Trinity Sunday (June 15 • 2014)
‘Bearing God’s Image in Our Life’
ROCKINGHAM UNITING CHURCH
Genesis 1:1-27; 2:1-4
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Just imagine joining with the people of Israel in Babylon when they sat, perhaps around a fire under the stars, as their elders told them the sacred story of creation that we read today from Genesis. They were in a strange land where people spoke a strange language. Many still remembered and grieved the past: the glory of their laws, nobles, and officials; of their beloved city, Jerusalem; and of their kingdom, Judah. Many still held a grudge against the Babylonians who had destroyed their homeland and took them as captives. Many were afraid of the future, not sure whether or not they were going to survive as captives in a foreign land.
Indeed, the Genesis story of creation was originally told during the time when the people of Israel were still in Babylon in exile. It was completed during this time of lost and uncertainty. The people of Israel were facing a shattering experience. Their beloved kingdom, Judah, and city, Jerusalem, had been erased from the face of the earth. Their world had been turned upside down. Their world was literally in chaos.
Just imagine sitting with this crowd of these despairing people as they listened to the story of creation: in the beginning was chaos, but our God created order out of chaos, light out of darkness, life out of formless material; and God called everything good!
The story must have given these people the assurance that everything had not been lost; that God created the world out of chaos and called it good. The world was still a good place to live, regardless of the situation that they were facing
No, hearing the story of creation did not change their dire situation. They still had to face the reality of their captivity. Hearing the story, however, must have been like finding an oasis in the middle of a dessert. Many must have been relieved to know that, even in the midst of chaos and uncertainty, the world was still a good place to live because God had made it so.
Indeed, the God who is introduced in the creation story is a God who provides comfort in the midst of uncertainty. The God who is proclaimed in the creation story is a God who gives strength to people facing challenges in life. The God whom we meet in the creation story is a God who promises life to people who face death, all kinds of death.
The world may look scary and threatening. Our life may feel like a ‘free-fall’ into a deep abyss. Yet, despite all the tragedies and pains and challenges that life throws at us, we must dare to proclaim, together with the ancient Israelites communities and other faithful communities, that the world is still a good place to live because God has made it so.
Foreign Correspondent on ABC once played documentary about the Syrian refugees who live in a refuge camp in Jordan. They live in a camp where there is not enough water; where children go to school in overcrowded and rowdy classes, with no proper books or pencils. Many of these children have lost family members back in Syria; most had witnessed horrors that no one should ever witness.
These Syrian refugees are facing a similar situation that the people of Israel had to face thousands of years ago in exile. Just like the Israelites, the Syrian refugees have been uprooted from their homeland and leave behind a life that had been destroyed by war. Yet, just like the people of Israel in exile, many do not lose hope.
One family in the camp was a middle-class family who had a good social life back in Syria. In the past, the parents worked in the education department. Their three children went to university to study architecture, engineering, and physics. They owned three cars and a house with a beautiful garden where they grew olive trees and grapevines.
But that life has become a mere memory, and life in the refugee camp cannot be more different from the life that they left behind. There, in the camp, they have to wait in a long queue everyday to get their daily rations. They live in small compartments provided by UNHCR. As Syrian refugees, their children are not allowed to continue their education in Jordan universities.
Despite the tragedy in their homeland, the day-to-day struggle for survival, and a bleak future, this family does not lose hope. One day, they plant grapevines in whatever piece of land they ‘occupy’ in the camp. They dig holes in the sand around their compartments, put the plants into the holes and water them. It is a small gesture, yet it carries with it a powerful statement. By planting the grapevines, this family dares to proclaim that the world is still a ‘good’ place to live. The grapevines is a testament of their hope; a step that they take to reclaim the ‘goodness’ of the world.
Friends, despite all the tragedies that we see unfolding before our eyes in the world everyday, the world is indeed still good because God, who creates it, is good. In the closing part of his letter to the Corinthians, Paul reminded the recipients of his letter to live in peace with one another because our God is a God not of hatred and violence, but of love and peace. Since God is a God of love and peace, God wishes good, not evil, in the world and in our life.
Our God is indeed a God of order, not of chaos; of light, not of darkness; of life, not of death; and God is still working today to make the world a good place to live. The Hebrew word for ‘create’ is in progressive tense. No, God did not only create; God is still creating. God is still bringing order out of chaos, light out of darkness, life out of death.
In Matthew, the resurrected Jesus asked the disciples to proclaim that the reign of terror and death in the land was over. Yes, Caesar still sat on his lofty throne in Rome. Yes, Roman public executions were still a looming threat to those who dared to defy the empire. Yes, poverty and lack of basic amenities still plagued much portion of the population. But the resurrected Jesus was a living proof that the power chaos, darkness, and death, which Rome embodied, could not defeat the power of God, the Creator of the universe, in Christ Jesus. The God of goodness, who wishes goodness not evil, light not darkness, life not death, has made Himself known in Christ Jesus.
In Christ Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, God is indeed making all things new. The old heaven and earth are passing away; the new heaven and earth are coming (Isaiah 65:7); and the disciples were tasked to share this good news to all nations.
Indeed, friends, we hear in Matthew how in his life, Jesus had the authority over the power of and in nature. Jesus is God incarnate; Jesus is God with us. The early church even dared to proclaim that Jesus was present in the beginning of time when God created the world. In the story of creation in Genesis, God created the world using his words. “God said, and there was.” In the Gospel of John, the early church proclaimed that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
The Spirit of God was also present at the beginning; the Spirit of God hovered above the “formless void” of chaos. The Son of God and the Holy Spirit thus were present with God in the beginning of time. As such, they have the authority of God over the world to restore it to its original condition.
So God in three Persons were indeed present in Creation; and we are all created in God’s image. That means we are to be like God who creates a new world every day. As our Triune God in their love wishes goodness for the world that they create, we too must wish what is good for the world, for others, and for our life.
We are indeed tasked to disciple and baptise people in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit That means we are to proclaim to all nations, through our words and deeds, that God in three Persons is a God who brings order out chaos, light out of darkness, life out of death. In the words of one of the hymns that we usually sing in this congregation,
“Let us be the channel of God’s peace;
where there is hatred, let us bring love;
where there is injury, forgiveness;
where there is despair in life, hope;
where there is darkness, light.”
Let us pray.
Gracious God, as we take in the stories of creation, help us to find the places where creation and re-creation are calling out to us. Help us to move with the rhythm of your creation, so that in our care we may find that it is, indeed, good. Amen.
- Nam, Roger, Commentary on Genesis 1:1-2:4a, on http://workingpreacher.org (June 15, 2014)
- Saunders, Stanley, Commentary on Matthew 28:16-20, on http://workingpreacher.org (June 15, 2014)
- Together in Song, Harper Collins (2003)
 Saunders, Stanley, Commentary on Matthew 28:16-20, on http://workingpreacher.org (June 15, 2014)
 Seasons Fusion for Congregational Life -Pentecost 1, 2014, Seasons of the SpiritTM © 2013 Wood Lake Publishing Inc., New Zealand (p. 24).