Good Beginnings

September 2nd 2018 Sermon by Pastor Galen Zook

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17).

Today we begin a new series on the topic of Creation, with a sermon entitled “Good Beginnings.” The psalm we read in our Call to Worship (Ps. 72:18-19) proclaimed that the whole earth is filled with the glory of God. The female songstress in our reading from the Hebrew Bible  employed lush images of nature to expound the many virtues of her Beloved (Song of Songs 2:8-13). And in our reading from the New Testament, James says that “every good and perfect gift” comes from God.

If you’re familiar with the biblical account of Creation, you know that when God finished creating the world, God said that it was “very good” (Gen. 1:31).

And it is true that there is so much goodness and beauty to behold in the world. If you’ve ever been out away from the lights of the city and stared up at the starry night sky, if you’ve ever wandered through the woods or a perfect, crisp clear morning and heard the birds singing sweetly in the trees, or if you’ve ever looked down from the grandeur of a lofty mountain or sat by a babbling brook and felt a gentle breeze, then you too have probably said, My God, how great thou art!

The beauty and complexity of creation points to the fact that there is indeed a Creator, and the care, concern, and creativity with which God created the world assures us that God does indeed care about us.

Now, we know that not all is good in the world. There is evil, and pain, and suffering. There is sickness, death, and destruction. And we’ll dive into those realities later on during this series. But this morning we want to reflect on the beginnings, the origins, the fact that God created the world to be a good place. And we want to reflect on the role and responsibility that God has given to us in caring for God’s creation.

You see, part of the mission of the church is to tell the world about God. So often we think in order to do that we must use words alone. And yet, the Psalmist tells us that “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1). 

Our Role and Responsibility

So, one of the ways that we can tell the world about God is by taking care of God’s creation, because creation itself declares the wonders of God!

Think about it for a moment. If creation points to the Creator, and if creation reveals various aspects of God’s character, then wouldn’t we want to preserve the environment so that future generations have the opportunity to behold the wonder and majesty of creation, and therefore be led into awe and wonder of our Creator?

What this means, then, is that part of the task of the church (and of individual followers of Christ) is to take care of God’s creation. That means that recycling an aluminum can, preventing toxic chemicals from going into the ocean, or caring for an injured animal can be as holy a task as preaching a sermon or giving someone a Gospel tract! As Christians, when we care for the environment, we showcase God’s creation and help others see and experience God’s good gifts.

In fact, if we look further into the Genesis account of creation, we see that part of our original purpose as human beings was to care for the earth. In Genesis chapter 2, right after God created the first human being, God planted a garden (called the Garden of Eden), and “God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15).

The Value and Dignity of Work

Tomorrow is Labor Day, the day that we celebrate the worth and value of work. And so, it’s fitting to note that in the Bible, work was part of God’s original plan. Work is supposed to be one of those “good and perfect gifts” that James talks about that comes down from above, from the Father of Lights. Depending on how much you love your job you might normally think of work as a curse rather than a blessing! But God intended for us to do work that was creative, and meaningful, work that furthers and extends God’s creation, work that showcases and highlights God’s wondrous qualities.

Now the reality is that the work that we so often have to do is tiresome and toilsome, and so often we cannot see it contributing to a greater purpose. But it’s important that we remember that in the beginning, God intended work to be good. And even when the work that we are required to do may not seem to have a greater meaning or purpose, God is still able to bless and multiply the work of our hands.

What’s even more fascinating is that God, the God of the Universe, is not above doing work. In the first few chapters of Genesis we see God doing the work of creation. The Bible says that “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work” (Genesis 2:2). It also says that God formed man from the dust of the ground, and planted a garden.

We see God’s willingness to get down and dirty mostly clearly in God sending Jesus to earth to live among us. In the communion liturgy that we’re going to read later in our service, we will be reminded that Jesus was a carpenter, and that he gathered fisherman, activists, and wealthy businesswomen. Jesus delegated tasks and “empowered all his followers to do his divine work in this world.” Ultimately, Christ did the work of salvation and redemption, to free us from the bondage of slavery to sin and to make it possible for us to be raised to newness of life through Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross.

Friends, this morning as we remember together Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection, tomorrow as we celebrate the value and dignity of human work, and throughout this month as celebrate God’s good gift of creation, let’s remember to worship the One who created all good things, including work. Let’s remember to give thanks to the One who gave us these good gifts. And let’s remember that part of our calling and mission and responsibility as individuals and as a church is to preserve and protect God’s good creation so that all may see and experience God’s love, mercy, and grace.

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