Reading Ramblings – June 7, 2020

Reading Ramblings

Date: Holy Trinity Sunday – June 7, 2020 – COVID-19

Texts: Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Psalm 8; Acts 2:14a, 22-36; Matthew 28:16-20

Context: Pentecost last Sunday marked the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in power – first on the disciples and then on to all those who receive faith in Jesus Christ. The role and nature of God the Holy Spirit in relation to God the Father and God the Son has been of interest from early in Christianity. In efforts to ‘resolve’ the mystery of the Trinity to the rationale preferences of Greek philosophy (or any other system of thought and belief, frankly) it has always been a temptation to eliminate the Trinity in favor of a God we are better able to understand. Such efforts at times have been popular, but have been consistently rejected across Christian history. If we take the Bible seriously as the Word of God, we have to take seriously what God tells us in it, even if we aren’t capable of understanding it entirely. From start to finish it describes a God who is one in nature, yet mysteriously plural in persons. One God, but three persons. Unity in Trinity and Trinity in Unity. All are wonderful ways of shrinking the Trinitarian nature of our God onto a bumper sticker without providing much more in terms of explanation. Then again, it is arguably not our job as creatures to explain our Creator, but it is incumbent upon us to trust our Creator when He discloses truth and reality about himself.

Genesis 1:1-2:4a – The story of creation is the story of the Trinity in unity from the beginning of things as we know them. The Holy Spirit of God hovering over the vast nothingness, God the Father speaking into creation all things via the Word of God, the Son of God Jesus Christ, as John reveals in the prologue to his Gospel. Perfectly in unity yet still distinct in person, so that as God the Father begins to create humanity He references himself in the plural, making mankind in our image. Within the Trinity is the entire scope of divinity, a single Godhead expressed in three distinct persons. Can we explain it? No. Can we find other examples of this sort of unified diversity in creation? No. But we can affirm what God the Father reveals through the Word of God by the inspiration of the Spirit of God. We can hold faithful to how God talks about himself rather than attempting to clarify and explain, generally meaning we ignore some of what He says to focus on other things He says, or disregard everything He’s told us in favor of our own theories. Though we are made in God’s image, we are not like God, and it should come as no surprise that the creature is unable to fully grasp the magnitude or the mystery of the Creator!

Psalm 8 – The superscription on this psalm addresses either a music leader or someone gifted in the musical art. Gittith could refer either to a musical instrument associated with the region of Gath, the journey of the ark from the Gittite house to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6), or a grape harvest period coinciding witth the Feast of Tabernacles. The psalm opens with a pondering of the greatness of God. This pondering is prompted by observing the earth and heavens. These are truly amazing, but rather than worship or adore the physical elements around him, the author looks to the God who transcends them because He created them. How mysteriously great and powerful is this God who can use mere babies to defeat his enemies – a likely foreshadowing of the incarnate birth of the Son of God to defeat Satan. Seeing the greatness of creation the author realizes how small and insignificant mankind is in relation to not just God but the grandeur of his creation. In our cultural world view today man is often portrayed as the master of the elements but we know this is not the case, as recent COVID-19 outbreaks have demonstrated. How swiftly we are reduced to huddling in fear against even the most minute aspects of God’s creation! But the amazing thing is that the massive gap that should exist between Creator and creature does not – God is not far off and unconcerned with us. He honors us with our role in creation as having dominion over this creation. Surely, this is reason to praise our God who is not just transcendent and above all things but immanent and always with us!

Acst 2:14a, 22-36 – Peter proclaims Jesus as the prophesied Messiah, demonstrated by the powerful acts God did through him, culminating in his resurrection from the dead in fulfillment of King David’s words. King David was truly great and powerful, but even David acknowledged Jesus as his Lord, the one greater than he. David died and was buried but death and the grave could not hold Jesus of Nazareth. This demonstrates that Jesus is the Messian (Christ), because Jesus fulfills David’s words perfectly. Not only this Jesus remains active in the pouring out of the Holy Spirit which has caught the attention of those present on that Pentecost morning. Those who called themselves followers of God are called to see in the Word of God the picture painted of Jesus of Nazareth, the fulfillment of prophecy and now Lord over all creation and creatures. Note Peter’s clear Trinitarian language in v.33!

Matthew 28:16-20 – We return to our Gospel for this liturgical year – Matthew – to see Jesus’ final words to his disciples before his ascension. They worship him, acknowledging their resurrected rabbi as the incarnate Son of God, equal to God the Father and therefore worthy of worship. Jesus accepts their worship as indication their understanding and faith are correct, even if their understanding and faith is not perfect or complete. Doubt is not the same thing as a lack of faith! Then Jesus gives the disciples their commission, a variation of what Luke recorded in our readings from Ascension Day two weeks ago. He promises them his continued presence as they begin their work as his witnesses. They are to make disciples not by force (unlike Islam), but through baptism and teaching. And Jesus emphasizes that baptism is to be in the name of the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus is a constant proclaimer of the reality of the Trinity, true distinction between the three persons of God even as there is only one God.

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