11 September 2016
Fall Kickoff Sunday
And so here we are … today we begin our nine month “more active” church schedule, on this Fall Kickoff Sunday when we “rally” once more, to begin and celebrate the ministries of Christian Education, to gather together in worship once more after, perhaps, being away for some or all of the summer.
We have some of the usual events happening this morning … maybe you’ve gotten your car washed on the way in … we’ve installed teachers and blessed backpacks … and after worship we hope you stay for brunch downstairs, and hear all about the ministries and activities which are beginning once more for this year.
Ah, but there is one thing which is different today.
The Scripture text we just heard, and read … it is different because it, too, starts us out at the beginning.
Today we begin our journey through the Narrative Lectionary. Yes, during the summer, we used the “summer text series” of the Narrative Lectionary, with focuses on 2 Corinthians, Job, and the Lord’s Prayer.
But today, we start this first four-year journey through a different Sunday morning way of reading the Bible. In the Narrative, we don’t have three or four somewhat related readings – one from the Hebrew Scriptures, a Psalm, a letter of Paul, and then a Gospel text. Instead, in the Narrative, we’ll have one large reading and most of the time (though not this morning), a shorter Gospel reading to accompany it. The lengthy reading will follow the Narration of God’s story, for his people, starting in Genesis and going through the New Testament.
And our start today – on this starting out day for so many things – comes from the starting out point of God’s story with, of, for creation … in Genesis chapter 1. It is the conclusion of the first story of creation; the story of the creation of humans, as well as God setting aside the Sabbath day of rest.
Now – before we get any further – let’s establish this ground rule from the beginning – we will not enter into, be about, the “usual” beginning, in receiving this text. Meaning, the “usual” fight over it … are you a literalist, and believe that this is a literally true story of creation, the world came into being a little over 4,000 years ago, dinosaurs are a fiction of the devil designed to draw us away from faith, and so on … OR … are you an allegorist, this story is simply myth, a way for tiny little human brains to understand a cosmic concept so large that we could never get it …
No … today, here, hear the Word that we will be Lutheran in how we receive, and understand, this text … hearing, receiving, the For You in the text … meaning, we will set aside this argument for another time … (personally, I hope for All Time), and instead, engage ourselves with this question: What is the Word, the Truth, For Us, here, in these words, literal or allegorical?
There are two such words for us, here, today.
First, hear, receive, the Gift … the Utter Joy … in these words.
When God says, “Let us make humankind in our image,” and the text continues,
So God created humankind in his image,
In the image of God he created them;
Male and female he created them …
These are words of great joy, of generosity and the fullness of God, overflowing, out of God, into US.
It is in our very DNA, each strand of our human fabric, to be “in God’s image.”
We are created to be blessed, and to be generous; caring, loving, welcoming people, “in God’s image.”
This is so important to remember.
Because we’ve so often skipped over this part of the story, and headed right to God’s charge to people; you see it there, the charge which goes
Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.
We’ve taken subdue and have dominion to have the ultimate place in this story – and have forgotten the created in God’s image part.
To the detriment of the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every living thing that moves upon the earth.
And to our own detriment.
On this 15th anniversary of 9/11, we have a clear and sobering illustration of this … as this creation, this world God has created, and we humans, created in God’s image … in so many ways, we’ve spent the past 15 years moving backwards into the primordial chaos from which God drew creation in the first place …
… terrorist attacks and murders, wars, rumors of wars, refugees and the displaced … and nations … most certainly our own … peoples, people, full of fear … living in hate, and separation.
We have strayed so, so far from God’s good and gracious will for us.
So here we see what our twisted, sinful appropriation of subduing the creation and having dominion over the creation can, and have, gotten us.
And so the For You of this text, The Story, drives us right into repentance … personal and corporate, congregational and national, worldwide … repentance, for taking the gift of God’s good creation, and being created in God’s image … an image of blessing, of generosity, of welcome and love … and twisting it to our own whims and ways. We repent … we repent …
Create in us clean hearts, O God, and renew a right spirit within us. Do not remove us from your presence; do not take your Spirit away.
For we see, all around us, in the emptiness and the chaos, the hate and the fear we have made for ourselves, what life without God’s Spirit would be like.
Restore to us the joy of your salvation, and sustain us with your Spirit.
This is our plea, our cry, our hope and our prayer … to regain the Joy of being created in God’s image … male and female … equal and sharing, in all the blessings our God so wants to give us.
And there is one more Word For Us in this text …
And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
The Word is REST. REST and enjoy and appreciate all that God has done for us …
The generosity of creation, the providential gifts of life and living …
And YES, the gifts of repentance and forgiveness, to which God calls us through Jesus the Christ.
You may have noticed that I haven’t specifically mentioned Jesus in this Word this morning.
Ah, but Jesus is here … Jesus is here, most certainly, he’s right there in the words of creation we just heard:
Let us make humankind in our image …
And who else would OUR be but God in Godself, the eternal love and life that gave his Only Son, so that no one would perish, but all might have life … full, rich, everlasting?
And right here, we hear that the key to that life … full, rich, everlasting … is REST.
REST … which includes all of these …
Worship … gathering on this seventh day, to praise, and pray, and receive God’s good gifts for us, through God’s Word … through the water, and the bread and the wine … and through the gift of the presence of each other …
YES … each other.
For REST also has this unspoken … but very much present … Word about it, of a generous appreciation of all that God has done for us, and given us, and shared with us to share in this life.
In other words, REST means simply enjoying and giving thanks for all the gifts God has given to us, as well as giving thanks and enjoying the gift of each other.
Now, we know we haven’t done too well with the first part of that business of REST … but I’d also put forth that we haven’t done too well … as God’s people, as Lutherans, as Northwest Washington Synod of the ELCA, as Faith Lutherans … we haven’t done too well with the second part of that business of REST either.
Simply, being happy … generous … loving … welcoming … people of God. Who enjoy and love each other … and that love spills out of us like it spills out of God … rich, generous, overflowing … as God’s love flows into us, so God calls forth that love to flow out of us into this world God gives, loves and saves through Jesus.
And so, once more, we are drawn back …
… back to repentance …
… back to God’s forgiveness …
… back to living with and for one another …
… because …
Our God has a heart full of mercy and compassion, and God forgives you all your sins.
Forgiven … and freed … to LIVE again … to risk, to share, generously, graciously, lovingly … our very selves … our selves, created in God’s own image … to LIVE with JOY, and to call others into that JOY which is the wish and will of God … for us, and for all God’s beautiful creation.