Last Sunday of Trinity 2023
Last Sunday of Trinity 2023
Today on this last Sunday of Trinity, the season of listening to the teaching of Jesus, in word and in deed, we hear his summary of the law and the prophets and what life is all about.
That, at the heart of the everything, in all and beyond all, is love.
Yet as we look at the world today there is so much that speaks of cruelty and heart-break, how can our Christian claim hold true?
Clearly, Jesus knew all about conflict and cruelty. And he speaks this message about love at a time of growing conflict with the authorities, and escalating danger for himself that will lead to his death on the cross. He’s in Jerusalem, being tested by religious leaders, and is asked the question, ‘which commandment is greatest?’
Now there are lots of Hebrew laws, Jesus’ answer takes one of the oldest, found in the book of Deuteronomy ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.’ Which is to say, love God with your whole self, your whole life.
Last week in her sermon about the tribute money, Canon Angi was preaching about faith in God being for the whole of life. I’d like to share a parable with you which I think speaks to this and to what loving God with our whole selves means. It’s a very simple story and I cherish it:
One day, God knocked on the door of a house and asked, ‘May I have a room for the night? I don’t need much, any little space will do.’ So, Dad, who’d opened the door said, ‘Hmm I’m not sure, we didn’t know you were coming and everything’s a bit of a mess. We do have a little space in the back, I could move a few things,’ So God came in for the night. They shared a cup of tea and God met the children. And the next day Mum said, ‘Now that I think about it you could move into the spare bedroom, and why don’t you join us for supper tonight’. So he did, and time went on. God stayed with them, and gradually moved into every room. God was everywhere in the house and became part of everything that the family did everything they planned. In the end they couldn’t do without God. And the house was full of love. And God smiled, ‘Its good that they let me in.’ [1a]
We have a tendency to divide, but God’s love is for the whole of life.
Loving God, with our whole being and our whole life is the first and great commandment, says Jesus ‘And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ Jesus is quoting from the Book of Leviticus this time. Its poignant to note that this teaching is shared by Christians, Jews and Muslims, its inscribed on the base of the sculpture of Licoricia, in our own city.
And the parable that Jesus tells about the Good Samaritan makes it clear that our neighbour is anyone in need regardless of race or religion. We are to care for one another indiscriminately because this is how God loves us. As St Augustine of Hippo said, ‘God loves each and everyone of us, as if there was only one of us.’ Every single person matters and no one is excluded.
The path of love is costly, as Jesus shows us, its never easy. Loving our families and friends can be hard enough…Loving ones neighbour, the person in need, is going to be challenging and costly. Only when we love God, in whose image we are made, do human beings become more loveable.
You may remember broadcaster Colin Morris, Methodist Minister and head of Religious Broadcasting at the BBC, Such an insightful man, he wrote, ‘Its easy to look at other people without seeing them. We see a stereotype shaped by our prejudices and ignorance. But love gives us the power of imagination to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and see how our actions look from the their point of view.’[1b]
When we love God, human beings, made in Gods image, become loveable. Love God, said Jesus and love your neighbour as yourself, on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. And by seeking to live by these laws, we show our hope for the future.
Across the world today there is so much human suffering its almost incomprehensible, with old ongoing enmities, with new and excruciating conflicts, with those who lead wreaking violence to assert power and control.
Yet, in the midst of suffering and conflict the voices of hope, of forgiveness and peace speak so powerfully. This is the voice of love, vulnerable, certainly, but also so powerful. A handshake between enemies, a voice of restraint, words of forgiveness and mercy, these express faith that the future can be different.
As Christians we are called to a moral and spiritual challenge, to be people of love and the faith that everyone, each person, bears God’s image.
I’ll end with another simple parable. A teacher once asked her class: “How do we know when the night has ended and the day has begun?”
The students knew that this question had hidden depths.
So a student replied: “Teacher, when I look out at the fields and I can distinguish between my field and the field of my neighbour, that’s when the night has ended and the day has begun.” A second student said: “Teacher, when I see an animal in the distance, and I can tell whether its a cow or a horse that’s when the day has begun.” A third said: ‘Teacher, when I see a flower and I can make out whether its red or yellow or blue, that’s when the day has begun.’
The teacher looked sad and said, “You don’t understand. You only divide. Why do you separate and split?’
The students were surprised and asked. “Teacher, tell us: How do we know that night has ended and day has begun?”
She looked at them, and said: “When you look into the face of the person who is beside you, and you can see that person is your brother or your sister, then finally the night has ended and the day has begun.”
 Deuteronomy 6: 5
[1a] I have not been able to track the source of this story. Please let me know, if you know its origin or author.
 Leviticus 19:18
[1b] P131 Bullet Point Belief ed Rosemary Foxcroft Canterbury Press