In the beginning when God created
The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. Amen
These are the final words from St. Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians
They are fitting words which are part of the selected readings for this day - Trinity Sunday
Trinity Sunday in which the church honours the three persons of God
Trinity Sunday – is the Sunday after Pentecost – Pentecost the birthday of the church
Where the disciples gathered were filled with the Holy Spirit and began proclaiming in different tongues the Good News
Pastor Jon Folgerman shared with us last week his reservations and sense of intimidation with preaching on Pentecost, to try to live up to the standard of Peter’s sermon that added 3000 converts in a single day
Well ‘Trinity Sunday’ presents me with its own challenges for preaching
For many the notion of the “Trinity” is something not very pressing to everyday life
However the goal of the preacher is to translate the Word of God and connect it to the hearers
This week we also have the opportunity to hear the account of creation from the first chapter of Genesis – an opportunity that comes up in the lections only once every three years
An opportunity not to be missed in our gathering together
But a difficult task, difficult to put ourselves in God’s place “in the beginning”
Yet, I set the task ahead to preach, that is to translate, God’s Word on creation and the Trinity
My own process for preparing the sermon is to read and re-read the scripture several times to get comfortable with it – to try to discover the nuances
To find the teachable points that I believe will resonate with you
I spend time each week with our Bible study group, that reads and discusses Sunday’s upcoming lections and I hear how God is communicating through each of us
I am often surprised by what God has to share through me at those moments of sharing – insights that I wasn’t aware of when I started speaking
God’s living Word comes alive, through each of us
And I rarely write my sermons until after I have been inspired by God through our group
I spend time reading commentaries from scholars, much smarter then I will ever be - to gain their insights and understand the many layers in which the scriptures come to us
I also read other peoples sermons for further inspiration
This week I should have questioned why there were so few on either the trinity or creation
But after it all, this week - I found myself at a loss
I couldn’t seem to see the how God’s creation and the three persons of God will translate … in a meaningful way for our individual lives
I rack my brain to communicate a message that I can connect with
I was ready to abandon all my notes and time and switch my focus to the Gospel reading
When in desperation I prayed to God for guidance
It is then when it hits me
Through my prayer – God gives me an insight that is right in front of me all along
You , who are much smarter then me, probably know this…
It’s not about me – it’s about God
The Trinity is about the character and nature of God
It’s about the community of the three persons of God
And it’s about “who is God” and what God does
I had been trying to domestic God and God’s creation so that it would easily translate
I was trying bring God down to my size so that I would have a lesson for all of us
But the creation story is not about a domesticated God
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth
We didn’t create God, God created …
From God’s overflowing of creativity… God created
Each week we make a statement of faith - a statement of what we believe
In either the Nicene or the Apostle’s creeds
We proclaim in three paragraphs, one for each person of the Trinity
What we believe God to be
I have heard the creeds described as a table of contents to the important teachings found in the Bible.
The Creed is full of rather complicated notions.
God is “Almighty,” the “maker of heaven and earth,” the maker of “all that is,” whether seen or unseen.
Our creation reading today draws us into the mystery of a God who creates and sustains and who made us in his own image.
The truths we learn here are beyond simplicity, beyond the world of facts.
They pierce into the mystery of a truth beyond our understanding.
In that first chapter we get a beautiful poetic glimpse into one of the most powerful stories ever declared
It is from this section of the Bible that the first astronauts that circled the moon choose to read ‘for all the world on earth to hear’
When we read it out loud, we can hear its rhythm, its resonance, its beat.
And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day
See its imagery, hear its sounds
“Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.”
“Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.”
“Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.”
“Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness;
By the way - notice the order, not unlike the theory of Evolution
First vegetation… then marine creatures… then flying creatures… then land creatures
…and then humanity
However we cannot read a text like the creation account as if it is claiming to enlighten us about history, cosmology, or science as we understand those disciplines today.
The writer never intended to do that, and if that had been their intent, their science and history would have been outmoded shortly after the author wrote.
Just like our own science of fifty years ago seems outmoded today
The author’s purpose was to offer a poetic theological reflection on creation, on the nature of its creatures,
and most importantly on the God who brought it all into being.
To paraphrase a great preacher of our time, Fred Craddock,
to preach the Bible we need to preach like the Bible.
The text is; majestic, awe-inspiring, emotional, full of images and movement.
To try and pare the text down to science or to pick apart words and phrases,
Is to focus on the trees so much that you lose the majesty of the forest
It has been unfortunate that one device which our narrative uses to express the coherence and intentionality of the creator’s work,
Namely, the distribution of the various ‘creative acts’ to six days,
Has been seized on and interpreted over-literalistically,
with the result that science and Scripture have been pitted against each other
instead of being seen as complementary.
With the all too often negative repercussion of this one aspect being rejected and leading to the conclusion that all needs to be rejected
The proverbial – “throwing the baby out with the bath water”
Properly understood, Genesis reveals God as the creator of order and justifies the scientific experience of unity and order ‘in nature.’
Beyond the majesty of creation and the creator there remains the question as the writer of Psalm 8 questions
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
Mortals that you care for them?
Why would God make
Humankind in our image, according to our likeness;…
Why would God say to us
“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
Why us – why mortals – why do we have dominion – why are we in the likeness of God?
One outlook, is that properly understood the first chapter can serve as a splendid introduction to the book of Genesis as a whole - and an important contextual beginning to the entire Bible.
It declares that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is no mere localized or tribal deity,
But the sovereign Lord of the whole earth.
The apparently petty and insignificant family stories that occupy the bulk of the book are in fact of cosmic consequence,
For God has chosen these people so that through them all the nations of the earth should be blessed.
The creation of the heavens and the earth and all things within it, are the beginnings of God relationship with us
But the Bible doesn’t end there and Trinity Sunday is not solely about God the creator
In our Gospel reading today we have Matthew’s account of the Great commission
Jesus declares: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The dominion we exercise must be understood in the way of Jesus of Nazareth – the Christ
In parallel to Genesis where we are “sent” to be fruitful and subdue and have dominion,
in Matthew we are “sent” in the word “Go”
We have a mission – it is with the power of the Holy Spirit and so is a co-mission…
To rule as Jesus ruled
To rule as the one who serves.
The task of the shepherd is not to control but to lay down his life for the sheep
Jesus in his final instructions gives us the ministry to follow in His way
In baptizing and making followers in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
We are sent out to be fruitful in the name of the Lord
And for our parents and godparents of those being baptised today
For all of us gathered together that proclaim the promises of the baptismal covenant, where
- We affirm our faith
- We promise to "continue in the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers."
- We promise to resist evil and to repent and return to the Lord when we sin
- We promise to proclaim the good new of God in Christ
- to love our neighbours as ourselves
- and to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being
- Which we promise to do so “with God’s help”
In other words, we promise to strengthen our faith and seeking to help bring God's love into the world.
We are created to be sent out co-creating in God’s love
You see Trinity Sunday is not just one day each year but our role and response everyday