June 7, 2020
Genesis 1:1- 2:4a
The creation of the heavens and the earth
How majestic is your name in all the earth!(Ps. 8:1)
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Paul’s farewell to the church at Corinth
Matthew 28:16- 20
16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
For the word of God in scripture
For the word of God among us
For the word of God within us,
Thanks be to God, Amen.
While I shouldn’t be surprised at the delightful way the Holy Spirit manages to work her way into our communal lives and our pre-chosen scripture readings, I was surprised at how today’s scripture readings talk about beginning things… on our first Sunday together.
In our beginning of ministry together, we are reminded of the beginning of our story with God through the creation story. As always, I am drawn to the fact that after God creates, God calls it good. Everything is good. No questions asked, no prerequisite. It. Is. Good!
I am also drawn to one other place in this story, which is why it is perhaps prescribed for us on this Trinity Sunday, that when God creates humankind, God uses communal language, let US create… in OUR image. From the very beginning, before there was a group of humans to discuss, argue, and anguish over describing the Trinity, God existed in a communal form. And we, humans, are created in THAT image. The communal one. Created out of an abundance of love, for love. Made for relationship with God and with one another.
But the story of our creation goes on… it goes on to say that we are to be given dominion over the earth. Dominion over the fish of the sea, and the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth. Whoa. Now we can take that in one of two ways. The first is that the earth belongs to us to do whatever we please. The second, is that the earth belongs to God, and we are merely the caretakers. I am drawn to believe the latter, since after all God is the creator and we are simply creatures in that creation. But we are creatures who are given a holy obligation to care for, nurture, and sustain the life that God has created.
It is because of these two things, that we are created for community and have a holy obligation to sustain creation, that we are also called to be caretakers of one another. In fact Jesus invites us, no, commands us to go, and tell others who they are to God. And through the water of baptism, include them in community, and live out the communal life of the Triune God together. We cannot worship a communal God in isolation from one another! Jesus knows this, and gives us a way forward. A way to bind ourselves together in commitment to the work of discipleship, and remind us, each of us, that we belong first to God.
And this is where it gets tricky. Because, similar to our families that birthed us, we do not get to choose who belongs to us, and to whom we belong through the waters of baptism. We don’t get to simply walk away from our baptisms, when it gets hard to do the work of discipleship, its God’s work in our baptisms, its God who brings us and keeps us together. There is a deep abiding commitment to remain in relationship from God to us, and we as communities should embody this too.
We are bound to one another. I am, we are, just as connected to George Floyd as we are to all who perpetuate violence against and allow racial bias to affect how they use their authority, and all who continue to diminish the pain and experiences of our black siblings in a society seeped with systemic racism. I am, and we are, just as bound to care for our siblings be harmed as we are to name the harm done to them, and invite different behaviors that honor the God bearing image in our neighbor.
Jesus demonstrates this over and over and over again – going to the outcast, the least of society and offering comfort; while still proclaiming to the powers that they have done wrong. Because Jesus knows we are made for community, and that we struggle with greed, power, and all of those things that would defy and deny God’s image in another human being and neglect our call to care for all of creation. And Jesus refuses to leave us where we, stuck in our own sin, in our own blindness, continually calling us back to our holy obligations and to God’s love.
We, the church, know that we will get it wrong, that’s why we have a ritual of confession and forgiveness. Because discipleship, following Jesus, is not easy. Whenever we participate in Confession and receive words of forgiveness, it is not about leaving us where we are without feeling the guilt and the shame for not carrying out our holy obligations to care for creation and one another, or failing to hold one another accountable for the promises we make in our baptism. It is about releasing us from that guilt and shame so that we might do better. All of our worship begins as a way to express theology and participate in relationship with God. And it matters greatly that our God is experienced in the Trinity – 3 in 1 and 1 in 3. What we do in worship together is about reorienting us to God’s love, for us and for all of creation; Jesus’ grace, which heals the wounds of misused power and systematic harm; and reminds us that we are not alone in our discipleship work but that we are accompanied by the holy spirit.
A fellow theologian and friend, Dr. Marty Quick, reminded me this week of the argument that William Jones made in his book God in the Ghetto, that how we see God determines how we see humans, and that how we see humans determines how we order ourselves in groups and society. We, my dear siblings are standing on the threshold of our work together, to be the hands of Jesus in our community. I want us to dream about what that work together looks like, and how we might organize ourselves, orient our ministry so that it reflects the communal, and abundant experience of the Trinity. A community where we can live out our holy obligation to care for one another and all of God’s creation, learn to be better disciples, have the courage to keep one another accountable, and a place where we can experience and express God’s love for us and the world. Let’s dream together, trusting in the love of God, the grace of Jesus, and the companionship of the Spirit. Amen.