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
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
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
when it burst out from the
when I made the clouds its
and thick darkness its swaddling
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
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
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
Along with that feeling of wonder comes another, maybe even deeper one:
are [we] human beings that you
are[even] mindful of [us],
mortals that you care for [us]?
you have made [us only] a little
[than the angels],
and crowned [us] with glory
You have given [us] dominion
over the works of your
you have put all things under
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
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
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