Sermon, Sunday April 10, 2016
Story 1 Easter 3C
Psalm 29, Ephesians 4:20-24, John 3:16-18
“A Big Bang”
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
The story of God’s incredible efforts to win back the hearts and minds of his loved creation begins with a bang. Not the “big bang” of evolutionary theory, but the “big bang” of God revealing who he is.
The opening verse of the Story (Genesis 1:1) introduces us to the Story’s main character: God. Right from the start we hear that this “big bang” is not an impersonal accident, but the creative purpose of a personal God who creates and loves and relates.
It is important for us modern people steeped in technology and scientific approach to learning that the “big bang” of creation is not science and does not even pretend to depend on scientific enquiry in any way. What we hear right from the beginning of the Story is a carefully crafted proclamation, not mere presented. The Bible Story is not an informative lecture but a transforming experience. So, the Creation story is spoken poetically and artistically for maximum effect to proclaim one compelling truth – ‘creatio ex nihilo’. God creates out of nothing, as only God can.
Days 1, 2, and 3 are places created by God.
Day 1—Light and Dark
Day 2—Sky and Water
Days 4, 5, and 6 those places are filled with the things for which the places were created.
Day 4—Sun and Moon/stars
Day 5—Birds and Sea creatures
Day 6—Animals and human beings
And then, like a crescendo moment in a grand orchestral piece or the fully improvised riff in a rock song, this “big bang” of creation concludes with God’s highest goal, his tour de force; his most complete work: human beings.
God’s highest goal is people; people made in the ‘imago dei’, the image of God himself. (Genesis 1:26-27). As we hear at this beginning, God is a person who creates to be personally invested in creation, so we hear that all the beauties of creation are secondary to his highest creature – the pinnacle of his affections: You. The big news in this big bang is that God’s supreme love is to be with us at all costs.
And then when God declares his delight in us and all his creatures, there comes the devastating word that paradise is lost, the relationship is much less then it was meant to be and this is not because of God but because of us.
The first people were not robots. If they were, there could be no genuine love between them and their creator. There is freedom in God’s creating so that there can be genuine love and community between him and his people. As the song goes, “If you love someone, set them free”. Forced love is not love – just manipulation or control. We hear that God does not force love.
The pleasure in sight and taste and stomach and in acting independently takes hold over the love given. Adam and Eve rebelled against God and ate from the give in to what would become the human problem – taking God’s place or worshipping ourselves. Like a stone hitting the windscreen and the cracks slowly fanning out in an unstoppable tangle that will shatter the whole thing, so that first bight of temptation to go it alone and so, reject the hand that feeds us shatters God’s vision to be with his creatures in love is ruined.
The Bible Story proclaims the “big bang” of human beings’ self-worship and its damage to all creation.
From Genesis 4 – 9 in the account of Noah and his family, this ongoing spiritual disease of replacing God and putting ourselves at the top of the tree in creation is proclaimed.
God does not give up on his creation even though he is millimetres away from taking this decision. God’s chooses Noah as an instrument of his salvation of the situation. God starts again after the judgment of flood waters.
We hear however that the flood erased the evil and corrupt human beings, but did not erase the disease they still carry. We hear in Genesis 9: 20-23 that Noah and his family are no saints and the shame of it all continues.
From this point onward, the Story will be about God’s incredible activity and commitment to find lost, broken, ignorant and blind people and restore them to this beautiful garden relationship. The clues to reveal God’s hearty on the matter of finding lost people are embedded in his DNA right here at the genesis of the story.
After Adam and Eve sinned and became aware of their nakedness, in the frenzy of fear and guilt they made fig leaf clothing to cover their nakedness. God took away the fig leaves of fear and guilt and covered Adam and Eve with the skins of animals. They fit better, last longer and are more effective in keeping the first people alive.
God has to get Adam and Eve out of the garden where the tree of knowledge of good and evil resides for their own good. They cannot resist the temptation to seek this knowledge which is obviously too much for them.
But it is a wild world outside the beautiful garden of God’s loving friendship. God puts a mark on their foreheads that will protect them against the enemies that exist, of which they know nothing.
The very clearest clue of what will dominate this story is also here. For God to restore the vision that human beings are His supreme love will require the shedding of blood. Someone will have to make the murder of Abel right. Someone will have to pay for this eventually.
