When is the last time that you sat in the early morning and watched the sun come up? It really is remarkable – it begins in darkness and slowly all around the sky begins to lighten and the darkness begins to fade. And sometimes if you look towards the east, you notice that the light is a bit more intense and gradually over the course of a few minutes you realize that it is no longer dark, and the day has arrived. It was dark, then it wasn’t – the light came, and a new day began….
I wonder if on that first day of creation whether that was how it happened too?
Darkness…..Chaos….nothing……and then – ever so slowly….gradually….eventually….in God’s good time –light — order — life…..
“and there was evening, and there was morning, the first day.”
We are people who like special effects or big shows or big bangs of creation as it were – but I wonder – of that Creation moment – when light came into the world – whether it was not so much a show stopping…..sunglass wearing …..glorious display of blazing, blinding light — but instead …the Creation moment was a series of moments where darkness faded and light emerged and creation started …. The beginning….the start of all things.
- Out of chaos, God creates order
- Out of darkness, God creates light
- Out of nothing, God creates life….
“In the beginning 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 waters.”
Many biblical scholars believe that this particular piece of scripture was written down when the Israelites where in exile after being conquered by the Babylonians. While this lets us know that this is not the oldest scripture in the bible, the ones who set the scriptures in order choose this passage as the first for some other reason. I think that they did this because this is the kind of beginning that we as human beings need, it is the foundational piece of how this world came into existence and how intrinsic the very existence of life is to our God. “It is the most important kind of beginning, a story showing God staring down chaos and making beauty. Because when the world feels like chaos, when we find ourselves trapped in the formless void, the empty waste of loss or grief or despair, when God seems to us to be nowhere…in that time when we are desperate for a new beginning, we have this story. We have a creating God who reshapes the chaos into order, even into beauty.”
This story of Creation reminds us that beginnings are not a one time – it is not a ‘been there done that’ type of moment, but instead beginnings are a continual everyday occurrence – as frequent as a sunrise – for who does not need a new beginning every once in a while?
Our world could sure use a new beginning right now – does it not feel to you that somewhere along the way we have really gone off course – my goodness! what times we are living in! Hundreds of civilians died in Nigeria when Boka Haram rampaged a city indiscriminately killing anyone in sight, most of the victims where woman, children and the elderly because they could not run fast enough out of the way. Gunman shooting cartoonist sitting at a table during a weekly meeting – believing that they are doing God’s work – taking hostages in grocery stores, in God’s name, death, destruction and general mayhem and fear in all parts of the world brought about by people who believe that they are doing what God would have them do. Children being killed in schools, customers being taken hostage in coffee shops, planes falling into the ocean, deadly diseases consuming countries, shifting weather patterns and more and more extreme weather – wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could stop it all right now and start again from the beginning – back when God spoke into the chaos and order came – when God spoke into the darkness and light arose – when God spoke into the nothingness and life began! And there was evening and there was morning – and all was well and wonderful and good. What a wonderful and completely unrealistic dream – but a new beginning does not mean that everything as it is stops and things return to a simpler time – God instead works in the world as it is bringing new beginnings in the midst of this crazy mixed up world we live in.
Our scriptures confirm this – today story for instance – John and Jesus and the Jordon River – John comes as a result of world gone crazy – so much like today – the Jewish people are being oppressed and controlled by their Roman conquerors – there is corruption and chaos – the governing bodies are violent, greed is rampant and the powerless are being exploited by the powerful. This is the world that John comes to – these are the people that John is ministering to – by shores of the Jordon – John marches his followers into the water and the chaos of their lives is washed away – although the chaos of the world remains the ones in the water are transformed and darkness becomes light and God gets in and a new beginning occurs.
