Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Holy Trinity (Series A: Genesis 1:1-2:4a)

“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, Amen. The text for our sermon this festival of the Holy Trinity comes from the Old Testament lesson read a few moments ago from the first and second chapters of the book of Genesis. Dear friends in Christ, as we confessed the Athanasian Creed this morning, we boldly declared, “Whoever desires to be saved must, above all, hold the catholic faith.” This is pretty serious stuff. Unless we confess the faith contained in this creed, we cannot be saved. And what is that faith? “We worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.” It’s simply a question of identity. If you aren’t worshipping the Trinity, then you’re worshipping a false God, and no false God can bring you heaven. The one and only true God exists in Trinity; one God, three persons. One plus one plus one equals…one. Our one God is three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. We keep them distinct, so that we can speak individually of the work of the Father, the work of the Son, the work of the Holy Ghost, but we never divide the three persons from each other. The Trinity always exists in unity, always in relationship. All three are always working together to do anything, as we see in the opening chapter of the Bible.

When I read the creation account this morning, you may not have realized that you were seeing the Trinity in action, but all three persons were present. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Notice that Moses uses the singular; the one true God created the heavens and the earth. But throughout this chapter, even though the one God is spoken of again and again, we get strong hints that there is a plurality within the unity; that although there is only one God, that one God is multiple persons. The first hint is in the very next verse: “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 waters.” The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, was hovering, brooding, watching over the infant earth. Then this God speaks, or more specifically, the first person of the Trinity, the Father, speaks: “Let there be light.” And there was light. The Father, working in relationship with the Spirit, creates light. Now we have the Father and Spirit- where’s the Son? Saint John tells us in the opening verses of his Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God… All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.” Where’s the Son? In the powerful Word of creation that the Father speaks. In relationship together, in unity, the Holy Trinity brings all things into being. And on the sixth day, the one true God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Let us, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, make man in our image and likeness. One God in three persons brings humanity to life, culminating the work of creation.

“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Man reflects God’s image and likeness by also being a plurality in unity. Man is singular, but man is created male and female. God exists in the plural, in the relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Man shows forth the image and likeness of God by also existing in the plural, in the relationship of male and female. It is then no wonder that Moses states at the end of Genesis chapter two: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Plurality in unity characterizes God and the crown of His creation, man. Man is then given the privilege to participate in God’s creating work. “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.” But just as God created us in the relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so man too creates only in relationship: male and female, husband and wife, mother and father. Today Father’s Day falls on the festival of the Holy Trinity. This gives us the opportunity to reflect on how God the Father gave us life by working through the relationship of our father and mother. Fathers and mothers have the unique privilege to participate in the creative activity of God, but they can only do so in relationship, just as God always works in the relationship of the Trinity. The image and likeness of God, demonstrated whenever a child is born, is to be fruitful and multiply in the relationship of husband and wife, male and female.

Man was to be fruitful and multiply, not just for the sake of filling space, but for a much higher purpose. Male and female were to fill this earth with God-fearing children; this earth was to be subdued and ruled over in grace and love by men who loved and trusted their Triune God, their Creator. The image of God is perfect fear, love, and trust of God, and man was to raise up generation after generation of those in the image of God. But we wouldn’t have it. Before the first child was even born, man had rebelled against God, plunging every generation into sin and death. Man continued to be fruitful and multiply, but they no longer brought forth children in the image of God, instead in the sinful image of man. This earth was filled and subdued with sinful people in the image of their fathers, people destined to die for their sin. Unfortunately, this wasn’t all, for even the command to be fruitful and multiply in the relationship of husband and wife was fractured. Sin broke up the creative relationship of father and mother. Divorce separates what the Triune God made one flesh; premarital sex means that many children are separated from the unity of the relationship through which God gave them life. Our society has marginalized fathers, making them the butt of jokes and increasingly pushing them away from the lives of their children. And through technology, today man can even refuse God’s command to be fruitful and multiply. The pill means that man can choose not to participate in the privilege that God gave at the beginning; abortion calls what God created through the relationship of male and female a mistake that must be destroyed. In-vitro fertilization means that children are even possible outside of the creative relationship God established.

Man violated all of God’s commands, but the depth of our rebellion is fully shown when we examine how we have completely and utterly rebelled against the command, the privilege, the gift, to be fruitful and multiply. But the same Triune God who gave that command, who intended for God-fearing mankind to fill this earth and rule over it, had a plan. Salvation was promised, and this salvation would come once again in relationship, as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit worked in unison to redeem us from our sin. The Father, the first person of the Trinity, sent His Son into this world, to take on our human flesh, live the perfect life that we couldn’t, and die in our place. The second person of the Trinity, the Son, the Word by whom the Father spoke all things into existence, willingly took on this task. True God in human flesh, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ willing gave Himself up as the sacrifice for our sin. He humbled Himself before the blows of sinful man, those who were created in the very image and likeness of God but fell into sin and rebellion. He suffered, He died for those violated the command to be fruitful and multiply, for those who ruined and violated all of the commandments. He suffered and died for your sin. His life was for you, and His death was for you and the forgiveness of all your sins. And if His life and death was for you, then His resurrection was also for you. God raised up Jesus on Easter morning, proving that the Father had accepted the sacrifice of His Son, demonstrating that death itself was defeated. Then on Pentecost, the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, sprung into action, beginning His work of bringing forth the forgiveness of sins, the proclamation of Christ’s death and resurrection into the entire world. The Trinity acted to save you and me from sin and death, and as always, all three persons acted in relationship.

Now, the Spirit brings forth children of God, finally fulfilling the command to be fruitful and multiply through the work of the Church. Saint Luke declares in Acts: “And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem.” The Church is fruitful and multiplies, bearing children through the proclamation of the Gospel and the washing of Holy Baptism. It should come as no surprise to us that the Church does this in relationship, in relationship with the Holy Trinity. Jesus sent the disciples out with this command: “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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” You are baptized into the Name of the Father, who created us and send His Son to redeem us. You are baptized into the Name of the Son, the Word by whom all things were made, the sacrifice that paid the price for your sin. You are baptized into the Name of the Holy Spirit, who hovered over the waters, who today hovers over the Church, working through her to make children of God. Through the washing of the water with the Word, you are put back into relationship with your God, the only true God, the Triune God.

This same Triune God intended in the beginning that the earth would be filled with those who fear and love God. With the redemption of Christ, that plan and purpose is finally fulfilled, for the new heavens and the new earth will be filled with children of the Father, those who will have the perfect image and likeness of God, restored and cleansed from the corruption of sin. You and I will dwell with all other children of God, in relationship with the Trinity for eternity. Thanks be to the Triune God for making us His children! In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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