Love the People

Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church, Wesley Chapel, FL
Preacher: The Rev. Adrienne R. Hymes
First Sunday after Pentecost/Trinity Sunday Year A: June 7, 2020
Gospel: Matthew 28:16-20

Trinity Sunday. Celebrant and Preacher: Mother Adrienne Hymes; Lay Ministers: Mrs. Sharon Soto, Mr. Pete Soto, Mr. LeGrand Jones. Altar Guild/Flowers: Ms. Chris O’Donnell; Music: Mrs. Gina Spano; Choir: Ms. Katherine Knippel, Mr. Damon Lazzara. Sermon: “Love the People” (Gospel: Matthew 28:16-20)

Posted by Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church on Sunday, 7 June 2020

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

My mentor and friend, The Rev. Angela Ifill, former Missioner for Black Ministries in the Episcopal Church, served as preacher for my diaconal ordination in 2017. Out of all of the theological teaching and gems shared through her sermon, I vividly recall one powerful statement which continues to operate in my day-to-day ministry. She said, “In all that you do, never forget to love the people. Love the people. Love the people.” In reflection, I was being commissioned to function in a very particular way which points to Jesus’ great commissioning of the disciples heard in our gospel passage today.

In our Gospel passage in Matthew we find the remaining 11 disciples on a mountain in Galilee anticipating that they would see Jesus. They are there because Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, to whom the risen Jesus first appeared on two occasions, faithfully delivered Jesus’ message to them to go to Galilee where they would see him (28:10).

The mountain imagery is prominent in Matthew because it represents a sacred place for God’s revelation. In this passage, God, the Son Jesus, revealed to the disciples two things. First, Jesus’ divine and earthly kingship, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (v. 18).
Second, Jesus’ expectation for the particular function of his disciples in the world. The disciples, then, had a role to play in helping to bring about God’s kingdom here on earth, and Jesus’ 21st century disciples, are to function likewise.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” said Jesus (v.19). The Greek word for nations is ethnos, where we get the word ethnicity. Matthew’s Gospel was written for a Jewish community, so the work to be done was to move beyond the Jewish community to invite the Gentiles—people of all kinds from all places—to be formed, in community, for the work of kingdom building. The command invites the disciples to not only expand the community of believers, but to diversify that expansive community in the name of the One who is perfect unity in diversity.

Now, today is Trinity Sunday. The Trinitarian formula, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, describes God as the unchanging unifying being for God’s diversity of God’s self as God is revealed to humankind. All across our churches preachers will share many images in an attempt to make sense of this strange formula of 1+1+1=1. But, we miss the point if we try to analyze the divine mystery of God’s being.

The Triune God is not a formula; God is an active being, eternally in relationship with God’s self, for the sole purpose of pouring out God’s self in Trinitarian ways. This eternal self-giving is an invitation to humankind to God’s divine dance of equality and mutuality.

Too often, in relationships, the safe space of the analytical mind becomes the default for conflict resolution. But the conflicts that continue to fracture relationships and this nation are not head problems; they are heart problems—broken-heart problems to be specific. And, the spiritual discipline is to move, with intention and courage from the head to the heart in order to walk in love as Christ loves us.

In this time of civil unrest which protests unjust systems that promote racial inequality and deny the mutuality of human beings, faithful followers of Christ are to look to the perfect model of equality and mutuality. We are called to witness the pain of brokenheartedness, and to companion those who have been physically, emotionally and spiritually assaulted to help bring about wholeness. And, it starts with those insightful words of my mentor, “Love the people. Love the people. Love the people.”

Many of us have received invitations that have prompted us to ask the host, “What should I bring?” And, the host says, “Nothing, just show up and bring yourself.” Love, Trinitarian style, requires that vulnerable movement from the head to the heart and a commitment to stay there in the brokenness in order to heal. It is heavy, tough work, and so many of us may wonder whether we actually have what it takes to enter into the terrain of brokenheartedness, asking, “What can I bring?”

The answer, I believe, is in Jesus’ final statement to his disciples on that mountain, “Remember, I am with you always…” What can you bring to the work of healing the collective broken heart of this nation? You can bring your presence. Show up in whatever way Jesus invites you to embody for someone, in need, Jesus’ assurance of his presence, “I am with you, always.”

Jesus’ commission to his disciples was an invitation to dance in the life-giving work of restoring humankind’s broken relationship with God and with each other, empowered by the Holy Spirit. And, Jesus’ invitation still stands. We are invited to show up as willing vessels in this world.

The ancient Japanese art of kintsugi is the process of joining the broken pieces of a damaged object, usually a vessel, together with amalgam mixed with powdered gold. While the restored piece is comprised of the salvageable pieces, the filled-in cracks of gold, (the kintsugi), shines prominently, from the new creation, reminding all who encounter the object that what was once broken has been restored through the “golden joinery.”

The Church, as the body of Christ, of which Jesus is the head, uniquely exists to restore all people to UNITY with God and with each other through Jesus Christ. And, the Church uniquely exists to proclaim that through Christ’s saving work on the cross, the broken relationship between God and humankind, is made new—this broken world, these broken relationships, and our broken hearts.

Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church, participating in the life of the Triune God means that we must embody, more fully, the ideal community to which God has called His Church—a Trinitarian community that exists to bring about justice, love and equality in the world by loving the people. Loving the people. Loving the people.