Dr. Steve Lindsley
(Genesis 1:1-2:4a)

This week, Rebecca and I are beginning a summer sermon series titled, “God’s Creative Connection.”
We’re looking at passages in the Old Testament book of Genesis – a book of beginnings, and thus a
book of creation of all sorts. There is method to God’s madness in Genesis; there is a purpose for
the way this story unfolds.

In fact, I’ll let you in on a little secret – that purpose, ultimately, is connection. Connection
of God with God’s people; connection of God’s people with each other. You and I were created to be
with each other; we were created to connect with God and with each other. And the need for that
connection – the need for relationship, the need for fellowship – has become clear to us in light
of the past few years with the pandemic and all that came from it. One might say the need for
connection has been made even more evident with recent happenings on the world stage and even in
our own country. In the absence of creation we find disorder, disconnection, chaos, brokenness.
What might God’s creative connection be saying to us now?

I invite you, then, to hear selections from the first and second chapter of Genesis, the story of
creation as understood through the lens of our faith. Beloved, listen to this:

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 face of the waters.
It all begins with four simple words:
In. The. Beginning. God.
When nothing else was, when life as we know it was future-bound, Before rocks and trees, before
people, before oceans,
Before things like hope and light and pain and love, Before all these: nothing.
Not you or me, or buildings or budgets or football, Not Gods of our own creation,
Not presidents or movie stars,
not countries or governments,
Not anything we’ve come to know, save one:
In the beginning, God.

This is our story of Genesis:
A narrative of beginnings –
Not just of a world, but of a people.
Cosmic getting personal!
This is our story of Genesis:
Not questions or theories;
not graphs or charts or diagrams,
But relationship, God and creation waiting to be birthed.
In the beginning, God.

And God was indeed busy!
Unsatisfied with just being there, Our God had a plan!
An empty canvas ripe for a masterpiece;
A “formless void” – unproductive and worthless,
Like a stagnant pool of water stranded in a sea of asphalt.

And God took that void and embellished it with creativity, Surely smiling as God did it.
Because as awesome and powerful and wonderful as God is,
As many plans as God had swirling around in the divine mind,
God was alone.
Longing to enjoy
the forthcoming masterpiece with someone.

And so it started.
In the beginning, God. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and
God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness God called
Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Not with the wave of a hand, Nor the wink of an eye
Did God begin God’s masterpiece.
Not with the nod of a head
Did God summon forth the created order.
God spoke the world into being!
A word, a single word
Voiced into the formless void,
Clear and intentional, carefully crafted: God knew what God was doing.

For words bear in them great power To build up and transform,
Or to tear down and destroy.
Words we speak to one another,
face-to-face or behind one’s back, Words we write down and spin into narrative,
Words we leave in the comments and chat rooms, Words we craft into legislation and court opinions:
Words matter.

Our God chose to create with a word: Communicating not just a thought,
But speaking into existence a living, breathing reality.
Words matter!

So God spoke it: LIGHT!
And with that word, the darkness, the absence, the nothingness,
Shoved aside like the turning of a page.

Night and day, both part of the plan,
The order that God was setting in motion, All with a single word.

What can YOU do with a word?
What can you create – or destroy – With what you say?
Do you bring light into the world around you,
Or do you shroud yourself and others in a cloak of darkness?

Create something new this day with the words you choose.
Use words that, like on that first day of creation,

And God said, ‘Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from
the waters.’ So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters
that were above it. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was
morning, the second day.

“Separating waters from waters” – Something only God could do!
A creating, living, dynamic, connecting God with a plan.
Only God could take chaotic waters Sloshing around in the emptiness,
And give it something like structure and order.
Waters that, as Yellowstone and India and Bangladesh and Columbia and Turkey and Chile1
learned all too well in this month alone, Bear the potential for tremendous destruction.

And yet God still those waters
Crafting it into domes above and below.
And in so doing, creating something new out of what was already there.
The very first recycling!

And so now, Sky. Because God spoke it.
Waters above, waters below.
Clouds of white of many shapes and sizes, Suspended on a backdrop of azure blue.
“Heavens” God named it. A home for angels.

And the object of wonder from those below, gazing into its infiniteness.
Marveling at the universe beyond
And the God who assembled it all With a bold exclamation!

And on this day, as with every day,
God sums up the spirit of creation
With a joyous expression of faith and love, declaring:
It is very good.

And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry
land appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered
together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘Let the earth put forth
vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the
seed in it.’ And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind,
and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there
was evening and there was morning, the third day.

Like waves receding from the shore,
Retreating over the sands of a sunny beach, The waters huddled together,
as if vying for solidarity: Seas and oceans colliding.
And in their absence they leave land behind.
As sturdy and as sure
As the foundation of God’s very labors.
The rich smell of dirt and earth;
The abrasive feel of rock and stone,
The grainy-ness of sand and slate.
Mountain vistas alongside valley plains, Dry dusty deserts, lush rain forests,
Icy frozen tundra,
All brought into being with a word.

And on that land grew life – plants, vegetation Numbering too many to count.
Each one following the lead of their Creator
And taking on the task of creation themselves.
This tree making apples.
That tree growing oranges.
That bush producing berries.
That vine making grapes.
One and all, they take a cue from God And create something of their own.

And again, as before, God says:
It is very good.

And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and
let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of
the sky to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so. God made the two great lights— the greater
light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. God set them in the
dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to
separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening & there
was morning, the fourth day.

