“…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…”
Scroll down for a YouTube version of this sermon
Our reading from Genesis
was the Reader’s Digest abridged version —
chopping out the step-by-step creation
of a domed sky,
microbes and plankton and hairless dogs
and so skipping all the way
to the part we like best: Us.
I did that because it is quite awkwardly written
and repetitive —
and if you are like me,
there is only so much we can hear
and still listen to.
But we have a grand sweep today
from prehistoric Earth
all the way to the moment
Jesus disappears for good — at least
for now and as far as we know.
Then if we take the next leap
from Jesus’ departure
to Trinity Sunday 2023,
we have a vast expanse of time
from the human perspective,
and we can see the theological theme
of this human story.
and what God creates “is good.”
It is good, good, good-good, good, good, and good.
That is six “goods”
except that Wednesday for some reason,
Maybe because God was anticipating hump day.
Anyway, the human story begins
with a good creation
and good human beings
made both male and female
in God’s image —
which can only be good.
And then the story turns.
A tare or weed — an invasive species —
somehow got sown into the good creation
and bad stuff started happening.
God tried again,
wiping the chalk board clean
and stared over with one family.
But doggone it,
the same things started happening.
God decided to let it play out
and see what happened.
Then God decided to intervene
here and there
and pretty soon everywhere.
But the Earth became a hot mess
because of those humans —
the ones who were created in the divine image.
(Hmm, think on that).
Anyway, God sent some messengers
but they were ignored.
So finally God sent ‘The’ Messenger
and he was killed.
Finally, finally, God imparted the breath
that began it all — the wind that blew
over the face of the waters.
It was as if to say,
”Need guidance to do better, folks?
Open yourself to that wind —
it blows where it will
but you can catch wind of it.”
And that pretty much brings us to now,
at least from the perspective
of the Christian theological story.
I left out some details
but the theme is there
bleeding through time.
Theologians will argue
about whether God got it wrong
or intentionally wanted us to work harder
at being good. And they
will argue about all kinds of things
when it comes to that final Messenger
and whether he got it right
and whether or not he’s coming back
to finish the job.
But still, the outline of the story
I just told
is the basic narrative
It is interesting to me
how true it is.
I do not mean factual,
as in God really did thus-and-so.
But I mean true
in that it just about wraps up
the human experience.
We have this exceptionally magnificent
creation — stunning
From the exquisite interdependence
invisible to the undiscerning eye,
woven into its most elemental fabric of the universe,
to the big vista values of oceans,
mountains, and stars,
this creation is good, good, good-good, good, good, and good.
Then, when it comes to the human beings
and like to hang out with,
we think, “hey, human beings are pretty good.”
But take a couple steps
outside the front door
and we don’t have to go far
until we meet those “other” human beings.
”They’re not so good,” we think to ourselves.
”God, why did you create ‘them’?
Can’t you fix them?”
And then, before we know it,
Russia is bombing Ukraine
and competing generals pit their armies
against one another in Sudan,
George Floyd is suffocated
and children massacred in Uvalde.
On top of that
the magnificent stunning Earth
is beginning to show signs of wear and tear
and carbon loading.
And now we beg for divine intervention again,
and for that Messenger to come back
and make things right.
The story we tell
is actually the one we are living out.
Which came first, the story
or the experience?
Our story includes the imagined solution
named in today’s ending of Matthew’s gospel.
”Go out and make all nations Christian
and baptize everyone you meet.
Oh, and don’t forget to obey
everything I told you.”
So the history of Christianity
is the colonization of the Earth
as far as empire could reach,
whether they wanted it or not.
But as for doing what Jesus commanded,
not so much.
Even after all this time
we are still back at square one.
and the creation
is good, good, good-good, good, good, and good
but we are something less than good —
and everything God and we have tried
hasn’t worked to make us any better.
So what are we to do in 2023?
Do we need a new story?
Is there a story out there
that will make us better —
that will help us to become
part of that good, good, good?
Frankly, I think our traditional theological story
is just fine, but it depends upon
how we frame it.
I think of it this way:
We were created good, not perfect.
We were never intended to be perfect
and the Earth is not perfect either.
There are things that happen naturally
that do not create
the optimum situation for life
and that in fact, bring about extinctions
even without human beings.
We were created good
and with the ability to discern
between good and bad.
That is a powerful skill,
it’s a superpower even —
one we take for granted
until it suddenly goes missing.
The ability to discern
between good and bad,
to even detail the criteria
of what makes something good
and define what is bad,
is an amazing ability.
How many creatures in the universe
have that power? Not many I would bet.
While we look at the mess we have made
because we know how to be bad
and wish we were only good,
the ability to discern and choose for ourselves
is a gift.
We should never
wish that gift away.
There are no credible stories out there
that tell us how to be only good
because we were not created to be perfect.
Jesus gave us a story
about how to manage our badness
while nourishing our good.
Included in that story
is accessing the resource of that wind
that swept over the waters
at the beginning of creation
in our efforts to manage the bad
while nourishing the good.
It is truly a powerful story
brimming with wisdom
that is as stunning
as the dark dawn
slowly weeping into light.
It doesn’t get us perfection
because we weren’t made for that,
so we should not go looking for stories
that offer perfection — they aren’t real.
I know we feel despair
for the badness we have created
and the badness we have been saddled with,
but despair is a filter we choose
not one that we are condemned to wear.
As the poem says,
darkness is part of our story
and its has its own wisdom to reveal,
and so we must not insist
on only the light of day.
We must navigate the darkness
as somehow part of the good.
Well, that is enough story-telling
but let’s remember,
the story we tell matters.
What story we tell to ourselves
and to others
So across this vast expanse of time
that we have traveled,
from the beginning
when we were created male and female
in the divine image
all the way to Uvalde,
our task is to manage the bad
while nourishing the good.
As Jesus prayed, we are to create
a new and holy kingdom
as it is in heaven.
But remember, if we ever get it built
it will be good