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“How did we get into this mess?”

by on October 8, 2014

That’s the question lots of people are asking at the moment. We look at our world, and it feels like things are falling apart. We have homicidal maniacs driving round the Middle East committing daily atrocities. Scares at home about terrorism. We have refugees coming for help and getting locked up, and now we hear about sexual assaults on their children.  We have killer viruses infecting thousands. Every day we hear about people suffering terribly. We have a city full of houses none of us can afford to buy. Our planet seems to be cooking, getting hotter every year. Many people are feeling worried and confused, and wondering ‘How did we get here? What will the future hold for us, for our children?’ What went wrong?

Over the coming weeks at our Sunday gatherings we are going to be asking those questions, and seeing how the Bible answers them. We are going to take a look at the early chapters of Genesis, and see what they say about, what went wrong with our world? How did we get to where we are now? We’re calling the series MADE and DISMAYED: Understanding how it all went wrong.

I’m going to post some of the answers we give, because I think it’s a topic of current interest.

GENESIS 1

Genesis 1 is one of the clearest chapters in the bible, and also one of the most  difficult for us. When we come to it, we want to ask it all sorts of questions.  How did the universe get formed? Was it a big bang? Was it always there? How did life develop? Was it evolution? Or something else? What about the dinosaurs? These are all modern questions, science questions. And we squeeze gen. 1 for answers. But of course this is an ancient text. It’s 3000 years old. People back then were asking different questions.

So we need to come and listen afresh and see what it’s saying to us. And the first thing to ask about Gen. 1 is, why is there so much repetition? And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.”  7 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.  8 God called the dome Sky.

Its unusual to find so much repetition in writing. We don’t write like that, do we? The bible writers don’t usually either. Except there is one place they do. In poems and songs. At the exodus Moses sang.

“I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously;
horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.
“Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he cast into the sea;
his picked officers were sunk in the Red Sea.
The floods covered them;
they went down into the depths like a stone.
You blew with your wind, the sea covered them;
they sank like lead in the mighty waters.

Get the idea? That’s what happens in songs. How many times do we repeat Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had father Abraham?

So here in Genesis 1 we’re not reading a report of events, like you’d get in the newspaper or a history book. we’re not reading an analysis or physical processes like you’d get in a scientific journal. If you ask those sort of questions you won’t get good answers here. What we’re reading is a poem, a song. The song of creation.

In a song you get picture language. Moses at the red sea sang, “At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up.” Did the people really see a huge nose appear, and its nostrils blast out wind? No. Its an image: what we call a metaphor. Songs are full of those. “I was blind but now I see.” Metaphor.

So we come to this song of creation, we’re not supposed to ask questions like “How could there be light before there was a sun?” or “Were the days 24 hours?” Instead, we’re supposed to soak in the wonderful images, and learn about God’s greatness. In fact we’re going to find that this song is more about who than about how.

We’re going to ask, what do we learn about the world, about ourselves? And what do we learn about the Creator?  First the creator:

We noticed there’s a lot of repetition here, and it gives us clues. The important things are repeated: we need to pay them attention. One thing that’s repeated through this chapter is the word “create”. God created the sea monsters. Create is a special word, only ever used of God. No one else in the Bible ever creates. This word does not mean to create matter out of nothing. It’s true God did that, but that’s not what is happening in this chapter. Take a look with me, and let’s ask, What was there in the beginning, before God got going? A world covered in water. For ancient people water represented Chaos. A world of chaos, disorder, evil. Then God creates: he separates light from dark, and land from sea. He shapes the world into a place where life can happen, with seasons and species, ecosystems. Wonderful things spring to life. What’s he doing? He’s creating. It’s a special word for God’s action, doing something new, transformative and lifegiving. That’s what create means.

Meet God! This is the very first thing we learn about God: he is the one who takes a hopeless chaos and brings something new and wonderful and living out of it. Only he can do this. He is the one and only Creator.

And see the power with which he does it. There are lots of creation myths from the ancient world. Telling how the world was made by the gods. Every culture has one. In all the others, creation happens as a battle, a great struggle, blood is spilt. The babylonians said the world was made out of the carcass of the water-god after he had been slaughtered. Creation was a war.

But the Bible’s creation song says something quite different. Look at how God does these immense works. He just speaks, and they happen. It seems effortless. No struggle, no resistance. Overwhelming power. Everything obeys his voice. That is God the creator.

The place where we really see this most fully is when Jesus whole ministry and movement has been shattered, his followers scattered and defeated, his body broken and bled dry, and cold in the tomb. His enemies have won. All hope is lost. Complete disaster. And then God steps in. And speaks and raises up his Son and recreates him and makes him Lord and gives him the name that is above every name. God does something new and wonderful and life-giving: he transforms the whole situation. God once again creates.

In the prophet Isaiah God describes it like this:

From this time forward I make you hear new things,
hidden things that you have not known.
They are created now, not long ago;
before today you have never heard of them,   Isaiah 48

He’s talking about raising his Son to life. God’s new act of creation.

And friends don’t we need to know this God, the Creator? Look around, we humans find ourselves deep in the dung, struggling in a thick mess we can’t seem to get out of. Our hopes for change are so often disappointed. We get stuck in deep holes. ‘The light has gone out’ said Pandit Nehru, India’s first prime minister. He was speaking of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. He could have been speaking for so many in our world, so many that the light has gone out and there is no hope left. Everywhere we look we see darkness rising.

At a time like this, who can possibly bring us new hope? Only the Creator: the one who brought light in the darkness once before. We need the Creator to come and do it again. You read the papers, all the stories are of death and violence. We need the one who makes us hear new things. Things created now, not long ago. Things we never heard before today. The one who says to his son ‘Rise up.’ And who will raise us up too. We need the Creator.

Do you want God to come and do something new and wonderful and bring real change? This is why we worship him and put all our trust in him. We join in this creation song. We look up to God, the one who pushed back the chaos and made life. The one who is doing it again in Christ. And we give ourselves into his hands, and we say Do it here. Do it in me. Create again. Let your spirit hover over me, over our neighbourhood, over our country, and bring new things to life. Have you given yourself into the Creator’s hands?

(to be continued)

From → Bible talks

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