I.Theme – Creation and Trinity meet in Worship
"The Trinity" – Hermano Leon
The lectionary readings are here or individually:
The week is seemingly about beginnings and end – creation in the Old Testament and the Trinity in the New Testament. The Epistle and Gospel are the concluding verses in the 2nd Corinthians and Matthew.
The key concept that bring creation and Trinity is worship. The Gospel emphasis is on the disciples worshipping the risen Lord and spreading His teachings. The creation stories describe God worthy of worship.
Furthermore this is for us a time of transition as we move into Ordinary Time. Our liturgical calendar is top-heavy in that all of the major seasons and holy days of the church happen in the first half of the church year which begins on the first Sunday of Advent. The second half of the year is rather quiet. It is a time to go deeper into the life of Jesus and the great stories of the Old Testament
Both of the Old Testament readings for this day look at the work of the Creator, in the first account of Creation found in Genesis, and more specifically at the creation of humankind in Psalm 8, our purpose and our role. Both Psalm 8 and Genesis 1 explain the role of humanity to have dominion over the creatures of the earth, and both suggest that this dominion is given by the same God who has dominion over us. The understanding of stewardship and care is explicit in this understanding of having dominion.
Both of these passages also suggest that God is in relationship in a divine sense. In Genesis, God says, “Let us make humankind in our image.” In Psalm 8:5, the psalmist sings, “Yet you have made them [human beings] a little lower than God.”
As God is in relationship with us, we are created in the image of God: in the image of relationship. We were created to be in relationship with one another because this is the image of the Divine: God is in relationship. Jesus made this clear, especially in John’s Gospel, in referring to God as “Abba, Father.”
We know that breath, wind and spirit are the same words in Hebrew as in the Greek–we have experienced the wind from God that swept over the waters in the second verse of the Bible as the Holy Spirit, moving through the house on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 like the rush of a violent wind, breathing on the disciples from Jesus the night after his resurrection in John 20.
The concept of the Trinity is hard to find in the Bible. The two New Testament passages this week are among the very few that mention all three: God the Creator (Father/Mother of us all), Christ the Son (Savior, Redeemer and Messiah), and the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost). The Trinity as a doctrine came later in the life of the church, as did most of our doctrines and core theological beliefs.
For Trinity Sunday, we recognize and celebrate the mystery of God’s relationship with God’s self, and the mystery of our own relationship with God, created a little lower than God/Angels/Divine Beings and recognize our relationship with God, all of humanity, and creation as shared in Genesis 1 and Psalm 8. And we recognize our own calling by this Triune God through the person of Jesus Christ in our commission to the world in Matthew 28.
Some of us have our doubts, even about the mystery of the Trinity, but we all are called by the same Jesus to “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.” This is our call–to make disciples in the names of all Three in One. Holy, holy, holy. God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity. We are comforted by Jesus last remark “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
On this Father’s Day, we celebrate the Trinity, and we also can celebrate the relationship Jesus had with God, one in which Jesus called God Abba, Father.
Old Testament – Genesis 1:1-2:4a
This passage says much about God and his relationship to humans. Genesis stresses that the created world is a gift in which human beings have particular responsibilities indicated by being made in the image of God to exercise dominion. The latter is to help elements of creation live together in the mutuality and solidarity of Genesis 1. We are to do in our little spheres of influence what God does in the cosmic sphere
There are two life forces or agencies of creation
A. The Spirit of God moving over the face of the water. The Hebrew word ruah is also translated ‘breath’.
B. the Word of God. “God said ‘Let there be light’”; and the pattern continues: “God said…and it was so”. Like the Spirit the Word is also a recurring theme in Scripture, leading to in the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ.
God here exercises divine power through peaceful means. God creates by the word. To be sure, this text emphasizes God’s singular power, even omnipotence in creation. Yet the means is peaceful compared with many people in antiquity who believed the world came into existence through violent combat among the gods. The latter meant that violence was built into the order of creation. Creation by the word suggests that the means of bringing something into existence should be consistent with the end. According to Genesis, violence is not inherent in creation but results from the misuse of creation.
