Sunday, September 02, 2012

Sermon: Genesis 1:1 - 2:3 The God who made everything

Every so often, I get some strangers calling to the Rectory. More often than not, they’ve travelled a long way - from America, or Australia. As soon as I hear the accent, I know what they’re looking for: old church records of baptisms, marriages and deaths. They’ve returned to the homeland, they’re trying to trace their great, great grandparents. At the root of their search, though, is the big question: who am I? Where did I come from? What is my background?

Over the course of the autumn, these are the questions we’re asking as well. But we’re not just going back two or three generations. Rather, we’re going right back to the start, to our first parents, as we trace the opening chapters of the book Genesis. One preacher describes this whole section as the seedbed of the Bible. It’s here that we’ll discover who we are; why the world is this way; and see how our salvation story begins.

Now as we begin to think about where we came from, how the world began, we realise that there are lots of different ideas floating around. In the time of the ancient Israelites, the surrounding nations believed that there were lots of gods who were a bit bored one day and decided to make humans; others believed that one of the gods had a battle with a great sea monster, out of which he made the earth. We’ll see that Genesis stands in opposition to those pagan stories.

Today, there are also competing stories of the beginning. New Atheists like Richard Dawkins attributes the Big Bang and all of us existing as pure random chance. Macro evolution - where all forms of animal life developed from the same simple root - is declared to be how we got to where we are.

Genesis will not allow us to bow down to randomness - rather, in this first chapter, we find the good God who made everything. You might find it useful to have your Bible open, as you follow along. So who is the God we are introduced to in this opening chapter of the Bible?

He is the God of eternity. Look at the opening words: ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.’ Genesis means ‘beginnings’ - we hear of the beginning of the heavens and the earth, but God already existed ‘in the beginning God’. It’s not that God was somehow made first - God always existed. He is the eternal being. (You might remember that we saw a hint of this in Ephesians 1:4 ‘just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world’). God is eternal, the creator of time itself, without beginning or end, the Alpha and the Omega (the A and the Z, in our language).

This eternal God is also the God who speaks. It’s one of the things you can’t miss in this chapter! Each part of the creating comes about by the words: ‘Then God said... And God said...’ God is not silent - you see, he doesn’t just speak creation into being, he has also revealed it to us. Back in the day (day one, that is), there was no Facebook or Twitter; no one was live-blogging creation as it happened. People hadn’t been formed yet. We wouldn’t and couldn’t know about God creating if he hadn’t told us. He revealed it to Moses, who wrote it down for us.

Now Genesis is not necessarily a ‘how to’ - even though the order and sequence of creation is being corroborated by the work of scientists - God reveals to us the ‘why’. God speaks, and tells us what we need to know about himself, and about our place in his creation.

The eternal, speaking God is also the God of power. We see this because when God speaks, things happen. Have you ever had the frustration of saying something and nothing happens - whether it’s asking your kids to make their beds, or your husband to make you a cup of tea - you might as well talk to the wall! Not so with God - look again at verse three. ‘Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.’ Do you see the pattern right through? ‘And God said... And it was so.’ God is powerful, what he says is done.

And what is it he says, this eternal, powerful, speaking God? His words show that he is the God of order. Verse two says that the earth was a formless void - shapeless and empty. As the creation days unfold, we watch as God forms the world (days 1-3) and fills it (days 4-6), each day following the pattern: light (1) - sun and moon (4) [which aren’t even named as some of their neighbours worshipped the sun and moon - Genesis reminds us that God made the sun, moon and stars - we worship the Creator, not the creation]; waters and sky (2) - birds and fish (5); dry land (3) - animals and finally people (6).

We’ve had quite a few babies born over the summer. The families would have been busy making preparations, making sure the nursery was ready, the cot and pram and all the rest - we see that God forms and fills the earth, making it ready for us to live in.

This eternal, powerful, speaking, orderly God is also good. With each step, we’re told ‘And God saw that it was good’ - the good God works goodness, and with the creation of people, the climax of all his work, God declares that it was very good.

The final thing to notice about the God who made everything is that this is our God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the God who does not change. In the opening verses we find mention of God, of the Spirit of God hovering over the waters, and God speaking (God’s word - whom John reveals to be the Lord Jesus, God’s Son, by whom everything was made). We also see it in verse 26, when God says ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.’ Why the plural, if it is not the Trinity declaring together, speaking collectively as one?

This is the God who made everything, the God who made the first humans, in his own image and likeness. It is only as we see and know the God who made us that we can answer that question: who am I? You see, we were made according to God’s plan and purpose, shaping the world and us by his power and his goodness, to be like him - in love and community, dependent on our maker who gives us our place as stewards over the creation, and gives us food and everything we need for life in his world.

Even though this world has been marred and spoiled by our sin, even though we’ve turned our back on him, and exploited and abused his good gifts to us, one man did walk on the earth who perfectly displayed what it was to be the image of God, the one who was the Word made flesh, who dwelt among us.

The Lord Jesus calls us back to relationship with him, calls us to turn to him by faith, and receive his blessings (won for us by his death on the cross), and to enter into his rest - the weekly rest a sign and symbol pointing forward to the perfect rest of heaven, as he issues his invitation to us: ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’ (Matt 11:28)

This is our God, the eternal, powerful, speaking, orderly, good God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who invites us to find our identity connected to him. Will you come to his table?

This sermon was preached in Aghavea Parish Church on Sunday 2nd September 2012.

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