Proverbs 8: 1-4, 22-31, Romans 5:1-5, John 16: 12-15
There is a division within us, a polarisation, it is getting worse, day by day. Social media is alive with it, with division, with us against them, with gang against gang, with me against you. The ego (frail, worried entity that it is) seeks strength in finding out what it is against. Once what you are against has been discovered, the ego grows, finds new life and definition. I am this. I am not that. I am that. I am not this. I am me. I am not you. It's worth checking out social media just to see what can happen when the ego gets in the driving seat; a cacophony of assertion and counter assertion, of truth pitted against truth. (It is not all like that, of course, but a lot of it is).
In our human way we see the other as a threat, somewhere we believe that we are diminished if the other flourishes. Bullying is built on seeing the other as threat. The bully fears the other in their mysterious otherness. And we have seen the other as threat throughout history in so many tedious and terrible ways and we repeat it again and again. Rivalry runs like a fault line through us.
When Jesus talked and taught and healed he did not act out of rivalry. Jesus did not fear the other. He did not demonise the other. He brought the other into relationship. I suggest this is what divine love does. It does not fear the other. Rather it lives for the other, it lives in the other. Those others, the sinners, the lepers, the outcasts, the different, the damaged, these Jesus loved. Love creates a space for the other to live and flourish in. As Paul says, divine love does not insist on its own way. It gives itself away.
Jesus lived out of a non-competitive love. He knew himself loved by the Father. Not controlled by the Father, by some demon of will and assertion, but loved by the Father. He says, 'All that the Father has is mine.' The Father, in his love, withholds nothing from Jesus, the Son. The Trinity is sometimes described as a relationship. Of course, we have to be aware here of the limitations of our language. But if it is a relationship, it is a relationship of non-competitive love. In our human relationships we guard ourselves, as the other is somehow, a threat. But for God the Father all must be given to God the Son. In the Trinity we love and live in the life of the other. 'All that the Father has is mine.'
Let's turn to the Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. Jesus says, 'When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears.' Notice again the non-competitive nature of the Trinitarian relations. The Spirit will 'not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears.' The Spirit 'will take what is mine and declare it to you.' Each of the persons of the Trinity then, Father, Son and Spirit, live for the other and live in the other. The Father lives for, and in, the Son; the Son lives for, and in, the Father; the Spirit lives for, and in, the love of the Father and the Son. The Trinity describes a perfect relationship of love as each person gives themselves away to the life of the other and each person is most fully realised in the life of the other.
In the earthly ministry of the Son, Jesus is showing, creating, a way of life which is built out of a love which never defines itself over and against the other. This springs from the depths of his interior life, 'All that the Father has is mine.' He speaks and acts out of a sustaining love which never seeks to dominate or control him. He teaches a way of life and of love that never seeks to dominate or control the other, whether it is the enemy, or the person shunned by the group. The nature of divine love is the love which is most fully realised in what is most apparently different to it.
The Trinity is a divine relationship which calls us into relationship with it. Paul describes this, 'God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.' In other words, the Trinity dwells in us. Let's go back to our polarised present. Voices shouting each other down. The other as threat. What if we could bring something of that tender love and concern for the other that Jesus showed in his earthly life? That we could share a love that did not hide itself away, afraid and suspicious, but could give itself away in that ecstasy of love with which the Son gave himself away in every minute of his earthly life?
To know the Trinity, we are called to enter into the life of the Trinity. We are called to embody the trinitarian life. When we pray we may experience God not as abstraction but as a love which delights in us, a love which is most at home in us. The great paradox is that God loves most what is most unlike God. The voice of Wisdom (or the Spirit) in our reading from Proverbs captures this divine delight in the other, 'I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.' The words describe how the divine love is always going beyond itself, discovering itself in what is other than it.
For us it is always about raising our consciousness of God in our alienated present. If we can know ourselves within the perfect relations of love which the Trinity is, then we can manifest such love in how we are and in what we say. In other words, we do not need to seek our own way, we do not need to dominate or demonise the other. Rather, just as Christ showed in his ministry, the other is where we are most realised; the person seemingly furthest from us can still be loved by us when we participate in that divine love which moves out from what it knows to what is unknown.
God is always wanting to be realised in us. That is the Trinitarian dynamic, the Father moves beyond himself in the realisation of the Son and through the power of the Holy Spirit. And if God can, in ways small and large, be realised in us and in our own lives, we will begin to embody and to enjoy that non-competitive love where the other is welcomed, and the delusions and comforts of egotism are left behind.
Reverend Ben Brown
12th June 2022