In Whose Image?

June 7, 2020; Trinity Sunday

Genesis 1:1 – 2:1
Psalm 8
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Matthew 28:16-20

Today is a day most every preacher gets a little nervous about.  In the church calendar, the Sunday after Pentecost is Trinity Sunday. And I’m supposed to offer words that help us all understand the biggest mystery in the entire universe.  

Neither the writer of Genesis nor the writer of the Gospel according to Matthew had the penned doctrine of the Trinity we have today.  What we are reading this morning, and the whole of scripture were used as reflection points for the community of early believers, our faith ancestors, as they sought how these holy writings could – and should – shape their daily life.  

When these ancient writings that have become our holy scriptures were first written, writing materials were scarce, the ability to write wasn’t common, and so the words chosen to reveal God’s story through a written language were selected with care. We gather clues from the words, and draw meanings from the intentional placement of the stories. 

There is nothing in all of our scripture that explains the Holy Trinity, just that it IS.  There are bits and pieces from which theologians and apologists have attempted to pull exacting detail so that we can all “get it right.”  And our understanding of the Trinity is important.

God used language to create, speaking everything into being. We all use language to understand and express our own thoughts.

So, yes, we need to look precisely at the language of the scripture, but we shouldn’t let ourselves get distracted by the debate over the details so that we forget that the real point and purpose is to allow the language of scripture to shape who God calls us to be as we follow Jesus and live in God’s Kingdom on earth as in heaven.  

In our lessons today, we go back to the very beginning of creation, a story told generation after generation to remind us all that we are an intentional part of something so much bigger than ourselves. 

God created our world out of nothingness and gave the world the ability to propagate – the story tells us that God said, “let the water bring forth swarms of creatures and the earth bring forth vegetation and living creatures”.

And on the final day of work, God speaks differently – instead of saying “let there be” God says “Let Us”. God moves from creating outside of the divine self (not that that makes the earth any less holy, mind you) to direct address and action within the plural divine self.

“Let us make humankind in our own image, according to our likeness.”

After creating the creatures of the sky and sea, God blesses them and says in general, “be fruitful and multiply.”  

After creating human beings, God blesses us and says directly to us, “be fruitful and multiply.”  

From the very beginning, God intended a direct relationship with human beings.  From the very beginning, every human being has the image of God, at our very core.

So, just what is the image of God?  What does it mean for us to be in God’s image?  And what does it mean that God speaks of God in the plural?  We all know that one+one+one cannot equal one.  And yet it does.  It’s divine mystery.

The persons of God, which in the words of Jesus we are given are ‘Father’, ‘Son’, and ‘Holy Spirit’, are distinct with specific roles and actions, and are also unified and one.  This understanding of the Trinity gives us an example of the ultimate community – distinct beings living and moving together as one for the greater good of all.  

Created in this image, humans are most fully human in “us” and “we” more than we could ever be in “I” and “me”.  When we are baptized in the name of the Trinity, we are reminded of this community in which we are created and into which we are reborn.  We are an intentional part of something so much greater than ourselves.  

When Jesus commissions us to make disciples, baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and to teach those who come after us all that Jesus has commanded us, he isn’t telling us to lose ourselves in theoretical debate but is giving us very practical instructions for how to live our daily life, participating with God in the redemption of this world.

The Great Commission, the words of Jesus that Matthew gives us in our reading today, decidedly eliminates all ideas of our faith being individualized or private and clearly tells us we are, each and every one of us, a distinct part of a unified and inseparable divine community whose purpose is to share and teach God’s love in all that we do.  

The theology of the Trinity isn’t something for the ivory towers of seminaries but a practical instruction for our every day, lived in the awareness of God at all times and in all people.  

The theology of the Trinity and our creation in this divine image is the antithesis of the division and anger and hatred that is so rampant in our world. 

When asked which of the commandments are the greatest, Jesus answers, “to Love God with our whole being and to love our neighbor as ourselves”.  Again – three distinct acts that are together unified and unifying.  We cannot love God and hate our neighbor.  We cannot love our neighbor without also loving God because each of our neighbors is a necessary piece of the full image of God.  And when we live in the love God designed us for we will love ourselves as God created us to be.  

The protests and marches and demonstrations going on all around our country these past two weeks were launched by the specific event of the death of George Floyd but they are the result of decades and centuries of people having lost the theology of the trinity and decided they could determine the value of of groups of people based on the color of their skin. These protests are the results of a faith that became individualized and lost the trinitarian theology of a community of people unified by the power of Divine Love.  

Don’t let yourselves get distracted by debating the details to determine which side is “right” and which is “wrong”. See the hurt and anger and hate and chose to counter it with trinitarian love. 

Reveal the image of God in you by looking for the image of God in everyone.

When we stand with those who’ve been told “you don’t matter” we are, with God’s help, re-membering the image of God and the Divine community of Love. 

The theology of the Trinity, how one+one+one=ONE, isn’t some esoteric conversation beyond our understanding. It is the divine mystery into which we are all created to live, it is the very core of who we are. It IS critical that we quote “get it right” because it is the very foundation of how we live as Jesus’ Followers. 

Living the theology of the trinity is how we, with God’s help, change the world to be on earth as it is in heaven.  Amen. 

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