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Trinity Sunday Year A                                                                     6/4/2023

Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Psalm 8; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20

Rev. Mark A. Lafler



Being that today is Trinity Sunday…

We are going to celebrate by having three different sermons.

Not really.


As Christians we believe in One God.

We are monotheists…

We also confess that God is three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

And though this belief is a mystery…

That is how God has revealed himself to us in the Holy Scriptures.

This is how God has chosen to reveal himself to us.


We can see it this revelation of God in the readings we have had today.


In the Gospel we see all three in baptism.

Jesus said shortly before he ascended into heaven:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,

baptizing them in the name of the Father

and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

St. Paul concludes his letter to the Corinthians with a trinitarian blessing.

He writes:

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God,

and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.


That is not a blessing of three different gods,

it is the blessing of God in three persons.


And the Holy Trinity is not just a revelation of the New Covenant…

The New Testament writings…

The Holy Trinity is also present in the Old Testament.

Foreshadowed in many ways and various places.


And in the opening verses of the Bible…

In our reading from the book of Genesis…

We see God the Father creating the world…

Speaking things into existence…


We also see in our reading:

the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters…


And although Jesus is not explicitly mentioned in our Old Testament reading, we know that he was present too.


We know he was present before and during creation as the Holy Scriptures say in the letter to the Colossians (1.15-16):

The Son is the image of the invisible God,

the firstborn over all creation.

For in him all things were created:

things in heaven and on earth,

visible and invisible,

whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities;

all things have been created through him and for him.


There is also great foreshadowing in our Genesis reading of Jesus Christ… (The image of the invisible God)…

As we were created in the image of God.


Well, this leads us into our key verse today.

Our Genesis reading has so many theological themes and emphases…

There are easily a dozen sermons in this rich text.

All very applicable for our world today.


But today, I want to focus on the 26th verse of chapter one.

It reads:

Then God said,

Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness,

so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,

and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”


This verse is very important theologically…

And really poses three important truths:


First, who is the us that God is talking about?

God says: Let us make mankind… in our likeness…


Some have suggested that the us refers to the angels.

They seem to be clearly with God at creation.

However, angels are not created in God’s image.

And God created the heavens and the earth by himself.

The prophet Isaiah wrote:

I am the Lord, the Maker of all things,

    who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by myself.

(Isaiah 44.24)

There are other theories too…

But the best interpretation is that God is using a plural of fullness.

It is a divine dialogue…

Between God the Father and God the Holy Spirit…

It might by a bit anachronistic to explicitly be the Trinity…

But the first glimmerings of a Trinitarian revelation are here…

The fullness of God is present in the text.


This is one of several places that foreshadow and hint toward the Holy Trinity in the Old Testament.


So, lets be clear… the us and the our refer to the Godhead.


Alright, the second truth that our verse brings out is the case for the Imago Dei.

The image of God.

It is written:

Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness


All people are made in the image of God.



This is emphasized again in the very next verse (v. 27):

So God created mankind in his own image,

    in the image of God he created them;

    male and female he created them.


Both genders are created in the image of God.

Which brings up two questions:


What is the image of God?


What does this mean?


Let’s tackle the first question: What is the image of God?

We can point to a lot of ways that we as humans are different than other parts of God’s creation.

We have the ability to rationalize,

We express emotion like laughter,

We have the ability to create in exceptional ways,

We are relational.

All of these may point toward ways that we are in the image of God making us different than other forms of life in God’s creation.


Most likely though, the verse is more simply stating that to be human is to bear the image of God.  If we are human we are in God’s image.


So what does this mean?


As with any literature, it is important to consider the type of writing the beginning of Genesis is…

We can call this genre.

Similar to music which has different genres (i.e., jazz, rock, blues, etc.)

Literature has genres (i.e., poetry, history, biography, narrative, etc.)


So, what type of genre is the beginning of Genesis?

I want to encourage you to consider that Genesis is not the genre of a textbook.

It was not written to be read as a science book.

Many have made that error and it certainly does not further good conversation in our world.


