Posts Tagged ‘creation’

What Direction Are We Going? 6-11-17

In this sermon I explore the first account of Creation found in Genesis 1:1-2:3. This is quite fitting on this Holy Trinity Sunday as we worshiped outdoors in the midst of God’s creation. Amazingly enough, God invites us to join in the ongoing work.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/what-direction-are-we-going-6-11-17

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here. Note that there are a few deviations from the audio version.

On this Holy Trinity Sunday I say to you, grace and peace in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

Just out of curiosity, how many of you out there are cat people? (Pause) Okay…cats are interesting creatures aren’t they? They can be incredibly loving, and incredibly arrogant. They can show amazing laziness, and unbridled chaotic energy. And they are incredibly fickle…and maybe even arrogant…aren’t they?

Our cat often looks at me, and I think I can pretty much read her mind. “You, human. Do not disturb my sleep. But go downstairs and scoop my box. You will also feed me, because seeing the bottom of my food dish uncovered is unacceptable…Now, I have decided that you will pet me…this is how you will pet me, front to back from the base of my neck to a spot 2 inches in front of my tail. You will not deviate from this…You will pet me precisely 7 times, and then I bite you.” (pause) Sound about right?

This strange nature of cats…this utter, mind of their own, is where the expression “trying to herd cats” comes from. Because it just doesn’t work…and if you try to manhandle even one cat, what happens? It goes…NUTS…biting, hissing, clawing. If you try to subdue it, it will fight you with every atom of its being. (Pause)
Now I bring up this craziness, because I think that it perfectly represents some truth that we see in the creation story that we’ve shared today. Its fitting that we hear this story today as we are out in creation…and as we look around, seeing all there is to see, we hear how God makes it.

But here’s the funny thing about the creation story…its just one of many possibilities isn’t it? There’s a second one that starts up right after this one, and while there’s a lot of similarities, there are some very stark differences as well. But this one, we’re familiar with…because we’ve heard it many times.

That’s the basis for how the Jewish culture passed on their stories…those stories that shaped who they were as a people. Parents and grandparents…those who came before would tell their stories to their children and grandchildren, and they in turn would share the same story, and it carried on generation after generation over the course of centuries.

Now the first account of creation wasn’t actually written down until pretty late in the history of the Jewish culture…about 600BC, the southern kingdom of Judea was conquered by the Babylonians, who were the dominant empire at that particular moment…and pretty much all of the Jewish people were hauled off into a foreign land where they had to keep their heads down and their cultural identity pretty much on the down low…and everything about the Babylonian culture was dominant…including their religious view on where the world came from.

The Babylonians believed in many different gods…and way back when, two of them got in a big fight…their main god named Marduk fought and killed another god named Tiamot…and then Marduk used Tiamot’s dead body to build the earth. Lovely huh? The dominant view at the time was that our world…our reality…only came about through death and destruction.

But in the middle of this, the Jewish culture kept on telling the story of our god…GOD…who created our reality in a much different way and out of much better motivation. God didn’t start with death…God started with delight…think about it. It begins as the Spirit of God is hovering over chaos…disorder.

And God says Let there be light…and there was…and from that point forward we see the chaos, the disorder begin to move towards something. First we’ve got a separation between the light and the dark, simply because God said let light be. And God took a look and called it good…do you remember the Hebrew word for good? (Pause) TOV.

Well then apparently there’s all this water swirling around, and God says let’s put that in order…let there be a separation…and there was water above and water below…TOV

Now God thinks we need to better down below…let the water be pushed back and let there be earth…and there was…TOV…but that earth seems pretty bare, so lets grow something on it…Let there be plants and grass and trees and fruit and all that stuff…yep, TOV.

And since plant life is so awesome, God thinks that we need another step of life…and so let there be birds and fish so that the air and the sea will be filled and that’s so TOV that God decides that life needs to join in this creation, in this move towards order, and so God instructs the birds and the fish to multiply, to do what they are intended to do…and then since they’re so TOV God decides that we need animals out on the land as well and says Let there be cattle and beasts and creeping things and there is and that’s TOV.

