In the Beginning, God.
7 February 1999
READINGS: Genesis 1.1 - 2.3; Matthew 6:25-34
Our first reading today was that lovely poem that begins the Bible, that tells how God created order out of chaos.
2. The Poem
It's a lovely poem, one of my favourites. You start with the absolute blankness, nothing. I don't think we can ever experience that sort of nothingness here on earth. Even if you all shut your eyes tightly, you can still hear and smell and taste and feel. Although some people have gone through what they call "sensory deprivation", which sounds as if it's very nasty indeed. Some people do it voluntarily, to prove a point, but for others it's quite literally torture. I suppose that might give us a glimpse of what it was like before the world was made. Although even sensory deprivation, unless you have it in space, doesn't turn off gravity!
And then gradually, day by day, order forms out of chaos. First the light - not yet the light of the sun or moon, but an unspecified light. Then the sky, then the land, then vegetation, trees, plants, seeds, grasses. Then on the fourth day the sun, moon and stars, on the fifth day the animals, first those in the sea, and then those on land. And on the sixth day the pinnacle of creation, human beings. No nonsense here about Adam and Eve and the woman being created from the man's ribs, and so on: "So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them". And on the seventh day, that great Sabbath rest that we have such trouble either understanding or implementing. I've just been reading a rather amusing book about the trials of a Minister in Secular Employment, like John Marshall only not him, of course, and there is a splendid scene where his first service goes all wrong, and the vicar says to him afterwards: "God rested on the seventh day, of course. Sometimes I think he still does. If I were God, that would be the day I'd take off."
Anyway, back to Genesis. The chorus of the poem, at the end of each stanza: "And God saw that it was good." "And there was evening and there was morning, the whatever day". "God saw that it was good." So often we act as though we forget that God really liked what he'd made. If he hadn't, we'd have been screwed up and thrown in the cosmic waste-paper basket long since!
3. For Us, Today
Well, it is a lovely story, but what does it mean to us today? After all, most people nowadays believe that the story of Creation is better told by the rocks and the streams, the earth and the oceans, the fossils and the living beings of today. The poem in the book of Genesis isn't such a good scientific account, after all. But then, it's not meant to be. It's a poem to tell us, to remind us in almost unforgettable words, that God made this world. The "how" is another matter. But we need to know that God made it, and God continues to be involved, and that's where my game this morning comes in.
[Play game, let several people have a go, then say you'll leave it up after the service but be careful, as it's fragile].
You see, you had to concentrate quite hard to get the loop to the end of the wire without making the lights flash, didn't you? And I think God concentrates on this world at least that hard, and infinitely harder. Even the hairs on our heads are numbered, Jesus said. Remember the words from our Gospel reading: "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" And again: "See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?"
How many of you have ever flown on a clear day when you can see the ground and all the houses and cars and roads and things? It's weird flying across the USA, because it's all laid out in squares! But whenever I do, I think about the God who made all this land, and who knows every single one of the occupants of those houses and streets and cars, far more intimately even than they know themselves.
You see, God concentrates on us all the time. His concentration isn't going to slip, like ours does. And the absolute best bit is that God cares about us so much, and concentrates on us so much, that he sent Jesus to be our Saviour!
So you see, the story we had in Genesis is still relevant today; it reminds us how much God cares for us, how much God is still involved in this world, and how much God is still involved in our lives, and longs to be even more so. And the question is, how much are you allowing him to be involved in your life?
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