First, “In the beginning when God created …”: God pre-exists all creation; he existed before all time. The whole visible world came into being as a result of divine activity. At first, there was no order to the earth; it was chaotic; it was empty; “a formless void” (1:2). A force is present, a life-giving power: “a wind [or Spirit] from God”. From 1:3 on, the creation story is in the form of a hymn, with a refrain, “God saw that … [it] was good” (1:4, etc), This ancient story is divided into seven days, or stages of creation.
On the first day, God creates light, thus overcoming the “darkness” (1:2). In the Semitic mind, God’s ability to give names to light and darkness shows that he controls them.
To grasp Day 2 (1:6-10), we need to appreciate that people saw the earth as covered by a huge inverted pudding bowl, the “dome”, above which were the upper waters: snow, hail and rain. The “waters” surrounded the “dry land”, which God again names.
On Day 3 (1:11-13), God has vegetation created through his agent, Earth. Other peoples worshipped some kinds of vegetation; in not creating vegetation directly, God reduces the chances of Israel doing the same: they are to worship only God. On the following days, living things (as seen by the ancient mind) are created or made. People then thought plants were unable to transmit life.
The Sun and the Moon, created on Day 4 (1:14-19), are inanimate to us, but to ancient people they were beings, moving on fixed tracks on the under-side of the dome. To Israel, they are beings under God’s command.
On Day 5 (1:20-23), God creates animals of the sea and air. Even the “great sea monsters” (e.g. Leviathan) were seen as creatures of the one God, and are therefore good. They, the fish and the birds get a special blessing because people thought they did not have the same ability to reproduce as land animals.
On Day 6, land animals are created. 1:24 says that God caused the earth to “bring [them] forth”; however, in 1:25, God creates them directly. The creation story was handed down orally for centuries, and a tale varies in the telling. As we often find in Genesis, the author (or editor) is not afraid to include divergent versions.
“Let us” (1:26) is like a royal we; the creation of humans is the climax of the creation story. Human is made (created) in God’s “image” (the Hebrew word implies an exact copy or reproduction); but he is also a “likeness” (resemblance, similarity). He rules over all creatures. Sex is of divine origin. It is because of God’s blessing that we have procreative power. Human is to “subdue” (1:28) the earth and all that is in it. His rule over the animals won’t always be easy. 1:29-30 say that we were initially vegetarian. (God permits Noah to eat meat.)
Day 7 is the day of rest, a reminder of the Sabbath. God blesses the seventh day, thus setting it apart. There is no evening of this day: the relationship between God and man continues for ever.
Genesis uses “generations” (2:4) to mark important stages in God’s actions, starting with creation. The text shows him as creator in his total and uncompromised power, the intrinsic order and balance of the created world, and mankind’s importance and his key role in the scheme of creation. God’s creation is also peaceful, unlike the warring factions (gods) of Enuma Elish. The focus is on the emergence of a people; the earth serves as an environment for the human community. Genesis 1 works within the science of its time to tell of divine power and purpose, and the unique place of humans
Psalm – Psalm 8
This is a psalm of praise of God as creator. Particularly remarkable is “the work of your fingers,the moon and the stars you have set in their courses
The wondrous nature of humanity is celebrated at several points. “Out of the mouths of babes…” notes that even the youngest of humankind know their special relationship with God. His majesty is even more evident. At the center of the psalm stands the human, placed below God, the gods, and the angels but with dominion over the beasts of the field. This recall Genesis 1:26-28: we share in God’s dignity for he has conferred on us mastery of, and responsibility for, the rest of creation. The relationship is succinctly stated, as well as the honor and the responsibility that goes with it. The meditation on creation becomes a reflection on our role with God in creation.
The “foes” may be the powers of chaos, as in Genesis 1:1.
