Reverend Philip Stringer
LET US PRAY: Lord of Life, Give us ears to hear and hearts willing to receive, that your word may be food for our lives and a blessing to the world. AMEN
When I was a kid, I had a book called Two Minute Mysteries, and there were these short mysteries to figure out. One of them was set in a small town— you could hardly call it a town, really— more like a crossroads with stop signs. But there were about a dozen people who lived there and they had a gas station and a little store, so I guess you could call it a town.
One day, a man came running into town terribly upset. He was the driver of an organ donor truck, and he was racing to get a heart to the hospital where a patient and doctors were waiting for him to arrive— but in his rush to get there he had driven his truck into an underpass half a mile up the road— and he hadn’t noticed that was one inch too low!!! With a CRASH his truck had become wedged under the bridge and he couldn’t get it freed. Frantic, he didn’t know what to do.
But one little girl said, “Don’t worry, Mister— I know what to do!” And she was right! Do you know how she saved the day? (Let almost all of the air out of the tires to free the truck. Then drive to the gas station in town to fill them up again!)
I love a good mystery-- most people do.
Today is Trinity Sunday-- but I’d like us to use a different title today. Let’s call it “Mystery Sunday.” Today is Mystery Sunday, but I might not mean that in the way you expect.
On Trinity Sunday I’m not going to spend a lot of time trying to explain the puzzle of how God can be three persons and one person all at the same time. That’s a mystery that you can try to figure out on your own time if you want to.
Instead, I want to focus on what the Doctrine of the Trinity tries to convey to us. The Doctrine of the Trinity tries to hold before us the truth that the one who made us-- and the one in whose image we are created-- exists in a constant state of giving and receiving love.
You and I are created in the image of God-- discovering what that means for our lives is a lifelong mystery.
Genesis-- creation of human beings-- not good that the man should be alone. We are not complete until we are in relationship-- God intends the basis of that relationship to be pure love. That’s why Jesus said that whereever two or three are gathered in his name, he will be there.
Today we not only celebrate that God is love. We celebrate the mystery of what that means for us.
There are really two kinds of mystery, and we celebrate them both today.
The first kind of mystery is like the story I told about the truck stuck under the bridge. It tries to find something hidden-- a puzzle that must be figured out by clues. It answers the questions, “Who?” “What?” and “Why?”
But the second kind of mystery already knows the answers to the first. There is nothing to figure out in that regard. Instead, the second kind of mystery is concerned with answering another question: “So what?” And this is the kind of mystery that can never be solved completely because it is forever being revealed.
Today is Mystery Sunday--
The Scriptures reveal to us the solution to the first mystery of God. Who is God? What has God done? What does God command and Why does God command it? These answers are given to us. God is love. God gives and receives in love. God forgives out of love. God commands that we love as God loves, because this is the only way for us to be fully alive.
But the second mystery is still before us and always will be: “So what does God’s love mean for you and me?”
Today we celebrate both mysteries. We celebrate that the first mystery is solved-- God is revealed to us in Jesus. AND we celebrate that God has given us a second mystery to experience for eternity: the mystery of loving and being loved.
Love is a mystery because when we love, we experience the presence of God-- we know what it means to be alive and learn more about the God who is with us. When we don’t love, love continues to be a mystery because we learn what death is like. And regardless of whether we love or don’t love, we ARE loved by God, and through God’s love and forgiveness, we learn more about how powerful the love of God is.
And so all of life is a mystery to us. Not in the sense that we do not have a clue as to what life is about. We know exactly what life is about, thanks to Jesus. But the wonder of it-- the power of it-- the beauty of it-- these are things that are continually being revealed to us throughout life.
Today is Mystery Sunday.
Our attention rests on the deepest answers about God. There are many questions that can be asked about Who God is and what God does and why God does it, but at the bottom of them all is one single truth about God: God is love. What God does is love, and the reason God does it is because of love.
Today, we might begin with questions like, “Why did Jesus establish the church? Who are we as the church? What are we supposed to do?” Love is at the foundation of every answer to these questions.
When Jesus says that he wants us to go and teach, Jesus wants us to teach a way of living in loving relationship, not merely to teach the facts about Jesus. Jesus wants us to love people into the kingdom-- because no one ever got educated into the kingdom of God.
In the end, nothing means anything and nothing amounts to anything if love is not at the bottom of it.
Why are you a Christian? Why do you worship in this place? There are many answers, but at the bottom of them all is this one:
✤You are a Christian because-- in love-- Jesus was crucified for you.
✤You worship in this place because of the love of Jesus.
✤We all know each other because of the love of Jesus.
✤We treat each other with kindness, we forgive one another and we have a job to do together-- all because of the love of Jesus.
We need to remember this when we think about all of life, and when we think about Jesus’ command to go and make disciples.
I have been to the Holy Land several times, and I have seen Christian guides, Jewish guides and Muslim guides. They were all very knowledgeable about the places we visited— but I can tell you without a doubt that I want a Christian guide when I visit the sites associated with Jesus.
You can tell people the facts about Jesus-- that might be a nice thing to do. But people don’t really need you for that. They can read a book. They can take a class, watch TV or listen to the radio to learn about Jesus. They can read the Bible themselves.
What they can’t get from a book-- and what they can’t get from a class or the TV or radio-- is love. Only you can give them that. Jesus has made you and me his witnesses-- As your life and my life are shaped by God’s love at work in us-- as you and I love in response to God’s love-- other’s will come to know the love of God, too. As one friend of mine put it, “When you and I love is when you and I are most like God.”
It is a mystery. I don’t fully understand it. But isn’t it wonderful? Today we celebrate the mystery of God doing all things in love.
Of our redemption through love.
Of the new life we have been given in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
And today we celebrate around this altar-- we hear the mystery of God’s love revealed in Jesus, and we experience the mystery of love that gathers us, through his body and blood.
Because Jesus loves us. That has made all the difference. And it always will.