A circle of friends on pilgrimage for the love of God

Trinity Sunday

The Creation of the Animal Kingdom

Trinity Sunday 2020
Rev. Doug Floyd
Genesis 1:1–2:3, Psalm 150, Romans 1:18-25, Matthew 28:16-20

This morning, we are celebrating Trinity Sunday. We just a wonderful reading of the creation story. The lectionary has brought two of these stories together, the Trinity and the Creation. First, we’ll just think briefly of the Gospel reading that Isaac just read to us. Jesus gives the disciples this great commission to baptize people and disciple them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As I was reading the gospel passage this week, I thought of Jesus speaking to the disciples after years of sharing His life together with them. I cannot can’t recreate their experiences, but I think I could think of ways that I’ve been bound together in small groups with God’s people. Maybe each of us can.

When I was in college, I started a little drama team at our church. I was using a little book on teaching groups improv, and we did some strange exercises each week like imaging we had landed on an alien planet where we spoke an unknown language, and another week we might become rocks in a stream. I was always reading absurd literature at the time, so our skits took on an absurd expression like a group of people trying to warm themselves beside a plastic fire and speaking nonsense. Oddly enough these skits did open opportunities to talk about issues of the heart. We performed at various churches and colleges. Many of our practices would have seemed pretty strange to a visitor but over time we learned how to laugh together, to play together and to perform together.

Then an odd thing happened.

Our little drama group decided to start praying together and then study the Bible together. Without planning it, our crazy little drama team became a little community of faith, a miniature church only we experienced a vital sharing of life together. We experienced an intimacy that I had never experienced in church before.

After college, I had several similar experiences. I worked for a rehabilitation ministry at a Black Pentecostal church. At first, I was counseling and working with the men outside. After six months, the pastor changed my role, and I led a group meeting with the men. We ate together, talked together, prayed together, and became like family together. Once again, experienced this profound sense of family or church life. From college students to people in rehab to teenage kids who didn’t usually go to church and eventually to ex-cons. Each time, I saw this pattern of a community emerge over time: a community filled with arguments, raised tempers as well as tears, prayer, and love.

In some sense, we were entering into a reflection of the Triune life. Yes, it was incomplete, but we were experienced a community of pouring our lives for one another just as we Jesus reveal. I don’t want to oversimplify the doctrine of the Trinity. I simpl want to emphasize one aspect of this life Scripture and the church reveals: a life of continual outpourin as Jesus pours out His life in love before the Father and the Father pours out the Spirit of Resurrection upon Jesus. We see a pattern of generous love holding nothing back.

When I read our Matthew passage for today, I think of this group of disciples who walk together, eat together, serve Jesus together, and are eventually sent out with His Spirit to disciple others in the life of the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s almost as if we were created to live in the reality of that life of common love.

The Acts of the Apostles tell us the early story of this group of disciples being filled with the Holy Spirit and becoming a family of love in Jerusalem and beyond. This early community translated their experience of gathered community around Jesus to new settings and new groups of people. Each time, the Holy Spirit raised up a community of people who share life together, ate together, prayed together, and reflected the life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together.

They not only experienced a taste of this shared life and love, they also began to see their own stories and the stories of Israel in light of Christ. Even as the Holy Spirit led and inspired them, they also began to quote Old Testament texts as pointing to Jesus. The Gospel of Luke tells the genealogy of Jesus by stretching all the way back to Adam. The Gospel of John goes even further by seeing Jesus at the creation of the world:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. (John 1:1-3)

Paul follows a similar pattern in 1 Corinthians:

yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. (1 Corinthians 8:6)

And again in Colossians:

16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16-17)

These early saints were glimpsing the communion of love, the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, before all things. The heavens and the earth are created by the generous love of God, revealing His manifold wisdom. St. Basil writes a series of sermons on the creation, and at various points he is overcome in awe. His sermon becomes a song of praise, reflecting the joyous beauty in the creation story. He writes,

“the world is a work of art, set before all for contemplation, so that through it the wisdom of Him who created it should be known, the wise Moses used no other word concerning it, but he said: ‘In the beginning he created.’” [1]

And again,

“The thing itself did not provide the cause of its existence, but He created, as One good, something useful; as One wise, something beautiful; as One powerful, something mighty. Indeed, Moses showed you a Craftsman all but pervading the substance of the universe, harmonizing the individual parts with each other, and bringing to perfection a whole, consistent with itself, consonant, and harmonious.”[2]

