Gen. 1.1-2, 2.4-25, 3.8-9, 21
I want to begin our time together in Genesis. According to Merriam-Webster Genesis means “the origin” or “coming into being of something.” The very definition of the word has meaning for us today. Today marks the coming into being of something new but we’re not sure what that might mean for either of us – as a preacher or as a congregation. We are all quietly, or vocally, wondering what this new appointment season will look like. Some of you have never had a lady preacher, and you are high in curiosity of what it will be like to be led by a female pastor. I have to be honest with you. I’ve never had a woman minister as the elder in my church either. But together we will discover what it means for us to be in Christian fellowship and community together as we listen to God in prayerful reflection.
As we begin our first sermon series together I want to help you to anticipate what we are about to discover together. We are embarking on a month-long sermon series. I like to do series that span about a month in length. During this sermon series, we will look at several different texts in Genesis. We will begin with Adam & Eve (Gen 1-3) then move through the various stories of the early development of faith history with Noah & his family (Gen 4-11), Abraham & Sarah (Gen 12-20), Isaac & Rebekah (Gen 21-26), Jacob & Esau, Leah & Rachel (Gen 27-36), and completing the journey with Joseph and his Brothers (Gen 37-50).
When you ponder a text long and hard, you often stumble upon an enlightening realization that feeds the soul. That happened to me over the last several months as I have been pining away in Genesis looking for an overarching theme that would ignite a spark of renewal for me. I longed to move past the rote memorization of the stories of Genesis and see the text with fresh eyes. I have been hungry for this foundational piece of my faith heritage to take on new meaning for the culture that we live in today. As I gazed at the text with so many preconceived notions about the meaning of the stories, I stopped my yearning long enough to read from Walter Brueggemann’s commentary on Genesis. As I dug my heels into his reflections I discovered that God had been guiding my every step. Brueggemann suggested that the whole of the text is centered around calling.
As someone who has wrestled with the whole idea of God’s voice calling each one of us into life long witnessing, his whole idea of calling intrigued me. So I read on and pondered more. And, as I awoke this morning the texts became so clear to me: we have a homing beacon in our very DNA calling us to become all that our Creator had fashioned us to become. You’ve heard that Christmas story, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause.” Well, in the Genesis stories we hear suggest, “Yes, Beloved, there is a Creator, and you are called to follow his designed purpose for your life.” Let’s take this journey together!
Genesis 1.1-2. Before it all began in the formless, dark moments of time and space, God’s Spirit was hovering! God was on the move! God was stirring up the atmosphere. God’s breath was alive upon the deep. God’s presence was poised on the doorstep of the time-space continuum, expectantly hovering in anticipation of the joy that would come. Joy to the World! Then God spoke. God called forth light into the dark void of time-space, and the blaze of golden glow penetrated the dark, formless night. Time began as the light and the dark stood in stark contrast one to the other. Things began to take shape in this great voice of formless space. A foundation was laid. Land and sea and sky came forth with a calling uniquely their own. Life was set into motion. A vibrant landscape of colors emerged with all sorts of vegetation and trees, twinkling stars and flashing comets. After a season of development, God’s great creative handiwork, creatures of all shapes and sizes came forth – fish and birds, livestock and wild animals, insects and worms. All sorts of soil loving creatures.
I remember a time when I was very young. I was about three years old when my maternal grandfather died. I remember how my mother taught me to pray at that time. She explained God and Heaven. God hovered over me that night as I said my first prayer. You might recall your first prayer much like mine, “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep…”
Genesis 2.4-25. Each part of God’s creation, this foundational work was declared “good” by God himself. And, on the sixth day of creation, God formed man and woman to inhabit and care for all of creation. “And, God saw that it was good” is one of the most frequent phrases in the Creation story. God has a habit of declaring blessings over his creation. God saw that the light was good, and then God experienced for the first time in all of creation the evening and the morning of the first day. I can only image the breath-taking sunset and sunrise on that first day. On the second day God created the land, water, and sea in all its division. I can only imagine the moment of the first walk on the beach as land and water meet with the sky looming only the horizon of the ocean view. And, it was good! I can just imagine the first walk across this vast world with all the variety of plains, rolling hills, valleys, mountains, and forests. And, God called out that it was good! I can only imagine the first night sky with the glorious northern lights and the various star clusters and planets dotting the midnight sky. And, it was good! Oh, how breath-taking the first moon rise with all the nocturnal animal active, and the first midday sun experiences with all the flowers, shrubs and trees in full bloom. And, it was good! All the creatures were called forth and Adam named each one of them. I can only imagine how he stretched out his hand to touch the first wild animals, livestock, and all the things that crawl upon the earth. And, God said it was good!
All of God’s creation was declared good! But wait! God declared humanity “very good!” By God’s very words God found humanity to be qualified as “very good.”
I remember a time when I was in my 2ndgrade Sunday School class. We had a substitute teacher that day, and she taught us “The Lord’s Prayer.” What a power time of learning that was for me as a 7-year-old! It was through the experience of learning “The Lord’s Prayer” that I came to understand good and evil. I came to the salvation through that teaching on “The Lord’s Prayer.”
Genesis 3.8-9, 21.