Jesus comes to this place….Jesus whom although we heard all about his birth and his dedication as an infant and a journey to the temple as a young boy – that’s all that was recorded about his pre-baptism life. This moment, though that is about to occur at the Jordon…this symbolic water ceremony about to be performed by John – this Baptism – is an incredibly significant moment in Jesus life, an incredibly significant moment for the world. For from this moment – things will never be the same again – this is the beginning of Jesus ministry – this point in time – as Jesus is immersed in the water – the Spirit descends and a voice, the voice of God names and claims this man as his own
- my son – God says –
- Beloved – says God –
- and to top it off…you please me well says God …
- and this is before he has done a thing.
And it begins – the next three years of Jesus life – which is all the healing and the teaching and walking and the talking and the challenging words and the holding the culture accountable and seeking justice and resisting evil and offering forgiveness and then there was the miracles and the eating with the destitute and the prostitutes and the sharing of the cup and the breaking of the bread – and finding friends to walk with him – and making enemies of the authorities. And ultimately there was death but God was not done – and the last word was not spoken – and again light out of darkness, life out of death – a new beginning
In three short remarkable – incredible years that changed every single person who had contact with him and ultimately changed the world. Jesus came to the Jordon and the world began again…and just as before there was order in the chaos — there was light in the darkness — there was new life.
This is our truth as well. There is not one beginning – there are many, many, many beginnings
Those places and times in our lives when things get out of control and darkness and chaos ensues
- When sadness and loneliness takes over
- When we lose a beloved partner
- When our financial ends no longer meet
- When our dreams die, or fade or seem impossible
- When our children disappoint us
- When our health fails and the darkness comes
- Or when hope fails and we know despair
And there in the midst of that mind numbing void through the chaos of the circumstances – there in the eastern sky, the black turns to grey – and the light comes and God gets in.
And this new beginning could be:
- As simple as a babies cry
- As gentle as a spring rain that washes away the winter snow
- As tender as a pair of arms holding you in the midst of your pain
- As quiet as a whispered idea that comes to make sense of a confusing situation
- As generous as a loving heart that calls from your past reminding you of your place in the world
- As silent as new idea that sparks in your mind and lights the fire of inspiration that carries off in a new direction
- As unassuming as a congregation holding you safe as you walk through a dark night of your soul
In the first congregation I served in Blind River there was wonderful faith filled woman named Ilona. She turned 80 on my first Sunday there. She was an assured confident woman who knew what she was about and knew what she believed. In 2003 she became ill, and had to be hospitalized. It was during the SARS crisis, and the hospital in Blind River handled this situation by locking everything down – no one was allowed to visit – doctors and nurses were gowned and gloved and masked handleing every patient. Ilona was very sick during that time, and for a while they thought she was dying. When I spent time with her afterwards, she shared with me what it was to live in the hospital when contact with people was so limited and sterile. Her family was not even allowed in to see her. What I will always remember about my conversation with her this time for her was a learning time – as she lay in her hospital bed contemplating death and faith and life – it was for her a new beginning for into this time came God in a way that she had not experienced God before. Her life shifted and God got in and she began again.
New beginnings are not complicated or exotic or rare – they are ordinary life moments as common as anything – occurring all the time…Because this is who our God is – brings order to chaos, light to darkness and life from death.
Every day we have the opportunity to experience a new beginning or two. Our God is at work in the world
- and the Spirit of God hovers over the chaos of your life –
- and calls you by name
- and calls you beloved child
- and blesses you
- and the light comes – and you feel beloved – it is a new beginning!
And I promise you – because this is the promise that is inherent in our scriptures, this is the promise that is intrinsic to our faith – because this is God’s promise to us – I promise you that this moment will come…
The Creator will stare down into your nothingness until there is something beautiful – Our God is a creation God who shapes chaos into order and nothingness into beauty each and every day, and into each and every new beginning.
Beginnings happen each and every day, in every sunrise, in every life, in every body – and God is in all of that telling us who we are – whose we are – calling us beloved – calling us his children. Thanks be to God. Amen and Amen….
 Rev. David Lewiki: A Sermon – January 8, 2012