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Worship Series: Genesis: Foundations of the Christian Faith
Worship Theme: The Trinity
Lesson & Sermon Text: Genesis 1:1-2:3 (EHV)
Gospel Lesson: Matthew 28:16-20 (EHV)
Music: CW 229 This Day at Your Creating Word, Holy Is the Lord, CW 584 Oh Blessed, Holy Trinity, CW 234 Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (in worship folder)
Message Notes & Growth Group Questions
Message: The Trinity
Today we begin a new series called Genesis—Foundations of the Christian Faith. Over the next 4 weeks we’ll dig into the first three chapters of the Bible. From the very beginning God revealed the central truths of our faith. These truths are still relevant to the relationships we have in this world today. We'll see who God is, who we were created to be, and what we have become. We'll find our purpose in this world and who we are in Christ.
In the early 1900’s, Kutol Products, based in Cincinnati, OH, was the largest wallpaper cleaner manufacturer in the world. Their primary product—a soft, pliable compound used for wiping soot from wallpaper—had been their best seller. The company’s fortunes began to change in the 1950’s. With the transition from heating with dirtier coal to cleaner oil, gas and electricity, sooty buildup on wallpaper was no longer an issue in many households.
Joseph McVicker was trying to turn around the struggling company when his sister-in-law, Kay Zufall, read an article about how wallpaper cleaner could be used for modeling projects. Kay, a preschool teacher, tested the nontoxic material with her students. They loved molding it into all kinds of shapes! She told McVicker of her discovery and even suggested a new name. Can you guess what it was? Play-Doh. An accidental invention changed the fortune of Kutol Products and became a best selling children’s toy!
Was there anything accidental about the way the world came into existence? Here in Genesis chapter 1 we see that creation is no accident. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1 EHV). God created, but who is this God. As we take a closer look we might become a little confused. The Hebrew word for God, אֱלֹהִ֑ים (elohim), is plural. “Gods”? Genesis 1:2 said, “The earth was undeveloped and empty. Darkness covered the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters” (Genesis 1:2 EHV). Spirit of God(s)? We heard Jesus describe God as “the Father... the Son... and... the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19 EHV). Then, as if to muddy the waters even further, Moses would write, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God. The LORD is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4 EHV). One God, yet Father, Son and Holy Spirit? It sounds crazy! The idea of the Triune God, one God in three persons, is mind-boggling! That’s okay. If we could understand who God is and what he’s like, he really wouldn’t be much of a God, would he?
As we dig into this section of Genesis we see the Triune God is hard at work for us. It starts with God the Father’s role in all this. He brings power and a plan to his creative work. We see that if we go back to his name: אֱלֹהִ֑ים (elohim). That’s the name the Father uses whenever he does something powerful, something incredible, something we can’t replicate. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1 EHV). That’s incredible! The word for create, בָּרָ֣א (barah), isn’t an accidental invention like Play-Doh. God made what exists out of nothing. In an instant, the undeveloped, empty earth was there. Darkness covered everything. Then, God the Father began his carefully planned creation. He brought light into existence for the first time. Light made life possible. Without it, plant, animal, and human life would cease to exist. He even used the light to establish the framework for time: “God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” There was evening and there was morning—the first day” (Genesis 1:5 EHV).
God the Father didn’t stop there. Day 2 brought the sky—atmosphere—which made it possible for living creatures to breathe and survive. Day 3 brought habitat—dry land and seas, along with grass and trees and plant life. On Day 4 God the Father set the sun, moon, and stars in the sky “to serve as markers to indicate days, and seasons, and years... to rule over the day and over the night” (Genesis 1:14,18 EHV). His creatures would know what time of day it was, and whether to wake or sleep, whether it was time to migrate or hibernate. On Day 5 God the Father “cracked his knuckles” and made some of those living creatures—the birds that fly through the air and all the creatures that fly through the seas. Day 6, the Father’s final day of work, brought his greatest creation. After he called forth land animals from the dust of the earth, he made the first human being. “Let us make man” (Genesis 1:26 EHV). Us? The Trinity was hard at work this entire time, preparing the earth for this special creature—the man, and also the woman, his wife.
Can you see God’s careful, wise, loving plan? That’s what God the Father does. He provided the best place for us to live, and gave us life. He even calls us his children! John wrote in his first letter. “See the kind of love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God, and that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1 EHV). Our heavenly Father, the first person of the Trinity, is hard at work for us.
