Sermon – Creation

Oops, I forgot entirely to set the video camera up this morning, so there is no recording of this sermon, I’m afraid. I did not realise until well into the service that the camera was not there. It is perhaps time to think about gathering a team of people who could be resonsible for dealing with the camer and posting the sermons to the web.

Anyway, here is the text that I was preaching from. I went a little off-piste as I caught sight of a badger which was high above my head, but that can happen to anyone. No?

In the name of God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Amen.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I realised that it was 20 years since I went off to be a theological student. It is incredible how time passes. I can scarcely believe that two decades have passed by, not least because the first few days – freshers week and all that are still very vivid in my memory. I can remember in particular the opening lecture which lasted for 90 minutes and at about minute 85 I realised that I had not understood a single thing than had been said.

I can also remember my first theological tutorial. Fourteen or fifteen fresh-faced freshers sitting around a large table with someone whom we believed at the time to be very learnèd and important. It was that horrible time when you neither want to appear too clever nor appear too stupid. And you can’t in fact work out which would be worse.

Lectures were one thing – you can keep quiet and try to look intelligent. At tutorials though, you had to speak. And I remember exactly how this one went. The learnèd and important one introduced himself and said that as we were there to study theology which means talking about God, that was what we were going to do. We would go round the room and everyone was to say what they thought God was like. And off we went one after another.

And, as each person spoke, the learnèd and important one nodded in a sage manner and murmured a very affirmative yes. And we moved on. A nod. A murmur. Another student’s offering. A nod. A murmur and on we went.

Only it became more and more apparent as we went around the room that the nodding was continuing but the murmuring was not. And by the time it came to my turn it was clear that the Great One had in fact nodded off.

Nothing at school prepared you for that moment. No-one takes a higher or an A level in tutorial etiquette. So we looked around the room and shrugged to one another and just carried on talking.

We carried on around the room and someone started to speak of God as the Creator. At that, the nodding one woke with a start and said something which I’ve never forgotten and which I always think about when I’m thinking about God as Creator.

“Yes,” he said, “God is Creator and we are falling upwards with him into Eden”.

It was one of those moments that you don’t forget – for in the space of 10 words or so, he had completely upended and overturned everything that I thought I knew about the bible, about God, about creation and for a first seminar in theology, that’s not a bad hour’s work.

And that is my starting point when I think about Creation now.

There are many stories of creation in the Bible – we’ve listened to one of the classics this morning, but we must not forget that it is immediately followed in Genesis by one from another tradition entirely which is all about Man and Woman and how they inter-relate. And then there are bits of creation myths in the Psalms and in the book of Job, as indeed we heard last week.

I realised when I had that experience of listening to someone else’s that we need not think about creation as something that God set in motion a very long time ago. I realised that how we think of creation need not necessarily be a world view at war with Darwinism. I realised that the early pages of the book of Genesis were a description of how those who wrote them saw their place in the world just as Darwinism is the story that we tell to describe our place in creation. The impetus to tell these two stories is the same.

In the story of Adam and Eve, they tell us about how they saw men and women interrelating and in the story of Cain and Able, how they named the murderous rage that inhabits people when they feel their offering is not acceptable to God. And in the story of Noah, how they described a relationship with the natural world in which God wants us to be heroes and gather up and save creatures that are facing destruction, from annihilation.

And I saw that there were ways of reading the bible that were exiting and vibrant and hopeful. And these ideas started to form in my mind. And I saw them. And it was very good.

It is that way that I read the creation story now. As a description – a glorious poetic description of the world that we now inhabit. A world we live in. And a world in which we carry something as sure and as certainly as though it were written into our DNA.

The thing we carry through the world is our own creativity. Our own sense of play, spontaneity, and capacity for change is surely the kind of thing we are talking about when we reflect on the creative nature of God.

The creation myths of Genesis provide something of the context for our worship in St Mary’s. In the murals above and around the altar there are depictions of scenes from Genesis. Over and above everything there is the heavens. On my right there is God’s hands plunging into a watery chaos to begin an act of creation and bobbing around on the water there is Noah’s ark sailing along with all kinds of endangered species safe within it.

And on the other side there are Adam and Eve being expelled from the Garden of Eden by some kind of environmental disaster. They are depicted with a power station behind them – crowding them out of the garden.

And at the heart of that whole drama is the table of the Lord. The place where we offer things in thanksgiving. The place where we offer bread made from the wheat of the fields and wine made from the bounty of the vineyard. The place where we offer our money – symbolic of the work that we do, asking that our own creative will might be blessed and hallowed and sanctified. And as we approach the table, we remember that it is the place where we offer ourselves. Created beings, creative creatures.

Every Eucharist we celebrate here is a thanksgiving Eucharist. That is what Eucharist means. Every Eucharist is celebrated at a table of offering. At every Eucharist we are surrounded by reminders of creation and offered the chance to offer thanks, to offer praise and to offer ourselves.

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