Saturday, June 10, 2017

In the Beginning, God...

Genesis 1:1-2:4a From beginning to end, the Bible regards God as the Creator of heaven and earth.  The Holy prophets simply assume that the story Genesis tells of God and man and creation is true-- and explains the world as we know it. 
When Jesus taught on men and women and marriage he went back to the first chapters of Genesis.  The Holy apostles did the same. 
For nearly two thousand years the whole Christian church has confessed:  I believe in God—the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.  The Lutheran church confesses the same:  I believe that God has made me and all creatures.  Our own church body teaches that “God has created heaven and earth in the manner and space of time recorded in the Holy Scriptures by God’s almighty creative word in six days and we reject every doctrine which denies or limits the work of creation as taught in Scripture.”
For thousands and thousands of years, to be a believer in God- IS to believe that the words that we have before us in our Old Testament lesson today tell us the truth about God and the world and ourselves.  That truth is what we are considering in our meditation on God’s Word this morning. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Moses wrote:  “In the beginning God-- created the heavens and the earth.” 
Before there was space—before there was time—before there was matter—there was God.  He simply is—and was—and always has been—and always will be.  When Moses asked God his name at the burning bush so he could convey it to the enslaved Israelites, God answered and said:  Tell them I AM has sent you. 
God is not a part of creation as pagans believe—God is not the creation of man as humanists believe—God is the Creator of both the world and mankind—and he has accomplished the creation of all that exists in heaven and on earth simply- by- the- power- of- his- Word.
In six days, God called into existence everything that exists-- such is the power of his Word—and so it still is today.  God’s Word ALWAYS accomplishes its creative and saving purpose.  When God says:  you are forgiven—you are.  When God says:  you are my child—you are.  When God says:  you will live with me forever—you will. 
And so who is this God who simply IS?  Who is this God whose Word always accomplishes its creative and re-creative purpose?  Is he simply an impersonal force in the universe? 
No!  The God of creation is the Holy Trinity—confessed in the creeds of the church—believed in by the hearts of all who will be saved—and revealed in the pages of the Bible from the very first verses of Genesis.  Moses writes:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.  And God said…Let there be light.
The God who IS—the God who is from everlasting to everlasting—the God who created the world—IS the Holy Trinity:  the Father who creates—the Son who is the Word through which the world is created and re-cr4eated in his death and resurrection—and the Holy Spirit who bears witness to it all—One God in three persons, there at the beginning, creating the world—One God in three persons saving the world through the Father’s plan, and the Son’s work, and the Spirit’s witness.  THAT IS THE TRUTH ABOUT GOD.
The idea that the world simply came into being on its own- or that it has always existed- or that it is the product of some kind of random cosmic event- is not found in the Bible. 
The Bible teaches that a personal God of love and wisdom brought it into existence by the power of his word and called it good.  Believers for thousands of years have simply affirmed what the Bible teaches and what we can observe around us.
Only in the last 150 years or so has there been a serious assault upon the biblical doctrine of creation. 
Now, the Bible is not a biology or chemistry or geology textbook.  The Bible does not set a date for creation.  Christians do not object to the idea that a species can adapt to its environment. 
But what we do object to—what we reject out of hand-- is the idea that the world around us is the result of a blind, meaningless process lasting billions of years where trillions of accidents, one after another, somehow all worked out just right for the world that we live in to exist.
That idea is absurd on the face of it and completely different than our own experience-- and everything that we observe around us. 
None of us sits down to our laptop to do our homework or surf the Internet and say to ourselves:  isn’t this machine a marvel what the sands of time and bits of substances have been able to manufacture all on their own.  Ridiculous!  We know that some very, very smart people are responsible for that computer and how it works.  And as complex as a computer is—it is nothing compared to the human brain or the human eye or even the simplest cellular function of life. 
 The story- of the creation of the world- that is told in the first chapters of Genesis- DOES however correspond to what we can observe and know from science:  that we live in an orderly universe—that simple life preceded complex life- that a world for life to live in preceded them both- and that living things reproduce according to their kind. 
The first chapter of Genesis is the story of a mighty, wise, loving God who created the universe and all that is within it and ordered it in such a way that trillions and trillions of events and processes and living things all correspond to one another—moment by moment-- in such a way that life exists- and is supported- and continued.  THAT IS THE TRUTH ABOUT THE WORLD.
The scientific disciplines- and those who work in them- exist only because the first scientists believed in and worshipped the God of creation and knew him to be a God of wisdom and order whose handiwork in the universe could be observed and measured-- and assumptions made on the basis of that scientific work. 
All true science still follows that pattern and when it does not—as with evolution—it is because scientists have abandoned that for which they are trained—for that which they are not trained—and that is theology.  They and all who follow them in denying the Creator have substituted the false god of their own intellect for the one true God and forgotten that they are his creatures.  God said: 
 “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 
            With these words we come to the purpose and pinnacle of God’s creation and that is the creation of mankind—male and female together—created in the image of God. 
We are creatures—not gods—and certainly not the God WHO IS.  Instead, we are living beings, created by God. 
But neither are we merely creatures like plants and animals—for we were created in God’s image.
Almost from the beginning, mankind has rebelled against this truth that we are creatures of God.  Adam and Eve wanted to be their own gods—deciding for themselves what was best for them—and their sin continues to this day with each of us chafing under the yoke of our creaturely-ness.
But mankind’s rejection of God’s created order- and his relationship to man -also goes in the opposite direction—away from claiming divinity for ourselves-- to regarding human beings as merely creatures.
We are told that we are no different—and certainly not any better-- than any other creature—that we are simply animals—at highest point in the evolution of primates to be sure—but in the end, no different in our essence from any other primate. 
Believing that lie is why so many people live like animals--at the mercy of their biology-- with any call for them to live as moral creatures seen as the worst kind of imposition and interference with the slavery they call freedom.
To those in our culture who would raise the human person up to the place of God and make man the measure of all things—the bible says that God is God and we are his creatures. 
To those in our culture who would tell us that we are merely animals at the mercy of our basest instincts, the Bible says that we were created in the image of God. 
That we are creatures made in the image of God IS THE TRUTH ABOUT OURSELVES and that reflected image of God- in man- is exactly what we see in these verses that deal with our vocation as parents and stewards.  The Bible says:
God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  And 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 heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
The love that exists between the three persons of the Holy Trinity was creative and productive—and it resulted in the creation of the world around us and especially the creation of mankind in God’s image. 
That there is a human race is because the Triune God created us as the fruit of his love --to receive his love.  And created in the image of God-- mankind (male and female) become partners with him in bringing forth new life-- to love and care for.
The love that exists between a man and a woman in marriage is —by God’s design and intent—procreative—it brings forth children as the fruit and recipients of their love-- just like God did in creating mankind. 
And the command of God given to mankind in the beginning to “fill the earth, subdue it, and have dominion over it” is our calling to make a world for our children by being stewards of God’s gifts to us-- just as he created a world for us to live in—in the beginning.  The vocation of parents and stewards is one place where the image of God in man is clearly revealed.
These first few chapters of Genesis are not myth—they are not legend—they are not the best story that pre-scientific peoples could come up with to understand their own existence.  They are the truth about God, the world, and ourselves.  

They reveal that there is one God in three persons who created everything that exists.  They explain just exactly how the world around us came into being—as the product of a powerful and wise being.  And they tell us about ourselves—that we are created in God’s image to be people of love who work to create a world of beauty and goodness for those we love.  Amen.

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