ST. AUGUSTINE’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
THE REVEREND BARRY GRIFFIN
How much do you remember about First Grade? For some of us, myself included, First Grade was a long time ago! But think back. Do you remember your First Grade teacher? Some or all of your classmates? Your first day of school? The lunch room? Recess? The principal’s office?
Phil, I’ll bet you remember the principal’s office. I do.
I remember my first grade Valentine’s Day. No, I didn’t have a first grade sweetheart. My memory is not about First Grade romance. My memory is about Mrs. Hutchinson’s Valentine’s Day requirements.
One week before Valentine’s Day Mrs. Hutchinson pinned white popcorn bags on the bulletin board. Each bag had a first grader’s name printed above it. These were our Valentine’s Day post office boxes. On Valentine’s Day, each of us was invited to bring valentines and “post” them in our classmates’ popcorn bags. While no one was required to participate, everyone was invited.
However, there was one requirement: if you brought valentines, you had to bring a valentine for everybody. You couldn’t pick and choose. You had to make a deposit in each classmate’s post office popcorn bag.
As I recall, things went very well that day. Everyone participated. Everyone gave valentines. (In retrospect, I’ll bet Mrs. Hutchinson secretly provided valentines for my low-income classmates. Even as a six year old, I understood that some of my classmates were poor. They were not left out.)
Everyone gave valentines, and everyone received valentines. That’s the way it was supposed to be. And that’s what I learned on Valentine’s Day, 1962. Everybody gives, and everybody receives. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.
So, today is Trinity Sunday. Today we celebrate the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Today we do our annual tribute. Today’s sermon should be a teaching sermon about the theology of the Trinity and yet one more opportunity to take a SundayMorning snooze. But here I am talking about First Grade and Valentine’s Day, 1962.
Has Fr. Barry finally lost his mind? Should we call the bishop? What do First Grade valentines have to do with the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
Well, it’s like this. In the Trinity, each of the members gives and each of the members receives. Love flows between them. In the Trinity, love is circular. Everyone gives valentines. Everyone receives valentines. Nobody is left out.
We make the Trinity so hard to understand, but is it really that confusing? Isn’t it really about love?
Fifth century Saint Augustine of Hippo (not a man known for his simplicity) put it this way: there’s the Father, and there’s the Son. The Holy Spirit is the love that flows between them.
Is that so hard to grasp?
If God is the heart and Jesus is the body, the Holy Spirit is the blood pumped by the heart throughout the body. It all works together, in synch and in time. The Trinity is happening in you, right now.
At their best, Trinity Sunday and Valentine’s Day are all about love: love that both freely gives and freely receives. No one is left out. No one is left behind.
Don’t be confused by the doctrine of the Trinity. Trust the love. Trust the love that flows between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Trust the love you feel and the love you see around you.
Whenever you see love flowing, freely given and freely received, with no one left behind, know that you are watching the Holy Trinity at work. The Holy Trinity works that way.
I saw the Trinity at work last Tuesday. Last Tuesday John and I attended a burial service in Baxley, Georgia. (You don’t know Baxley? Baxley’s in southeast Georgia on Highway 341, sixteen miles south of Hazelhurst, not far from Odum, Jesup and Gardi. Ludowici is nearby. My Aunt Ophelia lived in Ludowici. I hear they have a stoplight now.)
Anyway, last Tuesday John and I drove down to Baxley to attend the burial service for the mother of our very dear friend Jeff. Jeff and I have been friends for forty-four years. We were music students at Valdosta State. Jeff is an excellent musician and organist.
Last Tuesday was rainy. We encountered scattered showers all along the way. Right before Baxley the bottom fell out. “Oh”, I thought, “this is too bad. It’s going to be a rainy graveside.”
But when we pulled into the First Methodist Church parking lot there wasn’t a drop of rain in the sky or on the ground. It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining. The sky was blue. White, puffy clouds provided contrast. Was this a gift from God?
When we walked into the church I was struck by two things. The church was beautiful. It was traditional Methodist architecture, probably built in the early twentieth century: lots of warm wood, handsome translucent windows, and a rounded communion rail; charming and inviting.
The other thing that struck me was the congregation. The church was packed. People were lined up, waiting to greet Jeff and his family before the service began. The outpouring of love was tangible. You could see it and feel it. It flowed all around.
Jeff’s mother was a musician. When the service began the music was beautiful. An accomplished soprano sang. Jeff played the piano. He composed a piece in honor of his mom. The spoken tributes offered by family members were sincere and meaningful. The service was an outpouring of love: love freely given, love freely received. All were included. The Trinity was at work last Tuesday. That’s how the Trinity works.
The Trinity works here, too. When the Peace is exchanged, when we gather around this communion table, when we eat together in the Parish Hall, when we laugh, when we commiserate, when we greet newcomers and make sure they feel welcomed, when we baptize and confirm and marry and bury, the Trinity is at work among us.
So here’s the take away. The Trinity is about love. When we both offer love and receive love (you must do both), and when we include everyone, we enter into the mystery of the Trinity, and the world is blessed.
Offer love generously, receive love graciously and include everyone.