The Holy Trinity, June 19, 2011

Order Created, Order Restored

Text: Genesis 1:1–2:4a

  • “Stop the world! I want to get off!” This is the reaction most of us have when we run into a major roadblock in our day. You know that feeling when something out of your control happens and throws a major monkey wrench your way. 
  • Over the past couple of months and what seems a new trauma every day, we see how sin has brought disorder to the very good creation that our triune God made. 
  • Yet we also see that God was not content to allow the devil and sin to have the last word. God has acted to restore order to his creation, and in doing so has revealed himself as the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 
  • This is the powerful work of God we celebrate on this Trinity Sunday!
  • Sin brings disorder into creation. 
  • Sin brings disorder into relationships among nations and peoples. 
  • Sin brings disorder to personal relationships—husbands and wives, parents and children, congregation members, work environments.
  • Sin brings disorder into our personal lives. God does not come first; we act in selfish ways, speak angry words, and so on.
  • While God proclaims himself as one (Dent 6:4), the most common Hebrew word for God, 1.17.131, Elohim, is plural. 
  • Luther comments in his lectures on Genesis: “It is plain that Moses wants to hint at the Trinity or the plurality of Persons in one single divine nature. There remains, therefore, this contradiction: God is one, and nevertheless that most perfect unity is also the truest plurality. Of course, he does not say in so many words that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are the one true God; this was to be reserved for the teaching of the Gospel” (Luther’s Works 1:12).
  • Thus it is that the Feast of the Holy Trinity really points us to the restoration of the life we have with the Holy Trinity. It is not just a Sunday for abstract racking of the brain to figure out how three can be one, or one three. Rather, the feast is the culminating celebration of God’s work to restore us to himself, of restoring the image of God in us, and of restoring us to the fellowship and togetherness of the divine life.
  1. V 1: 
  • bəreshit, “In the beginning,” is echoed by Jn 1:1–3, which indicates that the Second Person of the Trinity was active in creation (cf. Col 1:16–17).
  • describes God’s first act of creation as he makes everything ex nihilo
  • God was not compelled to create out of necessity, but from a love beyond understanding that would culminate in the saving work of Jesus Christ.
  1. V 2:
  • describes the state of this creation - tohu wabohu, “without form and void.” 
  • This hendiadys indicates the chaos and disorder that marked the created matter before God’s Word begins to bring order to it. 
  • wəruakh elohim, “the Spirit of God,” indicates that the Third Person of the Trinity was active in creation. 
  • Over the formless, watery void, God’s active Spirit of creation hovers. 
  • the rare Hebrew verb for “hover” is found elsewhere only in Dent 32:11, where it describes a bird hovering over its young, calling to mind the Spirit as a dove in Mt 3:16 (cf. Ps 29:10a; Lk 13:34).
  • This is the same Spirit that descends on Jesus at his Baptism (Mk 1:10) and descends on us in our Baptism when the name of the triune God is poured on us with water.
  • The Spirit is the “Lord and giver of life” (Nicene Creed) who is also associated with the sustaining of life in creation (Ps 104:30). 
  • Thus verses 1–2 invite us to recognize that creation was a Trinitarian act.
  1. V 3: 
  • wayyo’mer ’elohim, “and God said” (repeated in 1:6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26, 28, 29), emphasizes the creative power of God’s Word. 
  • God’s Word is always a word of life, hope, and resurrection. God’s voice speaks and points us to his Son (Mk 1:11). 
  1. V 4: 
  • The beginning of John’s Gospel picks up on the theme of light (Jn 1:4–5), and Jesus identified himself as “the light of the world” (Jn 8:12). 
  • We also find a similar pronouncement of “good” by the Father at the Baptism of Jesus (Mk 1:11).
  1. V 26: 
  • na‘aseh ’adam bətsalmenu kidəmutenu, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” 
  • Although classification of the first person plural has vexed Hebrew grammarians, the witness of Scripture as a whole indicates that it bears witness to the Holy Trinity. 
  • What is hinted at and implicit in the Old Testament becomes explicit in the New Testament. It is in the incarnation of Jesus Christ as the Father sends forth the Son to be incarnate through the work of the Holy Spirit that we fully learn about the triune nature of God. Our very knowledge of the Trinity bears witness to God’s saving action for us in Christ.
  • The interchange of the terms “image” and “likeness” in 5:3 indicates that they do not have different referents. 
  • Only humanity was created in God’s image. We were created to be like God as we lived in relationship with him and were able to live holy lives according to his will. 
  • The image of God was lost in Adam (Gen 5:3; Rom 5:12–21; 1 Cor 15:20–24), but in Christ it will be fully restored on the Last Day(1 Cor 15:49; Rom 8:29).
  1. V 31: 
  • wəhinneh-tob mə’od, “and behold, it was very good.” The affirmation that what God had made was good reaches its crescendo as the text affirms the ultimate goodness of God’s creation in humankind. 
  • This is an important affirmation of the Christian faith that rejects all forms of dualism—as if good versus evil were inherent in God’s creation. 
  • Rather, it provides the foundation for understanding the incarnation, the Sacraments, and eschatology; 
  • God becoming man and working through created elements is not a contradiction, and our bodies, rather than being discarded as evil, will be raised on the Last Day.
  • Through his resurrection, Christ has begun the new creation in which God’s very good order is restored and the disorder of sin is removed.
  • We are already new creations because the Holy Spirit, who hovered over the face of the waters in our text, gave us rebirth and renewal through the water of Holy Baptism. 
  • We will experience an ordered creation and life that is once again very good when on the Last Day Christ raises us up and restores creation (Rom 8:19–23).
  • Our triune God made a creation that was very good and was ordered according to his will. 
  • The fall and sin brought disorder into our lives and creation itself. Yet God has acted in Jesus Christ to restore order. 
  • Through the incarnation of the Son, God has revealed himself as the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—when he acted to save us. 
  • Through that triune name and water, God has made us his children now in Holy Baptism. 
  • Beloved in Christ, the void is not your fate. The chaos of sin, death, and devil has no power over you. God has created us and re-created us in Jesus Christ, our Lord. The Spirit of God hovered over the waters at the moment of creation. The Spirit of God descended upon Jesus at the Jordan River. The Spirit of God washed you and re-created you at your Baptism. Today, we thank God that Our Baptized, Crucified, and Resurrected Lord JesusHas Order Created, Order Restored
  • And we look forward to the Last Day and the resurrection, when we will live in the presence of our triune God forever.
  • “Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity. Let us give glory to him because he has shown his mercy to us.” Indeed, that is what this day is all about. The Holy Trinity in mercy giving himself to us, and we in turn giving glory to him. And not simply here in church, but daily in our lives, living the image we have been given again. Living as Christ in the world. Giving to the least. Determining that each life is worth our own. Not because they are in the image of God, but because we are.