Friday, November 13, 2009

Sermon of October 3-4

The Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost
October 3-4, 2009
Text: Genesis 2:18-25

Dear Friends in Christ,
This text that we have before us is an extraordinary text for a wide range of reasons. First we must say that this text is pure Gospel. Many will say, what? How can this be Gospel? There’s no mention of Christ’s death for the forgiveness of our sins. Yes, that is true, but you must remember the definition of “Gospel”. Gospel is those good and gracious things that God does for us. God created us, for us. He didn’t have to do this. But out of love for something that only existed in His own mind, He made that thought a reality. I think most human beings, would consider this a good thing. We rather like the fact that we exist.

This text, like many parts of Scripture, in order to be rightly understood, must be placed in context. In this case, the Scriptural context is straight forward. The language used in not terribly difficult. Jesus confirms a literal understanding of this text in His teaching recorded in the Gospels. But the secular, historical context is very crucial indeed. Why was it important to include the story of creation, and the creation of man in particular, in the Bible? What was happening in the world that made this necessary? There were several things. First is how creation came to be. In the pagan world, the original god, by a sexual act, created the other gods. Then by their sexual relations, they created the world, animals, humans and such. Thus, the universe came out of the sexual organs of the gods. Often, the gods hated creation. Man could only advance by pitting one god against the other. In contrast, what do we read in Genesis 1 and 2. God spoke and it was. Creation comes from the mouth of God. Even the quickening of man comes from God’s mouth. We read that God breathed into man the breath of life. In this we must see God’s Word being poured into man. For how do the Scriptures speak of God’s Word? They say it was breathed out by God. The whole idea of breathing and breath, of course teaches us the involvement of the Holy Spirit in creation. Further, God shows His love in that He created man in His own image. Man is to be a reflection of who God is.

Now, as we noted above the pagan gods often are portrayed as hating creation. But what do we read in our text? “It is not good...” Let’s focus on just those words. By these words, God is expressing His attitude for man. He desires man’s good. He does not desire bad things for man. There is a simple word for this attitude. It is called love. God loves mankind. God loves His creation. He want everyone and everything to be happy and content. He shows this in two ways.

God calls Adam to Him. This would have been the pre-incarnate Christ, probably appearing in human form. He instructs Adam to examine the animals and name them. Why does God do this? Because man is to be the gardener. You God loved His creation so much, He didn’t just let it run like a clock and if kept going fine, if not oh well. Rather God created man to care for the world. This is a charge that we still have. But the Christian view of the environment is very different than the environmentalist view. Man cares for the world, but the world also serves man by providing for his needs. Further, we as Christians would argue that nature is in an degenerative state. Man’s intervention helps to preserve and balance nature. So, for example, the environmentalists will say that we cannot clear out trees and underbrush from the forest, since that is a natural process. But in leaving these things, we leave behind the fuel for horrendous forest fires. It would be a very proper and Christian thing to clean out the underbrush to restrain fires. We are managing nature and making it better. Even in places where great damage has been done, man’s intervention can restore nature. In a certain mountain range, out west, virtually all living things had been destroyed by the toxic run off from a copper mine. One man was determined to restore the natural order. Conventional wisdom was that the soil was so acidic, nothing could grow. But this man found plants that would grow in those conditions and made it his mission to restore tens of the thousands of acres of wilderness. Some years later, the man’s story became well known, and forestry companies donated material and equipment. Today the area is as lush and green as it ever was. So man was created out of God’s love for His creation, to be it’s care taker.

But for man, there was no one like him to be His companion. Again we must look to the pagan world. In the pagan world man and woman were viewed to be different creatures. It was as though a dog had to breed with a cat to produce offspring. In short, women were not considered to be human beings. They were considered to be something only slightly above the animals. Thus female infants were unwanted and abandoned. But what do we see? Woman was taken from man. She was created to be the companion and compliment of man. And man was to care for woman above all the creatures, for she also was created in the image of God. This is the concept of headship. The husband it to be the head of wife. By this we don’t mean lordship or dictatorship. Rather man was to serve woman by seeing to her needs, even as she served man. This of course would work out in its fulness in marriage.

We must of course note that this perfect relationship between man and woman does not exist today. When man fell into sin, Christ stated that there would be striving between man and woman. Man’s relationship to nature changed as well. Nature was no longer benign, but there were wild beasts who feared man and who would harm man. Further, nature became cursed, and thus, even more in need of man’s care. Yet, in spite of anything that man does, we know that this world will come an end. It will not survive. This too is a mark of God’s love. He will not allow the curse of sin to continue forever. But this world will be replaced. Heaven is a new Eden, a new world, without sin and death, without corruption and without the curse. Here we must then turn our eyes to Christ. For it is Christ’s death and resurrection that begins this process of renewal. He starts the process by taking away our sins and giving us forgiveness and life. His death and resurrection give Him perfect dominion over all creation. And He uses this dominion to renew and restore. And finally, at the end of this world, He will create that perfectly redeemed and renewed world, that is promised to us in the Scriptures.

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