You Have a Part in the Story – Jan 8 sermon

Genesis 1: 1-5, 26-27, 31  2: 1-3  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.  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…Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’  So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.  God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good.  And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.  Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.  So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

 

The middle part of the story is adapted from the Genesis story by storyteller Michael E. Williams [Storyteller’s Companion to the Bible: Genesis]. “For the second reading this morning, I want you to imagine you were there, at the time of Jesus baptism by John the Baptist, imagine you were in the crowd yourself waiting to be baptized.  You might react something like these two:” T

 

Mark 1:4-11 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” 9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

 You Have a Part in the Story           

Jan. 8, 2012

Once upon a time, way back when the Bible wasn’t even written down yet, there was a group of people, a bunch of tribes, who had high hopes of being a nation.  They had an army, which, if the truth be told, had as much chance of standing up to the armies of their neighbors as the Eagles had of winning the Super Bowl this year.  They had a temple, which they rebuilt as best they could every time it was destroyed.  They had a god, whose name was so precious they couldn’t even pronounce it.

But they had a problem.  They liked to think that their god was very great, better than any of the other gods, but they couldn’t force anybody else to believe it.  And force was thought to be the best persuader.  They were wrong of course, and they figured that out when they realized they had a secret weapon. Their secret weapon, their ace in the hole, their last hope was — the storyteller.

She understood the problem very well, and she had an interesting solution.  It was, of course, a story.  She began:

 

Once upon a time, before there was time, before the beginning of the beginning of anything that ever was, there was God and there was nothing.  The emptiness was emptier than anyone could imagine, and the loneliness was lonelier than anyone could imagine.  So God began to tell the story that became the universe, saying,

‘Once upon a time, there was light.’  And there was light.  Then God named the light day and the darkness night, the first two characters in the story.  And at the end of the first day God said, ‘This is sweet.’

Then God continued the story that became the universe, saying, ‘Once upon a time there was a sky that sat upon the water.  (And that took care of the second day.) And once upon a time there was dry land surrounded by oceans, and the land sprouted chrysanthemums & sunflowers, and zucchini and tomato plants, and maple trees & apple trees, all with seeds to reproduce themselves.’  And at the end of the third day, God said, ‘This is sweet.’

On the fourth day God continued, ‘Once there were two big lights, and one will make you warm and lazy, or radiant and energetic in the day, and the other will make you howl or croon and swoon in the night.’  And so it was.  And God said, ‘This is sweet!’

On the fifth day, God told a story about the big mouth bass and the catfish, and about tweety parakeets and bright red cardinals and hooty morning doves and the giant condor.  And when God saw the colors of the fish sparkling in the water and how the birds graced the sky, the Creator sighed, ‘Oh, this is sweet.’

The sixth day, God rushed to complete the story, telling about elephants and tigers and groundhogs and worms (which, by the way, turned out to do more for the earth than just about anybody else in the story).  And God created kittens and bears, and anteaters and aardvarks and zebras and zebus.  But the story still needed something.  And God got an idea.  ‘Let’s put a character in this story who is just like us to take care of all the other characters and things in this story.  This character could pick up the story and tell it just as I have.’

So God told of a character who would be the very image of the divine storyteller.  The character was like God and came in two basic models, male and female (with lots and lots of styles).  And God told the character to tell the story and to continue the story.  And God told them to take care of all the characters in the story and to take care of each other.  When God looked at all the wonderful parts of this divine story, the Creator’s voice boomed across the entire creation like a strong wind, ‘Now this is seriously sweet.’

Then on the seventh day, God rested from telling the story of creation and blessed the day, setting it aside for rest. And to this day, storytellers like that first storyteller in Israel gather on this day of rest to tell God’s stories and to bless the day, each other, and creation, to sing songs and to celebrate the story.

When Jesus was baptized, people who had been telling the story recognized him as the Word who was part of creation from the very beginning. They recognized him as the Light, the Light of the World who connected all people to that first human creature, the Christ who renewed their connection to all of creation. Through Jesus, the story outgrew that one little group of people and became the story of many nations and innumerable people.

Through Jesus people came to understand that the story is more powerful than a thousand armies, & that God is the God of all people and of all that exists.  And today whenever someone is baptized, we let him or her know they are authorized and empowered to become storytellers, to claim their part in the story of the Living God that extends from the very beginning to this very day.  Whenever we celebrate God’s special love for a newly baptized Christian, whenever we share food, and whenever we get together on the day of God’s rest, we tell the stories and we remember who we are as part of God’s story, as people of the Word, as people with a role to play in the rest of the story God has planned.

This is God’s sweet news.