The Trinity at Work (Genesis 1:1-2:4a)

creation 01

Since the beginning of time, people have looked at the world around them and wondered where it all came from. Every culture has had its own story or myth to try to explain the origin of the world and everything in it. Even in our own time, our culture is trying to explain the origin of the universe in scientific terms to understand where it all began and what its purpose or future might be.

I’m going to ask that you don’t discuss how long the Genesis 1 Creation Story took in your conversation about this message. Please take the advice of the Apostle Paul who warns God’s people ‘against quarrelling about words’ because ‘it is of no value and only ruins those who listen’ (2 Timothy 2:14). I believe that too much time and energy has been lost in arguments about how long a ‘day’ was in Jewish thinking. Because of those disagreements, we have often missed much of the good news that Genesis 1 can speak into our lives.

One thing we can miss about the Genesis 1 Creation Story is the way the Trinity is at work. It is true that the word Trinity never appears in the Bible. An early church leader named Tertullian began using it about two hundred years after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to try to communicate the mystery of the one God who makes himself known to us as three distinct but still unified persons. While the Bible doesn’t use the word Trinity, we can still see plenty of evidence of the One-God-In-Three-Persons throughout Scripture.

One passage where we see evidence for the Trinity is in Genesis 1. We read that God created everything in the story simply by speaking. For example, in verse 3 ‘God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light’ (NIV). God spoke and his Word did what it said.
We can see the Trinity at work in Creation if we look a little closer at the story. Firstly, there is the Speaker who proclaims the Word that is spoken. Secondly, we have the Word itself which brings what is spoken into existence. Thirdly, the Breath of the Speaker carries the Word to do what is said. Whenever we speak, our breath carries our words to those who hear them. Genesis 1:2 has already introduced the Spirit of God to us. The biblical languages use the same word for breath, wind and spirit, so the Spirit of God is involved in Creation as the Speaker’s Breath which carries the Word to create what has been spoken.

This story continues to unfold when we read it through the eyes of the New Testament. The Apostle John identified Jesus as the Word which was spoken at creation who entered the world as a flesh and blood person (John 1:1-17). Jesus gave his followers a new relational way of understanding God by calling him ‘Father’ (John 5:18). Jesus also talked about sending his Spirit to his followers (John 14:15-17,26, etc) to be ‘with’ them and ‘in’ them (v17 NIV). Jesus expanded people’s understanding of God from the ancient Hebrew confession of ‘the Lord is One’ (Deuteronomy 6:4), to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit being the Three-In-One and One-In-Three God which we know as the Trinity.

From this point of view, we can see the Triune God at work in the Genesis 1 Creation Story. The Father is the Speaker of the Word who brings everything into existence. The Word proclaimed by the Father is the Son, Jesus, through whom all things were made and without whom nothing was made that has been made (John 1:3). The Holy Spirit carries the Word from the Father to do what the Father intends and what the Word itself says. When God created the heavens and the earth in the beginning, Father, Son and Holy Spirit was at work creating light where there was darkness, peace where there was chaos, and life where there was emptiness.

There is much more to this reading of Genesis than just a theological analysis. Because of the reality of sin in our world, we continue to see and experience the darkness, chaos and emptiness that was present in the beginning before the Trinity’s creative work. For example, we can see the darkness of racism, hatred and injustice in our world which caused the death of George Floyd in the USA last week, and has been highlighted by protests in that nation and around the world, including Australia. We have all seen how the COVID-19 pandemic has plunged our world into chaos and confusion as nations have tried to prevent the spread of the virus and keep their people safe. We can see darkness and chaos on a global scale, but we can also experience it personally. In lots of different ways, we can also struggle with darkness, chaos or confusion, or emptiness in our own lives.

When we acknowledge the darkness, chaos or emptiness in our own lives, the Genesis 1 Creation Story can speak so much good news to us. It tells us that the Trinity is still at work in the world and in our lives. The same Speaker continues to proclaim the Word which is carried by the Breath into our darkness, chaos, and emptiness to create light, peace, and life in us, just as the Triune God did in the beginning. The Trinity continues to be at work in our lives as the Father proclaims the Son who is carried by the Holy Spirit into our lives and into our hearts to create light, peace and life within us! When we believe that the Trinity was working in this way at the start of Creation, we can also believe that the Trinity is still at work in us and through us, bringing the light of perfect love into dark places, peace into our confusion and chaos, and life where everything seems empty.

The Word of God continues to speak the Trinity’s creative Word to us. It is the message of Jesus which proclaims love, forgiveness, mercy, grace, and every good thing that our hearts, our lives, our world needs in these dark, chaotic and empty times. We find this Word in the message of Jesus, the stories of the Bible, the letters of the early Christians who were living in this light, peace and life, sharing what they had found with other believers and helping them to live in the reality of the work of the Trinity in their own dark times. The Bible isn’t just old bedtime stories or information about God. It is the creative Word of God, proclaimed by the Speaker and carried by the Breath into our lives to create light in the darkness, peace in the chaos, and life in the emptiness.

What might it be like for the Trinity to be at work in you, creating light in the darkness you might be experiencing, peace in the chaos or confusion that might be going on within or around you, or life in any emptiness you might be struggling with? I don’t argue about how much time it took God to create the world, or how long a Jewish ‘day’ is anymore because we can miss the main point of the Genesis 1 story. This Creation account tells us that we have a God who speaks a Word of grace, peace and hope into our lives, and whose Breath carries this Word into our hearts, our lives and our world to create light and peace and life, just like in the beginning.

