“Grace, Love, and Community”
Genesis 1: 1-2:4a; II Corinthians 13: 11-13; Matthew 28: 16-20
Pearl: God’s way of being in and with us.
Function: To train worshippers to use this Pauline benediction as a means of entering into company with God and with others.
Prayer for Illumination:
“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
How do you enter into the presence of God? What is your preferred way of encountering the holy?
1. Creation teems with life and points to the Creator. Being in nature is one of the ways most often suggested by people.
a. Hunters and fishermen speak of these activities as being their “worship.”
2. Giving yourself to efforts for justice can bring you closer to God in whom all is right.
3. Various methods of prayer, meditation, and reflection are favorite means of encountering the holy One.
4. Who uses silence?
a. I am intrigued with silence—the Quaker influence and style of worship is very different from our worship—but silence is very valuable in meeting the holy One.
5. Beautiful sanctuaries always enable me to sense the Holy One. Our sanctuary with its stained glass windows and the wood and the colors, and the loving care lift us all into God’s glorious presence.
6. Music carries you toward God.
The Lord revealed the fullest and most complete means of encountering God through the Bible. From the beginning to the end of biblical revelation the Lord meant to be known as God the Father/Parent, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
1. The community within the Godhead is revealed in the opening chapters of Genesis. Through the creation story it was revealed that God made humankind in God’s image. It is written: “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness…” (Gen. 1:26).
a. So in the opening chapter of Genesis is a hint at a community within Godself.
b. It is possible that this is a reference to other divine beings within God’s heavenly court.
i. Reference is made to some of these beings in Isaiah 6. “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew” (Isa. 6:2).
ii. Seraphs are “griffin-like” creatures.
iii. In Ezekiel 1 is a description of cherubim: heavenly creatures around the throne of God.
iv. Both of these scenes from the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel were in the form of “visions/dreams.”
2. Transport yourself forward to Jesus’ own way of speaking and teaching. Jesus constantly referred to the Father—Jesus was never lonely because of his deep, closeness to the Father.
a. Jesus practiced getting away to pray to the Father—
b. Jesus constantly spoke of being about his Father’s mission—
c. Jesus referred to himself as the Son of God—
d. And then, most significantly, in the moment of Jesus’ ascending to the Father and physically departing this earthly realm, Jesus told his followers to carry on the mission of the gospel, teaching, baptizing, and making disciples “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28: 19).
i. That is the source of our understanding of God and of our language for God as “one God in three persons…blessed Trinity,” to borrow from the beloved hymn we sang, “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!”
3. Finally, Paul’s writings further seal our vocabulary around God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The benediction at the end of II Corinthians 13 is often used in worship: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you” (V. 13).
There was purpose in the way that benediction was written. That benediction/blessing was intended on being a door to relating with God. It was, as revealed by scripture, to be a door to entering into and encountering the presence of God.
1. First comes “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.” This is because through the saving and redeeming work of Jesus Christ people are led to know and encounter the loving God who is personal and so is addressed as Father/Mother/Parent. Whichever image most helps you to relate to God personally then use that one. The bottom line is that it should draw you into a human-like relationship, even though God is spirit.
2. Second comes “the love of God” and most add “the Father” when giving this blessing. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ leads you to “the love of God and this is all by the power and work of the Holy Spirit.
3. Lastly, “the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
4. The grace and love of God brings you into community with God and with others.
a. You are by no means alone in the world!
b. You were created for relationship with God and with others.
God means to relate to you personally. It is God’s design from the beginning of creation. It is God’s design now. It is God’s destiny for creation for all time: eternal community!
Enter the holy, encounter the Lord God through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit!