Sermon, Second Sunday before Lent
I preached for the first time at my placement church today. I don’t usually preach from a script (I usually work from a system of bullet-points) but I decided to do so today. For anyone who is interested, what I said follows below.
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. Amen.
Good morning! Itâ€™s a great privilege to be here and on behalf of my entire family, thank you for making us welcome amongst you. We are enjoying making our home here while I am on placement and training for the ordained ministry.
My wife and I are very different. They say that opposites attract and we are so different in many ways. When it comes to decorating, we can never agree on colours. We never like the same furniture and I have noticed that when we watch TV, we like to do so very differently.
Whenever my wife sits down to watch a programme, either before the programme starts or as the credits are rolling, my wife will open the telly mag and find out what is going to happen in this weekâ€™s episode before the programme starts. Do you do that?
I prefer to just let the programme play out and let it have its twists and turns as we go along. But my wife likes to know what is coming. She is the sort of person who will read the last few pages of a novel right at the start to check how itâ€™s going to end. For her, if a film or a book doesnâ€™t have a happy ending, sheâ€™s not interested in watching it. Are you like that?
If you are, then todayâ€™s readings are absolutely perfect for you. In our Old Testament reading, we heard from the second chapter of the book of Genesis and the story of the creation of man and woman; Adam and Eve. What you might describe as the very beginning of the story.
For our gospel reading, we heard from the eighth chapter of the gospel of Luke about Jesus asleep on a boat and then calming a storm as his disciples panicked. Jesus Christ, someone you might describe as the middle of the story, the heart of the story even.
For our New Testament reading, we heard from the fourth chapter of the book of Revelation and Johnâ€™s amazing vision of the Throne Room of God. What you might describe as the end of the story.
Our three readings span the course of human history. They tell us where we have come from but encouragingly for my wife and for people like her who want to know how this story of the human race is going to end up, they also tell us where we are going.
So where have we come from?
Well, letâ€™s look briefly together at the reading from Genesis. I am sure you know the story well. In the first chapter of Genesis, we hear an account of how God created the heavens and the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, plants, animals, and human beingsâ€¦ and in everything that He makes, God declares that â€˜it was goodâ€™.
We come to chapter two and whereas chapter one was â€˜big pictureâ€™ kind of stuff, chapter two zooms in and talks in more detail about the creation of humanity. God forms Adam from the dust of the earth, but then God says something curious.
God has created a perfect world. Everything He sees God declares â€˜it is goodâ€™. Yet there is something amiss. Something is not good. In this perfect world, God sees that Adam is alone and declares that this is â€˜not goodâ€™â€¦ â€˜It is not good for man to be aloneâ€™.
God who is himself a community â€“ Father, Son and Holy Spirit â€“ a God who is in relationship with himself amongst the three persons of the Trinity declares that it is not good for human beings to miss out on this sense of community, on this sense of relationship. It is not good for man to be alone.
And so God creates Eve to be his helper. Interestingly, the word for helper here is most often used in the Old Testament of God himself. Itâ€™s certainly not a word for an assistant, a sub-ordinate. In other words, Adam and Eve are co-equals before God; they have the same status before God. As chapter one puts it, â€œin the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.â€ In some sense, as individuals but also as co-partners, as community, in relationship with one another, we reflect the image of God.
So all is well. God in perfect relationship with all that He has made. Adam and Eve â€“ in relationship with one another, and in relationship with the God who made them. God declares that is all â€˜very goodâ€™.
Yet shortly after, something goes wrong. We donâ€™t have time to look at it now in detail but in Genesis chapter 3, they do not do what God had asked them to do. They turn their backsâ€¦ Adam and Eve say no to God. God must, in turn, say no to them. The human race is cut off from God – relationship is broken.
Down the centuries, Godâ€™s declaration echoes: â€œIt is not good for man to be aloneâ€¦ it is not good for humanity to be aloneâ€. It is not good for humanity to be cut off from its maker. It is not good for human beings to be cut off from one anotherâ€¦ broken and alone. Our continual failure to say yes to God repeats itself again and again.
Until one day 2,000 years ago, a child is born who grows to become the pivot around which all human history turns. A child is born who becomes a man and who lives his life as one big yes to God – Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus Christ.
In our gospel reading from Luke we hear about a storm. It must have been a bad storm. Jesus has disciples who are ex- professional fishermen. They have probably seen all kinds of weather before out on the water, but this storm has them worried. Jesus is sleeping but they are so scared, they wake him up, shouting â€œMASTER, WE ARE PERISHINGâ€
Jesus wakes up and rebukes the wind and the raging waves. He doesnâ€™t pray and ask God to still the wind and the storms. He simply speaks the wordsâ€¦ just as God spoke in the book of Genesis to create the whole of the universe including the wind and the water, so Jesus speaks â€¦ and the wind and the waves obey.
Who is this? They cry. Who is this that even the winds and water obey him? Who is this person that lives his life as one big yes to God? Who can he be if he speaks to creation the way God spoke to creation and creation obeys him? Can this man be equal with God? Is he God in human form? If he is God in human form, what does that mean?
Is this God reaching out to us? Coming to us? Reversing all those years of alienation from Himâ€¦
Ultimately, we know from the Easter story that Jesusâ€™ life was lived as one big yes to God and that it ends with his death on a cross. He submits in his life to God with a continual yes, reversing all the years of us saying no to God. In his death, he submits to Godâ€™s no – taking on the wrath, curse and judgement that our profound alienation from God deservesâ€¦ and he reverses it. Our no to God and Godâ€™s no to sin are brought together in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God incarnate -Jesus Christ – fully a human being, and yet fully God. As we say in the Creed, God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God. The only one who could truly mediate and restore the relationship between the Creator and his Creation.
And so we are able to enter in through Jesus and through all that He has done. We are returned to relationship with our maker. We are given the opportunity to have fully human relationships with one another, our broken-ness and alone-ness need be no more.
Awesome, isnâ€™t it?
Wonderful, isnâ€™t it?
That the God who made the heavens and the earth would make the first move. That he would stretch out his arms in love to us and make a way for us to come homeâ€¦ to be all that we were created to be. That really is a God who is worthy of our praise and our worship
And so, at last, at the end of time, we are taken in the book of Revelation into the Throne Room of God where the praise and worship never ceases. The central image of the Book of Revelation in chapter four that dominates and colours the view of all that follows it in that book.
There are lots of weird and wonderful details, strange heavenly creatures. I donâ€™t want to go into those details particularly now â€“ what is important here isnâ€™t the details. What is important here is the overall picture. A picture which shows all creation â€“ angelic beings, strange heavenly creatures, elders, ordinary human beings bowing down and saying
â€œYou are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honour and power.
For you created all things
and by your will they existed and were created.â€
The God, three in one, who spoke and created the heavens and the earth. The God who created all that has been created â€“ including human beings. The same God who sent his Son to live a life fully submitted to God, turning our No into a Yes. The same God who in that person of Jesus, the Son of God, spoke and the wind and waves were calmedâ€¦ speaking to creation just as God the Father had done. And at the end of time, the same God who will see all creation gather around His throne and worship crying
â€œholy, holy, holy. The Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come.â€
Letâ€™s pray together
Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.
Almighty God, thank you that you have been at work in human history since the very dawn of creation. Thank you that in Jesus you have made a way for our no to you to become a yes. Lord God, with all our hearts, we say yes to you and ask that you lead us on until we come to the end of our days and reach the new heaven and new earth where we will join in the songs of worship and praise. Amen.