God spoke creation into existence, and it was so! God created goodness, and on the seventh day God finished all his work, rested, and blessed the day as holy. God was well-satisfied with all the good things he created. He called forth blessing for each one, rested from his work, and blessed the day as holy.
And, God settled humanity, which he called “very good,” into a land that was prepared for them. He gave them a vocation of caregiving for the creation. And, one of God’s creatures known as the serpent came along and challenged their understanding of right and wrong. There first temptation and test was met with defeat. Eve and then Adam found their decision-making ability faulty, and a grievous error was made. This decision cost them dearly, their very livelihood changed drastically.
It was by their own hands that they disobeyed, and it was by their own hands that they tried to cover themselves up with fig leaves. In the cool of the evening God walks in the garden as was his habit and he can’t find Adam and Eve. There’s no doubt that God knew every detail of the situation but the storyline helps us to understand that God was inviting Adam and Eve to come out of hiding. God is inviting them to humble themselves, overcome their shame and face the consequences of their lifestyle choices. They have imbibed, partaken, and been hood-winked the lies of the serpent. God calls them to restoration in their relationship. Notice in the text that the broken relationship is not initially between Adam and Eve, but between the couple and God himself. The curse that follows describes a broken fellowship between Adam and Eve. It also defines the nature of the cosmic conflict that we find ourselves living in. God is so gracious, and makes the couple suitable garments to wear. Then God placed a boundary between humanity and the privilege of an open relationship in the Garden of Eden.
When you read John Wesley’s sermons on Genesis, you gain a sense of humility on his part as he realized the great limitations we all have in understanding the vastness and wonder of God’s creation. Our reasoning is limited to be sure. Wesley noted that it is God that infuses creation with motion, movement, and activity as the Spirit hovers and moves upon the waters of the deep, formless chaos to bring forth the light. There are times in our lives when we feel ourselves to be totally without form, without a foundation. To be sure God’s Spirit is hovering over us to create something good out of our chaos. God calls forth light in our darkness, and separates by placing boundaries between the flood waters and the dry land. If not for God, there would be days that would surely overwhelm us.
God insists that his creation is “good,” even “very good.” There are times in our lives when we do not feel good about ourselves. But we have to recall that we are created in the image of God from conception. God has good plans for his people. Across the pages of Scripture, we read over and over how much God loves us. God loves. God is love. And, you are loved by God. Don’t ever doubt your worth in God’s eyes.
From the very beginning God called humankind to stand upright before him. God calls us to the posture of living upright, in the goodness of the image of God with which we were created. God called Adam & Eve, and they were afraid to respond! They heard. They ran. They hid. It was by the tender mercies of God that they were restored to relationship. God sought them out from their hiding place. God called them to repentance. God clothed them for life. Wesley understood that it was only when humanity became independent of God that humanity fell into apostasy. Humanity seeks to find happiness apart from God (apostasy) whereby we lose all sense of peace and true joy. Not only did humanity lose its relationship with God, humanity also caused all of creation to fall into disarray. For humanity was given the task of caring for creation, but instead sought its own way whereby injuring all of created order. Repentance requires humility. There are times in our lives when we have sought our own way. We find ourselves hiding from God. When we take our lives into our own hands, we set ourselves up for failure in our relationship with God and people.
I remember a time when I was high school and my paternal grandmother taught me to pray. We sat down together and we asked the Lord for a miracle for my father to get some farm land. We prayed every evening for a week for an hour at a time. I remember the presence of God so richly holding us together in prayer. The farm land sold at auction that Saturday, but not to my father. My heart ached with disappointment, but I accepted God’s choice not to intervene. But what I didn’t know was that Sunday was coming! Early Sunday morning the neighbor who had bought the land at the auction, had out bid Daddy on the farm. The neighbor had an awful sleepless night. He knew he had not done the right things in buying the land. So he came to my paternal grandmother at 6am on Sunday morning, told her how sorry he was, and agreed to sell Daddy the property. God had brought the situation out of hiding, out of shame and fear, and restored all our relationships. What could have forever damaged our friendship with our neighbor became a place of great rejoicing!
Let me invite you to ponder a moment… When has God hovered over your mess and called forth something beautiful from the chaos? When have you heard God say to your spirit “you are very good?” Whether through a person’s affirmation or in your prayer time… When has God tenderly called you out of hiding, out of shame and fear and guided your feet to stand upright again?
In the Old Testament we are given life stories as parables to guide us to obedient surrender to God’s will for our lives as his creation. Now, in the New Testament Jesus has become the living model for us to emulate. We no longer have vague stories of Creator and Creation in conflict to learn from… we have Jesus and his Spirit to guide us inside. The New Testament writers remember Jesus saying… Come! Follow! (Matthew 4.19, Mark 1.7, John 10.27, 12.26, 21.19-22)
Are you ready to follow God’s voice?
So the invitation is to read along with me in Genesis over the next month. Remember the moments when God has hovered over your mess… Remember when God has helped you to know you are his beloved created in God’s own image… Remember when God has helped you stand upright before him after you have fallen into troubles and suffering. As we sing our closing song “This is the Day of New Beginnings” the altar is open for you to give thanks to God!