Trinity Sunday/Peace with Justice Sunday
2 Corinthians 13:5-13

We gather this morning to observe two special days in our church. The first of these is Peace with Justice Sunday, where we celebrate the work of our denomination in advocating for peace and justice around the world through our various committees, boards, and programs. 

The second special day is Trinity Sunday, which is when churches around the world celebrate the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, the self-revelation of God as One in Three and Three in One: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All three persons of the Trinity, the Christian theological tradition tells us, are distinct yet of the same substance; all are begotten and not created; all are eternal and equal. It’s difficult to understand and to make sense of at times, but what we come out of this with is the proclamation God is mysterious, meeting us in different ways, and that God is fundamentally relational, constantly reaching out in love. 

The readings that the lectionary have set out for us today all seek to tell us something about this three-fold nature of God. The reading from the Hebrew Bible is the first chapter of Genesis, where we read about the creation of the world. Throughout the history of the Church, theologians have read into this passage references to the Spirit and to the Word, as God says, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.” [1]

The Gospel lesson comes from the final chapter in Matthew, when Jesus commands the apostles to “Go and make disciples of every nation, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” [2]

The New Testament reading that Pastor Cathy just read for us notably ends with a trinitarian benediction as Paul says farewell to the church in Corinth: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” Yet before this, it goes a little deeper. If the passage from Genesis tells us that humankind was made in the image of God, Paul identifies what it means to live as the image of this “Three in One, One in Three” God. 

Undoubtedly, the appeal to greet one another with a holy kiss is not overly helpful to us as we try to manage COVID-19 through social distancing and quarantine. But what catches my eye in this passage is the call to live in peace, especially on a day when we Methodists are paying particular attention to peace; especially following the week that we have just gone through. 

For peace seems to be on the forefront our collective attention. We hear and talk so much about whether or not a protest is peaceful, be it in the light of marching, of chanting, or of property damage; some of those who have been arrested have been charged with “disturbing the peace.” We discuss the merits or possibilities of peaceful policing, as many of the images that we have seen—especially here in New York—is an image of the police deploying tear gas, donning riot gear, and committing acts of brutality. For those of us who have been a part of protests in these past few days, we’ve been part of a crowd that is chanting “No Justice, No Peace” as we march through the streets of our city. And then there are those who wish that all of this would just die down so that peace and quiet can return. 

But what is crystal clear to me is that we do not agree on what peace is. So let me be as perfectly clear as I can: 

If there is no justice, there is no true peace. 

For peace without justice is no peace at all. As long as our Black brothers and sisters and siblings are forced to live in fear of death at the hands of the police, there is no peace. As long as the power of a select few overrides the lives of the many, there is no peace. As long as people are dying because of a lack of food or healthcare, there is no peace.

And what has been unveiled again in this past week is that we have never truly been at peace in this nation. Since its inception, our nation has been the perpetrators of injustice, from slavery to Jim Crow to police brutality; the protests that we see now are not new but rather a result of this old violence being brought to the surface yet another time. What seems to be the case is that we too often fall into the same patterns of the Judean communities, whom the prophet Jeremiah derides by saying that “they have treated the wounds of my people carelessly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.” 

And yet what is before us this day is the chance to begin the long march to true peace. What is before us is the opportunity to confess where it is that we have fallen short of this peace, both in our own lives and in our life together as a church and as a nation. What is before us is the possibility of entering into the peace of God; to join anew into the life of the triune God whose very essence is love.

This is not an easy path, especially for those of us who are confronted with an epidemic that we did not know was so prevalent. It will take unlearning and learning, some deconstruction and some construction, speaking out and listening. It’s going to be uncomfortable for many of us as we confront the prejudices and biases within our own selves that we did not know were there. 

But my goodness, this moment is calling to us. The Triune God is inviting us into this work of justice and peace. 

Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” [3] May we in this moment recall the fire that came last week at Pentecost, and may that fire envelop us as we go forth to create that peace that has never existed. Let us join together.

[1] Genesis 1:26
[2] Matthew 28:19
[3] Matthew 5:9