God’s true essence is vulnerable love, that binds the Trinity together and opens to invite the whole creation into that love.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The feast of the Holy Trinity, year B
Texts: John 3:1-17; Romans 8:12-17
Ruth revealed God’s true nature to me this past week.
On Tuesday, when the governor called for a state-wide time of silence at 1:00 p.m. to remember George Floyd, those of us in the church building sat in the nave with lighted candles. I sat in my favorite place in the nave: outside aisle, lectern side, so I could see Ruth in the south gallery, my favorite window in our building.
As I sat in silence, thinking about George Floyd, and that day, and our world, and looking at Ruth, I remembered Ruth was also marginalized, oppressed, even threatened because of who she was biologically and ethnically. As a widow with no sons, she shared Naomi’s destitution and desperation in a patriarchal society where women’s only value came from men in their lives. She and Naomi were also both outsiders, foreigners in each other’s country. As I prayed and thought about our own siblings and neighbors who are marginalized and oppressed, I realized Ruth and Naomi understood the plight of George Floyd and people of color in our society far better than I do.
But these two women saw family in each other. Formed a bond of love that became inseparable. A love so strong Ruth left her place of familiarity, where she might have found a husband from her people, and willingly became a foreigner and outsider to be with Naomi.
And Boaz, the respectable Bethlehem farmer and citizen, also saw these two outsiders and saw them as family. Brought them into his family in love, marrying Ruth and ensuring that Naomi wouldn’t starve to death. They belonged.
It’s the Sunday of the Holy Trinity, and this wasn’t in our readings.
But it’s all you need to know about the Triune God. Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz lived with the love that God created in them, the love that is God. They crossed borders, saw kinship with people who were not like them, and made a family. They lived the only reality of God that matters. That is, if you care what Jesus thinks and teaches and models and lives.
Jesus didn’t explain the mystery of God’s internal make-up. He revealed the heart of God. He spoke of the Father and he being one in each other, one in love. He spoke of sending the Spirit who is also one with the others. A few centuries later, believers came up with the idea of the Trinity as a way of doing justice to these revelations of Jesus, and to Paul’s proclamation. Driven by political realities and anxiety over varying teachings, shaped by Greek philosophical terms, the formal doctrine of the Trinity was developed.
It’s just not something Jesus seemed to think we needed to have clear. What Jesus wanted clear about God, what the early Church wrote repeatedly in the New Testament, is God’s true nature is love.
God’s primary essence, God’s reality in the universe, is self-giving love.
God’s self-giving love is a cosmic love, Jesus says today. Out of love for the cosmos, the Trinity sent the eternal Word out of the inner dance of God’s life to become a human being. To risk everything, even being lifted up on a cross, to bring the creation back into God’s life.
God’s self-giving love is a birthing love, Jesus says today. In love, the Trinity sends the Spirit from the inner dance of God’s life to give new birth to all people, to enliven and renew the whole world with the essence of God’s love.
The love that Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz knew and lived for each other and their world. You can’t write that love into a doctrine.
The only thing you need to know about the Trinity, then, is that God is held together by the bonds of self-giving love.
As Jesus revealed it and New Testament writers proclaimed it, the relationship between Father, Son, and Spirit, is abiding love that offers itself and receives itself again and again.
You don’t need to be able to do the math on the Trinity. Just trust that the heart of God revealed when the Son came in person and when the Spirit gives birth to life within you, that the heart of God for you and the cosmos is this vulnerable love.
What more would you ever need to know about God?
And living in the way of the Trinity is living in the same way of love as God.
If God’s heart for you and all creatures and the cosmos is this self-giving, transformative love, then you are, as Paul says, all of us are, children of God. Heirs of God through the Spirit, joint heirs with Christ.
You don’t need to write a dissertation on ethics to know how to live. Just trust that you are in God’s heart and in God’s family, and the way that binds that family together is love. The way that family lives is love. Love that gives of itself. Love that crosses borders. Love that sees all people as beloved of God and will not rest until they are treated that way in our society and world. Love that both embraces your heart so you know you are beloved but also gives you the courage to be love in a world of prejudice and oppression and violence. So you can follow the family way and be the change God wants to see in the world.
What more would you ever need to know about how to live in God’s family?
This divine love is costly, though.
It cost Jesus his life. It cost the Trinity so much in centuries of suffering love over the destruction of the creation and the hatred that the beloved creatures inflict on each other. Paul says being an heir to God’s family also means being an heir to God’s suffering. So living in the family way of God’s beloved ones might mean suffering for you. Jesus always said it could.
But you are in the family of God, a family that is bound together in the Triune God’s love that creates universes, breaks death, knows the smallest sparrow’s falling, even the hairs on your head. Any suffering you might come to as you live in the family way of the Triune God is embraced and healed and held in the love that made you and called you and treasured you in the first place.
Ruth lived God’s love. Millions have. So can you.
The living and Triune God has opened up the dance of love that makes up God’s true essence and life and invited the whole creation into it. So that the whole creation, and even you, will be bound together and shaped and inspired and renewed and given life by this love, the only thing about God that really matters.
And the best part is, when you find yourself loving as God loves, you’ll realize you are truly home, truly alive, truly loved. You’ll know all you need to know. And you are Ruth and Naomi and Boaz to someone else. Who might even find they are beloved of God, too.
In the name of Jesus. Amen