Basil sees something profound about the creation as he meditates on it. It is reflecting the harmony for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And that all things are created in this beautiful harmony of worship, of glory to God, which we even see in Psalm 150. When he speaks of it as being useful, as beautiful, as powerful, as mighty, it appears that he’s meditating on the assessment language that we see in Genesis 1, where we hear God say, “It is good.” The Lord keeps repeating, “It is good,” after different things are created. And he’s using a Hebrew word, tov, which speaks of the quality of something. So, he’s assessing his creation saying, “It is good,” but it also speaks of the beauty of something, the justice of something.

It is a slight distinction from the way the Greeks would understand beauty much later. The Greeks will understand beauty as perfect form. For the Hebrews, something is beautiful for what it is created to do, its usefulness, its purpose. It has an end in mind; the beauty is unveiled in a thing, as it comes to flower.

Everything God creates in Genesis 1 is growing up and flowering. In some sense this good creation is moving from glory to glory. Even as it is growing and developing and reproducing, it is revealing the glory of God. After creating the heavens and the earth, the sun and moon and stars, the creatures and plants above the land, below the land, and on the land, the Triune God creates man: male and female He created them.

Everything in this cosmos is fruitful and God gives it as gift:

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. 30 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.” (Genesis 1:29-30)

This passage describes how creation is life giving. It begins to give us a glimpse of how creation is made in such a way that everything is dependent on everything else. Humans do not live independent of the world. Animals do not live independent of the world. Plants do not live independent of humans. All creation lives in this great exchange of life, which in one sense, is a reflection of the mystery of the triune God, where this life, this generosity is constantly being exchanged, even though we’re not aware of it. It is constantly happening where life is being exchanged and given.

Scripture is filled with passages searching out the never-ending mysteries of creation. We may immediately think of God’s statement to Job, or the Psalmists praises, or even the glorious unveiling of the New Jerusalem. Our Psalm today captures a sense of this entire cosmos raising a hymn of praises back to the Creator in joyful abundance.

Romans 1 reveals how all creation is bearing witness to the Creator:

19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. (Romans 1:19-20)

All creation is revealing the generosity of God, the love of God, the communion of love, but Romans 1 also tells us that humanity lost eyes and heart to behold the Creator in His creation.

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:21-23)

Even as the world bears witness to the glory of God, it also reveals the effects of sin and death. I would suggest the Old Testament continually gives us glimpses of a glorious pastoral creation like in Genesis 1 and 2, the book of Ruth, Psalm 72, and more. But these glimpses devolve back into Romans 1:21-23. The communion of love is broken. Adam turns against Eve. Cain kills Abel. Solomon’s kingdom of peace turns into Civil War. And on it goes. Even the glorious beginnings of the Jerusalem church with everyone sharing everything in common eventually devolves into a people going out from that community to challenge Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles. And on it goes.

In one sense, we might see all of history as telling two stories simultaneously. On the one hand, we can see glimpses of grace all throughout history, but at the same time, we can also see pain suffering and death. Even the American story is filled with this intertwining of worship and new lives alongside greed and destruction and racial injustice. Both stories can be told at the same time. We see the beautiful communion of love that the world was created to be falling apart and unraveling. Sin unravels creation, and the world would cease to exist, if it were not for the grace of God. Thank God for His mercy and grace and for His promise to redeem us and all creation.

As we see the grace of God opening the eyes of the early church to the great communion of love between Father, Son, and Spirit, we also recognize our own blindness and tendency toward idolatry and actions that damage others. We live a life of repentance: a life of turning and returning to the Lord, asking Him to forgive and cleanse us and to lead us into His life of generous love. May we walk in the way of Jesus through faithful humility that serves one another and serves a culture a world in desperate need of grace. Even as we seek His face, we ask for eyes to see and ears to hear the glorious witness of His creation, ever rejoicing and bear witness to the praise of His glorious grace.

[1] Basil of Caesarea, Exegetic Homilies, trans. Agnes Clare Way, vol. 46, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1963), 12.

[2] Basil of Caesarea, Exegetic Homilies, trans. Agnes Clare Way, vol. 46, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1963), 12–13.


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