Rev. Dr. Helen Svoboda-Barber
My seminary experience was full of learning and possibilities and tools. I only remember two or three admonitions to avoid some things, and I’m failing at avoiding everything I’ve been told to avoid.
Our Pastoral Studies Professor Charlie Cook repeatedly told us, “Don’t poll the congregation. Just don’t poll the congregation.” You may have noticed we’ve polled St. Luke’s at several points throughout the pandemic.
The second “never” I remember from seminary is to never use a metaphor for the Trinity in our preaching and teaching, because all metaphors for the Trinity are imperfect and thus lead to a misunderstanding of God.
I’ve been wrestling with this “never” so much as I prepared to preach this sermon. And although every metaphor for the Trinity is imperfect, I still am going to share one for you today. Because it seems crucial for our understanding of who we are called to be. Because, really, our understanding of God is always imperfect. Because there is goodness and value even within the imperfectness of our ideas.
Our minds are not complex enough to ever comprehend the totality of who and what God is. All our images and descriptions and understandings of God are just slivers of the completeness of God.
So with that in mind, let’s talk about the Trinity, our God who is three-in-one and one-in-three.
Each year on the first Sunday after Pentecost, we wrestle with this concept that our God is trinitarian in nature. The summation of the central theology is that God is at the same time three “persons” and one “essence.” The traditional way we’ve spoken about the Trinity is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I’ve heard many a sermon and lecture on how each piece of this Trinity is fully God, and also not completely God without the others. I’ve tried to wrap my mind around it, but I never quite get there.
But there IS a metaphor for our Trinitarian God that has been reaching out to me recently. And remember–it’s a metaphor. It’s imperfect as all our thoughts on God are imperfect. The metaphor is this: Our Trinitarian God is Love, Beloved, and Lover.
God is Love…Beloved…Lover.
Each one of these is whole in itself. Love exists. The Beloved exists. The Lover exists. And yet, none of these can exist unless they all three exist. Without Love, there is no beloved or lover. Without the Beloved, there is no lover or love. Without the Lover, there is no beloved or love.
God is Love. We hear this truth hundreds of times in the Bible. God is Love. God is also Beloved and Lover. God is the Holy Trinity of Love, Beloved, Lover.
And do not forget the truth that we are made in the image of God. We are made: as Love…for being Loved…for Loving. That’s it. That’s the truth of God, and the truth of humanity. Love is at the center of it all.
Before anything existed, God the Love, Beloved and Lover existed. Before the fall of creation, humanity existed in the Image of God. We were love, loving, and loved. Commandments and rules and prophets came into the world all pointing us back to the essence of who we were created to be: love, loving and loved. Time and time again, we turned away from Love, turned away from God, and turned toward our own selfishness. Then Jesus came into the world, God made flesh. Love made flesh. Loving, Beloved, Lover of all. Jesus showed us how to live as the Image of God, the Image of Love.
When we are following Jesus, When we are living up to who were we created to be: We are love…We are loved…We are loving.
Imagine how the world would change if every one of us understood this truth and lived into it. What would happen? The kingdom of God would be here, on earth. All of us: love, loving, loved.
This imperfect metaphor for God is enough to transform the world. I give you this imperfect metaphor to claim as yours, to live into more deeply day by day, to share with others who don’t yet understand God as Love, Beloved and Lover.
God is : Love…Beloved…Lover.
You were created as love…loving…loved.
Live this truth.
I speak these imperfect words in the name of the God we worship, One Holy Trinity: Love, Beloved, Lover. Amen.