Sunday, 15 June 2014

Sermon for 15th June 2014.


Sermon for 15th June 2014. The Revd. J. Michael Povey at

St. Boniface Church, Siesta Key, FL.

Genesis 1:1 – 2:4a;

 

I preached here on Trinity Sunday in 2010 and again on Trinity Sunday last year. It’s getting to be habit forming. 

But since, as a result of my sermons you are all convinced Trinitarians (!) I will pass over that piece of dogma today.

Many of my family members are devout and devoted Evangelical Christians. I am greatly impressed by their passion for the Lord Jesus Christ and their subsequent commitment to the poor and needy.  We have recently spent some good and gracious time together.

One of those evangelicals, a nephew and his wife have adopted two children. One of them is a sweet lad who has particular needs, arising from what we loosely call autism.  His adoption arises from a special form of sacrificial love on the part of my nephew and his wife. 

My oldest sister is also a very fine evangelical Christian. The Baptist Church she attends ministers with people from 27 nations. Her life and witness puts many liberal Christians to shame.

We were recently in Norway and as we rejoiced in the splendid beauty of a snow capped mountain and its decent into a fjord she said “How can anyone see such beauty and not believe in God?”

We’ll re-visit my sister and my nephew in a bit.

There are many creation myths and stories in ancient and contemporary cultures and religions.  They are not to be taken as literal or scientific; instead they are stories about the ways in which human beings understand themselves in the great scheme of things.

The bible itself has two quite distinct and separate creation accounts.

In the creation story we read today there is no Eve, no Adam, no God walking in the garden of Eden during the cool of the evening, no talking serpent, no banishment from Eden.  

This version is poetic, even in English. 

There is the repetition of “there was evening and there was morning a second/third/fourth day”, and there is the refrain which we heard it over and over again.  “It was good, it was good, it was good, it was very good”.

The story affirms the goodness of creation..  There is no original sin here.  There is original blessing

The purpose of the story is made clear at the end. We read that “God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation”.

We may be permitted to smile at the idea that God was so exhausted after creating all that is, that she had to take a day off. 

That smile apart, we see that the story is not so much about creation; it is much more about the establishment of the Sabbath as a day of rest. There is one day which is to be blessed above all others.

We can imagine a young child asking her mother “why do we have to keep Sabbath?”  Mum replies with a story – our story – one in which God rested on the seventh day an indication that God intends his creatures to take time out from toil.

There is another line in the story which calls for our attention. God says to humankind "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish……etc., etc., etc.”   

“Having dominion” is problematical if we take it to mean that humans have absolute and unquestionable rights over all creation.  But if we remember that the world over which humans are to have dominion is God’s world and not ours, then “dominion” comes to mean taking care of creation on behalf of God.

(We are God's Viceroys for creation  -  an ad-lib at the 10:00 service)

For you see, creation as we know it is not complete. The work of completion is to be accomplished by evolution, and by human activity.

It is utterly consistent with the biblical record to assert that God is not a magician in the sky who brings all that is into being in six days.  Genesis 1 is a story!

It is also entirely plausible to suggest that God’s creative grace is seen in evolution.

We know from our own experience and from Scripture that God is a risk taker.

Over and over again God takes the risk of using flawed and fallible humans to bring about forgiveness, mercy and salvation.  Our freedom of the will is God’s risk.

I suggest that God has given all creation the same freedom to grow, to develop and to evolve.  That freedom brings with it the chance that things can go awfully awry, as when a tsunami or an earthquake causes great devastation. 

It also brings the chance that lovely children can be born with chromosome deficiencies as is the case with my great-nephew. 

I rejoice that his bodily deficiencies bring forth a super abundance of love and care from his parents and his little sister.

When my dear sister said: “How can anyone see such beauty and not believe in God?” , I answered yes. Not because I believe that the beauty of the world gives proof of God’s existence, but because such beauty evokes in me a trembling sense of awe and wonder. 

I would add that “natural beauty” is often made more beautiful because of human activity.  
The groves of fruit trees near the town of Flam on the Sognafjord make the lower hillsides lovelier.
A small grass-roofed cabin perched halfway up the mountainside, or a simple Fjord-side harbour creates a gorgeous perspective which adds to the beauty. 
I am not willing to give all the credit to God!

The time with my family on a lovely cruise ship to Norway was a Genesis chapter one experience.

First it was the privilege of an eight day Sabbath. It was a time away from being busy, from cares, from troubles, and from fretting about all those matters which we cannot control.

Second it was a time to experience a sense of awe and the beauty of the world – God’s creation, nature’s evolution, and human skill.

Third it was a time in which we deepened the love and care we have one for another.

It was good, it was good, it was very good.

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