Grace to you and peace from God Our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pastor Alan Watt

When stopping at the supermarket, I often plan to pick up just a few items, which means one of those hand-held baskets should be enough. Yet what often happens is that basket really gets filled up—to the point where nothing more can be put into it, and it almost becomes too heavy to carry.

Someone in my home has told me I sometimes try to do the same thing when it comes to sermons, that is, cramming into them far too many thoughts or ideas. On the occasion of this minor festival in the church year—Holy Trinity Sunday—that can especially happen, because delving into the concept of one God in Three Persons is so complicated. In part, that’s why there are three different creeds about it—the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian. As one commentator has said: “[On this day], many preachers will feel pressure to [try] prov[ing] or explain[ing] the doctrine of the Trinity. The results, almost certainly, will not be pretty.”[i]

That would not be for a lack of encouragement on the part of those who chose today’s readings. In 2 Corinthians, a greeting we use every Sunday morning, beginning with, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Yet the entire passage it belongs to actually has to do with conflict in the church. And in the Gospel, we have a declaration on which are based the words spoken when someone becomes a child of God: “I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. ”But, as a whole, those verses focus more on Jesus’ authority and evangelism than the Trinity itself.

So, since the other two readings—Genesis, chapter 1, and Psalm 8—have to do with creation, and since the care of creation is such an important issue in our time, that is the theme for today’s message. Specifically, we will look…

·         first at how God transforms chaos into order;

·         second, how much God loves human beings in the act of creation;

·         and last, how—as God’s image in the world—we are then called to love the rest of creation.

In high school choir, the director, Mr. Chidley, on occasion liked to try different things. One of them was a choral interpretation of God creating the world—seriously. I remember the first part in particular, based on verses 2 and 3 in the first chapter of Genesis: “…the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light…!”Now there was a narrator, but we choir members did not utter one word at all. We just made these wonderful, often dramatic sounds.

We sometimes get too quickly beyond those first few verses, which especially describe how chaotic, even dangerous that that void was. Maybe like a black hole somewhere in the universe, sucking in everything coming too close to it.

In another part of scripture we get that sense of chaos struggling against the hand of God. We find it in part of the Book of Job:

 

            “…who shut in the sea with

                        doors

            when it burst out from the

                        womb?—

            when I made the clouds its

                        garment,

            and thick darkness its swaddling

                        band,

            and prescribed bounds for it,

            and set bars and doors,

            and said, ‘Thus far shall you come,

                        and no farther,

            and here shall your proud waves

                        be stopped’?”[ii]

 

Again, we see some of that in the beginning verses of Genesis. But while the rest of the days of creation are just as grand, just as impressive, it seems no more a violent struggle or resistance on the part of sheer physical matter. Instead, like a great architect, God starts putting one thing after another in places that seem just right for them. And, as far as time goes, also in the right order—first, the simpler forms of life, and eventually finishing with the most complex of all creatures—human beings themselves. And with a special quality, a special characteristic

all their own: made in the image, made in the very likeness of God. Last of all, God urges them to enjoy, to make use of the bountiful resources before them. That is how much God cares for them. That is how much God cares for us.

Some of the psalms also celebrate God as maker of creation and affirm the place of human beings in it. But none of them as intimately as in today’s psalm—one of the true gems in all of scripture. Like most of chapter 1 in Genesis, we see in it a kind of orderliness—and also the immensity of the universe—through the eyes of someone who, stepping out of the house on a clear and peaceful evening, gazes up into the night sky:

            When I look at your heavens, the

                        work of your fingers,

            the moon and the stars that you

                        have established…[iii]

We hear in those words a sense of wonderment—that we too often forget about in our busyness, in our daily distractions. But when we do remember, when we are able to take the time, then we consider once again how great God is—a cosmic artist who has painted the bright heavenly bodies across that pitch-black canvas.

