Genesis 1:26-31; Matthew 28:16-20

Did you ever tell a story that got away from you? The story of Jesus seemed to get away from the early Church. Christianity grew out of a life-loving Jewish faith, took it to the extremes of compassion, and found that story becoming something new. They had worshiped the God who looked at the created world and “was very pleased” with it. They knew the mystery of being created in God’s image, just less than the heavenly beings, and in the same breath they knew that we always miss that mark. Now we had to figure out what we meant that Jesus saves us and transforms that world. What new thing had happened here? We had to unite two kinds of stories: stories from people who had felt excluded from God’s love until just now, and stories from people who always knew that God’s enduring love was with them.

We – by which I mean the Church – wrestled with this for years, the question of how we can be talking about one God here. After 300 years, we borrowed some concepts from Aristotle and figured out at least one way to talk about this God who created us, saved us, and gave us new life. Or that is to say, a God who created everything and has no body, who came in flesh, whose Spirit makes people and the creation new again. We found language for a God with three characters and just one essence – distinct individuals in unique roles, always working together and desiring the same thing.

Today is traditionally observed as Trinity Sunday, a festival all about this doctrine. The Holy Spirit came last week, and now we seek to celebrate all three persons of the Godhead together. We affirm this idea when we pray to God-the-Father in the words (and by the virtue) of God-the-Son, through the powerful presence of God-the-Spirit. I pronounce that idea with formulaic words in the final blessing each week, in the words of Baptism, in the prayer when we celebrate the Eucharist. We sang this concept in our first hymn (Holy, Holy, Holy!) and will recite it in the Nicene Creed in a few minutes. Like many doctrines, this can tend to come across as static, as if you can say that God is the Trinity and let it go at that (if you must go there at all).

But the story gets beyond us again, and we find ourselves saying something deep about God’s living activity. We affirm that God is never present without relationship, even within God’s own self. God is related to himself in a very particular way, we suggest. God is united by sharing in the midst of difference. Without confusing themselves, the three persons of God freely give everything to each other. God is fundamentally generous, as a father gladly gives everything he has to his child (today is a celebration of that ideal, after all). When God interacts with the world, that way of relating flows from the depth of God’s being. We affirm that how God is with us is just how God is with Godself.

God is as generous with universe as with himself. God, internally and externally, freely gives God’s very self self away and freely receives that life back again. There is no greed and no shortage with God. It’s like this banner we dedicated this morning. As the roots of the Tree of Life turn around each other, knotted in love, there is no need that sharing can’t meet. Faith in the Triune God includes the basic assertion that there is enough. The Cross stands in the center of the Tree to suggest that by these two trees, one life is given and restored. In creation, salvation, and renewal, all three persons work together. The basic claim of faith is that the story of Jesus is the story of God’s life in the world, that God has always been giving his life without ultimately losing that life. Or the confidence that the presence of God’s guiding Spirit is the presence of Christ, that the One who teaches, heals, and serves is yet present in people united in love. Or that the created world is also the redeemed and gifted world, that our love for the living universe leads to trust in a life that always returns to us renewed.

The Gospel invites us back into our “rightful” place in Creation. We’re invited back to Genesis 1, which names us as caretakers of all that exists. We acknowledge that we’ve abused and mistreated Creation, acting as if its gifts and resources existed for us alone, separate from other people and forms of life. In faith, we accept the invitation to return, to become what we were originally invited to be: caretakers, helpers, and participants in the ongoing process of creation. At Hope, we seek to live that out as a member of Congregations Caring for the Earth, giving due place to environmental stewardship in our preaching, learning, and decision-making. We do that not because the environment is an adjunct to the Good News, but because God redeems the whole world, because Christ offered his life to give life to all that lives.

And that life blooms here and now, as well as in eternity. The Cross is God’s love restoring Creation by giving himself fully (as always) to it. It is the power of love to live even in the face of death. The Cross is the Tree of Life because its power to kill was conquered by God’s love. “This (right here) is my Father’s world” because we are God’s children with Christ. In Christ, God claims us as beloved beyond all bounds. After reciting the Nicene Creed, we will sing another kind of creed. I hear verse two of “This Is My Father’s World” as a faith statement: “Jesus who died shall be satisfied, and earth and heaven be one.” May God’s love prevail, now and into eternity.