More to think about & discuss:

  • What is your favourite thing about Creation? For example, sunsets or sunrises, autumn leaves, newborn babies, the beach, or something else? Spend some time discussing or reflecting on why you like them so much…
  • Do you ever wonder where everything came from? What does the Genesis 1 Creation Story say to you about God who created it all? (again, please don’t start discussing how long God took or what a Hebrew ‘day’ might mean; you can talk about that another day…)
  • What are your thoughts about finding the Trinity in Genesis 1 as Speaker, Word and Breath? Does it make sense to you? Is there anything about it you’re not sure about?
  • Before God started the work of creation, there was darkness, chaos and emptiness. Where can we still see these in our times? In the global situation? In our own lives personally?
  • In Genesis 1 the Triune God creates light from darkness, peace from chaos, and life from emptiness. Discuss or reflect on the idea that God is still doing the same today. Is that easy or more difficult for you to trust? Why or why not?
  • Where are you experiencing darkness, chaos or confusion, or emptiness in your own life? What might god be saying to you through his Word to create light, peace, or life in you? In someone else’s life?
  • At some stage, go for a walk outside. Look at and listen to creation. Wonder where it all came from as you reflect on the Genesis 1 story. If God can create all this beauty and wonder from darkness, chaos and emptiness, what might God’s Word and Breath be able to create into you?

You can find a video version of this message at https://youtu.be/dSTlQc50vGo

God bless!

 

Living in the Light (Colossians 1:11-20)

living in the light

Since the beginning of time, the battle between light and darkness has been one of humanity’s most common and powerful stories. We see it from the Creation story of Genesis 1 where God overcame the darkness by speaking light into existence, right through to the battle between Jedi Knights and Sith Lords using the light and dark side of the Force in the Star Wars movies.

For Christians, the battle between the darkness and the light reached its culmination in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. When Jesus was born, the one who personified the light of God came into our world which has been made dark through sin and evil. Jesus entered the darkness of human existence to bring us light, exposing the darkness that lives within all people and driving it out through his love and grace. When Jesus went to the cross, he carried all that is dark in the world and put it to death. This was symbolized by the darkness that fell for three hours as the Son of God was crucified. When Jesus was raised to new life on the third day, he brought the light of eternal life to all people in a similar way that the rays of the rising sun expelled the darkness of the night. The victory of the light of Jesus’ life over the darkness of sin and death is the good news that we receive in faith and which gives us new life as God’s people. Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God

has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
(Colossians 1:13,14 NLT)

The tense of the verbs Paul uses is significant. He writes that God has rescued us, and he has brought us into the kingdom of Christ. These are events that have happened in the past and which now determine our current reality.

However, wherever there is light in this world there is also shadow. While we might be living in the Kingdom of the Light of God’s love and peace, we can still encounter the darkness of sin and evil in a range of ways. For example, the darkness can still overshadow us when we experience fear, judgment, guilt or face the reality of death. I’ve known too many Christians who have been brought into the Kingdom of Christ but still live in these and other dark shadows.

I don’t write this to make anyone feel bad about it, but to recognise that in our human condition it can be hard for us to live fully in the light. We can tend to think that the darkness we experience in any form is just the way it is and nothing can ever be different. So, like people who have been kept in the dark for too long, we can feel safe and comfortable in the dark, believing that there is nothing beyond it, and that this is just how it is.

But what if life didn’t have to be this way? What if, instead of living in the darkness of fear, judgement, guilt or death, God intended something better for us? As his people whom he has rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the Kingdom of Christ, what if it was possible to live more and more in the light of his love and grace through the power of the Holy Spirit? What if, instead of living in fear, we could find joy? What if the good news of Jesus could actually set us free from the darkness of judgment in our lives? Where guilt casts its shadow over us, what might life be like if we could find forgiveness in the reality of Christ’s Kingdom? All of these and more would contribute to a life that was fully lived in the light of God’s grace, love and peace which we find in the good news of Jesus.

Where do you live right now – in the darkness of fear, judgment and guilt, or in the light of joy, freedom and forgiveness? I’ll say it again: I don’t want anyone to feel bad or guilty about experiencing darkness of any kind in their lives – it is a reality of living in this world and just plays into the devil’s hands when we focus on the dark. Instead, I want to help people see that the light of God’s grace and love has come to us in Jesus. Through him, to use Paul’s words again, God has already ‘rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of his Son’! We don’t have to live in the darkness any more because the light is already here!

Where do you want to live – in the dark or in the light? This is our journey as disciples of Jesus. He calls us to follow him from the dark into the light of the joy, freedom and forgiveness that he gives. We can learn a new way of living from Jesus where we can find increasing joy, freedom and forgiveness by leaving the darkness behind and keeping our eyes fixed on his love, peace and hope through faith in him. As we hear Jesus speak words of good news to us through the Bible, as the Holy Spirit grows faith in us, maturing us as God’s children and making us more like Jesus, then the light of God’s grace will shine brighter within us and others will see the goodness of God in us.

In some ways, the battle between darkness and light seems to be very simple. However, more modern interpretations have shown that sometimes the difference is harder to distinguish. Where would you prefer to live – in the dark or in the light? I understand that sometimes it can seem safer and more comfortable to stay in the dark, or at least in the shadows. However, God has already ‘rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.’ Jesus calls us to follow him into lives that experience the reality of that light so others can find his light in us.

Where would you prefer to live?