The Twenty-First Sunday After Pentecost
Scripture Reading: Genesis 1:1-2:3
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formlessand empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good,and he 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.
6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it.And it was so. 8 God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry groundappear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.
11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so.12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.
14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night,and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.
20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.
24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
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 earthand 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.
2 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
- Genesis 1:26 Probable reading of the original Hebrew text (see Syriac); Masoretic Text the earth
Sermon: “The Blessing of Creation”
Let’s start with a little movie quiz. I’ll show you a famous monster, and you tell me its name. I’ll give you bonus points for naming the film in which each character made its debut.
1. Count Dracula Dracula, 1931 Bela Lugosi
2. Frankenstein Frankenstein, 1931 Boris Karloff
3. Freddy Krueger A Nightmare On Elm Street, 1984 Robert Englund
4. Gill Man Creature from the Black Lagoon, 1954 Ricou Browning
5. Graboid Tremors, 1990 —
6. Pale Man Pan’s Labyrinth, 2006 Doug Jones
7. The Blob The Blob, 1958 —
8. The Phantom The Phantom of the Opera, 1925 Lon Chaney
9. The Xenomorph Aliens, 1979 Bolaji Badejo
10. Wolf Man The Wolf Man, 1941 Lon Chaney, Jr
We started with monsters this morning because that’s where a lot of Ancient Near Eastern creation stories started. As they tell it, creation was a violent, bloody mess. Gods battled other gods or, in some cases, killed a monster and then built the universe out of its dismembered corpse.
The first creation story in Genesis is nothing like that. There’s only one God, who is in complete control. God speaks, and things happen. Creation unfolds in an orderly, yet wondrously extravagant, way.
We still live in the creation that God called “very good.” Our lives, though, are full of the chaos that God beat back in the opening verses of Genesis.
Everyone has his or her own way of coping. Here is one solution—the Pause Pod, on sale now, I might add, for $79.99. Its inventors claim that it will “save you from the chaos of modern life.”
We can try hiding in our very own personal, portable cave, but freedom from chaos comes only as a gift. The same is true of creation itself, a gift we don’t value nearly enough, heedlessly throwing away something precious.
Not long ago, a man in Phoenix went into a Goodwill store and came out with a $35,000 watch, one of only 900 such timepieces ever made. Goodwill’s asking price was six dollars. Let’s hope he gave them a donation.
Charlie Lang who promises his server Lynn half of his winnings from the lottery ticket he just bought.
Charlie wins $4 million, equal to almost $7 million today. That’s when the chaos starts. As in Genesis, though, a new creation and a fresh start eventually appear.
Charlie had no clue what that ticket was worth when he shared it. His true test of character came when he won. Will he keep his word? Tune in soon to see!
Genesis tells us that God knew the value of creation and shared it with us, anyway. What we do with that gift—well, that’s another thing.
Here’s how the NRSV translates God’s charge to a newly created humanity:
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
Here is what a newer translation does with the Hebrew:
God blessed them and said, “Bear fruit, increase your numbers, and fill the earth—and be responsible for it! Watch over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things on the earth!”
Why the difference? Here’s what the translators say:
[W]e were created in God’s image—that is, to be like God. Surely the idea of stewardship and caretaking, not violation and destruction, is inherent in [our] calling.
Caretakers or exploiters—which one we choose to be depends on how we see the world, ourselves, and God.
Not everyone worries where God fits in these days. There’s a growing dialogue between theologians and scientists, though, driven in part by those who have feet firmly planted in both worlds.
Ian Hutchinson is a professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT. He’s also a professed Christian. Hutchinson says, “It’s a myth that science and a religious understanding of the world have always been at war…. People believe or disbelieve in religion for much more complicated reasons than just their intellectual ideas.”
Hutchinson warns of the dangers of scientism. Those who follow scientism, he says, believe that, “Science, modeled on the natural sciences, is the only source of real knowledge.” Anything science can’t study, doesn’t exist.
There’s nothing wrong with celebrating the way science helps us understand the natural world. But to say that there’s nothing knowable outside the scope of science is like a fisherman saying that whatever he doesn’t catch, doesn’t exist.
Genesis isn’t about history or science. It’s an ecstatic hymn of joy, wonder, and awe at the beauty and glory of creation. More remarkably still, these verses come from a time when the kind of orderly world Genesis describes didn’t exist for the people of Israel.
The editors of Genesis lived during the exile of God’s people in Babylon. When we read about God pushing back chaos and bringing forth life, it’s not just the story of creation. It’s the story of struggling to remain God’s people in the face of forces trying to undermine their faith and destroy their identity.
The chaos monster still roams among us. It doesn’t go by names like Wolfman, Dracula, or Frankenstein anymore.
These days, it calls itself cancer, unemployment, or a car accident. Sometimes its name is anger, venom, or hate. Sometimes, nameless, it stalks us in the inescapable unraveling of our minds and bodies as we age.
Our hope is in the God who rolls back chaos, not just with words, but in the Word made flesh. The first chapter of John’s gospel sounds a lot like the first chapter of Genesis, and that’s no accident.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness didn’t overcome it. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we’ve seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
God’s light still shines, and the darkness will never overcome it. In fact, it’s when the darkness of chaos is its deepest that the light of God’s word shines all the brighter, that our hope in Jesus Christ most gives us comfort and strength.
We’re to carry that light even further into the darkness—reaching out in compassion, sharing who we are and what we have. We do so conscious of the cost. But we do so even more aware of God’s call for us to free others from the monsters of chaos that pursue them, whatever form they may take, whatever name they may bear.