(sermon note: 09-12 sermon note)
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
And God said, ‘Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.’ And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so. God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.’ So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’ And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.’ And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’
So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
This morning’s looooong reading reminds me of the one about a group of scientists at some point in the future who got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed God. So they picked one scientist to go and tell him that they were done with him. The scientist walked up to God and said, “God, we’ve decided that we no longer need you. We’re to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don’t you just go on and get lost?!” God listened very patiently and kindly to the man. After the scientist was done talking, God said, “Very well, how about this? Let’s say we have a man-making contest.” To which the scientist replied, “Okay, great!” But God added, “Now, we’re going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam.” The scientist said, “Sure, no problem” and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt. God looked at him and said, “Uh, uh, uh. You go get your own dirt!”
Ok, I suppose that one doesn’t technically reflect off the material in today’s passage. We were restricted to the first creation narrative in which God created all that there is in 6 days. It’s in the second creation narrative, the second chapter of the book of Genesis, that we hear how God created man from dust and subsequently woman from man’s rib. So technically that joke doesn’t apply to today’s reading, the first creation narrative. But it’s still a good one! And it does highlight an important aspect that distinguishes the first creation narrative from the second one. We should note how in both our reading from Genesis and our reading from John that God began his creation out of nothing. There was nothing but a great, formless void. Sure, there was wind and water and darkness but they didn’t make up anything of substance. And into that great void God spoke his first words of creation, “let there be light.” Again, not really anything of substance but at least the start to something of substance. Light began to distinguish forms from each other. Light created edges and boundaries and slowly the nothingness disappeared. Night and day were formed and within those boundaries all that exists came about. And it all came out of nothing.
The creation in the second narrative didn’t come out of nothing. Man was created from the dust of the earth and woman from man’s rib. In either case, God used something to create. In the first narrative, God used nothing more than words to create. I know, I know, words are something but again they came from nothing. Well, not nothing if you consider God to be something but even so, God is such an abstract, unknowable construct that He might as well be nothing. God himself is a great, formless void, how words came out of him is a mystery. Okay, so why make this distinction? Well, because it is an important aspect of God worth noting. God can create from nothing! We cannot create from nothing. We need something to create from. We need physical materials. We need ideas. We need abilities. We need time! Time gives us the incentive and motivation to create.
Our family likes to watch a show on the TV called, “Lego Masters.” As the title suggests, it’s a show that gathers together a couple handfuls of professional lego constructors from around the country for various competitions. The producers of the show provide a bunch of legos and give the competitors an idea and a time limit and are judged on how creative they get in the time allotted. For example, one competition involved building a structure that could withstand the greatest shockwaves before collapsing, say like in an earthquake. Oh, and the competitors were given 6 hours to build their structures. So the competition assumed not only an ability to build something with lego pieces but also some basic engineering awareness. But that wasn’t enough. The winner had to find a way to trick the laws of engineering. The winner built his structure with parts that intentionally took the brunt of the shockwaves and collapsed, leaving the core of the structure standing upright. Fascinating stuff, huh?! Well, this is all to show that we are creatures that simply need stuff to create from. We can’t do it without something. Or can we?
Nestled in our passage for today is a tricky verse to deal with. “So God created humankind in his image; in the image of God he created them.” Some hear this to mean that we are essentially the same as God. Now I hear this to mean that we are not God but we are like God. We can’t create on the magnitude that God can but we sure can create with the same gusto and cleverness as God. Indeed, we can create out of nothing because we have the same love of Christ within us. Don’t think that you’re limited by your abilities or resources. You have the same love of Christ in you as I do and that love can create all sorts of things, with or without abilities or resources. That love is the source of God’s creation; it’s what created the light in the darkness. It’s what created the heavens and the earth and all that is in the earth. It’s what overcomes the darkness! Recall the wisdom of Proverbs that says, “keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (4:23) The love of Christ resides in all of us and from it flows the springs of life.
God gave us something to create out of nothing. God gave us his love. God gave us his Son. And that is no small gift either. His Son gives us hope when all hope is lost. His Son gives us wisdom when all wisdom is lost. His Son gives us courage when all courage is lost. We can bravely cling to Paul’s words to the Philippians, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (4:13) He gives us strength when all strength is lost! We can create from nothing because we have him! We don’t need physical resources or abilities or ideas of even time, we simply need the love of Christ! That’s all that’s needed in this world. Recall the words of Paul given to Timothy in his first letter. “Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders.” (4:14) We each have the gift of Christ’s love within us that needs to be shared with the world.
Christ’s love is at the center of God’s creation. As we embark on another program year together, complete with Sunday school and choir and confirmation and all(!), let us remember Christ’s love at the center of all we create together. Who knows what lies in the weeks and months ahead, what with this pandemic that simply doesn’t want to go away. Let us find our rest and assurance in the love of Christ. It’s been with us since the beginning and will be with us until the end. Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.