God creator, God redeemer, and God sustainer. This is the way I embrace the Trinity, knowing that other Trinitarian believers may see it differently. Today is Trinity Sunday, the 1st Sunday after Pentecost in the western liturgical Calendar. On this day, we recognize the trinity, or three persons, in One God. Some say Father, Son & Holy Ghost, but I think God is more vast than that and I am uncomfortable with “ghosts.” There are so many ways to envision the Creator and the act of creation. We can create an omelet, a painting, music or sculpture. We women have the plumbing to create humans right inside our own bodies and fathers or adoptive parents create a safe and loving environment in which a child may develop and grow into adulthood. This Spring we have discovered a pair of Chickadees who created a home in the little birdhouse John put up on our deck. There are big old Blue Jays lurking about posing a threat to the minute Chickadees. Yet, they persist in raising their family in that little house with a tiny entrance just big enough for a small bird. Sometimes we wonder how things can be created in the places they have been, because the surroundings may seem too harsh or unforgiving. Yet, we see children and animals, even flowers and plants sprout up from some of the most difficult of circumstances and we may never understand how it is possible. God is Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer. And that’s how!
Today’s lectionary passage, Genesis 1- 2:4a, is the first creation text in the Bible, but not necessarily the first one written, according to scholars. Reading it, we are treated to a beautifully poetic description of the creation of the world. There is so much debate about this beginning of life narrative, both from the vantage point of historicity as well as who the author is. Some Christians take the Genesis story of Creation as a factual day by day process rather than as a metaphorical unfolding of God’s presence with us and love for us. Some believe Creation happened 7000 – 10,000 years ago. Science however, tells us that the universe began about 13.7 billion years ago. Recently, a team of European and Moroccan Scientists found fossil remains of ancient humans who lived 315,000 years ago. Those are quite different timelines, aren’t they? As your Pastor, I don’t feel the need to join the debate. Though not a scientist by any stretch of the imagination, I am analytical (John will tell you I can be relentless at details) but as a person of faith, I feel comfortable assuming that God’s hand is in the creation of all that is around me. In fact, when I am in sync with the physical world, I sense God’s presence most clearly. Perhaps it is my imagination or perhaps it is the divine presence, hard to say because it is a matter of faith. While in nature and while I am creating something, I feel a close relationship to that which I choose to call God or simply, Creator.
There is one word in the Genesis passage which concerns me and that word is dominion. Verse 26 reads;
”Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over birds of the air and over the cattle and over all the wild animals of the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
What are we to make of this? Does it mean we have license to do with creation whatever we want? I think the word “dominion” is actually a clue to the answer for that question. Dominion is not only an act but a place, a land or a country one has responsibility to care for. I am a proponent of the environmentalist movement. Here’s the sign I carried for my Denomination at the Climate March in Washington, DC this year. Whether or not you believe the science concerning our changing climate is a hoax (as some politicians have called it) there is no argument that we live in an intoxicatingly beautiful natural world and we are the stewards of that world. We do indeed have dominion over our planet, our oceans and increasingly the space above us. Are we doing the best we can with it? The Hebrew word for dominion is “ורדו” (Pronounced: Memshalah) which suggests rule or authority. Does that mean we have permission to exploit? Or are we called rather to act as stewards? God’s realm or dominion – is one of compassion and grace. Do we treat creation with the love that God put in to making it? Not sure. What I do know for sure is we are in a relationship with all that is; air, water, earth and when you look at those through the lens of a caring, loving Creator it feels different than when you look at it as just a resource to satisfy our increasing needs.
While on the subject of relationships this morning, I am deeply mindful of my relationship with you all. I am blessed to know many clergy friends and one of them recently expressed a huge enthusiasm about the proposal the congregation was considering about installing solar power. He was then approached by a church member who commented about the minister’s excitement saying something like, “all you like & care about Pastor, is making money” as if that was a negative. Needless to say, the Pastor took it to heart and felt badly. So, here at GPC, let’s be clear; I am not in this for the money. I am, however, sensitive to the church’s fiscal concerns and feel I have a fiduciary responsibility to you. Ideas that are offered up by me or other church members which seem to have merit in reducing your costs or bringing in your needed income, which (let’s be honest) is talked about often, is done solely for you and the church. I get no bonuses on income or savings on financial bumps and I’m good with that!
Church is a funny place and sometimes parishioners can say the darndest things to Pastors, even though in general Pastors are working to be in a loving relationship with the congregation. Here are a few entertaining things that religion writer Thom Rainer gathered which Congregation members have actually said:
“Will you bless my divorce so I can marry a convicted murderer? God told me to do it.”
After a church member had surgery: “Pastor, will you pray for me to pass gas.”
During the offertory: “Pastor, do you have change for a 20?”
To a pastor immediately after the worship service: “Here’s the bulletin. During worship, I graded each song based on how worshipful it was.”
“Can we put the children’s moment back in the bulletin? I know we don’t have any children but the old folks like it.”
Just moments before the service began: “Pastor, there’s no toilet paper in the restroom!”
“Pastor, I need you to come get rid of the secret agents spying on me from my attic.”
“Is it OK for me to lie if I ask for forgiveness in advance?”
Church member: “Pastor, will you pray for my son? He’s wild and out of control.” Pastor responds: “Sure, what’s his name?” Church member: “Maverick”
“I have the spiritual gift of extortion!”
“I want you to know if this church fails, it’s not your fault!”
To the pastor while in the restroom: “So, pastors have to go too, huh?”
“Pastor, pray for me. I’m going to Vegas!”
I love Church humor. Please send me your crazy jokes and stuff anytime. Laughter is good for the soul so we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
In today’s Gospel Reading from Matthew, Jesus commissions the disciples to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit, in order to bring people into relationship, bringing them back into a “dominion of grace.” Jesus’ call is to teach,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matt 22:37–40).
We ought to continually ask ourselves, how’s that working out for us? How are we putting that most important commandment into gear? It may sound repetitive to keep saying that “God is love” or that “Jesus came to preach that love” so that we might experience “God’s Kingdom at hand” BUT! That’s the whole thing. That’s what we’re called to do. That’s why we’re here in this building. My prayer is that you will return again & again, bringing friends & family with you.
Let us pray:
Creator God, we give thanks for the beauty of creation. We celebrate that each day brings something good and unexpected. We are part of your creation, part of your expression of love and creativity. With God’s grace, we take that to heart.