"First Things First"
“In the beginning, God.” To be quite honest, I am tempted to end my sermon right here, and allow you to think the deep meaning of those words. “In the beginning, God.”
What else could be said? What else should be said? What else must be said? Not much, isn’t it?
For here is the thing. From the very beginning we are told that Creation is all about God. God is at the heart of the things that can be seen, those which we cannot see, and even those that we can’t even imagine.
In the beginning, God. And, as St John would tell us, God is not only the beginning but the end of it all – God is the Alpha and the Omega.
Now, there are many theological arguments about what is – if it could be so defined – “Original Sin.”
Let me suggest that, in considering the opening verses of Scripture, a good definition of Original Sin is the effort placed in removing God from the place that He choose for Himself.
Hopefully, we are past the time when humankind invented earthen gods. Physical idols or pottery or even golden images of gods of human invention. We are a civilized nation, isn’t it?
But, let me suggest, the temptation to replace God with something we can manage still is alive and kicking.
Perhaps not physical idols or even high-tech idols but, let’s be honest, more often than not, God is pushed out of the equation or reduced to live in coins or dollar bills.
Even in the Church, the temptation to replace God with doctrine, tradition or even the Bible is well known.
In his sermon in Athens (Acts 17), Paul told his listeners that he had noted a statue to the Unknown God – A god so remote and unknown that even with the aid of the famed Greek artistry, it was beyond them. And so, Paul went on to tell them that such unknown god, choose to reveal himself in Jesus, the God that he was announcing.
As Paul would later write to the Christians in Colossae, Jesus was the One chosen to reveal in himself the “fullness” of God so that we could get a glimpse – even a tiny glimpse through a veiling cloud – the fulness of the mystery of God but only in a scale so that we can understand.
For even Jesus acknowledged that sometimes God keeps to himself way more that He lets us know. When asked, “What’s next?”, what is going to happen after Jesus’ departure, Jesus tells his disciples, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business”, (Acts 1:7, The Message).
And then St. Paul sums it up this way, “Who in the world do you think you are to second-guess God? Do you for one moment suppose any of us knows enough to call God into question? Clay doesn’t talk back to the fingers that mold it, right?” (Romans 9:20-21, The Message). So, God is the ultimate “Other.”
Yet God still is a loving “Other” who in his great mercy, still calls us into his fellowship. But let us not forget who calls the shots.
In his book “Facedown”, Matt Redman, a popular artist and worship musician from England, writes, “Many music critics note that the skill of songwriter Bruce Springsteen lies in his ability to take the everyday, the ordinary, and make it sound extraordinary. Sometimes in the Church we find ourselves doing the total opposite—we take the extraordinary revelation of God and somehow manage to make Him sound completely ordinary! We fail to communicate the sense of God's otherness. As A. W. Tozer puts it, ‘Left to ourselves we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms.’"
In a way, Matt Redman himself realizes that the temptation is nothing new. Way back when, the Psalmist reflects of God’s contempt on such vain human attempts, “You thought I was just like you!” (50:21).
But, Redman continues, “He is not like one of us. He is utterly incomparable—beyond the furthest horizon of our imaginations. He is off the scale of our comprehension. We have merely known the shallows of the mighty deep.”
Here, I must say, “I am guilty as charged.” Being a man of the cloth, I have to admit that sometimes under the need to say something – for that’s what I am paid for, isn’t it? – it is easy to try to fill in the blanks of the mystery of God.
And, not trying to hide myself in the crowd, let me suggest that I am not alone. The church, sometimes under the pressure of being relevant, finds easy to have something to say about any and all the ills of the world, mostly offering either fire and brimstone when God perhaps would be more inclined to offer merciful love.
This is why today, I am calling this short meditation, “First things First.”
If I may say so, it is a call to consider God afresh. And here again, I am sinning by reducing God to something to be considered and studied rather than to be worshiped.
If our essential calling as human beings is the worship of God, then, we better get going.
So, today, I am going to stop right now. Let me ask you spend some time to ponder the implications of “In the beginning, God.” It is the “One Thing Necessary” that Jesus encouraged Martha to apply herself.
Let this thing of “First things First” sink in. And in doing so, as Charles Wesley wrote, let yourself get “lost in wonder, love, and praise.” Amen.