Along with that feeling of wonder comes another, maybe even deeper one:

 

…what are [we] human beings that you

            are[even] mindful of [us],

[mere] mortals that you care for [us]?

 

Yet you have made [us only] a little

lower than [than the angels],

            and crowned [us] with glory

                        and honor.

            You have given [us] dominion

                        over the works of your

                        hands;

            you have put all things under

                        [our] feet…[iv]

           

God has placed into our hands this world?! Again, for us—seemingly small and insignificant—to enjoy and make good use of?! That is how much God loves us?!

And, being made in the divine image, we are given the privilege to be stewards of this same world and seek to love it even as God loves us. We are “crowned…with glory and honor.” We are like royalty. At the same time, we know that in history kings and queens have had great responsibilities, especially providing for the protection and welfare of their subjects. And that is no less true when it comes to our relationship with the world we live in.

In the last several centuries, we humans have not been doing a very good job of that, have we? One reason may be that we are not as tied, not as close to the land—to nature—as in past generations. So we may not notice as much the effects of what we buy and eat and other things that we do have on the rest of the earth—on the water and air and plants and animals and even on other people who don’t live anywhere close to us.

Our world is so complicated we often know very little about all the processes, all the steps involved, for example, in crops getting from the fields and livestock getting from the pastures to the finished products we take down from the shelves in the supermarket—that we put into a big shopping cart or a smaller one, or into just a basket.

In other ways, we make decisions that are not good for the earth God has entrusted to us. We know about some of them, but try to ignore them, try not to see or think about them. At best, we might tell ourselves we may be negligent in caring for our natural resources, but at least we’re not really abusing them.

As an aside, I do want to mention that one reality is that life for any number of folks is so difficult, so hard, that what’s going on with the environment these days seems to be the least of their worries. And I understand that.

Before bringing things to a close, I’d like to mention a story we all started seeing in the news nearly a year ago. In July of 2016, a report came out about something a delivery-truck driver had seen on a farm in Lancaster County. On the farm was a kennel, actually a puppy mill, and in it was a certain Boston terrier—about 4 months old. Remember the story? One reporter wrote the following: “[He] was emaciated and dehydrated, suffering from…mange…and [other] skin infections. He initially couldn’t stand up on his own and had ulcers around his eyes.”[v]

The delivery man “convinced the owners to give him the dog…so he could get help for it.” After he gave the puppy to someone at the local humane society, it was transferred to the animal hospital in Dillsburg. The person who later adopted the dog—which she named what?...Yes! Libre, Spanish for “freedom”—she would not let the veterinarian euthanize him. Libre was a fighter, and, with medical treatment and a lot of tender, loving care, left the hospital just 3 weeks later.

As most of you also know, a bill was introduced last fall to hold dog breeders more accountable. Although initially defeated, it was reintroduced earlier this year—along with other proposed animal reforms—and this time stands a very good chance of being enacted into law.

If you can, imagine that the state, the condition of the earth on which we live is like what Libre was 1 year ago: a creature of God lying at death’s door, because of human negligence. And for the earth not only neglect, but also a good deal of abuse—intentional abuse. Our earth is like what that Boston terrier was before it was rescued. It’s sick. It’s very sick. And it needs to be nursed back to health. It needs a lot of tender, loving care. That can happen in all kinds of ways, including more diligence on our part in changing or modifying some of our habits. In an even bigger way it can happen by contacting those we have elected to public office and let them know what we think.

God loves us so much as to have made us in the divine image—to be in an intimate, abiding relationship. As God’s caretakers of the world, it is our privilege, then, to pass on that love—both to one another and to all of creation.

 

[i] Matt Skinner, “Commentary on 2 Corinthians 13:11-13,” http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3258.

 

[ii] Job 38:8-11.

 

[iii] Psalm 8:3.

 

[iv] Psalm 8:4-6.

 

[v]Liz Evans Scolforo, “Lancaster DA Cites Breeder for Alleged Neglect of Libre,” York Dispatch, 11 August 2016.