Sermons

pastorEric aug2014Sermon for Holy Trinity Sunday

God:  In the Beginning and Forever
By The Rev. Eric Christopher Shafer -
 

I do not usually preach on the First or Old Testament lesson for a Sunday, but this week that text is the creation story from Genesis and it seems, with all the attention on global warming and the environment in general these days, it seems appropriate to talk about God’s wonderful creation today.

In the beginning, God created the world. In the beginning, God drew order out of chaos. In the beginning, God breathed life into every living creature. In the beginning, God crafted and made the world.

Throughout history, and all too often, we people appear to want to tell a very different story. Throughout history it seems we are committed to leading the world back into chaos.  All too often, it seems that we would rather commit ourselves to recreating the world in a distorted image: an image punctuated by pollution and war and domination. We humans sometimes seem determined to create a world characterized by death and loss instead of a world characterized by the miracle of life and breath and goodness and the flourishing of all living things, the world as God created it.

quote takeBetterCareOfWorldIn the beginning, God created the world. And, yet, we humans seem driven to dismantle the world. In the beginning, God rested. And, yet, we humans all too often appear to be opting for the chaos God held at bay, chaos instead of God’s action of grace, love, and power for the world and all humanity.

Think if it:  the ever-present specter of war, the threat of climate change, the exploitation of our natural resources, the harm we do to one another: these are not just scientific or political issues, these are theological, that is, these are God problems.

All too often we humans have mistaken what is good for what is merely advantageous for us.  Our ravaging of natural resources reveals our arrogance. We humans think that the world's water and air and many precious resources are due to us, that they are something we have earned by the sweat of our brow or the ingenuity of our efforts, rather than seeing them as gifts from God, meant to enhance the life of all, not just the extravagance of a few.

We humans have turned the world upside down, we have served the forces of destruction, and in the end, we have declared them "good."

In short, we humans have lied about what we do to the world. We have denied our many sins against the world God has crafted, the world that God loves, the world that God calls good.

So, let's go back to the beginning and wonder for a moment why the Bible starts in this way and why a community of believers chose to capture the dawn of creation in this way. There is lots of debate about these opening chapters of Genesis.  They have been embroiled in seemingly unending arguments about science and evolution. Are these opening chapters blueprints of the created order? Are they precise recollections of the world's creation? Are they science, are they theology, are they both, are they neither?

In recent years there has been a "debate," if you can call it that, a debate pitting creationism against evolution.  This argument has drawn plenty of attention but has done little to clarify the meaning of the creation story as told in Genesis 1.  And it has missed the very point of the Genesis account of creation.

You see, the opening verses of the Bible in Genesis 1 are not a blueprint of the world or a play-by-play of the dawning of creation. However, these verses are also not just an ancient fairy tale that we can dismiss as the ramblings of our ancient ancestors. Both of these polar opposite views miss the critical point, I believe.

These verses are controversial precisely because we think these verses are about us, about you and me.  And they are not. These verses are not about you. These verses are not about me. These verses are not about us.

The first chapter of Genesis is about God, first and foremost.

Our usual way of looking at Genesis 1 is to ask if these verses can help us explain our world today, the big questions, the often seemingly unanswerable questions:  Why is the world the way it is? Why does life sometimes flourish at one moment while at other moments death seems to strike us at every turn? What explains our drive to war? Why do we humans afflict one another with pollution and waste? Why do we seem to care so little for the world we have inherited? What are our obligations to those who come after us?

And, most importantly, what kind of God created this world? And what kind of world is it anyway?

In Genesis 1, we confess that the world and the God who created it, the world and God are both good. And we hope that the God who created the skies and the oceans, the highest peaks and the lowest valleys, we hope that this God is the same God who will shelter us from the storm and hold death at bay. We yearn for a world that can dazzle us with its beauty, silence us with awe, even as we tremble at forces largely beyond our control: winds and mudslides and tornadoes and typhoons.

And, if we are honest, we can acknowledge that the "natural" evils that harm our neighbors are not always beyond our control, that some disasters are not just "acts of God" as the insurance companies say.

Of course, we did not control the tsunami that decimated Indonesia or direct the vicious path of Hurricane Katrina or determine that an earthquake would strike Haiti. And yet, we are all embroiled in systems that, while they may bring advantage to us, can keep life difficult for others.  Our cheap produce is expensive, our inexpensive water is costly, our affordable energy comes at a steep cost. Someone always pays the price, whether it's the earth or our often invisible neighbors near and far.

And yet, God called this world good. And God was right and God is still right. The problem is the ways we humans pollute the world and oppress one another, the problem is the ways we seek to deny God’s divine declaration.

So, today, thinking of God’s wonderful creation, let's resolve to change our ways, to count the costs of our conveniences, to join God in declaring the world “good,” in declaring the world a place in which life always prevails.

And let's resolve to do this not because we are mighty, but because the God who stitched the world together is a mighty God. Not because we are so wise, but because the God who breathed life into us and the world is a graceful God. Not because we are so good, but because the God who crafted a "good" world is the very definition of "good."

Genesis 1 tells us that the world and the God who created the world are good.  And this day, the God who created this world and us is calling us to take better care of the world and each other. 
 
Amen.

(With thanks to the Rev. Dr. Eric Baretto and his sermon from Day1).
 

The Rev. Eric Christopher Shafer
Senior Pastor - Mt. Olive Lutheran Church
Santa Monica, California
June 11, 2017


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