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A few years ago, when I was working away from home a great deal and shortly after Frances became a fully qualified teacher, I started to worry about Fidget. She was about to be left on her own during the day for longer periods than we would want, and while she is a very well adjusted dog, it was probably not going to be good and secondly I had a fear of her becoming prematurely porky! So, over the breakfast table one weekend I proposed we looked for a dog walker. Patrick, who was then only thirteen, was shocked: “Oh no,” he said, “we don’t want to do that because then Fidget will give some of her love to somebody else.”
Now today is Trinity Sunday and belief in the Trinity is the vital distinguishing mark of our Christianity. The great commission, as our gospel reading for today is known, makes this clear:
As well as baptising in the name of the Trinity, in this great commission Jesus also tells the disciples to teach everything that he has commanded them. We read and remember from Matthew’s Gospel and from the prayer book that there is also a great commandment:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your strength. This is the first and the great commandment. And the second is like unto it; you shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
The commandment then is to love and it is essential that these two ideas, Trinity and Love are taken together (as indeed they are in this almost last sentence that Jesus leaves with the disciples). Jesus is expressing an understanding of love that comes from his own experience, from the Trinitarian relationship, from that special bond between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The interrelatedness of this bond is described and emphasised during our communion when, with the concluding words of the prayer of consecration, I turn to you, lift the host and the cup up together and say:
Sense for a moment the complete commingling expressed there, through and with and in and we have then a sense of the sort of love that Jesus means. If we want to begin to understand the Trinity, an approach is to start with the idea of three (rather than with one) and then try to see how it would all fit together. In other words, let us try to see it from Jesus’ point of view for whom all this is quite as it has always been. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three in one, one in three indistinguishable yet identifiable. They are joined together by divine love, that flows inexhaustibly between them. From Jesus’ viewpoint, God is love, he himself is love and the Holy Spirit is love.
So, if we imagine this quality of love joining and endlessly flowing amongst the Trinity it will define how they exist, that is to say by their relation to one another. Once we have this concept then the intermixing and indwelling ideas of our communion prayers make sense and especially so in the context the Sunday after Pentecost of our having received the Holy Spirit. Remember, he abides with us and through us and is in us.
Actually, that is rather a scary thought, for if the Holy Spirit is in us, that is to say in you and in me, in the person in front of you and those to your right to your left and behind you (lets for the moment concentrate only on our near neighbours) then we are all joined by this inexhaustible flowing love.
Now all this started because I felt instinctively somehow, that Patrick had nothing to fear from the dog walker, that Fidget would not run out of love and that she would still love Patrick just as much as before. She would simply love the dog walker as well. And this seems easy to see and if it is easy to see that a dog will not run out of love, then surely we can see that God, who as Isaiah told us has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, who has marked off the heavens with a span, will certainly not run out of love.
What is really important of course is that Patrick loves Fidget, and that is something precious to him; that, after all, is what he was really telling me. And what is really important to us, is that we love God and we know that just as in the three persons of the Trinity, love is perfect, so God gives all of his perfect love to all of the people all of the time.