Genesis is most likely in the genre of ancient myth…

Early creation stories…

We find similar stories from the Mesopotamian world such as the Enuma elish from Babylon.

And there are similarities in these narratives…

But there are definitely differences in the Genesis account with its contemporaries.

I don’t have time today to dive into all of this…

But for the sake of our text from Genesis…

This ancient genre and culture usually had a key feature: a temple.


The Egyptians had temples.

The Babylonians, the Assyrians, and the Sumerians all had temples.

Later down the timeline the Greeks had temples and the Romans too.

All of these temples were dedicated for the worship of deities.

And all of them had statues…

Images of Marduk, Zeus, Athena, and so on were in the temples.

Once the temples were built the last thing to go in these temples was the image of the deity.


Now the ancient people of God (Israel) had a temple…

(albeit built much later)…

But before the temple was built,

they had a place of worship called the tabernacle.

And in this temple or tabernacle there was something missing that all other temples had…

The image of God.

Getting back to the Genesis creation story…

We find that God is creating the heavens and the earth…

He calls them good…

And when he is done with his creation,

he creates humankind and places his people in his creation…

Making humans in God’s image and in God’s likeness.


Now listen to the prophet Isaiah (66.1):

Thus saith the Lord,

The heaven is my throne,

and the earth is my footstool…

This is temple language in Isaiah.


You see the genre is pointing toward the creation of heaven and earth as the temple of God and his image in this temple are the humans he has created on the last day of creation.


What does this say?

It speaks of our role…

Our function…

In this creation.

We are the image of God in this good creation that he has created.


Which dives right into the third truth from the 26th verse of chapter one.

The verse says:

“Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness,

so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,

and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”


So we are made by God (the Holy Trinity) in his image (placed in his creation being the temple) so that we can have dominion or rule over the fish, birds, livestock, wild animals, and creatures that move along the ground.


Now this Hebrew word… in English we translate it as “rule over.”

However, the word has a bit more nuance.

It means dominion, rule, administer.

But it does not mean in harsh ways.

One scholar describes the meaning here this way:

Man is created to rule. 

But this rule is to be compassionate and not exploitative

Even in the garden of Eden he who would be lord of all must be servant of all. [1]

So in this sense we are caretakes, head gardeners, …

We manage…

We are stewards of creation.

We are not to overuse, pilfer, exploit, and mistreat any part of God’s creation.

God created this universe and called it good.

He created us in his image to care and manage it.

Our psalm appointed for today (psalm 8) points toward the mystery of our stewardship of God’s creation.


So, these are the three truths…

the three points of emphasis from our verse today (Genesis 1.26).

Created by God, in his image, to steward his creation (His temple).


However, there remains yet a problem.

Humankind sinned.

And because we sinned, we brought a curse upon ourselves and upon all of God’s creation.

So, although we are created in the image of God…

As this was never taken away… we still are…

Our sin has marred this image.

For all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3.23)

Our sin damages God’s creation too…

This is why Romans eight points toward the pains of creation…

It says:

…the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.


So sin has brought pain on us (God’s image bearers) and on his creation (his temple).


We need help to do what we were created to do.

Who can rescue us from this life of sin?

St. Paul asked that same question.

He wrote in Romans (7.24-25):

What a wretched man I am!

Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?

He answers himself:

Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!


Where is our hope?

It is in Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

(Colossians 1.15)

And because he has defeated sin and death on the cross…

Because he is risen from the dead…

Because he is coming back again to set the world at rights…

He is coming to make all things new (Revelation 21.5).

He is our hope.


And when we humble ourselves under his rule and reign…

he breaks the curse of sin in our life…

becoming our Savior and Lord…

He calls us to action…

To once again be the stewards and ambassadors of his kingdom on this earth.


It is Jesus Christ who can restore form to the broken lives of this world.

So, may we come to him…

To be filled by him…

So that we can go into this world by the power of the Holy Spirit…

Declaring the goodness of God in both word and deed.


Our calling is still the same…

To be God’s ambassadors in this world.



[1] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis Chapters 1-17, TNICOT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 138.