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Environmental Stewardship Commission
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Episcopal Church in Minnesota

 
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Upcoming Activities:

Next Meetings

We meet quarterly close to the solstice and equinox and we meet more frequently at Regional Chapter meetings.


Resolution on the Spirituality of Food Production

Resolution on Church Buildings and Grounds


Resolution on Creation Season

Resolution on Green Congregations

 

 

Lectionary Reflection

Year A, Trinity Sunday, All Lessons
Standard (Episcopal) Lectionary

Readings for today

  • Genesis 1:1 2:3
  • Psalm 150 or Canticle 2 or Canticle 13
  • 2 Corinthians 13: (5-10) 11-14
  • Matthew 28: 16-20


 

Reflection on the Readings for today
by John G. Gibbs, PhD

During the first few decades of Christian existence the "threefold-ness" of God, so to speak was a matter of experience rather than of philosophical theology. They spoke of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit because they had experienced God in those three ways.

[2 Corinthians 13:(5-10)11-14] The experiential basis of Trinitarian language is especially evident in the last verse of the epistle lesson: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you."

Both the apostle Paul and his Christian readers had experienced grace, love, and communion. They also thought of the risen Lord as giving especially grace (charis), and God the Father as giving love (agape) from the first creation onward forever, and the Holy Spirit as having permeated the Church and made it into a real community (koinonia). Already in 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 the apostle had spoken in practical terms (gifts, services, activities) about the Spirit, Lord, and God who is "the same" in all those gifts, services, activities.

In short, any near-Trinitarian language within the New Testament arises from everyday practical Church experience.The New Oxford Annotated Bible NRSV (NY: Oxford Univ., 1994) annotates 2 Corinthians 13:14: "The order is significant; the grace of Christ expresses and leads one toward the love of God, and the love of God when actualized through the Spirit, produces communion with God and with one another." There is no tyrannical God here, only the God of sovereign love (cf. also 1 John 4:13-21). If we see anything "Trinitarian" in the New Testament, we see "the persons" of the Trinity at work for the creation and for the People of God therein.

[Matthew 28:16-20] The first gospel concludes with what we call The Great Commission. By so doing, Matthew serves the pastoral need for closure in the wake of the Resurrection. Some of the 11 remaining disciples prostrated themselves in worship, something they had not done prior to the crucifixion. Others in that small group "doubted." To both groups Jesus makes the same statement and gives the same charge, using the same language.

Matthew's Jesus says in effect that the resurrection has established who is in charge of the universe: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." (This echoes Daniel 7:13-14.) On the basis of that sovereignty the Church makes disciples, baptizes, teaches, and remembers.  There are no boundaries after the resurrection, unlike earlier (Matthew 10:5), against disciple making. Mark 16:15, which may have been written after Matthew, emphasizes this wide scope: "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation." This closure brings new beginning.

It is not individuals alone, but whole groupings of peoples (ethne, nations) that are made to be disciples. Communities are changed thereby.  Value-orientations are transformed so that the new community (the Church) lives out the sovereignty of God in human experience.  They are baptized into the possession and protection of ("in the name of") Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They are taught beyond thought "to obey" everything that Jesus commanded. Through all the changes of their life together they remember: "I am with you always, to the end of the age."

What a corrective to the hyper-individualism of Western civilization in our time! The center of attention is not the individual sinner who has to be saved. True evangelism transforms whole communities between heaven and earth. Here the whole Church is the evangelist, not just one person. That People sees every today in view of"the end of the age." Our lectionary quite rightly, therefore, includes the first Creation Story.

[Genesis 1:1-2:3] Ecological consciousness was not an afterthought among early Christians. From the very first their evangelism (!) spoke of heaven and earth and the end of all time. "To the mountain" chosen by Jesus (Matthew 28:16), and not to a house or any man-made place of worship, those first eleven disciples went to be commissioned. Jesus' choice of place sets the infant Church out on the vast landscape of creation.

"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." Just as God spoke, and all was/is, so Jesus (the Word incarnate) spoke, and the Church was/is. Just as "a wind from God" blew order into chaos at the first, so the Holy Spirit creates the "communion" that is Church.

New Creation builds on, and partakes of, the first creation. Referring to the creation of the universe, this story emphasizes by repetition: "And God saw that it was good." That is to say, the creation was fit to serve God's purpose. Not even the subsequent murders and other catastrophes in human conduct could succeed, as it were in a reverse anti-creation, to destroy or annul that "good" creation. God's imprint remains on/in it.

Early Christians later reaffirmed the creation of humanity in the image of God. They found in Jesus Christ the Second Adam in whom all humanity potentially can be restored to their original "goodness" (Romans 5:12-21). But that is not all, for there arose "hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God" (Romans. 8:21).

[Psalm 150] The most ancient hymnbook of God's People concludes in a stirring Doxology to God the Creator that is sung not only "in his sanctuary" but also "in his mighty firmament." This music is made not only by musical instruments. "Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!"

That is the mood of this Trinity Sunday. It is the atmosphere, the ambience, of exaltation to the God who has been made known to us in Creation, in Redemption, and in Sanctification. The One God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) creates and re-creates.

[A short meditation or even homily cannot very well be comprehensively systematic. More to the point, no biblical text goes to the extent of Trinitarian doctrine that the Cappadocian Fathers and Augustine hammered out in the fourth and fifth centuries CE.]

 

To Reflections on other Readings for Trinity Sunday, Year A:

Reflections available at the active links
Standard (Episcopal)
Lectionary
Revised Common
Lectionary
Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture) Reading:
Psalm
Psalm 150 or Canticle 2 or Canticle 13
Psalm 8 or Canticle 2 or Canticle 13
New Testament Lesson
Gospel

 

John Gibbs, a retired theologian, attended Trinity Episcopal Church, Park Rapids, MN, when he originally wrote this reflection in 2002.  He and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to John Gibbs or any MEESC member, or mail them to:


MEESC
c/o C. Morello
4451 Lakeside Drive
Eveleth, MN 55743-4400 USA

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