And now, God wants to top it all off…and God starts talking to himself, which is a bit weird right? But remember we’ve got the creator speaking this disorder into order…and we’ve got the Spirit that we heard was hovering over the chaos to begin with, and as we heard at the start of worship out of John, that reminder that the Word which would become flesh was there too and all things came into being through him…and so it would seem that the Holy Trinity which are one but three at the same time…namely, our God that exists in relationship.

And not only that, but the final bit of God’s TOV creation is us…humanity and we are made, male and female both, bearing this divine image…and image that I think instills in us this same need to be in relationship just like God is in relationship….and once we’re around, doing our thing…God calls everything…very good…very TOV…or TOV MIHOT. (pause)

So now we’ve got this amazing creation that God spoke into existence, not out of death destruction, but because God takes delight in everything that he makes…and that’s mind blowing. (pause) But here’s the thing, when God makes each thing, he doesn’t command it…he doesn’t say “this is how you will be.” God says “let there be…” Let light be…Let the world…be…let life…be. And I think that means that God gave each part of creation, each part of reality the freedom to BE, as it is…not perfect…but the world as we see it…and then to top it off, God looks at humanity and gives us a task. Be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth…and…SUBDUE it. (pause) Subdue creation.

Think back to what we starting talking about…and trying to control a cat. It fights back right back? It follows its very nature to resist your domination of it…your attempts to subdue it. And I think the rest of creation does the very same thing doesn’t it? God allowed it to be as it is, and yet God instructs us to subdue it…now wonder our reality is so broken and flawed…because it is resisting our attempts to subdue it…our attempts to join with God in the work of bringing disorder into order…of bringing chaos to peace. (pause)

In the end, I think that’s what’s really going on here. God started with chaos, and very slowly God is at work to bring it towards order…towards peace…and he’s invited us into that work…and amazingly enough, God has done all of this out of love…out of delight…and we know this because God calls it GOOD.

One day, this work will be done…and all the disorder…all the chaos…all the brokenness that exists without our reality, and even within our very nature will achieve peace…that’s where this is all headed, and how amazing is it that we get to join in and be a part of it all. Amen

Some Assembly Required 7-24-16

In this sermon, based on the first account of creation in Genesis 1:1-2:3, I explore the ongoing work that God has done in bringing our reality away from a formless void and moving towards order. This work is ongoing, and God has invited us to be a part of it.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/some-assembly-required-7-24-16

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

Often times when something annoys me, I end up calling it the bane of my existence…and I do this because I’m a little bit of a drama queen…and I’m okay with that.

But if there is one thing that truly does get my goat…it’s the phrase…some assembly required…and specifically…when I open up a package and find a batch of instructions that begin with this evil evil phrase. It happens with any number of different things…most recently, it was a new dresser…I’ve seen it on countless birthdays and Christmas mornings…after the presents are opened of course…and I even think about it when I’m faced with fajitas at a Mexican restaurant…I refuse to order them because my food should not be…some assembly required. (pause)
And yet, when we think about it…everything…absolutely everything here in our existence…was at one point…some assembly required…someone, or something…put it together…and we know this, because scientific discovery has allowed us to observe matter, all the way down to the atomic level…and of course, science is also working to bring our understanding down even farther than that…but since I don’t have an astrophysics degree, I’m gonna let that one go. (pause)

All of this…every single bit of it came from somewhere.  Now how it all works? I don’t know…Where it all came from…I don’t know…and I don’t have to…and yes I know that there are many different theories and ideas and understandings and interpretations…and we aren’t here to debate them today…but rather…we take a look around…as we find ourselves out in nature…out in our natural reality…out here in…creation.

Now creation is an interesting word…because it speaks to the very notion of being made…that this place where we are today…is part of a larger whole…this park, is part of a county…which is part of a state…which is part of a nation…which is part of a continent…which is part of a hemisphere…which is part of our world….and it doesn’t stop there…because it’s a part of our solar system, which is part of our galaxy…which is part of our universe…and at this point I’ll turn it back over to the astrophysicists again to explain it further.

