In the beginning


Genesis 3:1-24 & Psalm 8
1st Sunday of Lent
SMAS 9am Holy Communion & 10.30am Morning Worship

Last week I told you about how the PCC decided that SMAS is going to work on ‘becoming energised by faith’ and listening to what God wants. We did a fair amount of listening to God here last week beginning with Prayer & Praise on Tuesday (which, sadly, was poorly attended but thankfully spiritually refreshing); then we had a half-night Prayer Vigil on Friday (slightly better attended and definitely a time of drawing near to God). We also had Ash Wednesday Communion and Friday Morning Prayer of course.

Today we’re beginning a sermon series on topics that are crucial to understand if we want to become energised by faith. All talks will be on the website, including last week’s summary of how we have got to this point.

Please don’t think that this will just be the basics and you, therefore don’t need to listen because you know it.
No! There will obviously be some basics but there will also be, within the message, some deeper messages that you may never have thought about before. Something to get you thinking – and hopefully asking!

This morning I’m going to talk about two momentous firsts: the first people and the first sin. So, get comfortable and I’ll begin.

Well, actually I won’t because God did. In the beginning: God created. It all starts with God.

OK, settle down again. Once upon a time there was . . .
There was - what?

Well it appears that there was a messy chaos - bit like my study on a bad day! The story of the creation is a story of order – as things gradually appear, bit by bit. Most other creations myths were about chaos and confusion. But ours is a story of creation. Somebody behind it all, creating by command, by God’s Word.

A burning question for some: did it happen in seven days? I am a ‘conservative’ about the Bible but even I will say, no probably not. There was no word for ‘billion’ or ‘light-years’ in Hebrew! The Bible tells us that one day in God’s eyes is 1,000 years. Don’t get side-tracked by ‘seven days’ and miss the point. There was a progression (long before evolution was realized). Most importantly that mankind came into being at the end of the creation story. The planet was formed, the mountains and seas appeared, vegetation and life-forms in the sea, then land. All this happened before humans could see what happened. So did the ancient Hebrews just guess in what order it happened, or did ‘Someone’ tell them?

Today, we have a scientific account of the world’s origins, and assuming the gist of it is anything like correct, the account of the stages of creation in Genesis chapter 1 comes in very much the same order, though the wonder of immensity of time and space over which we are told it happened takes our breath away. Also, so science now tells us, we are in fact made of carbon dust.

Another burning question: why did God create us?

Ephesians 1:4-5 'For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.'

We were created to be loved by God and to love Him in return. God wanted to create something to love so He created us. He didn’t need us, He wasn’t lonely but He wanted us in order to love us.

And it’s important to know what we’re here for – to be loved by God because life without purpose isn’t worth living. Its no coincidence that the suicide rate has gone up and is now the No. 2 killer of teenage students.

The Bible tells us that God made us in His image. This could mean all sorts of things: that we are creative, reasoning, spiritual, moral etc. BUT looking at Gen 1:26-27:
Let US make man in our image, in our likeness . . .God created man in His image, male and female He created them.

Who is the ‘us’ and ‘our’. This is the Trinity – and gives another clue as to why God created us, community. The Trinity is community within the Godhead. Life is all about relationships. It is also about the fact that within God, within the Trinity there is both male and female.
The Genesis story tells us that the creation is good and the creator wishes to have a special and personal relationship with us. He wants us to be stewards of creation. We weren’t the first creatures to be created, God designed a world with so much there for our benefit and delight, full of resources laid down for us to discover – like the coal and oil, and barring one tree He gives them full run of this garden He’s made. As Psalm 8 puts it ‘what is man that you are mindful of him?’

Genesis 3 Reading

So we come to what is called ‘the Fall’. (from grace) God said Adam may eat of any tree in the garden except for the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Was God really being an old spoil-sport as the snake (devil) implies?

No: quite the reverse. God has created and given His children wonders that are way beyond their understanding. He says don’t try to eat of that tree of knowledge because its too much for you to understand. You will get burned if you try to know too much. The prohibition is for our safety is like us telling a child not to touch fire - not for spoiling our fun.

And just like us telling our children not to do something – of course they do it. The devil made it sound SO attractive, it looks good, it is good and will let you know all that God does.

Old joke here about the woman having a theological debate with the serpent whereas the man just eats!

The result is no joke though: this selfish act of putting ‘I’ first is the first sin and it results in ruining everything.

Like being sent away to the naughty stair but far more serious: we become separated from God as we are sent out from the good world He created. Further something else happens, physical death comes into the world, suffering and pain become part of an imperfect world. They are told they must toil for a living.

It’s often thought that God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and it was some sort of paradise where they would just lie around doing nothing but sun themselves all day. This probably stems in part from the fact that one of the curses placed on them after they have sinned by eating the fruit was that they would have to work hard to keep the weeds down and produce fruit and vegetables!  But this is not true because in fact from the very beginning Adam was placed in the garden to cultivate it.

Much of this story explains suffering: we are not living in a perfect heaven. That is to come.

The freewill God gave to people, Adam and Eve meant that there had to be a choice, there had to be good and evil. For it to be otherwise He would have had to create us as robots with no other choice than to love and obey Him. Would that have been kinder?

From the experience I had of being a child not allowed out to mix with others and being totally restrained I think not. God shows us a model of perfect parenting in allowing us freedom. And there’s more.

Notice when God comes to find them! He’s walking in the garden and they hide. Doesn’t the fact that God comes looking for them show us that here we have the sort of God who allows us our freedom? He’s not been there breathing down their neck the whole time has He. He set the limits on what it was safe for them to do - eat of all but tree of knowledge of good and evil and then gave them the freedom to do it their way.

Notice too that after God has told them their punishment for doing what they shouldn’t have, He doesn’t cast them out naked – He cares and makes them clothes out of animal skins.

I think we see in the creation story a perfect father. He put them in a wonderful world that provided for their needs. They were to care for the place and there was one protective rule.
As a human parent might say to their child that they have to keep their bedroom tidy or put the rubbish out and not fiddle with the electricity or search in the wrong places on the internet. He gave them their freedom, allowing them some responsibility along the way - but also giving them clear guidance for their own safety.

God’s amazing creation was perfect and is amazing.  We spoil that. Sin. God has given us freedom to make our own choices – to choose his way or our way.  Because of our rebellious nature we often choose our own way and like Adam and Eve, this leaves us feeling that we need to run away from God. What we fail to realise is that God has not written a rule book, he simply knows what’s best for us because he created us.  Sin spoils things, particularly relationships.

In the end, what matters isn’t our ability or failure to be good, what matters is that God has made us his children. Children don’t stop being children because they disobey their parents. Good parents don’t love their children any less, when they rebel against them, parents continue to love them. We will always be his children; He will always love us and provide for us, even if we turn away for a while.

St Paul says, “We cannot and should not be afraid to cry out “Abba Father” because our cries will not fall upon deaf ears.”
Lent is a time to examine ourselves and see where we are in our relationship with God. Let’s pray that this Lent may be a time when we come home to God who is both our Father and Mother and that we learn to allow Him to both embrace us and to guide us in what is right and wrong.