The Story Chapter 1: Genesis 1-8.
Lessons read in worship:
Genesis 1:1-4, 26, 31a
Well today, obviously, we’re starting at the beginning – not just the beginning of The Story, but the beginning of everything: the creation of the universe.
And this is where we first have to come to terms with a few things. First, we have to realize – we have to be ready to accept – that God’s revelation of himself in scripture was given to us for a purpose. Scripture, God’s Word written, is a love story, and it has to be, because God is love.
That means, right off the bat, we have to accept that the Bible was never intended to be a science textbook, nor a history report, nor even a straightforward instruction manual for how to live – in fact, in the first chapters, we learn more about how not to live, rather than finding any examples to follow.
No – it’s the story of the overflowing love of the Trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who together say “let us create”.
Now, there are faithful Christians who say “yes, and all that happened in one week” – and sure, God could have created it all in one week or one day or one in instant if he wanted. But there are also faithful believers, in every age, going right back to ancient Israel who said ‘the point here isn’t about time’ – after all, the Church has always been quick to point out that you can’t have a 24-hour day if you don’t have the sun and moon to keep track of time.
No, the point is that in an ongoing fashion, in phases, God’s Will unfolded to create the entire universe out of infinite nothingness, and it starts with a spark, with a flash of light – heat, energy – as the universe begins to spring into being.
And as this grand “Upper Story” is unfolding, what’s the first thing that we can say?
God created, and it was good.
Creation is a positive thing; it is a constructive thing; it is a process that gives life, that shares life, that encourages life, that values life, as the one overflowing Source of Life creates out of love.
It’s good. It’s life-giving. But then what happens?
…We could say “sin happened”. That’s the easy, expected answer – and yes, sin changes everything. But you read it yourself: what changes everything? The knowledge of evil.
Everything was good when we only knew good. But once we have an alternative, once we have a reason to doubt, it all goes down the drain, because we become obsessed.
We question God’s motives. We become jealous and ashamed and suspicious and play the blame game, as our knowledge of evil, our choice and desire and appetite to know what is bad, and destructive, and life-sucking brings those things into being.
We were created in God’s image, with the ability to shape the world around us, to take part in that work of creating; but we chose to invoke God’s curse, to know death instead of life, to know work instead of freedom, to know pain instead of joy.
But did you pick up on the biggest change of all? Sin destroyed relationships.
Once we know manipulation and jealousy and doubt, the relationships that we were created to enjoy are broken. Our relationship with God is severed: we want to hide from God in our shame rather than walk in his presence. Our relationship with each other is crushed, as we can no longer trust each other, and have to devote our energy to work and toil rather than the joy of life. And our relationship with creation is broken, as we experience the hostility of nature, and find ourselves unable to live in harmony with the world around us.
God created, and it was good, but we wanted to know evil too; we wanted to test and make sure that ‘good’ really was good, and so we knew evil. And just like light and darkness can’t be in the same place, we became obsessed – consumed – with that evil.
But God had a plan.
God, the Holy Trinity, was unwilling for us to know their eternal life in such a sad and sorry state. Could you imagine – an eternity of this? It’s hard for us to fathom, but God knew that once we’ve rejected the good, once we’ve turned down the offer to share in God’s creative, life-giving work, once we’ve rejected life, death is the only alternative.
But, as you’ve read, for God the Source of Life, death doesn’t have to be the end of the story. With God, death can be redemptive; death can be the path to life.
When those first people went astray, they found themselves ashamed. It’s a funny image really – people who have never had to work for anything in their lives playing with leaves trying to put together some clothes because they were ashamed of their own bodies. But leaves aren’t going to cut it. No, God himself kills – sacrifices – the first animal, as that animal’s skin covers their shame, and becomes the protection they need for life in a hostile world.
So, through all these details in this Lower Story of the beginning of humanity, we see the big picture, Upper Story plan hinted at: God hasn’t given up. God’s will was to create humanity in his image that we might finally share in the overflowing love of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And, in spite of us, he’s going to do that.
But, eternal life, when you’re obsessed with evil, would be an awful, heinous thing. It takes death – the shedding of blood – to hit reset and open the path to make a new choice, to choose life instead. But God’s love is such that He’s willing. God wants us to spend eternity with him so much that even when we choose to hide from him, he’ll pitch his tent and move in among us. If we choose death, if we choose the path that destroys relationships with God, each other, and creation, He will seek us out to offer us, once more, while there’s breath in our lungs, the opportunity to rebuild those relationships – to be made right in God’s eyes, to learn to live together as brothers and sisters, and to live in hope of re-creation shared by everything that God has made.
God created and it was good. But we wanted to know evil, and choose evil, even though it leads to death. But, from the start, God had a plan: that through death, he would offer us the chance at redemption.
And the last point we need to take away from Chapter 1 is this: when, in what you read, did God finish his work? He didn’t. No, when things were good, before we chose evil, he rested. But from that day until this, God hasn’t stopped working. God the Creator isn’t finished – no my friends, he’s just started! He’s still equipping and providing and creating the opportunities for us to choose life through death, for us and all creation to be restored in his image.
In your bulletin, I put (in red) the words of William de Witt Hyde that we’ll sing later today:
Since what we choose is what we are,-William de Witt Hyde
and what we love we yet shall be,
the goal may ever shine afar —
the will to win it makes us free.
“Since what we choose is what we are,
and what we love we yet shall be,
the goal” – God’s will that we should be redeemed and restored, to know and share in his life and love – that goal “may ever shine afar –”
And what makes us free? “the will to win it makes us free”.
God’s not done, He, through all of human history, is working towards the same goal that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit set at creation, but because you can’t force a relationship, we have to want – we have to will – to reach that goal, with God’s help.
Finding our place in God’s Story
And so, we find ourselves, our own lower stories in God’s grand Upper Story. And, my brother and sisters – for that is what we were meant to be – our task, the key to “reverse the curse” is simply to align our will to God’s will. God has a purpose, God has a plan; we chose the broken relationships, but He chose a path, a plan, a story that leads to redemption. All we have to do is find our place in that story, and trust in the one who is the source of it all: the One God to whom be all glory, now and forevermore. Amen.
“Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, of who you are, into something a little different from what it was before. With all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature; either into a man that is in harmony with God, and with others, or else into one that is in a state of war with God, and with others.
To be the one kind of creature is joy and peace; to be the other means madness, rage and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.”–C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity