Pentecost 1a: Holy Trinity

Preached: June 15, 2014

Created for Fellowship with God
Genesis 1:1, 2, 26-28

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word from God before us today through which the Holy Spirit strengthens our faith in Jesus is Genesis 1

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was empty and formless. Darkness was over the surface of the deep. The Spirit of God hovered over the surface of the water.

God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. Let him have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air, over the cattle and over all the earth, even over all that moves along the ground.”

God created man in his image. In the image of God he created him. Male and female, he created them. God blessed them and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over all of life that moves upon the earth.”

This is the word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

“Looking for a relationship with ...” could be the opening words of a personal ad. Human beings long for, need relationships—and I’m not just talking about romantic ones. Think of how important the mother-child and father-child relationships are. We even pick a special day each year to recognize their importance: Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. And the Lord often blesses us with many other relationships as well: brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles; friends, neighbors, coworkers; our church and community; and sometimes with a dear husband or a dear wife as well. We long for and need relationships.

But should that surprise us when we consider the God who created us? Before the beginning, before there was anything or anyone else, God was not isolated. Even then when there was only God, he was not alone. For he has always been and always will be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. What a relationship far beyond our comprehension! Even those names of Father and Son reveal a relationship. From all eternity the Father loved the Son and the Son loved the Father. In order for there to be love, there has to be someone else to love. If God were only one person, he could be holy, almighty, and all-knowing, but he could not be love.

The name Spirit as well reveals a relationship. Here’s a human example: Words cannot fully convey to others our deepest feelings of love. Only our own spirit within us knows. So also only the Holy Spirit knows the fullness and depth of the love of the Father and the Son and shares in that love. What a wonder! Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God, but they are distinct from each other, each one in a relationship with the others, a relationship of love beyond degree.

This is the God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who said to each other, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness” (Genesis 1:26 NIV11). Yes, dear friends, the human race was created for fellowship with God.

Now, don’t get me wrong. He didn’t need our fellowship. He doesn’t need to have a relationship with us. He’s perfectly happy and content in that divine fellowship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But his love wants to share. He desires to have others know his love and to share in his love. So he created mankind in his own image, according to his own likeness. He created the rest of the world for mankind, and he created mankind for fellowship with him.

God doesn’t need our fellowship, but he need fellowship with him. St. Augustine at the end of the 4th century prayed, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” (Confessions I.1). Psalm 42 says, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God. When can I go, and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1,2 NIV84). In Psalm 73 Asaph calls out, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” (Psalm 73:25 NIV84). We need fellowship with God.

That’s what Adam and Eve had as they walked with him in the cool of the evening in the Garden of Eden. Their heart, soul, and mind where in perfect harmony with the Lord’s thoughts, desires, and will. For they were created in his image. Their knowledge was in sync with God’s. They did not know as much as he did, but what they did know matched up exactly with God’s knowledge. They had true righteousness and holiness that fully measured up to God’s standard. For they had his image. They reflected his holy will with prefect righteousness. What a relationship! What fellowship! That’s the fellowship we were created for.

That’s the fellowship sin destroyed. Adam and Eve rejected God’s love and disobeyed his will. They lost his image. So how could they pass on his image to their children? Rather than being born in the image of God, we all entered this world born in the image of fallen, sinful mankind. Flesh gives birth to flesh. We had no fellowship with God. Just look at your own heart. How often aren’t our thoughts and feelings out of sync with what God wants. Instead of harmony, there’s discord and noise, mind-numbing noise. The good I want to do, I don’t do. And the evil I don’t want to do, I do. For even in us Christians, a part of us is so out-of-tune with God. That’s our sinful flesh. How much worse when that sinful flesh instead of Christ ruled in our hearts and controlled our minds!

How lost we were! How much we needed a relationship with God. But we were so out of tune that we rejected his melody since it didn’t match our noise. We ran away from him just as Adam and Eve did after they ate from the tree God had told them not to eat from. Although we needed him, we hated him.

But God longed for a relationship with you. He didn’t need it, as we made clear earlier. But his love desired it. He longed for fellowship with you, not because he was unfulfilled without it but because he is love. We could not come to him, so he came to us. He could not have fellowship with what we were, so he changes us. He recreates in us his image. He renews in us his likeness. He clothes us with the new self, created to be like him in true righteousness and holiness. He brings us into his family as his own dear children. What a relationship! What fellowship, worked by his word and sacraments!

But how did he do this? How could he bring us fallen sinners into his family as children of the holy God? Go back to that eternal relationship of the Father and the Son. Such love so high and deep and wide. Such love beyond degree. We cannot comprehend even a part of it. But let’s attempt to gaze at it with wonder, amazement, and appreciation by stepping from the lesser to the greater.

If someone in town came up to me and said, “Pastor Bitter, I don’t like you. I’m not going to talk to you any more,” that would hurt for a little bit, but it would have no real affect on my life. If a long time friend, someone I had gone to school with and was close to, said that, that would cut more deeply. If one of my own children said, “I don’t want you in my life any more,” that would shake me for a long time, probably the rest of my life. And if my wife would say, “I don’t love you. I’m leaving,” that would undo me and shatter me from the inside out. And I’ve only known my wife for sixteen years. But the Father and the Son were united in perfect love from all eternity. But in order to bring you into his family, the Father forsook his own dear, beloved Son. The nails, the shame, the physical and emotional agony of the cross, are but splinters compared to those crushing, piercing words from mouth of the Son, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Do you see how much the Lord desires to have you in his family? He created mankind for fellowship with him. And though our own fault destroyed that fellowship, look at what he has done to restore it! Believe it!

Since he has loved you so dearly, live in love toward him and toward one another. Through Baptism his image was recreated in you. Let his image shine out as you live in tune with his will, doing what is right and good. Let his word dwell in you richly, for that is how he speaks his message of love to us. Receive the Lord’s Supper often, for that too is the testimony of his love. Through word and sacraments he called you and me into his fellowship and keeps us close to him. All other relationships pale, for you were created for fellowship with God.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313