The other day I came across a cartoon. It depicted a vicar stood by a font, holding a child and surrounded by the family. High above them, sat a lifeguard looking down. The caption read ‘He’s the result of our risk assessment survey.’
What comes to mind when you think about the greatest risk you’ve ever taken?
Perhaps when you launched a new business?
Perhaps when you made that charity parachute jump?
Perhaps when you set out to cross Selby Road?
These are all risks in one sense, however is not the greatest risk of our lives to love.
Hopefully we are born into this life knowing love from our first breath. The love of our parents, family and friends and this love shapes who we are and how we see the world. There’s nothing quite like the love a parent has for a child, and a child has for a parent.
But even this love isn’t risk free. Parents don’t live for ever and to have a child is to be well acquainted with risk, sometimes tragically so.
This parental love isn’t the only love we know though. We choose to love others too, friends, husbands and wives and partners.
Thank God we do, it is right and good to love another person. It’s what we’re here for but it comes with risk.
We risk that love not being returned.
We risk being vulnerable as we open our hearts to another.
We risk being hurt, when a relationship ends or when a loved one dies.
So for me the greatest risk we take in this life is to love. Yet this is a risk that’s worth taking, for without love we as St Paul wrote are ‘nothing’ .
But let’s broaden the question out a bit – what’s the greatest risk that God has taken?
Well we don’t fully know the answer. There is much about God we don’t know. Yet what we can say is that God took an enormous risk in creating you and me.
For God created us, as St Paul wrote in our first reading not to be slaves, pre-programmed to do this or that but through ‘a spirit of adoption’ to be ‘children of God’. Words that imply intimacy and a closeness of relationship.
And having been created by the love of God. We’re invited in our lives to love as God loves us. To love our neighbour but also to love God but this is a choice.
We don’t have to love God. It’s something we choose to do and if we think about it, it cannot be any other way. For if love is love, there can be no compelling or demanding or manipulating because that wouldn’t be love.
St John wrote in our Gospel this morning ‘God so loved the world’. God still loves the world and takes a risk that we as free children will turn away from that life-giving love. In Jesus that risk is made read, incarnated in a man.
So, for God and for us to love is to know risk. That’s true not just for us as individuals but it’s also seen in the life of the church. What we celebrate today is a good example.
The Holy Trinity is a way we have of talking about God. We believe in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. However, this trinitarian image of God wasn’t given to us on tablets of stone like the ten commandments.
Jesus never spoke of it, at least directly rather it was worked out over time. Worked out by people like you and me, who were trying to make sense of what; Christ’s life, death and resurrection, his Ascension and his gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost meant.
Eventually the image of the Holy Trinity emerged, a way of talking about God. So here again we see that God risked we might get it wrong. Yet Christians down the centuries have affirmed this trinitarian understanding of the nature of God, just as we do today.
So, for God and for us to love is to know risk. And looking to the future I think we’re called to live embracing this risk. To live not as timid and fearful human beings but as people willing to take risks in our lives.
I’ve sometimes spent time with people both young and old who for one reason or another, sometimes understandably so seem to have retreated from life.
They’ve created for themselves an environment in which every risk is carefully assessed and managed.
I sometimes think they’ve created a kind of prison but if I’m honest I know can do this too.
So sometimes I have to give myself a right good talking to and remind myself that there is nothing to fear. That I can take a risk for spending time with the risk-taking God we proclaim has an impact on the choices I make about my life.
In her sermon for Pentecost last week Alison encouraged us to dare to dream. Today we remember that if we’re to dream the dreams God that might plant in us then almost inevitably they will carry some degree of risk.
So my friends, may we not be afraid to;
Risk being present with our neighbour at home and beyond.
Risk stepping confidently into the world even when it sometimes seems strange and bewildering
Risk sharing the faith that enriches our lives with others.
Risk being vulnerable as we open our hearts.
Risk being open to new ideas for we might just learn something.
Risk loving as if our lives depended on it.
So on this Trinity Sunday may we strive to not be afraid of taking risks
God has, and so should we.