“The First Day, A New Beginning!”
Genesis 1:1-5, June 14th, 2020 – 10 AM
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now these reflective words from the book of Genesis, chapter one, verses one thru five.”
1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,
2 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.
3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.
4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.
5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
“Having heard this poetic accounting of the first day of Creation, as written down perhaps as early as six to nine centuries before Christ, let us consider their meaning to us here in the Twenty-First Century after the birth of Christ!”
“The First Day, A New Beginning!”
Being a writer, I know what it feels like to begin with nothing but a blank piece of paper. It takes creativity and courage to make a beginning! To make a new beginning takes not only courage but tenacity! The writer of what is now the first book of the Bible in our Christian Bibles; this masterpiece, was a noble venture to be sure! To put pen to parchment, to speak of Creation, to speak of an ancient understanding of how the Holy One, the Ultimate Deity came to create humankind out of the nothingness, is indeed a bold and spirited venture! That, my friends, is the ultimate power of beginning something new! Out of nothingness came life! Only the grace of God can accomplish such! Only someone filled with the very Spirit of God would be able to write a book that would give so many… so much inspiration and hope! Surely, our writer has captured the spirit, the rhythm and flavor of what was known and understood about the Supreme being… and how the earth came to be… and how humankind was formed. And, most importantly, how our Creator God was involved in it all!
As we ponder all this let me share this thought with you. Years ago, I got a poster from my sister. It was a beautiful picture of the Red Wood National Forest, in California. At the bottom was this caption: “Today, is the first day of the rest of your life!” Powerful words – if you accept the ultimate meaning of the writing. Abby Hoffman wrote those words. He was a graduate of the University of California. He was a political and social activist. Kind of a rebel in his own time! His slogans still live on. Today, today is most certainly the very first day and first days are a new beginning into our future. You and me, we still have the rest of our lives to live into a future history which has yet to be written!
As we reflect on the inspirational writing of Creation, by a writer way back in the sixth or possible as far back as the ninth century Before Christ, we must recognize that this writing was the first, the very beginning of written documentation; telling us of what early cultures, such as the Israelites used as their stepping off point. Giving us their understanding of who and what God is and what place God had and has in all of Creation. It was a start! Like any start, by the best of writers, the best of theologians in those early times and in our current times, we must rely on the data collected. Historically, we rely on what has been passed on to us through both our traditions and our cultures understanding of what our historical context reveals to us.
Thirty years ago, this fall, I entered seminary. In my studies of the Old Testament, specifically Genesis, our professor gave us her understanding of this ancient writing. She pointed out that in that time-period there was not the accumulated knowledge available to writers, as there is today. Yet, there is a vast amount of information we can glean from these early writings! Our professor spoke of how music and poetry, historically, have done… a fantastic job of capturing the rhythm and heart of what was believed during a given period. The spirit of understanding, considering cultural realities and situations, was and is seen in such writings. This is especially true in today’s lesson. Our writer wanted the listener to know that God, was present at the beginning of time. Therefore, our Creator God was a vital part in the formation of this planet which supports life, including human life! To this day, humankind has found no other like it!
What is it we know about this accounting, this bold first verses of our Christian Bible? The writers wanted to express the belief, the understanding that God, was the designer, the lead contractor that set things into motion. And like any contractor, their understanding of time may not be ours. It seems, from our modern view of things that one day in God’s eyes, could easily be a thousand years give or take a few decades or centuries even! The critical element is that God was the bold one, the one with the vision and the Spirit filled intuitive and inspired scope of what it would take to create that which we now know as our world! To do what the Almighty has created took passion, tenacity, and love! Also, God wanted a place, a place we now call the planet Earth, for humankind to grow and flourish, in the image of God. This was the beginning!
Now here we are, reflecting on how a writer captured how humankind understood how it all started, on that blank piece of paper that he wrote upon! As we consider what we do with this writing, let us consider our visions for the future. Surely, you join with me in wanting to see some changes in the future. Clearly things need change and that will take some planning. New thoughts come from some form of vision. The contractor who bought from us, ten plus acres of land, had a vision. They now have a plan and it is being worked on. They plan to create new homes were forty new families might live upon the land they purchased. There are a multitude of details, but first came the inspiration, the vision!
We need to be part of the new vision for the community we serve. Whom do we serve? Everyone that is hearing my voice and all of us here today, including those who are still unable to be with us in person due to the COVID-19 virus! We must include our neighbors living in the surrounding community in which we are apart of. We serve those whom God has placed in our thoughts, our prayers and those whom God sends to us and those we are meant to serve! Bold words, words which beg us to be diligent and willing to respond to things as they change in front of our very eyes! We most focus on life on life’s terms. This is often not easy and frequently we must ask God to give us serenity for those things we can not change. We cannot just wish for a virus to mystically go away. We cannot just wish or hope to fix a social issue, like racism, to be fixed in a day.
Ultimately, we must do something! Even when it seems dauntingly hard, if not virtually impossible we think! Or, we may still believe everything is ok the way it has been and still is. This seems outrageous to think there are still so many who are unable to grasp the harsh reality of what is being discussed – all around us today! We may wish to hide our heads in the sand until it passes by and things go back to what they once were. If you think that, perhaps you are being naive. Today is the day, perhaps the first day we shall see more clearly… the troubles that need attention, all around our community, our state, and our beloved United States! It seems, to so many, a great many of us think that this is way too vast for us to deal with. How can we make a difference?
Yet, we cannot, and we must not stop our process of discernment nor can we simply give up! We must look for those situations where we can make a difference. We can start with the simple things, things which we do understand and are clear about. Like having a food drive, to support a local food bank, helping to feed the growing population of hungry people, all around us! We can support movements, peaceful, nonviolence protests, that stand for legitimate, genuine, and real social justice causes! Likewise, we must support our local authorities who are working to protect us from anarchy and violence. Looting and destroying municipalities and shutting down small business will not help solve a social crisis! We do need to be willing to seek new ways to make a difference in areas of social injustice! Perhaps we need to volunteer to work with other churches who are seeking an ecumenical solution! Seeking new visions and creating new plans to be part of the solution to old and troubling issues of inequality and injustice in our society!
A new day is upon us and we need the guidance of the Master. Only our Creator can give us the wisdom… to know when and how we can take on a cause as a new ministry. And, likewise, only with the wisdom which comes from God, can we come to understand those things we cannot take on – nor can we, currently change! Only by following the will of God, made know to us through prayer and thoughtful reflection, can we know when to take-action, and when we need to simply act responsibly and use restraint, praying and seeking God’s input for further clarity.
Our future is that empty sheet of paper, we writers struggle with. Knowing what first though or action to take is often the hardest to overcome. All those centuries ago, the writing of the book of Genesis was daunting to be sure. But there was a first sentence, put to parchment and written down, and a beginning was made. Thankfully, the concept of God and who God was understood to be was written down. If not, where in history might the first words have been documented? Where would those of us who have followed, without this early input into how the world came to be, where would we have turned for the answer? We each ought to be personally grateful for the book of Genesis. If we had waited for science to begin explaining how we came to be and what the purpose of life is, well, one might shutter, to think about it. Let us not put our understanding of life in a test tube. Surely, life has far more meaning than that! It is much better for humankind to have a mystical Deity whom clearly, loved the vision of our existence to discuss and debate, then to only have a formula or an explanation of an atom, or our understanding of the effect gravitational pull has on humankind to discuss.
Today is our opportunity to consider what we envision tomorrow will look like. Let us pray that vision comes from an understand of the concept of God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth. The God of love who envisioned humankind with so much love we were created equally, in God’s own image, both male and female.