Wednesday, March 9, 2022

First mid-week Lent sermon - First Article - Gen 1:1-31


Mid-Lent 1

                                                                                      First Article

                                                                                      Gen 1:1-31



          “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven an earth.”  The First Article of the Apostles’ Creed is very short – it’s only twelve words long.  But what it encompasses is mind boggling.  It is confessing the truth of God’s Word that God is the Creator of everything – heaven and earth – the entire cosmos.

          The First Article is, as we find in our text tonight, also the first verse of the Bible: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” In Genesis chapter one we see that God creates through the power of his Word.  He says, “let there be,” and there it is.

          Genesis chapter one and the First Article of the Creed establish a very important starting point that separates the biblical worldview from much of what has existed, and still exists today, in human thought.  It tells us the God is the Creator and creation is what he has made.  There is fixed distinction between them that cannot be bridged.  God and creation are not in some way joined together. Creation is not in any way divine. Instead, God is the Creator who is over his creation. He rules it.  He controls it.  And as we will see, he also provides through it.

          We learn from Genesis one that God made a material creation – a physical creation.  It is a place of land and water, plants and trees, fish and birds, livestock and creeping things.  And we find that in God’s view this material creation is good.  The refrain runs throughout chapter one, “And God saw that it was good.”  And then finally we hear in the last verse of our text, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”  Very good. That’s what God thinks about the material world he made.  God’s word tells us that it is good stuff.

          We see this fact also in the crown of his creation: man.  We hear in our text, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

          Man alone was created in the image of God.  He alone was created to be like God. He was created to know God as God wants to be known.  He was created to live perfectly in tune with God’s will – his ordering of creation. And created in God’s image, he was God’s representative in the midst of creation.  Man and creation are not on the same level. The world may claim that we are just one part of the big “circle of life,” but we are not.  God gave man dominion over creation.

          God created man as a pairing – he created man as male and female.  We learn more about this act of creation in chapter two when we read, “Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”  God created the man’s body and then breathed into him the breath life.  He made physical body and joined it with what Jesus called the soul.  In the unity of body and soul we are what God intends us to be.

          And then God did more.  We learn that in the midst of what was very good, there was one thing that was not good.  God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”  God created woman from man.  He created Eve from Adam, as the one who perfectly corresponded to Adam. That correspondence was demonstrated in the way they were created for sexual union – for becoming one flesh.  By creating this matching pair God instituted marriage, for we learn in chapter two: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

          This is what God did as the Maker of heaven and earth.  But the First Article of the Creed also teaches us that this was not the end of God’s creative work.  Instead, God has continued to create.  The writer to the Hebrews tells us about the Son of God, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”  God is the One who sustains creation – who keeps it running and provides through it.  For this reason the Psalmist writes, “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.”

          This means that God is the Creator and giver of my body and life.  The explanation in the Small Catechism says, “I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them.”  Notice how the language is very specific in saying that God has given us our body, eyes, ear, and all our members.  That means the body God has given to me – a body that is male or female – is his gift.  It is how he has defined me and therefore any attempt to reject that body as being the “wrong one” is a rejection of his gift, and a demonstration that the mind is not healthy. This is a condition that we need to address in love and support as we speak the truth – the same way we would help a person suffering from any form of mental illness.

          As the God who continues to create, God provides us with the things we need for life. The Small Catechism says, “He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have.  He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.”  We are called to trust that God will give what we need to live, even it is not all that we want.   We are to be content with the blessings God gives. Jesus said, Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

          Tonight we consider the First Article of the Creed. Of course, “First,” indicates that there are more Articles.  There are more Articles because while God continues to create and provide, our life and creation itself have been damaged by the entrance of sin into the world through the Fall.  The words of Ash Wednesday last week, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” echo God’s words to Adam.  He had told him, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Now that Adam had done so, God said, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

          And the damage caused by Adam’s sin was not limited to us.  Creation itself has been warped and twisted by sin.  St. Paul told the Romans, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

          During the season of Lent, we are preparing to remember again what God did in order to provide the answer to sin, death and the fallenness of creation.  When sin entered into the world bringing death to us and corruption to all creation, God did not walk away from what he had made.  It was no longer very good.  But rather than abandoning it, he did something incredible.  He himself entered into that creation as the Son of God was sent by the Father to be conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.

          God showed that he still considered our bodily existence to be very good, because the Son of God himself had a body as the One who is true God and true man. As Paul told the Colossians about Christ, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”  Jesus Christ came as the second Adam.  Because the holy and just God punishes sin, Jesus died on Good Friday and received God’s judgment against sin. St. Paul told the Romans, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.”

          Our sin brought death for Jesus.  But Jesus the second Adam passed through death in order to kill it. On the third day – on Easter – God raised Jesus from the dead.  He rose with a body that can never die again. The resurrection of Jesus began the transformation in which we will all share.  Paul told the Corinthians, “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.”

          And this saving action is not limited to us.  Instead, in Romans Paul says, “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” He identifies the return of Christ and our resurrection as the time when this will take place

          God will give us bodies that can never die again. He will give us a creation that is renewed in which to live.  He will make all things very good once again.  And this will all take place because of the events we are preparing to remember.  It will because Jesus Christ suffered and died in his Passion on Good Friday, and rose from the dead on Easter.
















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