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    May 27, 2018

    Trinity Sunday 2018

    Preacher: The Rev. Ted Foley Deacon

    Series: Deacons

    Category: Weekly Sermon

    Detail:

    t’s good to be with you today because, today, we have so much to celebrate. This weekend, we have a convergence of several events.

    Of course, this is Memorial Day weekend, when we honor those who died in service to our country. Also the church calendar tells us that this is Trinity Sunday, and, here in Ocean County, this is “Love Thy Neighbor” weekend (which I will talk a little about later on).

    Also, we can’t forget also that today is one week ARW – one week After the Royal Wedding. The wedding of Harry and Meghan was of course a huge event. An estimated 2 billion people watched from around the world. It was a real global event. How many of you here saw the wedding?

    I have to confess, I wasn’t one of those 2 billion. I saw a few bits of coverage that evening but not the entire event. But, one segment I did watch was the sermon. As many of you know, the sermon was delivered by Bishop Michael Curry who is the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

    Bishop Curry is a great preacher. I’ve heard him preach a few times in person and he is amazing. He sometimes preaches for 20 minutes or 30 minutes or more and you don’t want him to stop. He has an amazing gift. I think that most of this gift comes from his love for the Gospel, his love for Jesus, and his desire for people to personally know God loves them and that love is unending – inexhaustible.

    What a great message for the world to hear!

    Of course, we can’t forget that this was also a wedding of 2 people very much in love with each other. So, Bishop Curry spoke to them and said, yes, your love for each other now is special, passionate, romantic. It is a feel-good kind of love.

    And, over time, that love will likely evolve into another kind of love. A love that is self-giving. He called this love, “sacrificial love”. A love that focuses on the needs of the other. A love that is totally unselfish. A love that sacrifices our needs for the benefit of the other.

    The Greeks had a word for this type of love, “Agape”. Our Christian faith tells us that Agape is the highest kind of love there is. It is God’s love for us. And it is how God wishes that we love one another.

    Agape is when you have a consuming passion for the well-being of others even when it requires sacrifice. It is this love – this sacrificial love – this Agape – that has transformed the world and continues to transform the world.

    When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment, he said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ And then he said, that everything - everything that is ever written in scripture, everything that was ever said by the prophets, everything that taught by your religious leaders – everything rises up out of these two commandments.

    When Jesus was talking about loving your neighbor he wasn’t talking about romantic love. He was talking about agape. He was telling us that we need to have a consuming passion for the well-being of others. Even if it means putting our needs second. That is why agape is a sacrificial love.

    This Sunday is Trinity Sunday. It’s when Christians celebrate the mystery of three persons in one God – usually referred to as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – or, maybe more correctly as, Creator, Redeemer, and Life-Giving Spirit.

    As I said, the Trinity is a mystery. It’s a mystery because nobody really understands how it all works. People have tried to describe the Trinity using dozens of different metaphors, most famously St. Patrick using a three leafed shamrock. But when talking about God, of course, all metaphors fall short.

    However, I’ve recently come across a metophor of the Trinity that I can better relate to. It’s a metaphor that St. Bonaventure came up with over 800 years ago.

    Bonaventure described the Trinity as a water-wheel having three buckets – one bucket for each person of the Trinity. Each bucket is filled with water and the water represents God’s love. As the wheel turns, one of the buckets will empty its water to the point that it is totally spent. However, as the wheel continues to turn the other buckets refill the first with more love. Love is poured out and yet never exhausted – a beautiful image.

    I like this metaphor because it’s saying that God is in the business of sacrificial love – loving you, loving me, loving everyone around us. God’s love has a consuming passion for our well-being. And, that love will never be exhausted.

    Whenever Jesus talked about loving our neighbor, he was talking about this kind of love – a love that we pour out on others – even those who we don’t know. This kind of love, this sacrificial love, is the love that we recognize on this Memorial Day weekend. Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for another.” (John 15:13) Let us remember to take some time in gratitude to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for us.

    So, for this entire sermon I’ve been talking about “love”. In my mind I think that’s OK. In fact, I think that “love” is the thread that is woven through all 4 Gospels, throughout all scripture, and even through all creation from the beginning.

    When I began this sermon, I said that this is also “Love Thy Neighbor” weekend. It’s a weekend where many churches, and synagogues, and mosques in Ocean county have come together to preach about the need for agape,The need for loving your neighbor,The need to have a consuming passion for the well-being of others.

    This message of “love thy neighbor” comes out of some work done in collaboration with the NJ Attorney General and the Ocean County prosecutor. The effort is in response to the dramatic increase in hate crimes in this area.

    For example a teenage boy who is Latino was told, “go back to your country”. A young man was physically threatened because he was thought to be gay. They’ve observed an increase in hate crimes against people who are black, Muslim, Indian, and many, many incidents of anti-Semitism.

    Of course, I very much doubt that anyone sitting in this church participated in any of these crimes. However, Jesus says, that we need to go even further. Part of “loving thy neighbor” means that we need to be actively working against this type of hate. That means that we must being ready to witness to our faith when we hear someone saying something that is hateful about Jews, or Latinos, or African-Americans, etc.

    That means being ready to say, “that’s not what my Jesus teaches me”, or “my Christian faith tells me something different”, or whatever is right for you. As long as we let the other person know that you don’t buy into hate. There may be some risks involved but, that’s why agape is also called “sacrificial love”.

    One week ago, Bishop Curry told the world about the transformative power of sacrificial love. He talked about how sacrificial love can change the world. He ended his sermon by asking us to,

    Imagine a world where love is the way.Imagine our homes and families where love is the way.Imagine neighborhoods and communities where love is the way.Imagine government and nations where love is the way.Imagine business and commerce where love is the way. Because, when love is the way, the Earth will become a sanctuary!”