Tag Archives: Creation

Lectionary 27B – October 6, 2018

Saturday’s Readings:
Genesis 2:18-24
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
Mark 10:2-16

St. Paul’s welcomed a guest preacher to worship on Sunday, October 7 – Deacon Timothy Siburg, Director for Stewardship of the Nebraska Synod, ELCA – but we also had a service on Saturday afternoon. Below is a brief summary of the message preached by Pastor Andrew at that service.

The readings for this week seem to be disjointed at first glance. We begin with a story about creation, move to a sort of mystical reflection on the significance of Christ’s life and death for us and our world, and then conclude with Jesus teaching about divorce and encouraging child-like faith. The thread that seems to tie these readings together is the reality that our life is lived in relationship with others.

In the first account of creation in Genesis, God pronounces creation good at the end of each day, then “very good” at its completion. The first time we hear that anything is “not good” is when the first person, the adam, is found to be without a suitable partner. We are made to be in relationship, and it is not good for us to be alone. God creates Eve to provide companionship and help to Adam, not as a hierarchical relationship, but as a partnership of equals.

Jesus picks up that thread in the gospel reading from Mark, highlighting the seriousness of the promises we make to one another, especially in marriage, but also touching on our relationships with those who are considered less important, as children often were in the first century. His admonition to seek after God with child-like wonder, open-mindedness, and vulnerability, is also a good way for us to seek relationship with one another.

Even Hebrews, which seems so removed from our experience, speaks of our relationship with God in Christ, and how Christ blazed the trail of our salvation so that we can follow him in trust.

Our ability to live well in relationship with others is a key part of our witness to Jesus. In a society increasingly given to tribalism and division, we have an opportunity to show a different way of being in the world. We are united in Christ, and called to see all people – partners, family, friends, neighbors, and strangers alike – as people worthy of compassion, respect, and dignity. May it be so among us.

Garden of Eden – September 13, 2015 (NL Week 1)

Sunday’s Reading:
Genesis 2:4b-25

+ Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +

In the beginning, God got to work. The first two chapters of the Bible tell the story of that beginning, and that story makes abundantly clear that creation exists because of the activity of God – the one who hovered over the waters, who spoke the heavens and earth and all life into existence. It also reminds of something that we too often forget when we look around at the world today: that this creation – the incredible diversity of life, the rock and soil and water and sky and space – all of it is good. In fact, when we regard the whole creation in its fullness, it’s not just good; it’s very good (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31, NRSV)

So that’s where we start: with God’s work. God looks upon nothingness and makes a world of stunning beauty and unfathomable vitality and awesome power, and calls it very good. We also start with the recognition that there’s something particularly important about us, about humanity. In the first chapter of Genesis, we hear God speaking about the creation of humankind in a way that we’re still trying to wrap our heads around: Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” 27So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27, NRSV) Then, in today’s passage, we read more about the special care with which God regards us as those created in God’s image: then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being… (Genesis 2:7, NRSV) These two passages are remarkable! How incredible a privilege it is to bear the image and likeness of the Creator! How wonderful it is to contemplate this amazing image of God kneeling down in the dust and dirt to mold humanity, and then to stoop even lower to fill that lifeless lump with God’s own breath, the same Spirit that rushed over the formless void before God spoke light into existence!

The witness of Holy Scripture about humankind is amazing, but it should also be humbling. After all, we not only bear God’s image, we also bear responsibility for the rest of this creation. We’ve already read from chapter one the language of “dominion” – lordship or rule – over the birds and fish and animals and other life, and we have certainly exercised that dominion throughout our history, both in ways that are profoundly beautiful and in ways that are profoundly destructive. Chapter two provides with a corrective that should resonate with us: The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. (Genesis 2:15, NRSV) Another translation of this passage reads that humankind was placed in the garden “to watch it and work it.” (Gen 2:15, Alter) God did not create this world of beauty and life and wonder so that humanity could suck it dry and leave it desolate, but so that the whole community of life might be preserved. This is nothing less than the work of God, and it is work that we are called to do with our own lives, using our own heads and hearts and hands each and every day. Before anything else, before any talk of creating societies or building kingdoms or establishing laws or even determining what constitutes proper worship, this is the work that we are given to do: God’s work, the work of stewarding this creation so that it might continue to reflect the goodness of the one who brought it into being.

That’s an incredible responsibility, brothers and sisters, and it only grows. As life continues to break out all over this planet – we are called to nourish it, to create the conditions that allow it to flourish. We know, of course, that this is easier said than done. It’s not long after God calls everything very good that brokenness enters our world, that our thirst to take the place of God leads us to substitute our own wants and desires for the will of our Creator. In recognizing our calling to do God’s work, we are also all too aware of our shortcomings, of the effects of sin and death that wrack this weary world and prevent us from being fully devoted to this calling. As Christians, we draw strength from the knowledge that God stooped low again in the person of Jesus, that God made not only the image of the Divine, but the fullness of divinity, present in Christ. Though our own sinful work led us to nail God’s hands to rough wood and stretch them out toward the heavens, God’s life and power were too great to be overcome by humanity’s sinful pride, and by his rising, we were redeemed to once again devote our hands to God’s work. It’s still not easy work. It is work that requires us to lay aside our own convenience, our own wants and desires, our attitude of superiority, so that we might serve others and the world that God has made. In the end, this is our great calling: to watch and work in this broken and beautiful garden, to see in our brothers and sisters around the globe the image and likeness of God that we all bear, to seek always to do God’s work rather than our own, so that God’s will might be done on earth as it is in the heavens.

