Sermon for June 11, 2017 (Trinity Sunday)

Scripture readings:
Gen. 1:1-2:4; Ps. 8:1-9; 2 Cor. 13:11-14; Matt. 28:16-20

REJOICING IN GOD, THE HOLY TRINITY
(Ps. 8:1-9; Matt. 28:16-20; 2 Cor. 13:14)
By Ted Johnston

Introduction

Today is Trinity Sunday—the first Sunday following Pentecost. It’s a day to rejoice in God, who is one in being and three in Person—the Holy Trinity. The Trinity is far more than a doctrine to be understood—it is the reality of the one, tri-personal God who is to be loved and worshipped.

Icon of the Trinity by Rublev
(public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Though it wasn’t until Jesus came that we learned in detail that the one God is one in being and three in Person, we find hints of God’s triune nature in the Old Testament. In today’s reading in Genesis we find God at work through his word and Spirit in creation. And it is this one God, the Creator, who David, in Psalm 8, extolls, remembering the majestic, all-powerful Lord of creation, who now works sovereignly through the powerless and downtrodden. Let’s unpack this psalm, line by line.

1. The Lord’s majesty (Psalm 8:1)

1 LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens.

David begins and ends his psalm exclaiming God’s majestic name—his splendor and magnificence, which stands high above all creation (including David’s enemies!). The expression O LORD, our Lord makes this important point. The first LORD is Yahweh—God’s personal name. The second Lord is Adonai, meaning Sovereign or Master. Put them together and you have a personal, caring God who has complete dominion over his creation. Indeed, he is exalted (he has glory) high above the heavens. This is the God David addresses, and on that basis makes the claims and expresses the hope found in the rest of the psalm.

2. The Lord’s strength (Psalm 8:2)

2 Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.

David marvels that the Lord God would use the “puny” strength of children (strength is the better translation of the Hebrew word translated praise in the NIV) to silence his enemies (and the foe and avenger). The point is that the Lord has set his incomparable strength on a sure foundation in these helpless children and infants. But does God literally silence his foes through children? Perhaps, but more likely, David is using infants figuratively to refer to what is tiny, weak and powerless. Clearly, David has experienced notable powerlessness in the face of powerful foes, and so he is comforted knowing that the sovereign, powerful Creator Lord works through the powerless and downtrodden.

3. The Lord’s creation (Psalm 8:3-8)

3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?

David’s thoughts now turn to the stunning truth that the sovereign, all-powerful God has graciously entrusted some of his dominion to humankind. He firsts observes the great work of creation (including the heavens…moon and…stars) as God’s finger work, and then is amazed that finite humans (the Hebrew word is ’ěnôš, meaning mortal, weak person) should have such a responsibility over it. The rhetorical questions in v. 4 emphasize that humans are insignificant creatures in the universe, yet God cares for each one immensely.

5 You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.

God’s creation of man is described as one of power and dignity, for he was made…a little lower than the heavenly beings. In Hebrew, “heavenly beings” is ’ělōhîm, which, though it can refer to angels, perhaps should be translated here as God (see the NIV footnote). The sense is that humans were created as God’s own representatived on earth, over the creation, though lower than God. David is amazed that God would exalt finite creatures to such a place of high honor. Hebrews 2:6-8 quotes this psalm to contrast humanity’s failure with their exalted destiny. But all is not lost: Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, is the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45, 47) and all things have been subjected to him—a subjection that will come to fullness when he returns to earth bodily to usher in a new heaven and new earth, thus fulfilling God’s plan to exalt (glorify) humankind and all of creation.

6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: 7 all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, 8 the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.

David here reflects on humanity’s position as God’s representative (steward) in his creation. After God made Adam and Eve, he commanded them to have dominion over all the earth (Gen. 1:28). All living creatures were to be under them. But because of sin, that dominion was never fully realized. Tragically and ironically, it was through a subordinate, the serpent, that humans rebelled against God’s order and rejected its God-given calling.

4. The Lord’s majesty (Psalm 8:9)

9 Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

David closes his psalm where he began—praising God’s majestic…name. Indeed, God’s majesty has been displayed in his care and design for finite, puny humans.

Conclusion (2 Cor. 13:11-14; Mat. 28:19)

The insights David had concerning God’s majesty come to fullness in the New Testament when Jesus shows us the Father and the Spirit, thus revealing the fullness of God’s nature, expressed in his love and care, through Jesus, for all humanity. This insight is about much more than a doctrinal formulation (as important as that is)—it’s about reflecting God’s triune nature in the way we live. That’s what Paul is emphasizing in our reading today in 2 Corinthians, where he admonishes the believers in Corinth (who were experiencing a lot of division) to aim for a spiritual maturity aligned with who God is as the triune God of unity, love and peace. He admonishes them to “strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace” (2 Cor. 13:11). In 2 Cor. 13:12, he tells them to “greet one another with a holy kiss”—a common greeting in that culture—but one that within the church is made holy as a reflection of Jesus’ own holy love. Paul thus calls upon these Christians to treat each other with respect and affection. Then he closes his letter (2 Cor. 13:14) with a Trinitarian benediction:

14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

This benediction is no afterthought—it summarizes Pauls’ entire letter, emphasizing who God is in his triune nature (Father, Son and Spirit) and the blessings that flow from him to us: grace, love, and fellowship. The divisions they were experiencing would end if they would depend on the grace of God, walk in the love of God, and participate in the fellowship they have with God and with one another through the Spirit. They will become a blessing (benediction) to one another. May that be true of all of us as well.

And let us not forget on this Trinity Sunday what Jesus, in our reading today in Matthew 28:19, said to his disciples as he commissioned them:

19 Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…

Jesus, who calls us to participate in the mission from the Father, by the Son and in the Spirit, bids us to baptize converts in God’s triune name. That same Jesus is the Lord who presently reigns—a reign that will come to fullness in the future. What great comfort and hope there is, as David reminds us, in knowing that though we humans are puny and powerless (dwarfed as we are by the immensity of the universe) we are taken up by our sovereign Lord, to share in his work, and also to share in his glory—the glory he has with the Father and the Spirit. As the song goes, “Oh how he loves you and me!” [Or quote here the words to another song that you will sing following the sermon.] Amen.


Note: to set the tone for this sermon, you might want to introduce it by showing this video featuring Sandi Patty:

One thought on “Sermon for June 11, 2017 (Trinity Sunday)”

  1. this sermon has really helped me understand those scriptures collectively as i prepare my sermon. thank you very much!!

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