St. Thomas Evangelical Lutheran Church

3800 East Third Street

Bloomington, Indiana 47401

(812) 332-5252


Sermon for Holy Trinity Sunday (June 19, 2011)

Liturgical Color: White

Reverend Doctor Lyle E. McKee


Order from Chaos

Grace to you and peace from our loving God, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Does it seem to you, as it does to me, that things are falling apart? Weather events of historic magnitude, fires burning up hundreds of square miles, floods of major and minor rivers, the Arab Spring, the expansion rather than contraction of wars, a possible double dip into recession—all serve to make me feel disoriented and a bit unsure of what the future holds.

Even at home, our projects have turned nearly everything upside down. We have chosen to expand gardens and to have most of our roof replaced to prepare for installing solar panels. The recent winds have multiplied our work in removing downed trees, making piles for the shredder and saw mill. Our yard is an unholy mess. The world, and our own small part of it, feel as if they are in a state of chaos.

Into these circumstances, we hear the good and encouraging words that begin our Holy Scriptures:

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.

God is revealed from the outset of this holy book to be a creative presence in a chaotic universe, bringing order and purpose. Here too, in this first chapter, female and male are created in tandem, in partnership, in joint expression of God's image:

So God created humankind in God's image, in the image of God were they created; male and female God created them.

We so often hear the stories of Adam and Eve in the second and third chapters that we forget that the first record of human creation sets no order, priority, or particular roles to the sexes.

More to my point this morning, we have before us in the first two verses of Genesis one of the most profound passages in Holy Scripture. I would like to offer my own translation:

Not the typical:

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.

But rather:

When in the beginning 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.

The shifting of that single word "when" gives the flavor that I have come to see with fresh light this week. The "when" is not only about the creative act, it is about the circumstances of the creative act. God comes into chaos in order to bring pattern, focus, purpose, and creative, playful structure. When the earth and the universe were a mess, God entered in and cleaned it up. But more than this, God sees within the chaos potential for some neat stuff to happen; indeed God desires creatures who can share in the wonderful creative, intentional, and artistic energies that gave God such pride and glory in these moments of purposeful play.

Isn't it great to read of our God perusing these works, puffed with pride, and spouting spontaneously, "Hey, this is good!" "Cool." "Wow." "This is awesome." .And it was good!.

If you read it with that kind of child-like glee in mind, you can see the excitement build as God's creative juices get flowing. First light, then a place for the seas to be gathered together, then land. The air suggests an environment for various things that fly. With the sea comes a place for yet other kinds of creatures. And with the land before God, the possibilities for vegetation, fruits, seeds, and land-roving animals open themselves up. Each step leads to the next and builds on the previous. God really gets into it!

God experiences joy in the creative act.in the work of bringing order from chaos.

I find this a refreshing and satisfying truth in the face of the chaos that reigns in the world today. Part of the precious value of faith is that we believe in and know a God who is constantly at work among us to bring order from chaos.

If we see this particular work as proceeding from the first person of the Trinity (this is Holy Trinity Sunday after all) then we might imagine a larger meaning here.

We know a God who brings order from chaos in at least three ways, represented by the persons of the Trinity. The first, the Creator, transforms the disorder of the universe into an ordered and beautiful place that expresses a profound system, whose principles and laws continually reveal themselves to us through experience and experiment.

The second person.the Christ—represents a different type of transforming power. Our Lord coaxes the chaotic forces of sin into submission. When we're mired in the muck of life's bad choices, Christ brings the chaos of sin into the order of salvation. God made the one who knew no sin to be sin so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21) and ambassadors for Christ.

And the work of the Holy Spirit might be summarized in similarly simple terms. The Spirit brings direction from despair. The Spirit takes our tendencies to turn in on ourselves, to give up, to whine, and to despair and fortifies our sense direction.

The Spirit is the champion, intercessor, the advocate, helper, comforter, inspirer, and more—reminding us that we are not alone, that life is precious, that there is always hope, and that our lives are meant to mean something. We have purpose, direction, and mission. Go therefore. Make disciples. Teach. Share the grace, peace, mercy, forgiveness, and love of God.

The combination of lessons we hear today from scripture, I believe, is trying to help us to know deeply that when life serves up chaos, God is there cooking up something tasty, working with us to bring order—through every means at God;s disposal, as Creator, Liberator, and Advocate.

Of course, the work of each is not exclusive. There is direction, meaning, and purpose even in Genesis. From the beginning, God views us as partners in the work begun in God.

And in the end, there is a profound desire to share. God was having such a blast that it could not be contained. The advent of human beings generates excitement and opportunity. Here are creatures who can engage in their own creativity.

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."

Then, with obvious pride:

"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...."

We're given both mission and strength for mission. We are to be creative co-creators with God, continuing the work started in the beginning of time. And we are to use the world productively and carefully to make provision for its further advance through time.

I.d like you to hear again those first two verses—in my very slightly altered translation:

When in the beginning 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.

When in our lives there is chaos, God comes to bring order. And more—pattern, focus, purpose, and creatively playful structure. And still more.comfort. When God brought the world out of the void, God also swept over it with the warming presence of a wind on the face. And yet more again—we are commissioned to do likewise—to be creative, to bring comfort.

Part of the transformation of our lives from chaos into order comes from our vocation—our place as creative partners with God. Our own work has value when it mirrors God's creativity, bringing order out of chaos, and making things that are good.

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 he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

I think this story may be read as a series of brainstorms. God says, "Let there be light," and there is light. God separates the light from the darkness. The Lord behaves like a benevolent boss, giving the orders, "Let the earth put forth vegetation"..."Let there be lights in the dome of the sky"..."Let the earth bring forth living creations of every kind"...and all these creations come into being.

God works like a cosmic craftsman, making the sun and the moon, creating the great sea monsters, forming the wild animals of the earth, and finally making humankind in the image and likeness of God. God is so pleased with us that we are given the creation into our personal care.to tend and to till.to have dominion, not to dominate.

Notice here that humans are immediately given work to do. Work is not a cursed activity; it is intended to be instead a blessed activity. Work doesn't need to be the enemy. People aren't meant to slug out 40 or more hours a week, just waiting until retirement, so that then they might experience God's creative intentions.

Detective story writer Dorothy Sayers argued that work should be thought of "as a creative activity, undertaken for the love of the work itself." And the human, "made in God's image, should make things, as God makes them, for the sake of doing well a thing that is well worth doing."

Sayers contends that work "is not primarily a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker's faculties, the thing in which (one) finds spiritual, mental and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which (one) offers (one)self to God." (Leland Ryken, "Approach to Work and Leisure," Context, June 1, 1998)

And so, where we experience chaos in our lives, we are called to work with God to bring order out of chaos and to make things that are good.

Wherever there is chaos, God comes to bring order and opportunity through the powerful presence of Creator, Liberator, and Advocate. But also through work, mission, and ministry. As God's spirit moved over the face of that primeval chaos, so will God sweep over and redeem the chaos of our lives and my yard, and we ever pray, the chaos of our world. Amen.

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord, unto eternal life. Amen.

 

 

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