our taxes don’t go towards His upkeep. And nor did God just create robots who would unthinkingly bow down and serve Him. No, He creates us freely that we might in turn freely come to Him. And so often we don’t. Yet the creation is still a testimony to this generous love. I love that Psalm we heard earlier: “How great is your name, O Lord our God, through all the earth … When I see the Heavens, the work of your hands … what is man that you should keep him in mind?”
It’s a very important reason that you and I need to take part in the debate in society at the moment about the world, its climate and how that needs to be cared for. This world isn’t going to last for ever and we mustn’t be afraid about it ending because we know this world must be handed over by the Son to the Father (I Corinthians 15:24) so that the judgement of Christ might then be upon us. We are still though to care for the world by recycling and using our cars less and polluting less generally, not because we’re afraid the world will end, but for two simple reasons: (1) God wants us to care for the world because He says to the first human beings “have dominion” over everything (Genesis 1:24-25). And (2) because it is one of the ways God wants us to know He loves us. “Consider the lilies of the field,” Jesus says, “they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all His glory was not clothed like one of these” (Matthew 6:28-29) If we don’t look after the world God gave us in all its simplicity and in all the evidence of gift about it, it will be harder for human beings to know that it is a gift from the one Giver, God Almighty, the Creator of Heaven and earth: it will be harder for others to know He loves us if the world doesn’t get looked after by us.
Secondly, as we celebrate Fathers’ Day today, human relationships are also a means by which we know God’s love for us. The basis of the Christian knowledge of this is marriage. St Paul reflects in his letter to the Ephesians (5:31) on marriage as given by God to humanity in Genesis 2: “a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” Paul explains: “This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church.” Thus, Paul has but a few verses earlier taught the Christians in Ephesus: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church” (v.25). This is why marriage is a vocation, to which God calls individuals.
But this also informs our thinking as Christians of what other relationships look like: they are meant to be cruciform, in the shape of a Cross, how we relate to our parents, siblings, boss, friend, neighbour, employer, employee are meant to tell us that God loves us and to tell the whole world of the love of God. And so, it’s important that we celebrate these relationships, as we do today with Fathers’ Day. Dads will sometimes let us down and some of us will never have known our dads. Some of us will be sad as we think about fathers who have died. The point of communities is that we gather on days like today with that whole range of emotions, a range of emotions human history has rarely seen so comprehensively covered as in the book of Psalms in the Scriptures.
And we hold the ideals of these relationships before us. Society and exposure to 24 hour news come with the dangers that we see too often examples of when these relationships fail, be it statistics around absent fathers or horrendous examples of children being abused by those who are meant to be caring for them. We have to silence our ears to some extent from these items of news, not because we must ignore the reality of sin affecting people’s lives and seek to safeguard others, but because we have a message to give to the world of good news, good news that God has ordered the world such that we’re meant to have people around us who love us, hence the ideal is always that God places us in contexts where people will love us. This ordering of creation we celebrated in that glorious psalm we heard and the presence of Father, Son and Holy Spirit at the beginning of creation that we heard about in the first reading from Proverbs 8.
So, have a great Fathers’ Day - but know these celebrations are really meant to be reminders of God’s love and His generosity, hence you can’t really party for them without coming to Mass first for here we see God and thank Him for His generosity. This generosity is at the heart of God for He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, revealed to be so by God’s coming us. Through our care for the creation and our care for what society thinks about human relationships, may we proclaim to a world never very confident about love just how much God our Father loves them and us. Amen.