11Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. 13The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. ~2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Meditation 1: The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ
How would you say “Good bye” to someone who was driving you crazy? Someone who, in your opinion, had their priorities all wrong—who spent their money on the wrong things, or wouldn’t spend it at all? Someone who couldn’t see past glitz and glamour to the empty sentiments on the other side of it all? Someone who rejected you because—you didn’t have that glitz and glamour?
Paul faces this situation at the end of his second letter to the church in Corinth. The Corinthians are driving him crazy. After speaking his mind, telling them what he thinks of their shortcomings, when it finally comes time to say good bye, Paul says, “Grace.” The first words of his farewell benediction are “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.” And grace is all about forgiveness. Grace is all about the sufficiency of God, even (or especially) when we have found ourselves to be sorely lacking. Grace is all about the work of Jesus on our behalf—the totality of his life, his ministry, his death and his resurrection. To the tough and recalcitrant Corinthians, Paul gives a blessing of grace, and says, “Take heart. All is not lost. Far from it. There’s still grace. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Meditation 2: The Love of God
And then, Paul says, “Love.” The confluence of Father’s Day and Trinity Sunday give me an opportunity to speak of the first person of the Trinity, whom Paul here calls God, and who for much of church history has been referred to as “Father.” Jesus called God “Father,” but he also called God “Abba,” which is an endearment, like “Papa” or even “Daddy.” Today the father of the family may be the breadwinner or the stay at home caretaker. Today the father of the family may never enter the kitchen or may be the best and most creative cook. Today the father may be the strict disciplinarian or the soft touch. Today almost all the functions of father and mother can be taken on by either parent—almost.
But in Jesus’ day, the Father was always, in addition to the one who gave you life, the head of the household, the breadwinner, and the one on whom the family depended on for protection, for stature in the community, for identity. The good father was a tower of strength. And Paul commends the very difficult and frustrating Corinthians to the “love of God.” And so “the love of God” resonates with all these things—it speaks of our identity as God’s children, of protection, strength, security, and, yes, tenderness. To those whom Paul has criticized mightily, there is the still more mighty “love of God.”
Meditation 3: The Communion of the Holy Spirit
And finally, Paul says, “Communion.” Communion is a word, that in it’s most basic meaning, is “union with.” Last Sunday I spoke at some length about the Holy Spirit. One of our Presbyterian creeds tells us that “The Spirit… binds us together with all believers in the one body of Christ, the Church.” The Spirit is the one who brings it—the one who brings us—all together. It is by the power of the Spirit that people who are different in every conceivable way—old and young, rich and poor, healthy and weak, hawks and doves, liberals and conservatives—it is by the power of the Spirit that such people can live together, and thrive together, and do God’s good work together. Name any obstacle, construct any dividing wall, delineate any barrier, and the Spirit is capable of overcoming it, breaking it down, moving powerfully and gently around it.
In the final words of Paul’s benediction, he invokes the Trinity—the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit—to remind the Corinthians of the abundant blessings of the God in whom they live and move and have their being. They are living in grace—in forgiveness. They are living in love—in powerful identity and protection. They are living in communion—in the ability to come together as one, despite the forces that might try to drag them apart. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit constitute the reality of the life of faith. Grace, love and communion—these are our heritage, too, something to fill our hearts with songs of praise. Thanks be to God. Amen.