2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Any Sunday is a good excuse to read this first Creation story, but today is especially good, this day when we turn our special focus to the mystery our God, whom we call the Holy Trinity. There are so many ways this story is wonderful: the patient expansion of creation, the constant refrain that God looks and sees goodness, the fecundity and fertility of everything God made, and the harmony in which everything adheres. God makes everything is good in and of itself, but nothing God makes is by itself. Each thing God makes is good, and all together it is very good. It is a whole, each thing made complementing and enhancing the others. The old way of reading nature is to read it as a harmonious whole, a second scripture to be read along with the Bible, in which the balance and beauty of Nature is a hymn of praise to the Holy Trinity. This is one reason we have Psalm 8, our psalm today. How majestic, O Lord, is your name in all the Earth!
God’s work is to give life. It’s fun to read this story of creation along the timeline of evolution, since they kind of match: first light, then the gathering of matter together, the formation of a planet made of earth and ice, the flowering of bacteria, then plants, then swimming animals, then whatever creeps on the earth, and finally, we humans. Both are stories of infinite variety, and Earth is a place that grows into a globe that is filled to bursting with life. But the point of the Genesis story is not to provide an accurate depiction of science, but to simply look at all the things in the world as things that God has given life—these living, beating hearts, these lungs, and all the things that creep and crawl and fly and grow, each and every one the work of God, the totality of them, the whole of them, also the work of God. And all of it is good.
All too often, we Christians are encouraged to look away from this picture. God is heaven, and we are down here, and if we are good, we’ll make it, somehow, up there. In turning our gaze, we deny the goodness of what God has made—goodness of the things in themselves, not for their use to us. As a matter of fact, this is the primal sin: that we have treated the world as a resource instead of a gift, as something to exploit rather than to encounter and to tend.
Sometimes I think we are supposed to look at this story and weep. Because as beautiful as it is, it doesn’t bear much resemblance to reality. What if the world were really like this, in which humans walked with the animals, named them, sang with them and with all things in praise of their Creator? The Bible returns to this several times: Isaiah has many pictures of the beasts relinquishing their battle, saying even that on the Lord’s mountain, a child will play with an adder. When Jesus finishes his temptations in the wilderness, Mark says the beasts waited on him. In Revelation, in a clear reference to the forbidden tree, a new tree will stand, whose leaves are for the healing of the peoples. But the point of the rest of scripture is the need for healing. All that was very good has become estranged.
When we read this story today, we are not meant to find in it the precise depiction of the generation of the universe. It doesn’t even make sense when read that way: how can you have a day when you don’t have a planet? But that’s not the point of the story. The point is the point the Psalmist makes: that God’s signature abides throughout the universe, and all together we praise God’s name. The point is the goodness of all things, and God’s love for them. The point is for us to see ourselves as members of this creation, partners with God in love and care for it. God gives life, and there is always room for more life in God. This is a story of inclusion—the inclusion of the created order into the eternal life of God. This is a story, primarily and fundamentally about love: not out of compulsion or necessity, but out of love did God make this world. And God still loves us and everything God has made.
The Gospel of Matthew ends with what is called the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” When Jesus gives the great commission, he is simply affirming the purpose of God from the beginning of the world: the eternal Word, which comes into the world, completes God’s love for what God has made by becoming part of it, and the Holy Spirit, permeates everything. The message of the great commission is a message of God’s desire to include everything in God’s love. An Anglican prayer that I’ve quoted before says, “O Lord Jesus, you stretched out your arms on the hard wood of the cross so that all might come into the reach of your saving embrace.” And that’s precisely what Christ’s message is to his disciples today, a message that simply directs them to carry out what has already been accomplished, that God has included all things into his saving love.
Perhaps the easiest way to understand the Holy Trinity is to think of it as love: unity in being. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are scripturally understood as Creator; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are scripturally understood as Redeemer; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are scripturally understood as Sustainer. God is love, and so is Holy Trinity. Our God’s love is not, however, closed, but a love that gives life and a love that overflows into a universe that God now has made to be included in Godself. This means that in Christ Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, God himself acts in totality: God has included the life of Creation into his own life, and has made his life in the world. All the world began in God’s saving embrace; all the world is included in God’s saving embrace. All of creation yearns to hear the good news that God loves the world. Our job is to tell that news.
We do not worship the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. We worship the divine mystery which has been revealed to us as the Holy Trinity, one God in Three persons, everlasting to everlasting. The Holy Trinity is not far off from us, not closed off from us, but rather everywhere, existing in both majesty and mystery. The Holy Trinity is love, active, moving, delivering the world as a mother delivers a child. And finally, the Trinity is an invitation to us, that includes us in itself. We are members of the body of Christ through baptism, sealed by the Holy Spirit, and we are already a part of God’s eternal life. This picture of Genesis is both our history and our promise. Amen.
The Rev. John Z. Flack