Sermon by Rev. Tim Woodard,
January 5th 2014
Have you ever wanted a fresh start? I mean, really, just start over. Thus erasing any poor choices or decisions you made yesterday and simply make better ones today. Well… don’t linger there too long. You can’t do that. Not in the real world. But, we can start fresh and make some new decisions, take some new actions or initiatives that will propel us into our futures with renewed hope and determination. Of course, we will have to deal with any mistakes we made yesterday and also grapple with any… less then perfect choices we made before today. Some will be easier to work with then others and our new decisions and choices will simply need to take these factors into consideration.
This morning we are going to go back to the very beginning of the Bible. I invite you to take a fresh look at this with me and see if it cannot help us with our need to start fresh and move forward. Our passage from Genesis is the recorded Biblical understanding of Creation through the eyes of an ancient Hebrew tribe. What we find is the notion about how God went about creating the heavens and the earth. I think it is important for us to keep an open mind when we read these verses. This ancient writing was intended to capture the faithful understanding of a people that believed deeply in God as Creator. Rather then over analyzing this piece I feel it is ok for us to allow the spirit of it to nurture and support our faith in a God who was the prime mover and designer of all creation.
As we view this passage we must bear in mind the words of this commentary. “Genesis, meaning origin covers the time from creation to the Israelite sojourn in Egypt.” Our author goes on to say: “The history reflected in the first eleven chapters presents a pre-historical or mythical view of the movement from creation to the return of chaos in a catastrophic flood and the new beginnings afterwards.” We must take into consideration that this account was developed out of a culture from the second millennium (the years 1500-1200 B.C. – Before Christ.) Following this commentator’s lead we must hold to the thought that the “primary purpose for the book of Genesis account, is not to present straightforward history but to tell the dramatic story of God’s dealings with the world and, in particular, to interpret Israel’s special role in God’s purpose.”
With these thoughts in mind let us again look to our passage, noticing its poetic nature. Poetry, we might add, has almost always captured the mood and rhythm of every culture and time period that it has been written in. Therefore, let us enter into the cultural mood of these ancients as they begin to tell the story of how God first began creation.
“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” Often times when I am seeking spiritual renewal I will walk out onto the pier at Riverview Park in Sebastian. Frequently, the wind is blowing and you can see the movement over the surface, the face of the waters.
Taking the time to do that, I renew in the depths of my heart, the center of my being that God has done a marvelous thing and that I am a part of it. It seems to keep me humble and it seems to keep my spirit fresh. It is uplifting and it has often given me an innovative and new perspective of things. One could say a new beginning. If you have never tried it I recommend to you a simple walk out onto that pier. It doesn’t cost anything yet it is priceless!
Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. At Christmas time we often refer to Jesus as the light of the world. We pick up on this reference in the opening verses of the Gospel of John. “What has come into being in him, Jesus, was life and the life was the light of all people.”
From this we move to the symbolic meaning of our candle lighting service on Christmas Eve. Light in this context is the fullness of life in the presence of God and how we each can let that light shine in the darkness. In stark contrast, if we subtract God we shall recede into nothingness, darkness. As we listen to the words from the book of Genesis we must take into account that the Hebrew believer “saw that the fullness of creation also contains the fullness of God’s love” and through God the darkness is overcome, enough so that God begins the process of separating light from darkness. We could go further and say God separates the good from evil, just as it is implied in the gospel of John. “And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.”
The ending verse in today’s reading is by all accounts meant to signal the beginning, the first day. “God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” From this beginning the scriptures go on to tell us all about how the early Hebrews understood God and their deep faith in God’s hand in their lives and the salvation that goes with worshipping the one true God. From this simple, yet profound beginning, we can take pause to reflect and seek out a new beginning from here for ourselves, both as individuals and as a faith community.
What choice or decision from the past do you need or want to change? Knowing we cannot change the past we can focus anew on how we shall move forward into our future. Taking stock of the realities that are now present in our lives what new choices can we make? How can we put new life into things that are no longer thriving on their own as we may have anticipated? This is what we must focus on now. This poetic passage from the Book of genesis has given us a renewed look at the breath and depth of the faith of an ancient people. From here we can begin the journey into our new day. In it we can and we must also bring the fullness of God’s love, the light that will shine in the midst of everything that is happening.
There are many things in life that we did not choose. In these cases we must still seek to find and possibly relying solely on our faith to push forward and start new. Certainly was the case for our neighbors just to the south of us affected by the rampant wild fires a few years back, I believe it was in the year 2007. I believe it was recorded that there were over 161 homes damaged or destroyed by the fires in Palm Bay and Malabar that year. From out of those ashes whole families were faced with starting over. Some had insurance… others did not. Some lost priceless things, things that will never be replaced. For many of them this was very difficult to say the least. Many needed help making that new start, that new beginning. As we reflect back on those out of control fires, we need to consider how we might, how we can be of help if and when this type of event happens again to our neighbors. Local Red Cross units, shelters, food banks and thrift shops certainly are a start, thus we need to continue our efforts of support in these areas.
No one chooses to lose his or her home in a fire, yet it happens and then somehow life must go on. Around the world we see natural disasters occur on an all too regular basis. In that same time period, in a town called Picher Oklahoma a tornado hit, killing at least seven people. In neighboring Missouri and Georgia the same storm system claimed at least fifteen more lives. Do you remember the devastating quake that struck China; it was a 7.9 magnitude tremor? It was estimated that tens of thousands of people lost their lives. In other areas of the world we hear of tragedies that leave millions of people in desperate need of food, water and shelter. No, none of us are exempt from the wrath of tragedies of one sort or another.
We must not give up when things do not go our way; we will get another chance to try again. Yet, there are always those around us, in this community and throughout the world that will not get that second chance. It is important for us to remember the deep, deep faith of those that passed to us their best understanding of God and of creation from ancient times. We may not fully understand how creation occurred, or how Mother Nature keeps it going. But, we do know that God has separated the light from the darkness. Even when life seems dark, as it sometimes does, we must keep the faith; for the light is sure to follow.
When our history is fully compiled will future generations be able to see our deep, deep faith? Will they be able to see how we continued to trust in our God, even in the midst of the darkest times? Will they see how we were willing to seek out new opportunities and new life? Will they know how to seek out spiritual renewal; will we have left them an example to follow? They, like us… may need a new beginning as they journey forward. Let us strive to do the best we can to separate the misery of hopelessness and despair, from the joy and beauty of a God centered life. Let the conviction of our faith be recorded in the anvils of history for those that follow us, just as the ancients did for us.
“God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.”