The Rev. Dr. Neil O’Farrell
BEING IN COMMUNITY, INSCRIBED IN GOD AND ALSO IN US
The first catechism book I used was called Jesus and I. The front cover was blue, and it pictured a pair of children walking over a bridge, with a huge, florid guardian angel hovering above. It was from this little book that I learned we conceive and pray to a three-person, one, and unified God. As a child, I didn’t seem to have much problem accepting a “three-person but one God” explanation of the divine reality. It was really like all manner of things that I was taught as facts, but that couldn’t be seen, such as the origin of the universe, molecular particles, and radio waves. I learned that there were many things that couldn’t be seen, but were knowable yet invisible. Believe but don’t expect an ironclad, simple, and visual proof, I learned.
Truth be told, my first understanding of the Trinity is still very much like my present working understanding sixty years later. However, we theologians need to try to explain things that can’t be easily explained; the more we learn, the stickier the tar we’re traipsing around in. Today’s scripture readings illustrate the baggage of over-explaining and over-examining.
For example, biblical theologians explain that the spirit—the wind from God that moved over the roiling waters, is definitely not our Holy Spirit. Our understanding of the spirit of God wasn’t invented until the fourth and fifth centuries. Thus, when in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells his disciples to fan throughout the world, baptizing in the name of the “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” he was not talking about the Trinity because Christians didn’t start thrashing out a trinitarian theology for hundreds of years. Thus, something that I was able to grasp in grade school can end up being a hash when I try to understand, preach, and teach about God as Trinity right now. We sometimes forget that scripture presages theology in a sophisticated way.
So, I’ve resorted to double-tracking the Trinity as being a simple grace and fact, while concurrently being participating in an academic wrangle. I can only encourage you to keep the Trinity as simple as you can. One God, three persons (or essences), who always was as such, and always will be. God who creates, redeems, and sustains. What we learned in Sunday school will, in this instance, always serve us (and God) the best. Take comfort that God is too big for us to put our arms easily around, who exists in a community. That is a God truly worth worshipping and praying to. God comes from faith, and not from proof.
Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.
Almighty and everlasting God, you have given us your servants’ grace and true faith to acknowledge the God in Trinity. Moreover, we worship your Majesty in divine unity. Keep us steadfast in faith and worship. Bring us, at last, to see you in your one and complex and eternal glory, O Father. With the Son and the Holy Spirit, you live and reign, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
A READING FROM GENESIS, AT THE BEGINNING OF THE BIBLE ALL OF CREATION REFLECTS THE IMAGE OF GOD
In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, 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”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it
separate the waters from the waters.” So, God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome.
And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants
yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day
from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years,
and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” So, God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.
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 the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and overall the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So, God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Thus, the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day, God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So, God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because, on it, God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
FROM PSALM 8
O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babes and infants, you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet,
all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
A READING FROM THE END OF THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, AT THE 28TH CHAPTER: JESUS SENDS HIS FOLLOWERS FORTH TO RECREATE THE WORLD
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
A CONFESSION OF OUR SINS TO GOD
God of all mercy, we confess that we have sinned against you,
opposing your will in our lives. We have denied your goodness in each other, in ourselves, and in the world, you have created. We repent of the evil that enslaves us, the evil we have done, and the evil done on our behalf. Forgive, restore, and strengthen us through our Savior Jesus Christ, that we may abide in your love and serve only your will. Amen.
Almighty God have mercy on us ☩, forgive us all our sins, and through the grace of Jesus Christ, strengthen us in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep us in eternal life. Amen.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
O God of compassion, the giver of life and health, we pray your healing mercies upon all who are in any way affected by the outbreak of the Covid-19 coronavirus. Comfort and sustain those who have been stricken; relieve their pain, and restore to them your gifts of gladness and strength. Grant to all in authority the courage to make wise decisions that are essential for the common good, and strengthen them to lead institutions that care for those whom they serve. Watch over all first responders and those in the medical professions whose duty it is to care for the sick; guard them from all danger, and keep them safe in the knowledge that is through their sacrifice and service that the health of the whole community is promoted. Mercifully accept these our prayers, O God of all comfort, and our only help in time of need.
In peace, we pray to you, Lord God—
For all people in our daily life and work; for our families, friends, and neighbors, and for those who are alone and in danger.
For this community, the nation, and the world; for all who work for justice, freedom, and peace; health and wellbeing.
For the just and proper use of your creation; For the victims of hunger, fear, injustice, and oppression.
For all who are in danger, sorrow, or any kind of trouble; for those who minister to the sick, the friendless, and the needy, particularly in the midst of this worldwide pandemic.
For the peace and unity of the Church of God; for all who proclaim the Gospel, and all who seek the Truth; for all who serve God in his Church.
For the heartbreak in our nation and world. For the sin of racial bigotry and violence; for healing that of a plague that disproportionately ravages people of color, the poor, and the unprivileged.
For the special needs and concerns of our families and friends, loved ones, and for our congregation. Hear us, Lord; for your mercy is great.
We thank you, Lord, for all the blessings of this life. We will exalt you, O God our King; And praise your Name forever and ever.
We pray for all who have died, that they may have a place in your eternal kingdom. Lord, let your loving-kindness be upon them, who put their trust in you.
Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth: Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer, and know ourselves to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy. We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit, and who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.
THE LORD’S PRAYER
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Loving God, we give you thanks for restoring us in your image and nourishing us with spiritual food in the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood. Now send us forth a people forgiven, healed, renewed; that we may proclaim your love to the world and continue in the risen life of Christ our Savior. Amen.
Sisters and brothers, when we go out into the world in peace, we live and walk as part of God’s beloved community. May God help us all to be of good courage, hold on to what is good, return to no one evil for evil. Strengthen the faint-hearted, support the weak, aid the suffering, do justice and hope, honor all people, and let our gentleness be known by everyone. May God, who raised our Lord Jesus from death, lift us up and restore us to wholeness. And may God bless us all, ☩ in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Amen.