Epistle -2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Our reading today is the conclusion of the second letter to the Corinthians.
There are problems with the Corinthian Christian . Paul exhorts them to restore the “order” and “peace” which God expects. In this farewell to the people at the Church in Corinth, Paul wishes a blessing replete with all good things: agreement, peace between themselves and God and with humankind as well
In our concern to express ourselves and get our needs met, we often overlook the truth that "the group/ congregation as a body has a life too," and that we are each responsible for its health and flourishing. One of life’s great creative tensions: we are individuals and we are members of the group/ body/ whole. Paul ends this letter with four imperatives: put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you
The “holy kiss” (v. 12) was a symbol of communal love among Christians; it was shared at the Eucharist. The “saints” are other Christians.
The blessing is the following – “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”
Note the order in v. 13: the “grace of … Christ” leads us to “the love of God”; this love flows into common participation in God and with each other. This verse is known as the Grace. Trinitarian benediction used Sunday by Sunday in churches around the world
This might be compared with that other familiar Trinitarian benediction: ‘the blessing of Almighty God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit…’ In the latter Jesus is included relationally and entirely within the Godhead; in the former he is specifically named and acknowledged as ‘Lord’, source and embodiment of a grace which sits alongside the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit.
Gospel – Matthew 28:16-20
After his resurrection, Jesus has told Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” (v. 1) to “tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (v. 10). Now Jesus appears to “the eleven” (v. 16, less Judas) on “the mountain” where he was transfigured. Some worship (v. 17) him, but others doubt. He has received “all authority” (v. 18) from the Father, so he now sends out his followers to “all nations” (v. 19, not just Israel) to:
-baptise in the possession and protection (“name”) of the Trinity, and
-to carry on his teaching ministry.
To help in this daunting task, he is, and will be, with them until the Kingdom of God comes fully. This is the "Great Commission."
Note also the response of the disciples to the Lord’s appearance – worship and doubt. By this point Judas had departed the scene so if, as we are told, there were eleven disciples present, Thomas must have been one of them. Was he still doubting? Indeed, had his doubts become infectious? The reference to ‘some’ doubting suggests more than one sceptic amongst the eleven. That the disciples “doubt” (or do not recognize him) is a common theme in the resurrection appearances (Emmaus, Mary Magdalene, at the Sea of Galilee, and Thomas).
No longer is the mission of the church limited to the Jews. The mission is unlimited – a development that would have been apparent to Matthew and his contemporaries. And what shall this church do? Baptize is the first command, The other command is to teach, and here we see Matthew’s identification of Jesus with the Prophet Moses (see the Birth Narrative). Unlike Moses, however, this teacher is with us “to the end of the age.”
From the start of his Gospel Matthew presents Jesus within a Mosaic framework – the flight into Egypt to escape a murderous king, a Gospel narrative in five main sections reflecting the Pentateuch, the setting forth of ethical laws in a Sermon on a Mount, transfiguration on a Galilean hilltop – and now this concluding scene, again on a mountain. There is something transcendent on being on a mountain. These are concluding verses as with the Epistle with instructions ahead.
Matthew wanted his congregation to believe that Jesus was God’s agent in a coming apocalypse that would end the present world and establish the Realm of God as an eternal community of humankind and nature in the kind of mutuality described which links to the Old Testament reading. Matthew believed the transition to the Realm was partially underway in the present and would be complete after the apocalypse.
Matthew invokes the names of God, Jesus, and the Spirit (Matt 28:19). God is the author of the movement towards the Realm. Jesus is the rabbi pointing the way. The Spirit is a sign of the time and source of eschatological power. Matthew intends for gentiles to hear the three-fold invocation as impressing upon them the trustworthiness of the first gospel (and its picture of Jesus). To oversimplify, gentiles must become more Jewish because that is the way of faithfulness.
III. Articles for this week in WorkingPreacher:
Old Testament – Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Psalm – Psalm 8
Epistle – 2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Gospel – Matthew 28:16-20