Sermon For Second Sunday before Lent year B. Epiphany 8
First I’d like to start by posing a question.
How would you explain or describe your concept of God? The beauty of this question is that there are no wrong answers because we all have our own idea! Now put your thought on the back burner for now, and maybe you would like to share your ideas with others later. I’m pretty certain that this afternoon, after the service at St Colman’s there’ll be quite a discussion about people’s answers.
We re told that no one has seen God at any time but we are given some clues in our readings today. And what brilliantly poetic and evocative passages they are!
Lets start with Proverbs.
Lady Wisdom is describing time before the creation of the world and her part in it as well as her relationship with God. She says, ’The Lord created me at the beginning of his work before the beginning of the earth. When he established the heavens I was there….. I was beside him like a master worker, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race. ‘
Wisdom is an integral part of the Jewish faith and is usually personified as female.
At one level it is intelligence or shrewdness. At the next it is good sense, sound judgment, and moral understanding. A third level is the capacity to consider profounder problems of human life and destiny. Wisdom therefore becomes the fruit of the unending quest for the meaning of man’s experience of life and religion. The search for the higher wisdom led to the twin convictions that, in the last analysis, wisdom comes to mankind only as a divine gift, and that it belongs to the very nature of God himself. (My Jewish Learning)
But what stood out for me in this reading was the sheer joy and enthusiasm in the creation. I felt that the author of Proverbs, probably Solomon, portrayed the energy and excitement and delight of God and Wisdom working together. It was the Genesis story but with more passion and poetry.
And then we come to John 1. Another ‘beginning ‘ story but so well known that I think we sometimes lose the significance because of the familiarity of the words. We can get carried away with the rhythm and flow of the language and forget to absorb the depth of meaning. ‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.’ Now that’s a bit confusing! I’m not a Greek scholar so I decided to do a bit of research into the original Greek translation and after a lot of grammatical explanations that were over my head I finally came up with the suggestion that in the original writing
it does indicate that this Word was not the same ‘person’ as the Father God, but has the same ‘essence’ and ‘nature’.
Slightly less confusing and looking a lot like the origin of Lady Wisdom who was created by God in the very beginning!
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his Glory, full of grace and Truth.
Which leads us nicely on to Colossians!
It begins, ‘Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation,’ and later ‘In him all things hold together.’What a modern statement when you consider that we now accept, scientifically that all life is interdependent‘ He is the beginning!’
When I first read these three passages I must confess that I found it mind blowing. They literally took my breath away! My first thought was ‘Wow, what a brilliant sermon that would make!’ Then I remembered that I was writing that sermon and reality struck! Over the last month I have had so many images and ideas whirling round in my head that my mind has literally been in a state of chaos, so please forgive my meanderings as I try to make sense of these incredible readings.
The first thing I had to get my head around was the time scale. Remember the first reading about Wisdom? ‘Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.’ I noticed how much emphasis was put on water. The significance of this hit me when I read the following quote.
‘The water you drink is older than the planet you are standing on! Up to 50% of the water in your drinking glass was created over 4.5 billion years ago, which means that Earth’s water is older than the Solar system, the Sun and the Earth itself.’ (Source; Physics astronomy.com)
My attention was caught! 4 and a half Billion years! How old was the Universe? Turns out it’s estimated at 14 billion years! That’s a long time!
It always amazes me, when I read the Creation story and remember that it was in circulation before the advent of writing, how close it is to the scientific theory of evolution. How on earth could the first tellers of the creation story get it so right?
Then I thought of the verse in Genesis about God making mankind in his own image and remembered about something that Richard Rohr had written;
‘For those who are willing to see, the divine self-revelation of creation as image and likeness is everywhere evident, long before Scriptures were written. God was not mute for 14 billion years. Even though Abraham didn’t have the Bible (either of the Testaments!), he and Sarah still knew God—which is true for all the Patriarchs and their families. They instead knew God by the relationship called faith, better translated as “trust in goodness.” He also explained that“Image” is our objective DNA that marks us as creatures of God from the very beginning.
There has been a lot written about DNA and the fact that you can trace your ancestry back through countless generations. How awe inspiring is it to think we can go back to the dawn of creation, to the time when Wisdom rejoiced in the inhabited world and delighted in the human race. Our at-one-ment with God has always been with us regardless of who we are and how we differ in colour, language, gender and all the other differences we choose to notice.
Then 2000 years ago, a blink of an eye compared to the 4 and a half billion years that had passed, the Word became man and lived with us, bringing a message from the dawn of time. He reintroduced us to our Creator, the living God who made us in his image, who gave us his DNA. And the message he brought is as simple, radical and life-changing now as it was then. Love God, love each other!
He brought the truth – the Word,- that had been lost, and he promised us the wisdom in the shape of the Holy Spirit to be with us and guide us if we allow it. He taught us how to delight in God, his world and each other and to look forward to the joyful coming of his Kingdom.
At the beginning I asked you to think how you would describe your concept of God, so it’s only fair that I should offer you mine. For me, God embodies Love, Truth and Wisdom but ( to paraphrase St Paul) the greatest of these is Love!