But all of this…that which we can see and observe…and that which is either too small or too large…or simply too different for us to be able to witness…all of this…came from somewhere….and today we have heard an account of the creation of our reality…one of many possibilities…shoot, one of two that we find with distinct differences even within the first two chapters of scripture…an account that certainly butts heads with scientific theories…one that butts heads with other cultural mythologies of where everything came from.

This story…Genesis chapter 1 verse 1 through chapter 2 verse 3…tells the story of how God started off with a formless void…and step by step…in ways that we cannot understand or fathom…and certainly in ways that we ourselves cannot achieve…God has brought that formless void up to the point that we see as we look around right now…in this moment.

Now once again…I’m not going to tell you if you should take this batch of 34 verses literally…I’m not going to say that God pulled it off in 6 days and that the earth is a few thousand years old…and on the flip side I’m not going say that the Big Bang is right and all of this has been swirling around for a dozen or so billion years…you can make up your own minds about that.

But what I do think is this…that if we are to look at this story of creation, not to mention the second one that starts up immediately after it…I believe that we find a very simple and yet profound truth…that creation…was some assembly required…and that in each respective time frame…be them days or eons…God took creation one step away from that formless void…that chaos…and with each respective step, God brings creation…nearer and nearer to completion.

And with each step…God takes a look and like a proud craftsman…God nods his head and says….Yah…that’s good. (pause)

Day one…God hovers over a formless void…and we hear there’s water…which is understandable as the Jewish culture views the deep…the ocean…the sea…they understand as the unknown void…and if you’ve ever stood next to sea shore and felt utterly small…then you understand this.

That’s how things are…formless, empty, unknown…and dark…devoid of even the slightest trace of light…and so…that’s where God starts…Be light…and Light was…and there was a separation…and distinction between darkness and light…one step towards order…and that’s good.

And then God decided that there needs to be something of separation between water…there must have two sets of water…and so God made a dome to separate the top water from the bottom…and God called it sky…and God nodded his head…cuz that’s good.

And then God looked at the world that was in process…and God pulled the water together and called it Sea…and the dry land appeared and God called it Earth…so not only do has creation achieved separate and order between the land and the water…and not only has God set a boundary on the sea saying “you’ll come this far and no farther” But now we even hear that God grants identity to the two…you will be sea and you will be earth…another step towards order…and its good. (pause)

And now God starts making thing interesting…because next we have vegetation…grass and trees and all kinds of plant life…and we hear that God makes them to bear seed…to be able to reproduce…its at this point that God allows his creation…this ongoing masterpiece to begin to work along side him in the ongoing process of creating order…because if the plants can reproduce…then for the first time we have something able to be formed without God doing it directly…and what does God say? He says that’s good.

And then, God continues this work of creating distinction and order and he makes the sun and moon and stars…and makes them in such a way that they create order in the days and years and seasons…and even night and day…and that’s good.

And then God decides that plant life isn’t sufficient…because life is just too cool…and so the waters bring forth all matter of fish and swarming creatures…and the air is full of birds…and its good and God likes it and he tells these creatures…be fruitful and multiply…and fill the earth….and once more we have a step forward…as intelligent life is empowered to create of itself to fill the earth with life…and as good as God knows that is…he’s not content with the sea and the sky to be filled…and so he brings forth the beasts of the land…of every kind…and its good.

So now by this point…things have come a long way…we started with a formless void and now we have the earth and the seas and sky all filled with life…and we have the amazing creation of the earth itself with all of its majesty…but God’s not satisfied yet.

And so God makes that one thing that scripture tells us is God’s greatest creation…humanity…made in very image of God…and now what’s that mean? That’s a great question…maybe that divine image is what gives us our intellence…or our ability to form culture and relationships…maybe it is in the very appearance of our bodies…it could be a lot of things…or maybe its all of these things…but most importantly…it includes our God-given ability and instruction to join with him in the ongoing work of creation…and an appreciation for beauty and order.

