All we need is love

I was a student in Baltimore’s Herring Run Junior High School when it happened. The Beatles became a force in our lives, launching Beatlemania, beginning the “British invasion,” and changing forever the face of American pop music. In the US they began with I Want to Hold Your Hand – which quickly topped the pop music charts. They contributed much of the soundtrack to my high school years. In my graduation year of 1967, they release All You Need Is Love, a song which became the anthem of that year’s summer of love.

Today we’re marking more love Sunday: a day when we consider how much God loves each and every one of us as well as how God calls us to a life of loving. Not the psychedelic summer of love remembered in the current exhibit at the DeYoung Museum. No: we’re talking about something entirely different.

In today’s reading from Jewish scripture, we hear the Genesis story of how God created the universe. Some people say that God only created the earth, which leaves open the question of who created everything else in the universe. Many of these folks say God must have created the earth in seven 24-hour days. But that’s a view that suffers from the heresy of confusing scripture for history. Our Bible is not a history book, at least not in the way we think of history today. It is not a modern history book with stories and ideas supported by facts which are documented in footnotes and citations. Instead, the Bible is our spiritual guide to the universe. And our scripture nourishes us – teaches us – through stories which are rich in metaphor. These are stories and sayings we can think about and argue about. Because in thinking and arguing about what God’s word means in our life we are really wrestling with angles, or perhaps with God herself.

Perhaps that is part of the reason why we are here: to wrestle with and thereby walk humbly with our God. Perhaps that is how we help God bring more love into this world.

For our Bible is not a book of a God confined to a life of 24-houir days or the daylight hours of one particular place on this planet earth, our fragile island home. Our God is content to work through geological time, to work through a time measured in millions of years, to fashion this world and to shape a place for us in God’s creation. That’s one measure of how much God loves us.

In today’s Gospel lesson, the anonymous author we call Matthew tells us we are called to action as his disciples. He commands us:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In Luke, when Jesus sends 70 of his followers out to do a similar task the author uses the Greek word anedeixen, or appointed. Being appointed often has to do with a particular time and task. Chosen by Jesus we are appointed for a particular time and task. Out time is now. Our task is bringing the Kingdom of God just a little bit closer.

Baptism is our clearest illustration of Jesus’s appointment of us by God and the Holy Spirit. This has been going on for almost two thousand years. We are baptized just like Jesus and St. Francis and St. Cyprian. And we are appointed – in the name of Jesus – for a specific task.

The Creator of all worlds has appointed us – you and me – to go out into the world and confirm that God is alive and is still in the business of reaching out to people, loving people, and resurrecting people to new life. And the best part of this kind of resurrection is you don’t have to die for it to happen. Jesus is in the business of remaking our lives by making us whole. That’s right: following Jesus is good for you. It rounds us out and rings in out joy like nothing before. It empowers us to live a service-joy life and bring the Kingdom of God a little bit closer to places that need it. Be clear about this: God is already there. It is just that people can’t see him until we show up to reflect God’s love back into that corner of the world. That’s how we serve as living members of the body of Christ.

Think you’re not able to do that? That you aren’t well prepared? That this is all some mistake? Listen to the words of Desmond Tutu: “There are no accidents in God, though some of us might look like an accident.” It’s no accident that we are here today. It’s no accident that we are living here in the Bay Area right now. It’s no accident that we’re here in a decisive time, a turning point, in American history.

“There are no accidents in God:” God wanted us to be here and now. You and I were made for this place and for this time. Ours is not a life to be led in the time of the Psalmist or the church in Corinth. Our place is here, our time is now, and our call is to live out our faith now at the corner of Turk and Lyon in 21st century San Francisco.

Feeling overwhelmed? Consider this: the odds facing every generation of Jesus’ followers have seemed unconquerable at one time or another. But they lived fully into their “here and now.” Now we are called to do the same.

Like a tree planted by the water, we shall not be moved by the rising tide of violence against Muslims, immigrants, African Americans, LQBTQ Americans, Jews, Asian Americans, Latinos, and all those called “other” by the white establishment in Washington.

Like a tree planted by the water, we shall not be moved by efforts to deprive affordable healthcare to millions of Americans. We will not be swayed by heretical, non-Christian religions that preach death to some doctors in the name of a ‘right to life’ that ends with birth.

Like a tree planted by the water, we shall not be moved by politicians who prize personal profit in place of saving the earth – our fragile island home – from the ravages of climate change.

Like a tree planted by the water, we shall be the living proof to this generation that God is not deaf or indifferent; we shall be a sign that God is not a judgmental bigot; and through our lives we will reflect God’s love out into a world shattered by division, derision, and deep, deep loneliness.

Where does all this fit into Trinity Sunday? We refer to the Trinity every time we pray in the name of the “Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” Not found in the Bible, the Trinity emerges in the fourth century during a particularly difficult theological debate in the early young church. Trinitarian theology, then, developed as an answer to “heretical” belief. Belief in the Trinity grew out of a need to end a heresy, not a need to better know God. Understanding the Trinitarian concept of “God in three persons” can be just is difficult as understanding God. Which is why the Trinity – like God – is perhaps best seen as a mystery of faith that cannot be understood. Perhaps the most important thing to understand is that the Trinity’s three parts are bound together by love – and that love is available to us if we will but live in the moment and love God back.

Let us pray: God of delight, your Wisdom sings your Word at the crossroads where humanity and divinity meet. Invite us into your joyful being where you know and are known in each beginning, in all sustenance, in every redemption, that we may manifest your unity in the diverse ministries you entrust to us, truly reflecting your triune majesty in the faith that acts, in the hope that does not disappoint, and in the love that endures. Let God’s people say: Amen.


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