God is love.
There are many ways that people try to describe God, and Trinity Sunday is often filled with explanations from preachers about the nature of God. These explanations easily lull us calmly into a sermon long slumber, but I will leave the Trinity explanations to mystery and simply say what the scriptures proclaim: God is love. If you want to know about God, than look no further than unconditional love.
In a sense, we learn the most about God when we are surrounded by love. To help surround our hearts and minds by love, Rochester, New York journalism student Laura Jeanne Allen Hammond has a story about how her grandparents taught her a lesson in love that outlasted their lifetime and lives on in her own. She writes:
My grandparents were married for over half a century, and played their own special game from the time they had met each other. The goal of their game was to write the word "shmily" in a surprise place for the other to find. They took turns leaving "shmily" around the house, and as soon as one of them discovered it, it was their turn to hide it once more.
They dragged "shmily" with their fingers through the sugar container to await whoever was preparing the next meal. They smeared it in the dew on the windows overlooking the patio where my grandma always fed us homemade pudding. "Shmily" was written in the steam on the mirror after a hot shower, where it would reappear bath after bath. At one point my grandmother unrolled an entire roll of toilet paper to leave "shmily" on the very last sheet.
There was no end to where "shmily" would pop up. Little notes with "shmily" scribbled on them were found on car seats or taped to the steering wheel. The notes were stuffed inside shoes and left under pillows. "Shmily" was written in the dust on the mantle and traced in the ashes of the fireplace. The mysterious word was a much a part of my grandparents' house as the furniture.
Grandma and Grandpa held hands every chance they could. They finished each other's sentences and shared the daily crossword puzzle. My grandmother whispered to me about how cute my grandpa was--the man she met on a blind date--and how handsome an old man he had grown to be. Before every meal they bowed heads and gave thanks, marveling at their blessings: a wonderful family, good fortune and each other.
But there was a dark cloud on my grandparent's life, my grandmother had cancer. The disease had first appeared ten years earlier, and at that time I remember that she'd painted her room yellow. With a yellow room, she explained, she would always be surrounded by sunshine even if she was too sick to go outside to enjoy it.
With the help of a cane and my grandfather's steady hand, they still went to church every morning. But my grandmother grew weaker until she could not leave the house anymore. For a while, grandpa would go to church alone, praying to God to watch over his wife. Then one day, what we all dreaded finally happened. Grandma was gone.
It was scrawled in yellow on the pink ribbons of my grandmother's funeral bouquet. As the crowd thinned and the last mourners turned to leave, my aunts, uncles, cousins and other family members gathered around Grandma one last time. Grandpa stepped up to my grandmother's casket and, taking a shaky breath, he began to sing to her. Through his tears and grief, the song came, a deep and throaty lullaby.
Shaking with my own sorrow, I will never forget that moment. For I knew then that, although I couldn't begin to fathom the depth of their love, I had been privileged to witness its unmatched beauty.
"S-h-m-i-l-y. See How Much I Love You.
The game was fun. It was a game all about being surrounded by love in surprising places. It was a game all about sacrifices (small as they may be). I mean, who takes the time to unroll a whole roll of toilet paper in order to write “See How Much I Love You,” and then roll it back up perfectly. Now that is a sacrifice of love.
It is a small echo of the sacrifice of love that Jesus showed us. “Do you want to know how much I love you?” Jesus says. Look around for a bit. You might be surprised where you find it. It is actually on a cross. It is actually on an ancient instrument of torture.
Who would have expected to find love there? But, who would have expected to find love in toilet paper? Love can be found in surprising places, especially when it is a sacrificial sort of love that will go to any length for another person.
It is the sort of love that causes parent to take the fall for the crime of her child.
It is the sort of love that causes a soldier to jump in front of a bullet for a buddy.
It is the sort of love that causes a teacher to lunge toward a school shooter, bullets piercing his flesh, in order to save the children under his charge.
We do not expect to find love in the middle of crime, war, and shootings, but it is there. And on the cross, (that ancient version of execution similar to our gas chambers today) love takes its form in an eternal and universal sort of way.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life" (NRSV, John 3:16)
God is love. God is all about love. God the Father loves all creation, God the Son is the beloved, willing to sacrifice himself in an act of love, and the Holy Spirit is the love that is shared between them that moves even this day like the wind wherever the Spirit desires...even to the most unlikely of places.
God is a community of love, and you have been drawn into that community through God’s acts of love for you.
Nicodemus, that religious leader of Jesus' time, sought out the wisdom of Jesus in the night. He sought out Jesus in the dark. He sought out Jesus during the time of night when murders, robberies, and drunken beatings occur.
Surprisingly, Jesus was there. Love was there. Love can find us, even in the dark.
Love, of course, is drawn to the light. Love is light. Love brings all things into the light When the darkness is the best that we can do, Jesus (God’s love in the flesh) can still find us and redeem us. Jesus does not go into the dark places to condemn those places, but to find us and redeem us by his love. "Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17).
God is love. If you want to know about God, then look no further than unconditional love.
You are a part of God’s love. You have been found. You have been redeemed. Jesus has died for the world because of love. You are one with that love. “See how much I love you,” Jesus says. “See how much I love you.”