Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Creation

A Sermon by Bob Ellis
I had a friend who said that we can’t not tell our story.  I believe that is true, so James Weldon Johnson is telling his story in this poem, just as the writer of the version of the story we heard from Carol last Sunday and the writer of the story Phillip read to us this morning.  
THE CREATION
by: James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938)
pastedGraphic.pngND God stepped out on space,
And He  looked around and said,
"I'm lonely -  I'll make me a world."
 
And far as the eye of God could see
Darkness covered everything,
Blacker than a hundred midnights
Down in a cypress swamp.
 
Then God smiled,  
And the light broke,
And the darkness rolled up on one side,
And the light stood shining on the other,
And God said,  "That's good!"
 
Then God reached out and took the light in His hands,
And God rolled the light around in His hands
Until He made the sun;
And He set that sun a-blazing in the heavens.
And the light that was left from making the sun
God gathered it up in a shining ball
And flung it against the darkness,
Spangling the night with the moon and stars.
Then down between
The darkness and the light
He hurled the world;
And God said,  "That's good!" 


 
Then God himself stepped down --
And the sun was on His right hand,
And the moon was on His left;
The stars were clustered about His head,
And the earth was under His feet.
And God walked, and where He trod
His footsteps hollowed the valleys out
And bulged the mountains up.
 
Then He stopped and looked and saw
That the earth was hot and barren.
So God stepped over to the edge of the world
And He spat out the seven seas;
He batted His eyes, and the lightnings flashed;
He clapped His hands, and the thunders rolled;
And the waters above the earth came down,
The cooling waters came down.
 
Then the green grass sprouted,
And the little red flowers blossomed,
The pine tree pointed his finger to the sky,
And the oak spread out his arms,
The lakes cuddled down in the hollows of the ground,
And the rivers ran down to the sea;
And God smiled again,
And the rainbow appeared,
And curled itself around His shoulder.
 
Then God raised His arm and He waved His hand
Over the sea and over the land,
And He said, "Bring forth! Bring forth!"
And quicker than God could drop His hand.
Fishes and fowls
And beasts and birds
Swam the rivers and the seas,
Roamed the forests and the woods,
And split the air with their wings.
And God said,  "That's good!"
 
Then God walked around,
And God looked around
On all that He had made.
He looked at His sun,
And He looked at His moon,
And He looked at His little stars;
He looked on His world
With all its living things,
And God said, "I'm lonely still."
 
Then God sat down
On the side of a hill where He could think;
By a deep, wide river He sat down;
With His head in His hands,
God thought and thought,
Till He thought, "I'll make me a man!"
 
Up from the bed of the river
God scooped the clay;
And by the bank of the river
He kneeled Him down;
And there the great God Almighty
Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,
Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,
Who rounded the earth in the middle of His hand;
This Great God,
Like a mother bending over her baby,
Kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay
Till He shaped it in His own image;
 
Then into it He blew the breath of life,
And man became a living soul.
Amen. Amen. pastedGraphic_1.png

I love the imagery in this poetic version of the creation story.   “God smiled and the light broke.”  “And God smiled again, and the rainbow appeared, and wrapped itself around his shoulder.  What beautiful images.
These stories say to me that we are all part of creation; that we are all related and connected to each other through God who created us.  There are two truths about ourselves that I can see in this story.  
The first is that we are good.   Robin reminded us of that when he preached a month or so ago.  
The second is that we all bear God’s image.   Women and men; children and old folks, rich or poor, Muslims or Christians;                                         we ALL were created in God’s image;   there are no exceptions.
Can you imagine how radical this message was when there were kings and emperors who ruled.  Easy to see them as the ones who were God like because they had the wealth and power.  
But in this story the people who were created in God’s image were very ordinary people like us.  
There was an exhibit at the Seattle Science center depicting the first humans,  Lucy was the name they gave to this first person.
They lived in a garden with none of the things that we consider essential for life.   
Jesus seemed to underline this when he noted that the Creator loves every sparrow and wild flower, and so how much God loves every person.   
Every woman, man and child is Good!
Every person in every culture has value!
Every person bears the image of God!   and that is Good.!
But, that is not the only story.  There is a second account of creation, which many of us believe is a much older story.  In this account the possibility of “not so good” enters the story.  In this earlier account  the early author says that there are two trees in the garden.  The first is for Lucy / or Eve and that first man to enjoy; the tree of life.  What a beautiful image - it suggests health, growth and all that we think of when we talk about being fully alive.
But they are not to eat fruit from the other tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When we eat from that tree we gain knowledge.  As we gain knowledge it is possible that we can begin to think that we are God and can judge parts of creation - which by the way God has called good.  Brian McLaren suggests that God’s judging it always wise, fair, true, compassionate and restorative. But our judging is frequently ignorant, biased, retaliatory and devaluing.   So, he writes, “When we judge, we inevitably mis- judge.”
Think about some ways we begin to think of ourselves as God. 
(When I was younger and new in the ministry, I thought that I should be able to reach every one;  and that obviously wasn’t happening so I became depressed.  Doctor Hurley, The psychologist I saw asked me “who ordained you God?”  —— We talked about that, and my life started getting better. (I still work on that, but it begins to get easier when I realize that I am not in control of every thing and I just have to be the best me I can be.)
(And sometimes we do that as a church; begin to think we are God and we have to appeal to everyone.  We wring our hands when someone disagrees and leaves)  There are a lot of differing answers to that.  Kathy is  helping us work out who we are; “I think, hope, that the slide showing the finding from our survey is showing now.”   as we know who we are life becomes easier for us to do what we can to make our world a more friendly place.
When we eat from that second tree we are in danger of judging that which God called good, as evil.  We may begin to see those people who are different than we are as not God’s people.  
So the second creation story is challenging us as human beings, who constantly face a crucial choice.   Will we eat from the tree of life; aliveness so that we continue to see and value the goodness of creation.   Or do we eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and thus tempt ourselves to play God and judge and then mistreat our fellow human beings.
It is a good and really a beautiful thing to bear God’s image; but it comes with some responsibility.
We may decide to use our intelligence to be creative and generous, or to be selfish and destructive.
We may choose to use our physical strength to be creative and generous, or to be selfish and destructive.
We can use our sexuality to be creative and generous, or to be selfish and destructive.
We can use our work, our money, our time and other assets to  be creative and generous, or to be selfish and destructive.
Think about your hand:
 It can make a fist, or it can reach out in peace.  (And even a fist can be used as a peace full offering, as in a fist bump; which is good when we are worried about spreading germs)    
It can hold a weapon or it play a piano or violin.
It can be used to point in derision or it can reach out in compassion to help others.
It can steal or it can serve.
If the first creation story is about the gift of being human, the second (or older) story is about the choices we all live with every day.  
It seems to me that to be alive means to live with the image of God.  
To be fully alive means to stretch out our hands and take from the tree of life and aliveness  --  and thus to join with God in creative and healing work.

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