As our journey through the Scriptures continues, we’ll learn more about how that will unfolded in the lives of our fathers and mothers in the faith, and we’ll read about how they opened themselves to doing God’s work with their own hands – or, more often than not, how God’s work happened in spite of them. For now, let us give thanks for God’s care and concern for us, for the wondrous creation that we call home, and for the joy and challenge of being partners with our Creator as we seek to use our hands in service of God’s unfolding work. Amen.

The Book of Hebrews: Week 1 – August 9, 2015

Sunday’s Reading:
Hebrews 1:1-4

+ Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +

From the opening lines of Scripture to its final verses, if we learn only one thing about God, it’s this: God speaks. In the beginning, God speaks a powerful word over nothingness, and by that word the whole creation comes into being. The other people who lived around the Israelites didn’t talk about their gods like that. When they talked about creation, they imagined their gods were engaged in a cosmic struggle with the forces of darkness and chaos, often in hand-to-hand combat, and the gods worth worshiping were the ones who prevailed and brought creation into being. But the people of Israel knew differently. They had experienced God as a God of speech, one who addresses particular people in particular times and places, one who by the act of speaking made the world, spurred people to action, brought a nation into being, and moved to save and deliver that nation. Scripture testifies to this truth over and over again. God speaks, and Abram leaves his house and family to go to an unknown land in pursuit of a promise that wouldn’t be fulfilled for decades. God speaks, and Isaac is born to a mother and father who are so old, the Bible describes them as being as good as dead. God speaks, and Joseph winds up as a slave in Egypt, rises to power, and saves thousands. God speaks, and the descendants of Jacob are freed from slavery and oppression and promised a land to call their own. God speaks and kings are raised up and brought low. God speaks and the world is changed – day after day, year after year, again and again.

God has indeed spoken “in many and various ways” – or, put another way, “in many fragments and fashions.”* Indeed, the Bible records mere snippets of the conversation that has been going on between God and humanity since the beginning. Our ancestors in the faith, including the prophets who served as God’s mouthpieces, bore witness to the on-going dialogue that has shaped God’s people, changed our understanding of who God is and what God is up to in the world, and kept us connected to the one who first said, “Let there be light!”

That conversation went on for centuries, reaching a crescendo at those key moments that defined the history and destiny of God’s people, until, one day, everything changed. Suddenly, God was no longer content simply to speak. As powerful as God’s voice had been, the time had come for something different, and that something different was the arrival of Jesus. In him, the Son of God, the Eternal Word, the one who had brought all things into being, visited our world. In him, the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of God’s being took on flesh and dwelt among us, and our world has never been the same. No longer would we look to the heavens in search of signs of a divine being beyond our comprehension. No longer would we struggle to hear the voice that thundered over the waters at creation. God spoke once more, this time into the life of a young woman named Mary, and that Word became truly human, lived in our midst, died for our sake, and rose for our salvation.

This is the deep and profound truth that is proclaimed through this morning’s reading – and, in fact, throughout the piece of writing that the Church has known for centuries as “the Letter to the Hebrews”. God has spoken in many different and incredible and world-changing ways since creation began, but none of it can rival the importance of how God spoke through the Son, the one whose name is Jesus. The surpassing greatness of that revelation will be unpacked throughout the rest of this letter and during our exploration of it over the next four weeks.

For now, this introduction gives us the opportunity to get our feet under us, and to reflect on all the ways that God has spoken to us through the prophets whose words reverberate through the ages, through the ancestors who helped to reveal the character of God by the way they bore witness to that character in word and deed, through the one whose name we bear and whose life, death, resurrection, and ascension define our lives. It gives us the opportunity to look around our church and our world and to realize that God is not finished speaking yet, that God continues to send prophets and teachers to orient us to God’s will for our lives, that the God who came to dwell among us in Jesus continues to be present to us by the power of the Holy Spirit. It gives us the occasion to be reminded that the many fragments and fashions that have shaped the contours of the conversation between God and us are still shaping it today, though not as much as the reality of Christ’s living, dying, rising, and ascending for our sake and for the sake of the world.

That reality can’t be forgotten, because if we don’t remember the surpassing greatness of Jesus when we acknowledge or recognize that God is still speaking, we open ourselves to the danger of putting ungodly words in God’s mouth. Our knowledge of the Son helps us to filter the “God-talk” that comes our way and to test its authenticity. Does the way that we talk about God, or the way that we perceive God’s voice, align with the way that voice spoke through the life of Jesus Christ? Or is there a disconnect between what people claim to hear from God and what happened in the world when God lived as one of us? That’s a question worth asking of every individual, every congregation, every community of faith, every denomination, every expression of Christ’s body in the world, and to the extent that we are able to align ourselves with the way God spoke and acted in Christ – and, by the same token, to eliminate those areas where things are disconnected or disjointed – we are better able to hear and communicate and live into God’s will for us and our world.

We live each day, brothers and sisters, as those who bear the most excellent name of Christ. Let us give thanks for the gift of knowing Jesus, the one who radiates the glory of God and reveals the character of God in flesh and blood. Let us give thanks for the Holy Spirit who continues to make Jesus present to us today and every day. Finally, let us give thanks for the privilege of being part of a people to whom God is still speaking – in different fragments and fashions, to be sure, but still speaking all the same. May we hear God’s voice and seek to be Christ’s mouthpieces for this beautiful and broken world. Amen.