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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

Balancing Order and Chaos - 06/11/2017

You may notice our sermon text today is a generous portion of scripture. So, I'm approaching it a little differently. I'm not going to make you stand through it, for one thing. I've also woven the sermon in with the text, so I'll be going back and forth between the biblical text and the sermon.

Our text is the first of our two creation stories in Genesis. It is a story that lays the foundation for our identities as people of God and, for us Christians, students of Jesus Christ. Many cultures and religions also have creation stories that are important to their identities.

Often these stories of where we come from and how, are characterized as myths, a word that is sometimes interpreted as something that is false or untrue. But a myth is better understood as a  poetic story through which we start to gain a basic understanding of the world in which we live and our place in it.

Our creation stories set the stage for the awesome and beautiful and powerful work of a God who got all this started. A God who continues to be a creative force in all that is and will be. The story tells us that God took great joy and delight in transforming a chaotic void into the skies and the seas, the stars and the land and the great torrent of living things throughout creation. Amazingly, in that great variety of creation, it is us who are created in the image of this magnificent Creator. Our Psalm today reminds us of the humbling nature of that being part of this creation. “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” (Ps 8:3-4) But God does care and God choses us, partners with us to provide live-giving care of creation. Trusts us enough to work by our side in that care giving. “Yet you have made them a little lower than God,” the Psalmist continues, “and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands.” (Ps 8: 5-6)

So today, let us dive into the swirling love story of how the hand of God brought life to this beautiful creation and all that is in it, including us. A love story that culminates  and continues in God coming into creation in the person of Jesus Christ, for the redemption of the people. A love story that continues in the Holy Spirit, – gift from God, given to accompany us in the order and the chaos of our earthly lives.

A Reading from Genesis, Chapter 1:

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 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.

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

We often think of God bringing forth this creation from nothing. But that's not really what this creation story tells us, is it? We may not be able to wrap our human brains around what the formless watery chaos was. We may not be able to see this with our creature eyes. We may not be able to touch it – discern its texture and temperature. But God can and it is God alone who is able to create order from this formless watery chaos.

And God starts this work of art by speaking it – “Let there be light.” It's no mistake or coincidence that the beginning of the Gospel of John mirrors Geneesis and starts with the creative power of Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God.” All that is, seen and unseen, from that first light to our Redeemer Jesus Christ, to the ongoing action of the Holy Spirit, was seeded in that first Word of God – “Let there be light.”

And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

And God saw that it was good! Many biblical scholars talk about this creation story being more then just a story you heard or read, but rather a liturgy where everyone participated. A narrator would read the story of creation and when it got to the refrain – And God saw ...  that it was good – everyone would join in. Let's try it with that last part about God bringing forth our crops, vegetable gardens and orchards … I'll be the narrator …

Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw   …   that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

OK, so now you know your part for the rest of our swirling love story.

….  As we move through the story of how the universe came to be, we begin to understand that this is God's story too, and God finds joy and satisfaction in these acts of creation. 

We mirror God in this way. Perhaps you can relate to this joyful satisfaction when you think about how you feel when you've helped someone out or gotten to the end of a busy work week where you got a lot done – maybe you put a good dent in your in-basket or your to-do list.

If you're a student or teacher or administrator just ending the school year, maybe you can relate when you think of the joyful satisfaction that comes with feeling good about how the year went, what you learned, how you grew as a person, even some of the harder lessons that came your way.

I know I felt it when I got done making dandelion jelly a couple of weeks ago. I haven't made it for probably 20 years. But every year I thought about it. You have to use the first dandelion blossoms of the season, which means the window for making this jelly closes as soon as those blossoms get mowed or poisoned or go to seed. I missed the window for years – until this year. And now I find so much joyful satisfaction in this accomplishment that I confess to you that sometimes I stand in front of the shelf where the jelly is stored and just look at all the jars, so perfect and orderly and full of that jelly that tastes like lemon and honey and sunshine … and I think, this is good.

It's that feeling that comes when you've made a difference in this vast creation and the effort you've put forth is somehow life-giving for others and yourself.

OK, ready, here we go …

And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw   …   that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw    …   that it was good. God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw    …   that it was good.

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 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.”

God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

God saw everything that he had made, and indeed,    …   it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

In this swirling love story of our beginnings, God works to counteract all the chaos with order – chaos is controlled or manipulated, but it's not eliminated. The fact that it's not eliminated implies that when God finishes bringing order to creation and says “it was very good,” that “very good” includes the chaos. It seems the balance between those two is precisely God's intent. Built into the very fabric of creation is this tension between the order God created from the chaos that continues to look for ways to upset that order. It is in that tension that the stuff of life is born.

Being created in God's image then, it's no wonder we too are constantly working to create order out of chaos. We see a broken window and we want to fix it. We see someone struggling and we want to help. We sometimes have to check our own impulses to hoard or control or even abuse or overuse the abundant gifts of God's creation. Or we have to remind ourselves that it's good to unplug from all our order-restoring work and rest. It's one way we show that we trust that God's creation will continue without our help as we recharge our batteries for the next six days of restoring order where chaos has crept in.

But even when we do honor the importance of weekly Sabbath, I think we can still get so fixated on pushing back the chaos, that we lose sight of the fact that chaos was included in God's  “it was very good” proclamation. Again, we may find it a real challenge to wrap our human brains around that idea. It seems to work against our instinctual understanding of what it means to live as co-creators on this planet – to keep the chaos at bay, to bring light into darkness.

But, without chaos a seed couldn't burst through the soil in the spring to provide the wheat and grape we use for our Holy Communion today. Without chaos a child could not be born. Without chaos we could not open the earth to fashion the cradle of a grave  for our brothers and sisters who have gone to their eternal home. 

Without chaos the tomb of our Savior could not have been flung wide open in his victory over death. We would not be the Easter people we are today, steeped in the teachings and love of a God who so boldly and lovingly came to us in this ultimate act of creation.

And it is in the aftermath of that chaos of the tomb that we receive our Great Commission in the gospel of Matthew today: Go out and make disciples of Jesus …

…. in the name of the Father who balances order and chaos, who created us in God's image

… in the name of the Son who came to bring balance to the chaos of our sin and teach us to obey God's law by loving God and one another

… and in the name of the Holy Spirit who goes on the Way with us, rejoicing with us in our joyful satisfaction and sometimes bringing that necessary element of chaos into our blind spots and complacency.  

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

Word of God. Word of Life.

Pastor Ann Gonyea

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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~ contact@edenonthebay.org

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