The word for “seasons” in Hebrew
Also happens to be the same word For “religious festivals”
Which means that even the very rhythm Of spring, summer, winter, fall,
The sun and Earth
Taking part in their annual celestial dance, Even that is an act of worship!

Like colorful ornaments
Hung on a living room Christmas tree, The planets and stars,
Carefully placed in their positions.
Billions of them,
So many that humanity’s finest telescope Will never see a fraction of their multitude.
Stars near and far,
Guiding sailors through the seas – How amazing
That something so distant could show us the way.
Stars the ancients assembled into constellations And gave names: Andromeda. Gemini.
Usra Major and Minor. Taurus. Sagittarius.
Creation begets creation!

Moon and sun, shining their respective light, Bathing the world in night and day.
Those days turning into months, Into seasons, into years.
How wonderful that one creation would spawn another.
Indeed, as God continues to insist:
It is very good.

And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the
earth across the dome of the sky.’ So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature
that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And
God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters
in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’ And there was evening and there was morning, the
fifth day. And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and
creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.’ And it was so. God made the wild
animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon
the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

Life begins moving!
Not with sheaves of wheat blowing in the breeze Or the tides and waves of the oceans.
But now flesh and blood, scales and feathers,
Filling the domes above and below with motion! And sounds: the song of a bird, the calling of a
The bark of a dog and bellow of cattle.
Creation makes noise!

And all of this, yet another testimony To the order of the masterpiece:
Light needed first, so that earth and heaven could be made, Earth needed next,
so plants could grow in the sun’s warmth, Water to feed the earth,
Plants for the animals to graze.

Everything happens for a reason, everything in its place, Everything in God’s time, according to
God’s plan.

And God bestows upon this day a blessing and a command:
Prosper and grow, reproduce, inhabit!
Fill the seas and the sky with your presence.
Enjoy all God has made for you.
Create forevermore,
Hand in hand with your Creator!

And so it is, as God has already said, Very good.

Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have
dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all
the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God
created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created
them. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘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.’ God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed
that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them
for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that
creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for
food.’ And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there
was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

And then on the sixth, God surveying all that was:
Skies, earth, planets, stars, land, seas, plants, creatures.
It was wonderful and marvelous!
But something was missing.
And so, formed and fermented
In the recesses of God’s intellect,
Long before light was spoken and waters parted

Lay a thought – a beautiful, pleasing dream Of one last act of creation,
A final stroke of the brush. And for this, God would not move outward but inward,
Reaching inside and extracting God’s very image, An inner divine reflection
Of all the hope and promise and beauty; So fragile, yet so full of potential,
So simple, yet so complicated,
So contradictory, yet so complete.
The very likeness of the living God,
Embraced in flesh and animated with Spirit.

And God created us.
Women and men, young and old,
All nationalities, all creeds, all lifestyles, God made us.
All beliefs, or no beliefs, God made us.
Black and white, Christian and Jew and Muslim, Republican and Democrat, Gay and straight,
God made us.

Created to “have dominion” over things, “Dominion” meaning care-ful, not care-less
Not exploiting but nurturing,
Not abusing but cultivating,
Not with arrogance and entitlement, But gratitude and compassion.

One more time, God speaks;
And from his words, you and I join the created family, The very image of God, enfleshed.
It was – it is – very good!

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 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. These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they
were created.

And then, after all had been made,
After speaking into being an entire universe,
God rested and worshiped – the very first Sabbath, Pausing to delight in the joyous gift of life,
Exhaling out and breathing in. And God would command us to do the same.
On the seventh, to rest from our labors,
and soak in God’s goodness and glory In all its many forms.

Because it is good. It is so very good.

And yet – do we see it as such?
Do we echo God’s goodness
Or do we call it something else?
Do we use our words to create or to destroy?
Words either spoken or the ones that fill our minds?

When we exploit our earth’s resources Without a thought for the future
Or for those on the margins
Who feel the greatest effects of our selfishness, Are we calling it very good?

When we fail to speak words of hope and healing To those close to us,
When we choose instead to give voice To harsh and hateful sentiments,
Are we calling it very good?

When we embrace a mindset of scarcity, a culture of apathy; When we manufacture inequality
And use religion to justify it, When we cling to power and privilege
With little regard for those who have neither, Are we calling it very good?

At the root of what ails us
Is our sinful tendency
To take bits and piece of the created order – What God has called good –
And throw it into chaos by foolishly declaring That it is not.

Beloved, what God has called good We must not call otherwise.

What would it be like, we wonder
To choose instead to echo our Creator With words as well as actions;
That resist perpetuating the lie of not-goodness And choose instead to give voice to the truth.

A truth where the entirety of life – not just the beginning of it – Is considered sacred.
A truth where the culture of death and violence Is called out as such
And those who perpetuate it are held accountable.
A truth where confronting tendencies Of uncreation and not-goodness
Is not cynically branded as “wokeism” But understood instead as a faith-filled step
Toward the restoration of God’s created order.
A truth where we persistently insist That love is greater than fear,
That we are made for each other, That everyone is a part of us.

And so we endeavor to always be made new Harmonious partners in God’s great masterpiece,
May we together with our Creator, Behold the wonder before us

And forever speak those words in a voice true and clear, “It is very good!”
In the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, thanks be to God – and may all of God’s people
say, AMEN!

1 https://floodlist.com

* Because sermons are meant to be preached and are therefore prepared with the emphasis on verbal
presentation, the written accounts occasionally stray from proper grammar and punctuation.