A spoken command has power. Have you ever heard the name Hiroo Onoda? Onoda was a second lieutenant (intelligence officer) in the Imperial Japanese Army. He was assigned a secret mission by his commanding officer and sent to the remote Philippine island of Lubang. It was 1944—the height of World War II.
The Japanese surrendered in August, 1945. Onoda didn’t. Villagers left notes telling him the war was over. Onoda believed it was enemy propaganda and refused to surrender. He was faithful to his direct orders: “You are absolutely forbidden to die by your own hand. It may take three years, it may take five, but whatever happens, we’ll come back for you. Until then, so long as you have one soldier, you are to continue to lead him. You may have to live on coconuts. If that’s the case, live on coconuts! Under no circumstances are you [to] give up your life voluntarily.” Onoda fulfilled that order until his commanding officer arrived in 1974, 30 years later, and gave the order to surrender.
If an officer’s command held such authority, can you imagine how powerful the Word of God is? The apostle John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him everything was made, and without him not one thing was made that has been made” (John 1:1–3 EHV). “The Word” is John’s special name for the second person of the Trinity—Jesus. He, the Word of God, brought everything into existence. 10 times in Genesis 1 we hear, “God said...” (1:3,6,9,14,20,24,26,28,29). When Jesus speaks, things happen for us. Everything he said during those first 6 days of creation was for us. During his time here on earth Jesus regularly said, “I tell you the truth.” He always followed with a promise. “Your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5 EHV). “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 EHV). “It is finished!” (John 19:30 EHV). The same Word that brought the world into existence has rescued us from sin and death. The Son, the second person of the Trinity, is hard at work for us.
Not too far from our house in North Hudson is an eagle’s nest with two eaglets. We see them perched on the edge of the nest flapping their wings. We get the best view when the mother eagle perches above the nest. The eaglets feel safer and move more when she is there to watch over them.
Can you picture the third person of the Trinity doing the same thing? At creation, “the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters” (Genesis 1:2 EHV). Like that mother eagle, the Holy Spirit was there hovering over, protecting, caring for, and working to bring this incredible creation into existence. In the Nicene Creed, we confess that the Holy Spirit is “the Lord, the giver of life.” The Holy Spirit breathes out life, not just at creation, but also when he brings us to faith. The Holy Spirit calls us by the powerful Word of God and turns dead, stony hearts into new, living, beating hearts of faith. The third person of the Trinity is hard at work for us.
Has the Trinity stopped working for us? This year, 2020, it sure feels like it. On New Year’s Eve I remember praying for God’s blessing on the new year. It seems like that’s out the window. Feels more like this meme—“which sign of the apocalypse will we see today?” Just stop and look around. God the Father is still at work. The earth continues to spin. The sun rose in the east this morning and will set in the west. Our hearts are still beating and our lungs are still breathing.
Jesus’ promises haven’t gone away. His Word is right here to read and use. We have Bibles available for us wherever we go. We can read its pages or swipe screens on our phones and tablets. We can choose the translation we want to read. It’s all right here. It hasn’t changed. It won’t change. Jesus said it, and he guarantees it is true.
The Holy Spirit still hovers protectively over his people. He keeps us safe and provided for, even during COVID-19 and civil unrest. He still hovers over us, filling us with the breath of life and enabling us to live for him.
Yes, the Triune God is hard at work for us. How can we respond? We can work hard for him. Let’s take care of the world he made. Pick up trash instead of dropping it along the trail at the state park. Recycle what we can. Save energy instead of wasting it. Try not to use so much water. The list goes on and on.
Let’s treasure God’s gift of life. We need to treasure each other, regardless of skin color and racial background. We need to protect the lives of the unborn. We need to treasure those who are born with disabilities. We need to honor and respect the elderly among us, and not ignore them and the wisdom they gained during their lives.
Here’s the best way we can work hard at honoring the Triune God. Listen to and believe his Word. It’s too easy to set God aside in today’s culture. We want to believe things we can understand and prove. We can’t understand or prove who our God is. That’s okay. It’s called faith! The writer to the Hebrews said, “Faith is being sure about what we hope for, being convinced about things we do not see. By faith we know that the universe was created by God’s word, so that what is seen did not come from visible things” (Hebrews 11:1,3 EHV). The Triune God has been hard at work taking care of you and me. He provides for us. He protects us. He saves us. He gives us faith and provides the strength we need to serve him. In return, we work hard for him. We serve him with everything we do. What a beautiful beginning! What an incredible God! The Triune God is hard at work for us, so we can work hard for him! Amen.