Worship Service for Holy Trinity Sunday

Hi everyone,

Welcome to worship for this Holy Trinity Sunday, which is landing on June 4, 2023!

The bulletin for this service can be found here. We are in a new season now so we are changing our worship setting back to Setting 10 out of the Evangelical Lutheran Worship book, so the bulletin will have the order of worship, the words to the liturgy with your responses in bold, the hymn and page numbers out of the ELW, and the full sermon. We are singing one new song out of the newish All Creation Sings hymnal, but it is a familiar tune so no music will be included. As usual, the words will also be on your screen and the sermon is included on this page after the video.

If you would like to enhance your worship experience online, you may have a lit candle in your space for the duration of the service until after the sending hymn when it can be extinguished along with the altar candles. If you would like participate in communion, you are welcome to do so by having something small to eat and drink prepared and ready to be consumed at the appropriate time in the service, where further instruction will be given.

May God’s eternal love, grace, and community be upon you this day and always!

O God may your Spirit sing your holy Word of life into our ears, that we may hear who we are and whose we are, granting us a life of gratitude for all that you have done, through Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

So I’m going to be real with you, I care about how I look.  Like, a lot.  I spend a bit too much time trying to figure out my fit for the day, and just my overall presentation.  Heck, I was still plucking my white hairs up until a couple months ago when I was finally outnumbered and had to concede.  But I held out for as long as I could…

And so when our daughter asked if her brother would grow up to look like me since people say he looks like me now, I admit I was a little proud.  I don’t know, there was just something about passing these rugged good looks down for another whole generation to enjoy.  And really, I’m not the only one, am I?  I don’t mean I’m not the only one who wants another generation to enjoy my face, but I mean I’m not the only one that is so concerned with how we look, how we are presented, this image that we hold.

I mean, we have a whole economy of aesthetic that drives us.  Celebrities hire people whose entire job is just making them look better.  Our modern day phones now are designed around how well it can take pictures of ourselves.  One of the greatest honours has always been to have our likeness immortalized in a portrait or a statue or something. 

If that isn’t enough, try talking to any Asian grandparent of a relatively new baby, and ask them who the baby looks more like.  It could be the same in any culture, but in my experience among us Asians, it’s always some kind of competition to have the baby look more like your side of the family, like it’s some controllable accomplishment or something, without any regard to how genes and DNA work.

I know, it might sound really shallow that so many of us care so much about looks and image, but there is actually a science to it all.  I remember reading at one point that we are more attracted to and sympathetic toward others that look like us.  The article that I read posed a theory that this is the case for parents who care for their young that resemble them and don’t feel as much responsibility over those who don’t.  And perhaps this is part of the reason why interracial relationships are still more the exception than the rule as we are just more attracted to those that look like we do.  And at the risk of sounding even more racist, ask any other Asian elder of who’d they’d vote for or go to for their banking needs or just trust in general, and more often than not it won’t be the one who is most qualified or experienced but it’d be the one with an Asian face or name, as though they are just inherently better because of that.  Again, this might be the case in other cultures as well, but I’m just speaking from my own experience in Asian circles.

So no matter how much we’d want to deny the importance of image and outward appearance, science seems to tell us that it’s just ingrained in us and it’s hard for us to escape it.  It is just how we’re wired, how we’re programmed, who we are as humans.

Humans… created in the image of God.

What does that even mean?  I’ve heard some different theories ranging from God looking human to Jesus always being human and we’re copies of him, but I think the most perhaps far fetched one that I’ve heard is that God was talking about the three parts of the Godhead, like how God is three in one and one in three, and so are we three parts but one person, with the three parts being mind, body, and spirit.

While I really really don’t agree with this and think it’s a bit of a stretch, I think it’s an interesting angle to go at it, in that it isn’t about physical attributes that creates this image, but more just the nature of God.  I mean, I think we get so caught up in what God “looks like” physically that it detracts from who God is and what God is about.

But it does bring this question of “what image of God is it that we hold” into a different light, and one that I think is actually proven through scripture and our own history.

And I don’t think it’s a physical image.  It isn’t a “likeness in attributes” thing.  And I really don’t think it’s about the Trinity, even though that is what we highlight, recognise, and honour today on Holy Trinity Sunday.  If we look at the other texts we have for today, and really much of scripture, we are told a lot about this image of God.   We get an image of a father, mother, saviour, messiah, advocate, counsellor, friend, lord, rabbi, master, teacher, and the list goes on.

But through it all, through all the different attributes and descriptions, the different facets and qualities, the different roles and characteristics, this image of God is always centered around three things: love, grace, and community. 

See it is this image, this image of love, grace, and community, that I believe we are created in and called to live up to.  It is this image that we are charged to take on and display.  It is this image that we are led to see in each other to be drawn to and have community with.

Just as a parent is drawn to their own child that might resemble them, just as we might be attracted to others that share similar ethnic or cultural traits or backgrounds with us, just as we might have more compassion and sympathy toward those who are like us, so we are drawn to each other and all of God’s people because we are all created in this image of God.  This image of love, grace, and community.

Our gospel lesson for today gives us the Great Commission, Jesus’ final call and instruction for his disciples before he ascends to heaven.  This is often taken as our call to mission into the world as God’s church, and is seen many times in different mission statements and congregational constitutions. But what particularly caught my eye this time around in the Great Commission is how Jesus promises his disciples and us that he’ll be present with them and us until the end of the age. 

We know this promise.  We’re reminded of it often.  But many times in life, at least in my life, it seems really hard to believe this promise or trust that it is true.  Because it often feels like Jesus isn’t with us, that we have been abandoned, that we are doing this whole life thing alone.  But in light of what we’ve been talking about today with us being created in God’s image, I think what Jesus means in the whole commission is that we are to go into the world, not just to make disciples but to recognise by the power of the Spirit, the image of God that we all share, again this image of love, grace, and compassion, and see Jesus in us all.

Remember?  The Jesus in me greets the Jesus in you?

Again, not in such a corny way, but we are led to see this image in the world, recognise it as the image of God, and live in community in love and grace with each other as we are drawn to one another as well as to God.  For this image is in us, in all of us, the very image of God, and it allows us to see each other in a whole different light, a whole different compassion, a whole different love.

See while we often focus on the outward appearance, we sometimes forget how similar we actually are.  It doesn’t matter what level of melanin we have in our skin, or what physical attributes we received or didn’t receive when we were born, or even how similar or different we look from each other.  What matters is that we are all created in the image of God and so we all share a capacity for love, grace, and community, and we can see, recognise, and acknowledge this image in each other regardless of how different we might be.  And so by the power of the Spirit, we might then be led out into the world, learning to love each other and being examples of God’s teachings of grace and community, seeing how Christ remains present with us, within us, and as us, until the end of the age.

So on this Holy Trinity Sunday, may we wee the image of God in ourselves and in each other, that we might be drawn into community with each other, inspired to treat each other with grace, and empowered to love each other as God had first loved us.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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