Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace (1), peace (2) and love (3) to you on this Holy Trinity Sunday. AMEN.
As you might have noticed over my years here, I’ve not always been a fan or a practitioner of the 3-point sermon — which is one of methods of preaching: “Make 3 points and say AMEN.” To me it was always too formulaic, and as you’ve probably experienced, I like to wander a little bit more in my sermons.
But today — this being my last day to preach officially as your pastor — with words and tears for me all mixed together, with a certain feeling of finality here this good morning, I am taking comfort in falling back into a formula. Often, when we don’t have the words we fall back into the formulas — the prayers, the doctrines, the readings, the liturgy, the FAITH — often when we don’t have the words, we fall back into the Words of the church, back into the “Word[s] of God, word[s] of life”. And this Holy Trinity morning, I invite you to fall with me...back into grace (1), peace (2) and love (3).
GRACE (1) — Friends, it was grace that brought us together. 10 years ago, you were looking for a pastor, and I was seeking a place to serve coming out of my first call up in Orange County. [Rich Durham: “We just need a pastor.” — So much grace in that.]
Katie wasn’t even born yet, I carried Micah around in my left arm and shook your hands with my right at the wonderful meet-and-greet, right here in the sanctuary. It was grace that moved among us as we got to know each other. Suspicion was there too, right? It always is: “Who is this whipper snapper? What’s he going to change and take away from us? He’s too young!” And suffice to say, I had my own suspicions…
But it was grace that carried us, and molded us together, for God’s ministry in this little corner of the neighborhood and this little corner of the world, for this little decade. Grace opened our eyes and our ears to one another, to understand each other better and learn one another’s stories, to forgive each other’s mistakes and receive each other’s little idiosyncrasies (even our age differences ;) ...
And isn’t this true in all circumstances? It’s grace that brings us into relationship! It’s grace that moved over the waters at beginning of creation, breathing us with this whole cosmos into being! It’s grace that allows us to find and — even more — be found by our families and our friends. How many stories you/we all have of being in the “right place at the right time”...maybe drop that phrase and just call it grace. Those are stories of simply being in God’s amazing grace.
Paul knew what he was talking about, making “Grace” the very first word in his letters, when he greets God’s church again and again. “Grace to you,” he says, to the Corinthians and the Philippians, the Galatians and the Romans. Grace comes first. It’s why we baptize babies: God takes hold of us before we have anything to say about it! Grace wraps around us. Soaks us. Draws us into being and into ministry together. Grace.
And then the next word: PEACE (2) — We have peace through the cross of Jesus Christ. It was this Trinitarian peace that enabled us to remain and serve together here at SVLC for the last decade. It was this peace of God that filled us with joy in being together. How much have we laughed together over the years? Meister Eckhardt (German mystic, Bp. Mike: my 2nd favorite German heretic) describes the Trinity like this:
“When the Father laughs at the Son...and the Son laughs back at the Father, that laughter gives pleasure, that pleasures gives joy, that joy gives love, and the love is the Holy Spirit.”
Laughter = peace. Does it not?
So much of our ministry together has been fun. Traveling to Germany, serving at TACO, worshipping in parks and at other churches, even church council meetings have always been fun. I couldn’t even count on 1 hand the number of council meetings I’ve dreaded. They’re always good and fun. Peace! Not to mention, the countless and constant get-togethers and parties and meals we’ve shared over the years!
Sharing food = peace. Does it not?
And this his holy time. It’s trinitarian! Arguably the most famous icon of the Trinity is an image of 3 androgynous beings sitting at a table together.
First God draws us in and together. That’s grace. Then God holds us in Divine community. That’s peace. And it’s not to say that conflict has never arises. It always does! Which makes this peace of God all the more rich. Despite our petty concerns and dramas and frustrations and even outright disdain for those across the holy table from us, Christ takes all that brokenness and sin onto himself and swaps it for holy peace, the peace that passes all understanding. Peace amid fear. Peace amid pain. Jesus breathes on his disciples when they are angry and afraid. “My peace I give you,” he says over and over again. “Do not be afraid.” Grace as our creation and embrace. Peace as our life together. Grace is at the beginning; peace is at the center. Christ is at the center. The cross is at the center. And as long as we keep coming back to that center, worshipping at the foot of that cross, we remain in that Divine peace. That is, we continue to enjoy and revel and laugh and eat in peace, in community...no matter what changes or distances come our way. Peace be with you: we even offer Christ’s divine and unfathomable peace to one another now that the resurrection has already happened!
Grace (1), peace (2) and the greatest of these is LOVE (3). Sisters and brothers in Christ — created in grace, centered in peace, love one another, just as you have loved me...and my family. It’s love that holds us together, and it’s love that sends us outward.
It’s love that allows us to let go, to open our hands and our hearts to what God has in store for us all next. It’s love that carries us into new chapters and new places. It’s love that fills us and finds us and never forgets us. It’s love — and I mean LOVE DIVINE — that lets us go, frees us to serve in this broken and hurting and unjust and cruel world. It’s love divine that forgives and opens doors and unlocks gates and unclenches fists. Love is the only way forward. Love is God’s future. Love is for us — for you and for me. And LOVE DIVINE never leaves us: God so loved the world, and that includes YOU. And so you are not alone. LOVE stays. Love abides. We can’t predict where it comes from or where it will lead us next. We can only be taken by it, this TRIUNE DIVINE LOVE. It is a mystery...that we can taste in bread and wine, that we can feel in water and hear in Word, and just about any ol’ way Divine Love chooses to be revealed to us! Love shows up. And Love Divine stays.
Love through all the journey. And Love will call us home at last.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace, peace and love to you all. It has been an honor, for 10 years, to be free-falling together with you in this divine Grace, Peace and Love. And even as our most obvious paths separate now, we continue to fall together...because we’re wrapped together in the cords of the Trinity, the Divine Community. We are caught in the dance of grace, peace, and love...as the journey continues.
To God be the glory, this day and always. AMEN.