1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 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. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. — Genesis1:1-5 (NRSV)
“In the beginning…” (Genesis 1:1a)
Three simple words that begin one of the greatest stories ever told. A story of love. A story of a God who loved his people so much he was willing to give his own son to them to show his love. This month we are going to be looking at stories. We are going to be looking at new stories, continued stories, changing stories, length of stories, and even telling stories. We will look at how stories impact us, our faith and our life. When we truly surrender to the story and become fully part of the story we enter into a new realm of faith and allow God to work fully through us.
However, before we get started lets acknowledge the impact stories have on our lives. The Writer’s Bureau out of Manchester, England write,
“Stories play a vital role in the growth and development of children. The books they read and the characters they get to know can become like friends. It’s also good for children to understand that books are a useful source of information and that good reading skills are important for success in their future lives. Reading also helps children with their confidence levels, coping with feelings and language and learning.” (https://www.writersbureau.com/writing/Why-are-stories-important-for-children.htm)
When we speak of stories we speak of the vitality stories have inner development, not just as human beings, but as Christians. Stories do not just help our brain develop, but the also help our faith develop. In them we learn about the Christians we are called to be, we learn about the people we are called to help, and most important we learn about the God we are called to love. As we look at stories in these different ways and work our way to tell our stories I want you to pay attention to how these stories help to grow your faith.
As we begin this week we begin with looking at new stories.
Well today is the beginning of a new story, in a way, and I am sure many of us are wondering how this story will play out, and the great thing about today being a new story is that it is not the first time God has started a new story…not by a long shot. God has been starting new stories all the time. In fact you could look at each day as a new story. Understanding new stories will not only go well to prepare us for this new journey in front of us, but it will also help us to be able to recognize and remain open to God’s continued call in our lives. And we will do this today by looking at these three words that begin something very new God did a long time ago.
“In the beginning…” (Gen. 1:1a)
Creation is the ultimate new story in scripture. It gives us the clearest look of what happens when we allow new stories to embrace our lives. It shows us how things are changed when God begins something new.
Our theme at Annual Conference this year was “A New Thing.” Our Bishop wrote describing the theme,
“As we journey together, as your new resident bishop, I anticipate and expect “new things” to occur in the Virginia Conference” (http://www.vaumc.org/ncfilerepository/AC2017/2017BOR.pdf)
Much in the same way that God is doing things in the Virginia Conference through a new Bishop, God is going to do new things through me as your new pastor at Woods United Methodist Church. When God created he knew that things would look vastly different than they did before. In verse 2 we see the Hebrew writer write, “the earth was a formless void” (Gen. 1:2a)
Now one thing you will learn about me is I definitely geek out about certain things…and one of those things is biblical languages, so you all will be learning quite a bit of Biblical Hebrew and Greek during my time here. That said I want to give you your first Hebrew lesson. This first part of verse 2 contains two really awesome and eye opening key words for us. The phrase is tohu vabohu. Translated here as formless void, but a more accurate translation would be a chaotic emptiness…I kind of like that a little bit more. (http://biblehub.com/hebrew/8414.htm; http://biblehub.com/hebrew/922.htm)
I think the picture that the writer is trying to paint here is what God can do with our stories when we align our stories with God. When we allow God to take control of the chaotic emptiness that can be our story God creates something beautiful and majestic. We see that in the first part of creation God calls for light and creates day and night…and thats just the first part. God continues to create for six more “days.” When God takes control we get the beautiful picture of creation, and before God works we get the chaotic emptiness.
For us this means that we must do two things: we must surrender and embrace.
We must surrender to God and become part of the story. Surrender shows our willingness to rely on God. Our surrender shows our faith and commitment to the story God is working on through us. By far I think this is the toughest part, because this involves us giving up control in our lives. It means that we might get into something deeper than we might like, it means we might have to sacrifice something personal in order to be a part of God’s greater plan. Surrender is not a partial commitment to the story, but it means that we are wholly committed to go to the ends of the earth for where God is going to write our story. This does not mean that everything will look different: Next week we will explore how God continues stories, but we must be attuned to God and surrender to God the ability to make that decision.
We must also embrace. I present this as the easier of the two because I think once we surrender embracing is the logical next step. If we can surrender we can embrace. However, let us recognize that surrender does not automatically mean embracing. If it did life would be a cake walk, life would be easy, but we know life is not easy. When I differentiate embracing from surrendering I mean that embracing is the lifelong commitment to surrendering. To embrace means to be continually reminded of the story God is working on in you it means surrendering over and over again.
What new stories is God starting in you?
In me God has brought me to this church. God has taken me from the usual and has given me a new journey to embark. I know God has a plan and is working for his good. It is up to me to get out of the way and let God work. That is the great thing about new stories…in them we know that God is always working, always calling, and always giving.