OVERVIEW

June 4th is Holy Trinity Sunday; the day we examine the concept of the Holy Trinity.  Our epistle and gospel lessons focus on this concept.  The Old Testament lesson, oddly enough, is the creation story, as told in Genesis 1-2:4a.  The study of the two creation accounts (Genesis 1 and Genesis 2) is near and dear to my heart.  We’ll look at that last.  But first, let’s talk about the Holy Trinity.

THE SECOND LESSON AND THE GOSPEL

These two passages are perhaps the first mention of the concept of the Trinity in the New Testament.  (Other passages are: 1 Cor. 12:4-6, Eph. 4:4-6, 1 Peter 1:2, and Jude 20-21.)  Judaism and Christianity are monotheistic religions; we insist that there is only one God.  Yet, from the mouth of Jesus and from Paul and others, we have three.  It is confusing, and the more you study it, the more confused you will get!  Feel free to discuss your own understanding of the Trinity with others.  Please respect others’ opinions.  Let’s agree that there will be no wrong answers, OK? Here are some thought starters from a good theological seminary:

  • The Trinity describes the fullness of a God who creates, redeems, and makes us holy.  [Which ones do which?]
  • The Trinity is a complex doctrine that confuses more than explains.  The whole business needs rethinking for the 21st century.
  • Our temptation is to wallow in the delight of Jesus’ salvation.  The Trinity keeps from forgetting our responsibilities to creation, for example, by reminding us of the Creator-father.

These are thought starters, and not to be considered as firm statements of doctrine.  What do you think?

 

TWO PARTING THOUGHTS

  1. In the epistle reading, verse 13, we see that we get grace from Jesus, love from God the Father, and communion (love-fellowship) from the Holy Spirit.  I like that!
  2. Jesus sends us forth with the marching orders to make disciples of everybody, baptizing them in the name of the Holy Trinity. OK, let’s get started!

 

THE FIRST CREATION ACCOUNT, GENESIS 1-2:4a

To start with, whoever assigned chapters and verses botched the job, starting with the first chapters of Genesis.  There are two creation accounts.  The first one is in chapters 1-2:4a, and is the story of the 7 days of creation.  The second one begins with chapter 2:4b, and is the story of Adam and Eve, beginning with the creation of earth.  Why would you not make the first story all chapter one, and start the second chapter off with the second story?  That’s crazy!   Anyway…

The point is that there are two creation accounts.  I encourage you to read all of chapter 2 on your own, and compare the two. You will find many differences in how the world was created, if that’s what you’re looking for in these stories.  I have friends that are so set on interpreting Genesis 1 as a science book. They feel so strongly about this, that they won’t send their kids to public schools.  I believe that if God wanted us to know about science, the bible would have chapters or books about biology, chemistry, and physics.  I believe that God doesn’t care about our understanding of science; He wants to tell us something about our relationship with him.  That is what God want us to learn about.  That is what I call the God Message.  That’s why we have two different creation accounts—they both have different God Messages!  It really doesn’t matter if you read it one way or the other, as long as you understand the God Message.

THE DETAIL

I believe that through this story, God wants us to learn four basic facts about our relationship with Him. 

Point One 

Look at the reading, and notice the rhythm, the repetition, and the orderly way that the world was created.

  • “… then God said…”
  • “… and there was…”
  • “… and it was good.”

Every day follows the same pattern.  Every day’s work is done orderly, calmly, and enacted merely by the voice of God

Every non-Hebrew culture surrounding Israel had their own beliefs, which included stories about how the world was created. One very popular belief was that the “gods” engaged in bloody battle of hand-to-hand combat; a good “god” fought an evil “god”.  The good “god” won.  The body of the evil dead “god” became Earth.  The people of Earth were formed from the blood of this evil “god”.  If I believed in this story, it would tell me that not only is the world an evil place, but all of us are basically evil beings! 

Our God comes to the rescue, and tells us NO!  He created us and our world calmly with just his words.  Most importantly, what he created is good.  We are good, the Earth and all its creatures are good. This is the first God Message presented to us in this story.


 

 

Point Two

Day Four begins with verse 14.  He creates the sun, the moon, and the stars.  But he doesn’t call them that.  He just calls them “lights”. 

Many of those neighboring non-Hebrew cultures included the worship of the sun, moon, and stars as part of their religious beliefs. (Think of astrology, for example.) God is telling us—“don’t worship them, they are only ‘lights’.  They’re just things to mark the days and nights”; they are a sort of calendar that He created for us.

Point Three

In verse 26, God says “Let us make humankind in our image…”  This is plural.  God doesn’t say “let me make humankind in my image…”  Why?  Some friends of mine point to this as an indication of the Holy Trinity.  The first chapter of John tells us that Jesus was present at creation, right?  Well, yes, that is true.  But it makes no sense to me that the Hebrews, who knew nothing of the Holy Trinity, would preserve these words for hundreds of years if they didn’t understand what they meant.  What else could it mean?

  1. One explanation is that God was using a verb tense called the “Majestic Plural”.  Huh?  In the olden days, when kings spoke, they would use “we” instead of “I”.  It is weird to us, because we are unfamiliar with the ways of royalty.  But this was a common practice.  This could be one explanation—that this is one way of pointing to the kingship of our Father in Heaven.
  2. Another explanation is that God includes his “heavenly court” in the use of “we”.  The idea of a divine council is also found in 1 Kings 22:19-22 and Psalm 82:1.  Again, it points to God being our king.  But this time he says “we” to include his council.

Point Four

In verse 26, God creates us “in his image”. 

  • Does it mean that we look like God, and God looks like us?
  • Does it mean that we think like God, and not like the other animals of creation?
  • What does this mean to you?

THE TAKEAWAY

So, what’s the God Message in Genesis 1?  The way I read it, 

  • Our one God created the heavens and the earth not by war, death, and chaos, but in a calm and orderly fashion. 
  • What the tools did he do this with? Only with his voice. His word is powerful!
  • The sun, moon, planets, and stars are only lights. They mark the seasons as does a calendar.  They are not objects of worship, only “lights” in the sky.  They do not predict our future, or govern our personalities.
  • Our sense of logic and reason, our sense of right from wrong come from God.  This is what he means when he says that we are created in his image, at least they do to me.

 

So, it really doesn’t matter if you believe in the 7 days of creation idea or the complicated explanation above.  What matters is the God Message.  Always ask yourself “What does God want me to know about my relationship with him?  Why is He telling me this story?  What is the God Message?”