We have this ability, because God instructed us to be fruitful and multiply…and subdue the earth…humanity alone in this amazing creation…we alone we invited by God to join with him in the work of bring all of this towards completion…with each step, God has brought things farther away from chaos and towards the ultimate balance…and we aren’t there yet…but isn’t it amazing to realize that God desires our help in this work…and if you don’t believe me…then believe God…because while every step up to this point has been…good…once God makes us and invites us into this work…indeed…it is…VERY GOOD.

And so, may we use our gifts and talents…those very qualities and abilities to help God create…believing in the promise that one day this work will be completed…and that God has promised that we each have a place within it. Amen.

Hebrews 1…A Go To For Confirmation Kids

Today’s lectionary reflection is taken from Hebrews 1:1-4. On a personal note, in order to explain what I’m talking about in the title, I’ve come back to this particular passage several times since beginning this current program year at my internship site at Prairie Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie, MN. 2 or 3 times ‘ve had students ask me why God doesn’t seem to speak to us directly like in the Old Testament. This is the passage that I bring up for them to explain it.  Also, in a mostly unrelated note, the very first time I preached, way back in college (so we’re talking sometime in early 2001 here), I utilized this passage. I don’t recall if this was the focal scripture or not but I definitely referenced it.

The heading given to this portion of scripture is “God has spoken by His Son.” Verses 1 and 2 open with a direct answer to the question presented by the confirmation kids. “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days has has spoke to us by a Son…” Interesting…so right here in Hebrews we see that Jesus ushered in a change. Now granted we know that…new covenant in his blood and all that…not to mention all the other teachings that we hear about. But specifically, here in Hebrews we hear about a change in the way that God communicates with humanity. No longer are their prophets out there on mountainsides hollering out “Thus sayith the Lord!” (well, actually there still might be but we tend to question their validity these days).

Now, this raises a question. Just how does Jesus speak to us since he has gone on to Heaven? Great question, and its usually the follow up that comes from the kids when I present them with this passage. Well, Jesus continues to speak to us through scripture for one. We hear his story through the 4 Gospels. We hear some of his teachings here. We also hear them throughout the rest of the New Testament as well. So, in short, Jesus’ words are recorded within the Bible itself. Also, Jesus tells us that he will send the “advocate” (or Holy Spirit) several times in John (14:26, 15:26, and 16:7). He also says that the advocate will remind us of his (Jesus) words and teach us all things.

All that being said, this passage does raise some questions. In verse 2, we read that the Son was appointed heir of all things. Also in verse 3 we hear that he is “the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of Go’s very being…” Certainly this can raise the question of whether or not Jesus is separate from God…a debate which has raged within the doctrine of the church for centuries (and has produced several heretics along the way as well).  In my head, this portion of the passage simply indicates the separate nature of the members of the Trinity. 1 God, 3 natures…or 3 persons if you will…Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Each is fully God, but is a separate aspect of God.  So in short, what I’m suggesting here is that Hebrews 1:2-3 is telling us that Jesus is the “portion of God” that was put in charge of creation (verse 2) and is the physical image of the glory of God (verse 3). Gray area perhaps, but that’s my take on it.

Now verse 3 also raises another interesting point…that in which Jesus participates in creation. Yes, he had not taken physical form at the creation of the world in the beginning, but yet he was there to participate in it. But here in verse 3 we also hear that “he had made purification of sins.” This happened at his death on the cross. At this point, purification was made or created. It had not truly happened until this moment. Jesus himself…created true purification from sinfulness. Personally I think this is a very big deal. It was his purpose on Earth, at least in the first go round and when that had occurred, he was able to head off to Heaven for the time being. We see that in the wording of this phrase. “WHEN he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…”

So we see here that not only was Jesus involved in the original creation, but that he also continues to participate in God’s ongoing active creation. Pretty big news if you ask me.  There is certainly a lot going on here in these 4 short verses.