First Reading: Genesis 1:1–2:4a
1In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2the 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. 3Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
6And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7So 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. 8God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
9And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11Then 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. 12The 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. 13And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
14And 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, 15and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
20And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” 21So 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. 22God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
24And 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. 25God 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.
26Then 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 over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
27So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28God 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.” 29God 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. 30And 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. 31God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
2:1Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2And 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. 3So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
4aThese are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
Psalm: Psalm 8
How majestic is your name in all the earth! (Ps. 8:1)
1O Lord our Lord, how majestic is your name in | all the earth!—
2you whose glory is chanted above the heavens out of the mouths of infants and children; you have set up a fortress against your enemies, to silence the foe and avenger.
3When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,
4what are mere mortals that you should be mindful of them,
human beings that you should care for them?
5Yet you have made them little less than divine;
with glory and honor you crown them.
6You have made them rule over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet:
7all flocks and cattle, even the wild beasts of the field,
8the birds of the air, the fish of the sea,
and whatever passes along the paths of the sea.
9O Lord our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 13:11-13
[Paul writes:] 11Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.
13The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
Gospel: Matthew 28:16-20
16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Hans Christian Anderson in 1863 wrote The Ugly Duckling. A duck hatches her eggs and one of the chicks is different and labeled ugly by the others. The chick flees and goes through a series of experiences that convince him he is an ugly duckling. He finally joins a flock of swans and discovers that he is not a duck but a beautiful swan.
Have you ever felt like an ugly duckling, not fitting in with those around you?
Let us pray. Lord may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Today is the first Sundy after Pentecost, the long green season. It is long because it is close to 27 weeks, half the liturgical year. Green will be the color of our church paraments or decorations because Pentecost is about life, life in Christ, the risen, living God who is involved in our lives.
Can you hear Luther’s Small Catechism question, “What does this mean?” Today’s text opens the Pentecost season with the Great Commission. It is a favorite missionary text but it is also a mandate that permeates all our lives. Let me suggest there are three themes that will impact our thinking in the Pentecost season.
- God is Trinity and we as his creation, made in his image, live in community.
- God talks. We are characterized by our ability to think abstractly and encode our ideas in language. We are charged with communicating the Gospel.
- God teaches. God is a being with ideas and expectations and we are expected to obey.
God is Trinity=Relational
“…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”
At the very core of the Christian faith is the mystery of the Trinity. We do not have three gods that share authority like the three branches of our American government. God does not operate by checks and balances. We do not have a hierarchy of gods that take turns being in power. We believe that our God is Trinitarian, “three persons in one being, one essence.” I still like the example of electricity that powers my house. When I turn on my lamp, it sends forth light. When I turn on my stove, it radiates heat. The TV and radio are visual and auditory. One, all, or none can be experienced at the same time without diminishing the electricity present n my house. Because Jesus is not seen, does not mean he has ceased to exist. He was the Word at creation and will be our light in the New Jerusalem. The Spirit breathed at creation and intercedes for us now. This triune God fills the pages of Scripture. We accept this truth by faith even though science struggles with it.
So what does that mean to us? We are made in the image of this triune God. We are baptized in the name of this triune God. Triune-ness defines us. Walter Wangaarin in his book, As For Me and My House, presents the explanation I like the most. I do not know who I am without you. It is as I relate to you that I know if I am truly being loving or kind or mean and hurtful. Love is not just something that oozes out of my pores but is a relational quality. I am experiencing why death of a spouse or divorce is so painful. Part of me is leaving. There is something in the reality of community that defines my identity and is basic to my very being. In the creation story God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.” I’m sure it has been pointed out the plural-ness of this statement, “our image.” We are made for community.
Paul uses the picture of a body to describe the church. As varied and diverse as the body is with its different parts and functions, so also is the church, the body of Christ. That person across the room that is so irritating carries a part of the image of God that is to bless me. Gossip, covetousness, murder, slander – all the big 10 – have no place in the kingdom of heaven because they violate the image of God in our world.
So here we might ask ourselves how we are doing relationally in our lives, not just in church. Are there people we are offending that we need to heal relationships with? Are there people different from ourselves that we need to broaden our thinking and try to understand? We need each other. Turn to your neighbor and say, “Thank you for being in my life!” “Forgive me if I have hurt you.” Bethany is a community reflecting the image of God and together we say something about God that we cannot say alone. The flock of swans confirmed the identity of the ugly duckling.
“…Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”
We believe in a God that has and does talk to us throughout history. It is the very essence of Trinity. The godhead is always in communication. The good news is not just for my own edification and salvation and for the selected chosen but it is to be told to everyone.
God’s heart’s desire is that all should be discipled, be told the good news. We are not ugly ducklings but baby swans maturing. Often we think of discipling as the job of the pastor. But I think that if we stop and think, there is someone we look up to and there are people who look up to us. One day my eldest son asked me to cut his hair just like his dorm father – whom he did not even particularly like but whom he was observing. His younger brother then wanted his hair cut like his “big brother” assigned to him who was a soccer star for the school. He spent an hour going through year books to find pictures of his heroe. Yes we have our TV models that the media promotes but like the ugly duckling we also watch those around us and know when we are different and don’t fit in. As I look at the life of Christ, I do not see someone who went around preaching how people had to come to him to be saved but he went around speaking the truth he knew about God, doing the things he knew God did, and loving others. We all have a story we can share. We all can encourage some one who thinks that they are an ugly duckling that, in truth, they are God’s creation for whom he incarnated and wants to be in communication with. God has a story to tell and we have a story to tell also. God desires to be in relationship, growing us all. Our triune God does not sit afar waiting for us to earn our way into his presence but opens communication channels because that is his nature.
So perhaps today we need to turn to that person in the pew with us and say, “You are not an ugly duckling but a swan in process. Thank you for being here.”
God is Teacher=Obedience
:…teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you…”
Teaching is a communication word that comes from the heart of a God who is triune, but it is interesting that it is followed by “obey.” Faith is not an intellectual feat, memorizing Luther’s Small Catechism. Faith is not a mystical experience defined by how many times we speak in tongues. Faith is a relationship that grows out of obedience to the God of the universe that offers something our world does not promote or value.
Jesus taught us to forgive our enemies. We do not forgive others easily. We do not love our enemies. We do not share our coats freely. Christianity does not make us healthy, wealthy, and wise in the world’s eyes. Faith requires submission to the “other” as we grow to know the “others.” Relationship is mutual give and take. Christ prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “not my will but thine.” Obedience and submission are counter-cultural and fight against our will. As much as we preach a warm cozy relationship with God, we must never forget that he is God and we are his creation. We are the recipients of salvation. We need the Holy Spirit to struggle in prayer with us and counsel us, and lead us back to the right path when we go astray. We need to be still and know that he is God as Psalm 8 so nicely reminds us today. As we obey and work together with God, faith grows. This does not come naturally and we are told to teach others to obey.
Oh my. I see one finger pointing out and four fingers curled back to myself. The question rings, how well do I obey that I have the authority to tell someone else to obey? And so we come full circle. Being in relationship demands communication, talking, and submission, obedience to the wisdom of the “other.” Trinity is a word we use to describe our God but it is also a word that permeates into our lives and impacts all our relationships, not just with our friends but also with strangers and those we struggle with. We start Pentecost with pondering the Trinity because the nature of our God not only gives us life but also defines our life. I am an ugly duckling until I find my place as a disciple of Christ, telling others and teaching them to obey even as God has blessed me. God is Trinity, talking and teaching me that I am not an ugly duckling but his beloved child. Finally, we must always remember Christ’s final words, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Let the people of God say, “Thank you Lord, AMEN.”