Below is a recording of our worship for Trinity Sunday. Because it was filmed with Facebook in mind the first 10 minutes are announcements and music. So, skip to the 10 minute mark if you want to get right into it.
You can download the liturgy here to pray along from home: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1z5kO_YgfH5KX-1NYexdUwzbi4KQ3IR9-/view?usp=sharing
You’ll also find the text of the sermon posted below the video.
Today on Trinity Sunday the lectionary gives us two readings that at first may seem to have little to do with one another but which are in fact intimately related and understanding the connection will help us better understand both who Jesus is and who we are called to be.
On the one hand we heard the story of the creation of the world. On the other hand we heard the famous Great Commission from the end of Matthew which emphasizes the mission of the church to evangelize the world. And now here’s the point I want to make this morning: the Great Commission fulfils, completes, perfects creation. Grace perfects nature.
The story of creation in Genesis culminates on the sixth day. There’s a clue to this in the text itself. The first five days all begin with what one theologian has called the divine fiat, “Let there be…” light and so on (John Behr). However, on the sixth day we don’t have “let there be” but rather “let us make”: “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.”
So, the making of the human being is distinct in some way from what has preceded it. In fact, we might go so far as to say that the making of the human being is God’s special project, a process that is not completed by his speech alone (John Behr).
We also hear that humankind are given a job, a calling, a vocation: “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.”
This was repeated in Psalm 8, wasn’t it? “What is man that you should be mindful of him?” the psalmist wonders. “You give him mastery over the works of your hands; you put all things under his feet; all sheep and oxen, even the wild beasts of the field, the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.” Humankind was made to rule over the earth. Or, as one Jewish scholar translated it, to “hold sway” over the earth (Alter).
Now it’s important to pause here for a moment to acknowledge that this passage can and has been misunderstood over the years. For example, to have dominion does not mean that human beings have been granted unfettered authority and power over the world. It does not mean that the world exists only to be subject our technological mastery. It does not mean that we are free to do whatever we want with the world.
No, that’s the original sin of humanity. To see the created world as something to be grasped rather than something to be received. To see the world as something that exists primarily for our use rather than for God’s glory. The world is not ours to take but God’s to give. So, think of “having dominion” as a bit like gardening. You til the soil lovingly, you plant seeds and nurture them, you eat the fruit of the harvest with satisfaction and gratitude. To have dominion means to receive the world as gift, cultivate it, and offer it back to God in love and thanksgiving.
When we turn to the New Testament something really interesting happens with this mandate to “have dominion.” It gets applied specifically to Jesus. For example, the writer of Hebrews quotes directly from Psalm 8 and attributes it to Jesus (2:6-8). It is Jesus, says the author, who is “crowned with glory and honour” (2:9). It is Jesus who though he suffered and died is now risen and ascended and presently ruling over all things.
Isn’t that what Jesus himself says in our gospel reading from Matthew? “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Right now at this moment (and at every moment in human history) Jesus Christ rules over all things in heaven and on earth. Everything in heaven and on earth is subject to the rule of Jesus Christ. The world intended his crucifixion for evil but God intended it for good, to bring salvation to all.
Now I know what you’re thinking. “Look around, Father Jonathan. It sure doesn’t look like it.” And you’re right. When we look at the world we do not see everything subject to him but when we look at Christ what do we see but the crucified and risen one now ascended and seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven who has made the earth his footstool. Now that Jesus is risen and ascended humankind finally and truly has “dominion over all things.” This is not some pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking or a hope for the future but a present reality that the church can and must confess. Jesus is Lord over all. All authority in heaven and on earth is his.
And he invites us to play a part in that. “Therefore,” says Jesus, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Jesus has dominion over all things and the way this plays out in the world is by bringing the gospel out and making disciples of all nations. Because he reigns on earth not by military might or political power but through the faith of believers (Jerome).
As the Father sent the Son into the world now the Son sends the church in the power of the Holy Spirit into the world. In other words, the church exists as an extension of the mission of the Son. That’s why Jesus doesn’t just say, “Go, and good luck!” but, “Go, I am with you always!” In other words, the church of God doesn’t have a mission in the world, the mission of God has a church in the world.
So, mission is not an extra but is the very heart of who the church is because it’s the very heart of who God is. Who is God? Looking at Jesus we know: God is our Father who loves us so much that he offered up his Son for us and gave us his Spirit so that we might recognize his boundless love (von Balthasar). And this God desires that all would come to a saving knowledge of him. He wants every single person on earth to know his love.
That’s why he now sends us out. “Go,” he says. Go and be present to all people everywhere. Go into places you’ve never been before. Go and be fully present to people. But don’t just go, go and make disciples. By your word and example point people to Jesus. Live a genuinely Christian life, strive for dignity, peace, and justice in the affairs of your neighbourhood, country, and world and do good works of love (and boy do we need that more than ever). And open your mouth and proclaim the gospel. Share your faith. Listen, and when you have an opportunity tell people about the difference that Jesus makes for you. Tell them that he loves them too and they can know him. In other words, “be fruitful and multiply.”
And don’t just go and make disciples as if this all depended on you. No, remember. “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” Jesus says. Remember that this is God’s mission, the mission of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Remember that God so loved the world. Remember that God desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Remember that this is God’s dream and without the Holy Spirit in us, equipping us, motivating us, animating us we don’t stand a chance. But with him in us and with us we can’t lose.
And so it is that the vocation of human beings to “be fruitful and multiply” and “to have dominion” is fulfilled by the Great Commission. Through baptism we are born into a new kingdom not of this world. Our citizenship is transferred. We live now under the authority of the risen and living Jesus who rules over all and whose kingdom advances.