Sermon #1 in a Creation Season series
Genesis 1:1-25 Psalm 33:1-9
This summer, Pat and I stayed at a historic bed and breakfast in East Tennessee. This 1889 house features amazing windows. They are made of “historic stained and colored glass.” In addition, the old house features handmade moldings and site-formed bricks, crowned by a metal shingle roof that is a close approximation of the original one.” In our room, the two windows—tall, with very old, wavy glass—were topped with palladium shaped windows that were a lovely shade of rose. At sunset, I happened to look up from my book. As the sun set, the leaves and branches of a large tree outside the window created an intricate, dark, lace etching against the glass. The background of that delicate etching gradually deepened; pale rose to deep rose. Crimson, then purple. Finally. . .darkness. The beauty of God’s creation was exquisite that evening. Too exquisite to capture with any cell phone or camera.
Not until you sit still and pay attention to a setting sun—or a rising full moon—do you realize how amazing God’s creation is.
Whether creation happened gradually over millennia, or in one burst of cosmic energy, we cannot know. What we do know is this: God speaks. God creates. God asks human beings to worship God.
One of the ways I prepare for preaching is to look carefully at the biblical passage upon which I plan to preach. I look at the context in which that scripture was originally written. I consider the community to whom, or out of which, it was written. Then one question I ask—in the words of one of my favorite authors—is this one: “Where is trouble in the biblical world?” So for the first sermon in our fall Creation series—I looked carefully at the Genesis 1 passage. Where is the brokenness here? Where is the sin? The trouble? Challenge: I could find none. All I could see was a loving, creative God. Why no trouble in this world? Because of what—or who—is missing. Human beings. God has not yet created human beings. God doesn’t create human beings until Day Six. So there is no trouble. Yet. More on that in two weeks.
In this Genesis passage, there is only God’s word spoken into a “formless void.” God commands: “Let there be. . .” “Let there be. . .”God’s word. God’s love. God’s very self, writ large in light and darkness. Sky, sea and earth. Fruits and vegetables. Daylights and nightlights.
Birds and sea creatures. Cattle, creeping things, wild animals. No human beings yet, who have the choice to rule and subdue, or serve and preserve, this “fragile earth, our island home. Just God, divine lover and creator.
What are we 21st century human beings to see in this story? First of all, this is not a logical, scientific account of the creation. It was never meant to be that. Genesis was meant to be the account of people of faith who “engaged in theological reflection on [God’s] creation. God is the primary subject of this chapter.” God is the first cause.
Israel, of course, understood its life as a people to have been ordered by God. Yet remember that the great patriarch of Israel, Abram, does not appear in Genesis until Chapter Twelve. So in its historical accounts, Israel understood that God was active in the lives of individuals and nations long before Israel itself came into existence. The Creator of Heaven and Earth is a universal God, not just a tribal God.
Second, after we understand that God is the first cause of all creation, our best and highest response is worship and adoration.
Scholars believe that Genesis 1 is not an actual worship liturgy. However, it “may have grown out of liturgical use and the regular round of the community’s praise of God the Creator.”
So what? What does all this mean to you and me today? There are at least three implications for us as God’s people. However, you only get #1 and #2 today. #3 is really part of the next sermon, two weeks from today. On September 18th, we will reflect on HUMANITY and how we connect with God’s creation—or not.
So. . .#1 Implication for you and me with CREATION: First, God challenges us to recognize and acknowledge that God is the first cause of all life that we know: Light and darkness. Sky, sea and earth. Fruits and vegetables. Daylights and nightlights. Birds and sea creatures. Cattle, creeping things and wild animals. Human beings. God speaks into a formless void. Out of love and power and creativity, God creates what is not God. God then sees that all of this creation is good.
Tangential to #1 is #2: God challenges us to remember that the reason we gather together on Sunday morning is to worship God. It is not just to catch up with our friends whom we haven’t seen in the past week—in other words, we are not here just for social community and good coffee. Nor is it just to do church business. No. The true and deepest reason we ever gather here is to worship God. To think intentionally about the truth that God is God and we are not God, so what we do everyday shapes itself to that truth, not the other way around. Yet in order to understand that truth more deeply, God invites us—every Sunday—to leave the world behind for a little while. Within this holy space, we can sing to, pray to, speak about God—the divine creator who has spoken us into existence. The Holy One who created the very stardust on which our bones and blood are based.
The essence which is etched into our very DNA is created for what? To respond to, and to worship the Word which was, is and is to come. So God, creator of heaven and earth, asks the created ones—us—if we will step outside the demands of our calendars and to-do lists. God asks us to come apart and to BE with God for a while. Not to DO, but to BE. To create, if you will, our own Garden of Eden here in this place. God created the Garden of Eden within our time. So perhaps one of our human tasks is to help God, creator of heaven and earth, to re-create the Garden today. On earth. As it is in heaven.
Can you glimpse it, either through a beautiful stained glass window or a clear one? Tonight, I invite you to do something. Take a few minutes. Stop. Breathe. Watch the sun as it sets behind the trees. Worship the God who has created both. Then for the next two weeks, think about what your part in this creation might be. Amen.
 From Paul Scott Wilson’s The Four Pages of the Sermon.
 From Rite II, Eucharistic Prayer C.
 The New Interpreter’s Bible: Volume I, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994), 341.
 Ibid., 341.
Picture of Foyer of Prospect Hill B & B from their websiet.
Picture of Planet Earth from space from http://www.unsplash.com