Sunday the 11th of June 2017
As a young pastor who is still learning the art of preaching God’s Word to his people, there is a temptation to feel the need to explain everything to people. Sometimes this is helpful, but other times it can be quite unhelpful. Today is the day the church called Trinity Sunday, with a focus on our Triune God. And I am resisting the temptation to explain the Trinity, which is impossible to do, but instead will focus on what our Triune God is doing in this World. In other words looking at the way he works, rather than trying to speculate.
In today’s reading from Genesis we hear about our God creating the world—how he spoke and all things came to be—our world and everything in it, including us. And what struck me as I was reading through this account was that God said at the end of each day when he looked at what he had created: “…and it was good.” In fact, six times in six days God said what he created was good, and on the sixth day, after he created humans, he said: “it was very good”. Some translations will say that God was very pleased with what he had made. Our Triune God had made the world, he made us humans in his own image and he was pleased. God created the perfect world.
If we go a few chapters further to Genesis chapter six we hear a different story. There we hear these words: “6 The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. 7 So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.”
In just a few chapters of the bible we see a contrast, between the world that our Triune God created which he said was very good, to a world which he was grieved he had made. Notice here that it is not just humans he regretted making, but the whole world.
This sin that came into this world through Adam and Eve continues to this very day. We only need to look around us to see what it is doing to this world: broken relationships, family breakdowns, violence, abuse and criminal activities, not to mention wars and terror attacks. From the very beginning since the fall, sin has spread through all creation. This anger at sin by God, which made him think about undoing his creation is not limited to the time of Noah and the flood. In the midst of this time of grievous sin against him, we see his grace in his promise not to destroy the world in flood again. But this does not stop God from bringing destruction upon humans and creation due to his anger over their sin. Take, for example, Sodom and Gomorrah where God razes not only the city, but as it says, “what grew on the ground as well,” or, as another example, if you read through the Old Testament we find repeated threats to destroy his own people (Exodus 32, Numbers 16), to say nothing of the repeated verses that talk about the coming of the “Day of the Lord”, that are recorded writings of the prophets.
I realize full well that what I point to here is very controversial in our modern world. We don’t like talking about God’s anger or his wrath at our sin. We like to hear that God loves us and accepts us for who we are, whilst hoping that he ignores the consequences of our sin. But this is the reality that the world faces—there will be a time of accountability before God, for the destruction of what he created to be very good.
From the view point of our Triune God, because sin has corrupted everything in this world, he is unable to call what he has made very good. And if our God did not act then we would be doomed to destruction.
For something to change God has to be able to declare once again that his creation is good. And this happens through his sending of his Son into our corrupt sinful world. Something that stood out to me as I was thinking about this sermon was the Father’s words to Jesus at his baptism in Matthew chapter 3. As the Father’s Son—the one who was there at the beginning and through whom all things were made—stands in a river being baptized, the heavens are torn open, the Holy Spirit appears in the form of a dove, and the Father declares, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” (Mt 3:17). It is through this man Jesus, whom the apostle Paul in Romans 5 calls ‘the new Adam’, that God is able to step back and declare of his creation “it is very good.”
It is through Jesus Christ that our Triune God acts through His life, through His death and through His resurrection to bring about the beginning of a new creation. My Grandparents were not believers, in fact my dad’s Father was very aggressive and agnostic towards Christians. I remember occasions where both of my Grandfathers spoke of how they had gone to church as young people and heard ‘hell, fire and brimstone’ preaching—enough to put one of them off for life. When I was studying at Sem I had to do pastoral work in nursing homes; as I did this, people would often talk of the damage this preaching caused them in their lives, which I found very sad. Our God does acts in anger at sin, but he is also a God of redemption. He is a God who comes into the very middle of our sin, through the sending of his Son, he comes into this world to redeem it. The most popular and well known bible verse is John 3: 16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”, but many cannot recall the very next verse in which Jesus says: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
Just as in the beginning when sin came into the world and spread through all creation, our Triune God acts through Jesus Christ to bring salvation and redemption to sinful people; this redemption spreads and is continuing to spread throughout the world, and it has come to you and me. This is the commission given in today’s Gospel reading from Matthew chapter 28 which says: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Our Triune God is at work in this world saving and redeeming his creation from sin. And it is through his work in us that he is able to look at us as a new creation, to look at our lives through the eyes of our perfect Jesus and see that what he has made and is making in us is “very good”. The apostle Paul often writes like this in his letters; he often refers to us as being a new creation in Christ Jesus. I was reminded recently of a song that I learnt at Sunday School called: ‘I am covered over’. In this song it has these words: “I am covered over with the robe of righteousness that Jesus gives to me; I am covered over with the precious blood of Jesus and he lives in me; when he looks at me he sees not what I used to be, but he sees Jesus.” This is the Gospel for you and me; this is the good news that we who believe in Jesus are redeemed from our sins and our Triune God can look at us and say that, it is very good or that he is very well pleased.