Friend, as the Story begins with a bang, hear this:
Human beings are extremely valuable. You are extremely valuable to God even if not to anyone else sometimes. God wants to be with you. God wants to personally be in your day and years. At great cost to God, God has done everything possible to get you back. You are valuable. True, lasting and full life begins by simply trusting what God says about you and to you.
Chapter 1, The Beginning of Life as We Know It
Timeless Truth: Sin changes everything.
Chapter Summary (Have someone in your group read the summary section.)
In the beginning, God. God is the central character of the grand story of the Bible. It really is all about Him and His desire to be in relationship with people. In the opening chapters of Genesis, the Upper Story is in full view. God has a grand vision to be with us, and enjoy harmonious life with us on the newly created perfect earth. Man and woman together reflect God’s image as community. As images of God, they are to rule as His benevolent representatives over the earth. In the garden, there is perfect communion with God, one another, and with the creation itself. It is all about relationships—relationship with God and relationship with each other.
But God doesn’t force those relationships. When man and woman choose to listen to a creature rather than the Creator, the vision is ruined. Sin enters in and brings with it physical death and separation from God and expulsion from the garden. The whole earth is cursed and begins to die. The sin nature is inaugurated by Adam and Eve and its tragic consequences are passed on to their offspring. Cain killing Abel demonstrates that every human is infected with sin. But sin is more than what we do, it is what we are—it is now our very nature.
Relationship between God and man has now been broken as has the harmony between man and woman. Even the earth itself no longer relates well to man. Immediately, however, God begins His plan to get us back into a right relationship with Him; and that Upper Story never changes even to the last chapter of the Bible. Even after God brings judgment upon a wicked earth, Noah and his family still emerge from the ark with their sin nature. It is going to take something beyond people to solve the sin problem. A clue to the solution is subtly given to us in God’s response to Adam and Eve. God Himself makes for them clothes from an animal’s skin to cover their nakedness—blood is shed to cover their sin. And a promise is made that sin will one day ultimately be vanquished.
This first chapter of The Story is vital to understanding God’s Upper Story. The major doctrines of our faith are rooted here, namely sin and redemption. In the Bible, only the first two chapters of Genesis and the last two chapters of Revelation give us a glimpse into life in a world without sin, a world as God intended it to be. When we compare our world with what the world was like before sin, we learn that nothing is as it should be. Nothing. Sin changes everything. Since the fall in the garden, man exists in a fallen world under the dominion of Satan. But the believer’s hope lies in knowing that one day the Messiah, promised from the beginning, will return to earth, conquer evil, and fully restore the relationships lost in the garden.
Icebreaker Question: We’ve all had prized possessions: gifts given to us as children, family heirlooms, and expensive purchases. And most likely, at one time or another, someone or something has ruined or broken something we cherish. Can you share such a time in your life and what was destroyed?
- Chapter 1 shows that everything began with God creating and ordering. How is this different than other explanations you have heard of how the world began? How might knowing that life has purpose and direction affect your daily decisions?
- What do think it means to be made in the image of God (page 2-3)?
- Part of the meaning of being made in the image of God is that we were made for relationships and community. When sin entered the world relationships were destroyed. Describe the change in relationships that occurred between the following:
- God and mankind
b. Adam and Eve
c. Mankind and the rest of creation
d. Mankind and everlasting life
- After each event in the creation story, God said “It is good.” Where does God say it is not good (p. 4)? What does this say about God’s plan for the human family?
- What do you think Eve’s real sin was? What role did Adam play in the process?
- Explain how Adam and Eve played the “blame game” (p. 5). Why is it so hard for us to accept the responsibility for our bad choices?
- What can we learn about work from Chapter 1 of The Story?
- Discuss the parallels between Noah’s culture and our own. What attributes and actions of Noah can help us face the challenges of godly living in the world today?
- Many people perceive God as vengeful and distant when they encounter an event such as the Flood in the Old Testament. While God clearly establishes Himself as Judge of His creation, chapter one is overflowing with examples of His love and grace. How many can you identify?
- God made a promise to Noah never again to destroy mankind by a flood and He confirmed it with a rainbow. What promises has he made to you?