Thursday, December 6, 2018

Descent Week 1 - God’s Descent In Creation

As we’e coming up to the Christmas season, the Sunday school kids are starting to go through the Christmas story. An interesting thing happen last week, in both classes the kids started to ask questions about where babies come from. This put the teachers on the spot, with one of them giving an answer and telling the kids, if they want to learn any more, they need to ask their parents.
Children can be a fount of questions. Asking scientific question like, where does lighting come from, to asking questions like, why can’t I hear when I stick my finger into my ear. Children are curious about the world around them, and through their eyes, we can be challenged by what they ask. And some of these question that children ask, we ask as well. We’re curious about the world around and about ourselves, and so we search for the answers to our questions.

And the most important question humanity has ever sought an answer to is, why am I here? It’s a big question that asks, what is my purpose. It’s a question from which so many other questions can spring from. Because when we start to think about it, there are roughly 7 billion people in this world, how do I fit into such a large population? The question gets even bigger when we start to understand the vastness of the world. We can take all those people, and if we cleared out all the buildings, we could put them in the city of New York. That’s how big our planet is. And if it’s that big, think about the universe. The more we think about it, the more insignificant we become. No wonder we have midlife crises’, the reason why we’re here is a huge question, because it gives reason why we should continue on or not.

To understand our purpose and to answer why we are here, what better place than to look at the creation stories of the world’s religions? For thousands of years, humanity has put forth different ways in which the world could have come into being. I want us to take a look at four of those creation stories, so that we can see which one is the best in answering the deep question of why are we here?

First, let’s start with one of the most ancient creation stories coming out of Babylon. This begins with chaos. Two gods emerge, Apsu and Tiamat, these are the fresh and salt waters. Together they mix and create other gods. But Apsu doesn’t like these gods and wished to kill them. One of Apsu and Tiamat’s children Ea, learned about Apsu’s desire to kill his children. Ea lulled Apsu to sleep and murdered him. Tiamat sought revenge for Apsu’s death, but she was killed by another child named Marduk. Marduk took Tiamut’s body and made the heavens and the earth from it. Humanity was then made out of Tiamut’s second husband. 

Another creation story comes from China. In this account, like in the Babylonian account, there was chaos. But in this case, there is no god, but rather chaos cracks, and heaven and earth break away from each other. The clear and high aspects of the universe rose to become heaven. While the dark formed the earth. It is here that the first born of the universe, P’an-ku is formed, standing in the middle between heaven and earth bringing stability between the two. As he does this, parasites begin eating his body, and from this, humanity was created.

Still another, more familiar, creation story comes from Greece. Again we start with chaos, from chaos came the earth, Gia. Gia produced the sky to cover herself, the sky was named Uranus. Their children were the Titans, elemental gods. But Uranus did not want these children to be free and tried to lock them away within Tartarus. But Gia loved her children and created a sickle for her youngest Cronus. He used it to castrate his father. Later Cronus fashioned man and they lived perfect lives. Until one of Cronus’ sons, Zeus, overcame his father and made humanities lives extremely hard.

Of these three creation stories, like most ancient creation stories, they have a lot of similarities. Chaos begets chaos. Children rebel and kill their parents. Humanity emerges out of strife. It is the gods who cause strife for humanity.
In almost every ancient creation story, there is one constant idea about humanity, we’re an after thought, or at the most, a nuisance of chance.
Each of these creation stories, answers the question of why are we hear with the same answer that modern atheist give, there’s really no reason at all.

But how does that sit with our own feeling? Why do we pursue more knowledge? Why do we reach for new experiences? Why do we feel a sense that there is more?
Because there is more. That’s the story of God’s creation account.

Since we are looking at ancient creation stories, let’s look at the Bible’s creation account through the lens of an ancient reader. If you have your Bibles we’re going to be comparing the Bible’s creation story to the ones I just shared with you.

The story starts out with, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

From the start we see a major difference. Chaos rules and from chaos the gods are formed. This automatically leads into more chaos. But here we see that God proceeds chaos. That from here on out, nothing comes into being without God’s expressed desire for it to occur.

It continues, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

We don’t see accidental creation here. Instead, we see a craftsman at work. A formless empty place, stands before the sculpture ready to be fashioned into anything he desires. So he gets to work.

Starting in verse 3, we see God create light, we see God create time when he marks off the days. We see God create the a canopy of sky to cover his land. Then he creates areas of dry land, adding on to them vegetation.

In verse 14, we start to see God putting lights in the sky. The Sun, the moon, the stars. These are to give the earth cycles of day, night, and seasons.

Then in verse 20, he populates the oceans and sky with life. Blessing it to become full., spreading throughout it’s vastness.
Then he creates land animals, and eventually humans. But, unlike all of his created work so far, humans are different. They require a conversation about how he is going to create them, with the very image of their Creator. A distinction no other creature receives.
Then as we move into the second chapter, not only does he create these humans, he places them in a special garden. A garden where he comes to meet with his image bearers. 
All this, God calls very good, and at the end of the creation story, there is no chaos, there is no fighting, there is only what the craftsman said he desired. A place where he could interact with his creation.

No other creation story brings together the will and power of it’s Creator. Most creation stories tell us that chaos creates chaos. Where strife, war and death are the only constants. In other creation accounts, like that of Hinduism, the creator is unsure what he wants, taking eons to decide.
But the God of the Bible is distinct. He is purposeful in his creation. He is more powerful than it. And he builds it so that his creation has purpose.

As we begin our Christmas sermon series, we are talking about the descent of God. God descending to his creation. What we have to understand is that God descending to his creation is not something uncommon for the God of the Bible. In fact, God created this world so that he could descend to it. He purposefully builds a world where he can meet with his created beings. 

In fact if we take a moment and look at this world as an ancient reader would, we can see how much this first descent of God matters.

In the prophet Isaiah’s book, God says this about the world, “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?’ declares the Lord (66:1-2).”

God asks this question, “Where will my resting place be?” This question is a reference to the resting place of the gods of other religions in their temples. A resting place is a place where the gods of other religious would have their statues housed. Their images would rest there. But God is telling the people that they cannot make a place for him to rest, because he has already done that.

This creation is a place for his rest. He has created it, and has placed his own image there. We are his image placed in his temple. 

We also see later on as we read through Genesis, that God walks in the garden in the cool of the day. Later on God would establish a time of sacrifice (1 Kings 18:36). This time corresponded with God’s presence in the garden and God’s presence with his people as they sacrificed.

All of this points to answering that question of why are we here: Because God desired us. In every other belief system, you and I are an afterthought. Something that just happened because. 

But, God descends, crafting his creation into what he desired it to be. Crafting a place where he and his creation meet together. This creation speaks to us, because it answers the question our lives long to hear: you are not random, who are not an afterthought, you were created with purpose.

And in order to get a full understanding of Christmas, we must understand this first descent of God. The descent of creation. God making a space where he could come to meet with this created beings. Where he could house his image. To understand the God’s descent at creation, is to better understand the need for his descent at Christmas. But it isn’t the only descent of God that we need to understand, and next week, we’ll talk about that. 

My challenge for you this week is simply to answer the question why am I here? I know why I’m here, but the question is why are you here? Do you believe you were created by a loving God? Or do you believe you were a product of random chance out of chaos? 
And if you have trouble answering that question, I am available to have a conversation about it.
But each of us needs to ask this question, because when we do, Christmas moves from being another holiday, to being an awesome God’s descent to humanity.

Let us understand God’s descent of creation, so we may understand his descent of Christmas, and accept God’s answer to the question, “Why am I here?” Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment