Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.

1 John 4.7-8

If you have been following the local news recently, you may have heard of Eric and Nancy Kingston, a couple from the Somerset village of Blackford near Wedmore.  They have been on the TV news recently because on June 1st they celebrated their eightieth wedding anniversary.  They have been married for a longer period than any other couple in Britain.  Just imagine what an act of faith and love they made to get married on 1st June 1940.  The Dunkirk evacuation was in progress, the Battle of Britain was about to begin.  There was a real chance that Britain would have to sue for peace with Hitler and Nazi Germany.  Not surprisingly, Eric and Nancy have been asked about the secret of their successful marriage.  Nancy said: ‘We’re still holding hands and I had a kiss this morning in bed.  We still love one another.’

Today is Trinity Sunday, a day we celebrate God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit – Three in One and One in Three!  It’s a day many preachers dread, as they make the mistake of trying to define God as a geometric pattern, like a triangle or a Venn diagram, or, even worse, an impossible mathematical formula.  Even to try to define the Trinity as something like water, which can exist in three forms as ice, liquid and steam, can lead people into confusion and seems inadequate.  So instead I’m going to suggest that Trinity is really all about love and relationship.  Eric and Nancy Kingston’s celebration of marriage seems a good place to start.

The Gospel reading for this Trinity Sunday is the end of Matthew’s Gospel, commonly referred to as the Great Commission. It takes place in the days after the resurrection. The disciples are still trying to make sense of what has happened. Jesus has been appearing to many people, but faith in him is not straightforward. Matthew makes clear that even in this final resurrection appearance to the eleven disciples, some worshipped but some doubted. It is into that mix of faith and doubt that Jesus speaks these extraordinary words. He tells them that he has all authority in heaven and on earth – nowhere, no one, nothing is outside his jurisdiction. And he gives them two things – a task and a promise. These two things go together. He tasks them with going and making disciples of all nations. Interestingly, Matthew makes no mention of requiring people to have faith before baptism. The thrust of Matthew’s Gospel has always been about the inclusion of all people in the Gospel. Jesus is not just for the Jews who believed in him, he is for the Gentiles – that means everyone. So his disciples are to baptise people in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – the Trinity. Most contemporary scholars see this threefold baptismal formula as authentic – it used to be assumed that the words had been added in by the early Church. However, most wonderfully of all, Jesus gives them a promise – he will be with them always.

In baptism, through God’s great grace, people come into this divine relationship that is God. And it doesn’t end there – loved eternally by God, we are to love one another, and so to reflect the image of God in us. This is the Great Commission – that, by our lives, all people may know that they too are invited into God’s great love.

We are made in the image of God. That means we belong in relationship. None of us is designed to be self-sufficient. We need each other – to be fully human, we must love and be loved. This is one of the reasons why we need the Church, because the Church puts us into relationship with others. Each one of us exists to be a channel of God’s love to others, even those we find most difficult to be with. A perfect Church would be a community of people in perfect relationships with each other, and it would be continually inviting others in. That way we would perfectly reflect God the Holy Trinity. We fail, of course, and that’s why we have a confession and absolution in every service, to mend what is broken, as Paul urges the Corinthians. Jesus calls us to know the eternal love and presence of God. From the security of the knowledge of the love of God, who is with us always, he calls us to love all people. It is a tremendous commission, and an even more tremendous promise. And it is not just clever words – this is life in all its fullness.

       Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.

1 John 4.7-8