In the Beginning, Genesis 1:1-2:4a, The Holy Trinity, June 7, 2020
Did you think our reading was particularly long this morning? I guess we can consider ourselves lucky today because I am reminded of a dentist who was asked at the last minute to read in a church service. A typo in the bulletin said that the scripture reading was Genesis 1-12, when it was supposed to be Genesis 1:1-12. He was well into chapter three before the pastor walked over and told him “that’s enough, Bob.”
The ancient world, in which Moses wrote Genesis, had many stories about how the world came to be. Those stories were all bloody and violent. In one such account the God’s of Babylon are at war among themselves, finally defeating the evil goddess of chaos. Looking at her massive carcass they wonder what to do with it, finally settling on splitting it in half, with the top becoming the sky, and the bottom half the waters of the earth from which the land would be taken. As an afterthought, man was created as a toy and servant of the Gods.
The creation story heard by the Babylonians was chaotic, bloody, and accidental. The gods did not plan it; they did not even want it. It was simply the best thing to do with the carcass of a monstrous defeated enemy. Mankind was an afterthought, created to please the gods. Contrast that with the truth that Moses presents us and you will find a fundamentally positive message that is often lost.
Moses tells us God has planned the whole thing. He delights in His creation at every step. There is no violence, there is only the stately speaking of the word, and then the word takes shape in reality. The order in which things were made required thought, and planning. The message that Moses seems to want to get across is that we are the result of God’s plan, that God delights in His creation, that God has thought this thing out, and that He wants and loves His creation.
The message is that you and I are not the product of random processes, but the intentional creation of a loving God who delights in us. Too often the fight over this text in Genesis is about how old the earth is, or how we fit dinosaurs into the Genesis time table.
But in truth, that misses the real point to the beginning of Genesis. God delights in His creation. He loves it. Man is not just a plaything of the gods, nor is man just a randomly generated speck in a massive and randomly-run universe, but the intended, delightful, beloved pinnacle of an orderly, planned, and good creation.
Long ago the world looked capricious, violent, and cruel to the ancients so they projected that in their creation story. Comparatively, our world tries to make things look to be random, without meaning, and wholly without God. Thus, that is often projected into the current understanding of our origin, scientifically called evolution. Genesis chapter-one, speaks a loud and beautiful objection to both of these theories.
This actually has implications for our story of salvation. This story, the one about the accidental and unintentional creation, will show up again. There Jesus will not really be a man, but just looking like a man. He will not come to shed real red blood to save the whole world, He will only impart helpful knowledge so we can try to escape this random, evil, and capricious world; or at the very least, learn to live with it.
The Creation account in Genesis really says some important things about this world in which we live, things which play right into the way we understand the cross and salvation itself. God is the Creator. He stands at the beginning of all existence itself. Without God, nothing is which is.
There can be serious and uncomfortable implications to all this. God gets to make the rules. He has a right to expect them to be kept and obeyed. He gets to determine what happens if they are not. Ultimately, it is in His hands to crumple up this universe like an artist’s rejected sketch, and toss the whole thing into the trash bin if He wanted. Being the Creator means He is also the judge.
Yet, God made His creation good; even though we see all the great evil in the world around us. The current state of affairs is a terrible fall from that goodness. We are not progressing upward, but digressing downward. This has led many in our current generation to ask hard questions, especially around the questions of evil. But the Bible is clear. God made it good. It is repeated too often in Genesis to be ignored.
God loves His creation. He is saddened by the destruction wrought by sin and has Himself done something about this, in the incarnation of Jesus. What’s more, by incarnating Christ in all of us: by pouring out the Spirit into all of us He continues to care for this creation through our feeble hands and deeds. No, picking up trash is not going to save the world, but being His children who care about our planet is also a witness to the love of Christ for this whole world.
Jesus died for the whole of Creation. This means that the blood of Christ, the real, red, and sticky blood of Christ, is God so united with His creation that He restores it to the holiness which was lost, and which can come only through Him. We are not called upon to reject this world, but instead we are called to reject the things of this world which are in rebellion to God.
This is why Jesus uses real water to baptize us, real bread and real wine to feed us, and why He continues to work through the real hands and real feet of His created, redeemed, and rescued people.
“But Pastor, what does all that have to do with Trinity Sunday?” The creation story is fundamental to the expression of Trinity that we recognize and celebrate today. It is the real account of our salvation. The Trinity is all about who it was, on that cross. The Guy on the cross is the Lord of heaven and earth, He made the whole thing, and the first thing He said about it was that it was good, very good. He loved it. It was that love of creation that brought Him to that cross in the first place. God did not make us to escape this world; rather, Jesus came in the flesh of this world to redeem it.
In the beginning was God, the Father we might say. But with Him in the beginning is His Spirit. The Holy Spirit, the One who is not part of the heaven or earth that God has just brought into being, the One who is not of the creatures who are only created later. He is with the Father in the beginning, hovering over the new creation.
And then, there is, of course, the Word. “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 any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1-3)
And God said: “Let there be!” Let there be, let there be light. Let there be an expanse. Let there be vegetation and lights and birds, and swarming creatures, and beasts. The Word of God goes forth, not returning without accomplishing what He wills. The Word of God is with God. He is God. He is in the beginning with God. From the beginning there is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in love and wisdom creating the world.
And then there is that wonderful phrase, “Let us make man.” Let us! The God is who is not alone, who is not solitary, He is the Father, He is the Son, He is the Holy Spirit. They act together in creation. They consider together to make the pinnacle of creation, man.
He creates man in His image. He creates man who is not alone. He creates man who can relate back to God and love Him, receiving His goodness and righteousness and dominion, and returning with thanksgiving, praise, and worship to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
You are made in the image of God. God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit desires you to live in His image. So God became man, to restore you to Himself. This is how we celebrate, vibrantly and joyful, the festival of the Holy Trinity!
It is not some abstract idea about God. Rather, we celebrate the Trinity because it reminds us how God in His love works to accomplish your salvation. So great is this mystery that the Son even takes on flesh, suffers in your place, for a brief time finds Himself forsaken by the Father, and then rises in triumphal return to His Father, taking you with Him. Amen.