The Holy Trinity

June 15, 2014

Summary

From the beginning

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “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 heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.”

And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created … (Genesis 1:1-2:4a ESV)

The message of Pentecost which we observed last Sunday – it is still a divine reality even if we no longer see tongues of fire – is that the Holy Spirit gives insight and courage to take the message of God into the streets, into the world. The message is not one we’ve thought up, discovered, worked out, even made up but is a revelation from God to us about himself – firstly in the person of the Son of God, Jesus – who points us to the Father – who directs us to the Son – who then reveals that the Spirit whom the Father sends in Jesus’ name will teach all things, convict us of sin, comfort us, and take what is Jesus’ and give it to us. That was last week.

What we – and especially the disciples of Jesus after the first few generations – receive is an understanding of who God is – welcome to the Trinity – that teaching that came about in the church that made sense of what the Bible revealed about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The word ‘trinity’ is not found in the Bible – it is Church word – a summary of a teaching that had its debates and struggles for hundreds of years. Please don’t think of these theological debates as ones where people sit down with options to decide what to believe next. That never happens. Theological discussions come about because error is mixed with truth and people who support the truth say ‘Hang on – you can’t say that’ and then it’s on for young and old. Read any history of the development of Christian doctrine or of the ecumenical councils of the church and you will find people contending for the faith – that Jesus died on the cross and truly human and truly God and is our Saviour, our Lord, and the Lamb of God – and no, the Father did not die on the cross – and yes, the Holy Spirit can be lied to or grieved and he speaks and groans and loves so he is a Person and not a force like electricity – and on it goes, each generation building truth which the next generation accepts as it can be seen from God’s Word. And for those with ears to hear, this work is the work of the Holy Spirit keeping people centred and focused correctly on Jesus.

And this is why the lectionary compilers can – and do – as they well should – provide us with Old Testament readings to hear for the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms point to Jesus. And so does the history and the pre-history. Thus it is fascinating that for the Sunday of The Holy Trinity we get to hear the beginning of the Torah – the revelation of God – where God sets out the relationship he is establishing with people – indeed with all of creation.

Please don’t think of Genesis chapter 1 as the first chapter of a long novel. It is the first chapter of Genesis – commonly called the first of the five books of Moses – which is found in a library of 66 books. You read a novel or letter front to back. You dip into a library or an encyclopaedia at the topics you want to follow up. There are many passages in the Bible about creation – and you need to read them all for your theology of creation. What we have this morning as Christians – remember Judaism wouldn’t agree with our interpretation – is the confirmation of relationships – a window into God’s inner relationships and a declaration of his relationship with us. And the key point here is that God who is one – there is only one God – is not singular.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Before there was light, there was God … in the darkness over the deep and there was the Spirit of God hovering over the waters. Genesis 1 isn’t a manual about how to create a universe or world but a description with a pattern in the telling – evening and morning and God seeing things as good – with

days 1 and 4, 2 and 5, and 3 and 6 linked together. As the darkness lessens more is revealed for before the light began god might have been a singular Spirit but then he creates people – in his own image – and he speaks in the plural and makes people male and female. The mystery deepens as we increasingly are in awe of this creation – that men are fully human and women are fully human but that a man and woman are somehow the image of God – that’s what he intended – relationships – communication – intimacy – and when God saw everything he had made, behold, it was very good. And there was evening and morning, the six day.

But the story continues even though the heavens and earth were finished for now we enter a seventh day – one you might note has no evening and morning – perhaps we are still in it – where God rests by blessing, by making it holy and it is in the sanctified living that creation is blessed. The paradox here is that we think of rest as inactivity – snoozing in bed or lounging by the pool – but for God it is sanctification – making holy – touching his creation so that it can be blessed – and at this point there is no danger that God’s presence or his touch would destroy for sin has not yet entered the world.

We can’t imagine what that is like – a world with no sin – us with no sin – but the seventh day is still happening for have we not been blessed by God in the absolution and will we not be blessed as we feast with God and are sent out by him with him going along with us out into the world? Maybe this time of worship is our garden – our seventh day – where God relates to us and we now know him to be Creator and Saviour and Sanctifier – or to use the names revealed to us – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We read Genesis 1 with the light of an empty tomb – with a promise of an eighth day – day of resurrection after death – and we marvel at the wonder of God who is a mysterious trinity but whose total commitment and focus is that he is for us not against from the beginning.

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Bible References

  • Genesis 1 :1 - 24