In The Beginning
| Genesis 1:1-5
|Sun, January 12, 1997
Rev. Ed Searcy
|I remember the birth. "Honey, I think that it is time" she said ... and heart pounds madly as we
race to the hospital. The pain comes like clockwork ... so orderly, routinely yet so full of chaos and uncertainty. She has never felt so out of control ... and I have never experienced such helplessness. The contractions come like waves ... the water breaks ... after an eternity an infant's head appears, eyes closed and lips pursed. For an everlasting second all eyes watch and wait for a sign of life. Nothing. Until lips part, breath is taken, a baby's cry, eyes wide open to the light of day. Soon the word spreads ... to Aunts and Uncles and Grandparents. A child is born ... and all agree that it is good, very good. That's how it is in the beginning. Beginnings are all about newness ... like shiny new year's with their clean slate calendars and squeaky clean resolutions.
Beginnings smell like a brand new car and feel like freshly starched new clothes. Imagine the
smell of a world just begun ... the feel of a world still untouched by human hands. Pristine.
Clean. Immaculate in its conception. Imagine the sight of an infant Jesus in his mother's arms,
rocked gently to sleep ... not yet scarred by thorns or nails. Well, imagine we must ... because our beginnings have long since past.
Our beginnings are now a distant memory. Look at the earth ... ozone depleting, deserts expanding, species disappearing. Look at us ... problems increasing, years diminishing, hair lines
receding! Maybe that is why we so love to sing the carols and dress up the shepherds in their
bathrobes all over again. We love reliving the beginning. Even here. But look. There is
something very peculiar about the beginnings we recall today. On the surface they seem
straightforward enough: the Creation of the world and the first verses of Mark's gospel. Beginnings. Nothing out of the ordinary here. Except that on closer look neither story is about
the beginning ... at least, not the beginning that we imagine. Take Mark, for instance. This, he says, is the "beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ". What is? Baptism is, that's what.
Jesus' baptism in the Jordan, as an adult no less. There is not a word about Bethlehem. Not a
single mention of a stable ... nor an angel or a shepherd ... not even Mary and Joseph. Mark
begins the story with a full grown Jesus joining the repentant throngs who have come to be
baptised. Hmmm. And there is more. Those old familiar words found at the Genesis of our
Bibles ... you know the ones: "In the beginning when God created" ... turn out not to be so
familiar after all. Do the words mean "at the beginning of time" or do they mean "when God
began to go to work on things"? Surely they must refer to the beginning of everything ... to the
original creative moment ... the instant when something came from nothing. But look again. The
Hebrew text suggests otherwise. The story seems to begin in the middle ... in the middle of a
dark, stormy, chaotic universe ... in the midst of a deep and terrifying watery world. God does
not create 'ex nihilo', out of nothing ... God creates out of chaos. The beginning is not the
beginning we had imagined.
So, let's begin here ... with a beginning that comes in the middle of the sermon ... because that is where the beginning is to be found ... in the midst of life. Picture the people of Israel. Imprisoned in exile. Their nation in ruins. Their children forgetting the faith. Their future hopelesly bleak. A people losing faith ... giving up on God. Things are too far gone, the world is too messed up, the darkness is too overwhelming ... any astute person can see that there is no hope. But then, in worship, the people begin to recite a litany: "In the beginning ... when it was stormy and dark ... when chaos reigned ... God began to create ... and saw that it was good". Out of darkness and terror God forms light and beauty, safety and order. Reading these rhythmic words about the beginning is not a recital of how it was in the prehistoric then, so much as it is a statement of faith in how it is in the awfully confusing now. God orders chaos. God speaks and creates. God begins in a world that looks as disordered and messy as this and with lives that looks as troubled as ours.
Notice ... the Gospel begins on the Bible's first page. "In the beginning" God is breaking into the
darkness and messiness with good news of great joy, saying: "Let there be light". But that is not the end of it. Creation is not finished in Genesis. God's Spirit blows over the waters still. Creation continues. We still live 'in the beginning'. This is John's one sermon: "It is not too late for you", he says, "not too late for God to create order and beauty out of your chaotic, messy life. Turn, enter the waters, prepare." Jesus hears and responds ... coming up out of the water he sees the heavens opened, he feels the Spirit's gentle descent and he hears the word: "Beloved". It is the same God at work again ... beginning again ... creating again. The genesis of our life is here ... in the waters of creation that splash in the font. Entering the river ... letting go of what has been ... we are born into a new life and a new world. Open your eyes to the light ... and open your ears to the spirit ... for God sees that it is good.