Home Service: Sunday 9th May 2021 ~ Prepared by Fay Cumberland ~ Creation Part 3 – Image and emergence
Welcome to our home service, the third in our series ‘Creation’.
As a call to worship ….
Song: Come, now is the time to worship
COME, NOW IS THE TIME to worship,
Come, now is the time to give your heart.
Come, just as you are to worship,
Come, just as you are before your God.
One day every tongue will confess You are God.
One day every knee will bow.
Still, the greatest treasure remains for those
Who gladly choose You now.
Great and merciful God, Your life is the source of the whole world’s life; Your grace and mercy are or only hope; You see all, You know the secrets of our hearts, and You still love us. Please now draw us into Your presence, that we may worship You in Spirit and in truth, moved by Your love, reassured by Your presence, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Song: Ah, Lord God …
AH LORD GOD, Thou hast made the heavens
And the earth by Thy great power.
Ah Lord God, Thou hast made the heavens
And the earth by Thine outstretched arm.
Nothing is too difficult for Thee,
Nothing is too difficult for Thee.
O great and mighty God,
Great in counsel and mighty in deed,
Nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing,
Nothing is too difficult for Thee.
Reading from Psalm 148
Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights above. … Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding,
you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds, kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and women, old men and You children.
Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendour is above the earth and the heavens.
Song: Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
I want to see You, I want to see You
To see You high and lifted up
Shining in the light of Your glory
Lord pour out Your power and love
As we sing Holy, Holy, Holy.
Holy, Holy, Holy
Holy, Holy, Holy
Holy, Holy, Holy
I want to see You
Prayers of intercession –
First, let’s take a few moments to notice how many good things surround us, how much there is that we – maybe – take for granted; how much we have been blessed this week, despite the present difficulties; and let’s give thanks ….
We pray now for some of the people and places in the news, and hold them within God’s love ….. We pray for our world, for the people and places struggling to survive in the face of the pandemic, hunger, oppression, poverty, persecution …. We pray for the Church, for any big issues there are at present …. And for our own fellowship …..
for the Leadership Team – Pete, Selwyn, Louise and Dawn for those who prepare and lead services and teach us …
we ask for grace and guidance for all of us. We know many people who are struggling with illness, bereavement, crises,
decisions, major changes in life ….. God’s care for them is greater than ours could ever be, but let’s show our love and
concern for them as we name them in quiet trust before God …. Each of us has things on our mind, perhaps that we wouldn’t share; but our father understands totally so let’s pray with honesty in our own hearts … Lord, these are the prayers of Your people today. Please take them and answer them in Your own way, and give us trustful hearts.
Thank you. Amen
Song: For the beauty of the earth, arranged by John Rutter
FOR THE BEAUTY OF THE EARTH,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies, over and around us lies:
Lord of all to Thee we raise this our joyful hymn of praise.
For the beauty of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
Sun and moon, and stars of light,
Sun and moon, and stars of light:
Lord of all to Thee we raise
This our joyful hymn of praise.
For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth, and friends above;
For all gentle thoughts and mild,
For all gentle thoughts and mild:
Lord of all to Thee we raise
This our joyful hymn of praise
For each perfect gift of Thine
To our race so freely given,
Graces, human and divine,
Flowers of earth, and buds of heaven,
Flowers of earth, and buds of heaven:
Lord of all to Thee we raise
This our joyful hymn, our joyful hymn of praise
This our joyful hymn, our hymn of praise
Genesis 1:26 – 2:3 Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they
may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’ Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food.’ And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the LORD God made the earth and the heavens. Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground –
trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
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Sermon Notes 9 th May 2021 ~ Pete Evens ~ The Creation in which we find ourselves. Part 3: Image and Emergence
In the beginning there was no thing, only some one: The Being Who Is. For The Being Who Is to create beings, somewhere was needed. That somewhere had to be outside of The Being Who Is, for created beings to be real.
This is especially so for living beings. Real beings are free to choose: to connect, or not to connect with their
creator. Today we have two accounts of how human beings were made: two different perspectives, not fully compatible. The first is from the viewpoint of The Being Who Is. The second from the view of a working man.
For centuries huge swathes of people accepted the idea of the second poem: that they’d been made out of mud. Along comes Darwin, with the suggestion that we descended from apes. People got quite affronted by that. What
would you rather be made out of? Mud? Or monkey? Let’s take a quick look at what we’re made of. I’ve called it mud, though our reading says dust. Mud is wet dust, right? Water makes it stick together, so it can be moulded. How much of us would you say is dust – solid mineral stuff – and how much water? Only about 40% of us is solid stuff. We’ll represent that with sand. The other 60% or so is good old H 2 O. There are around 7 x 10 27 atoms,(7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000), three-quarters of which change about every 16 days, and all of which change within a year. There’s this constant interchange of water and chemicals between us and our environment. Even as I’ve poured water into this jar, some has vapourised into the air which you are breathing in. At the same time, you are breathing out water vapour and carbon dioxide which has been part of you, but isn’t any more. In the hour we’re together, about 13 million, million, million, million of our atoms will have been exchanged, so you’ll go home with some atoms now part of you, which arrived as part of someone else. Yet you remain very much, yourself. Perhaps the question What are we made of? isn’t all that important. What if instead we ask:
Who are we made by?
Who are we made like?
Who are we made for?
These are the key questions of our two poems of creation. They are as relevant to us today as they were to their ancient Semitic writers. Only in the past few hundred years, has there been demand to read these poems as
objective literalism. Our imagined flouncy teenager, of science separated from art and philosophy, set the tone. Among her peer group, objective explanation was all the rage. Subjectivity was so last era. So unsystematic. To fit in, Christians had to sharpen up. Let’s have our theology sharply defined and rationally argued. Let’s reassemble the Bible as systematic, logical argument. Let’s iron out all paradox, mystery, inconsistency, wisdom and wonder. It will be so much more effective. Two major difficulties with that. First, the Bible is not just about information. Second, people are a complex mix of logic and sentiment, which defies neat systems. We walk along a narrow ridge, with steep slopes on either side. Flouncy science pushed us down the side of ‘The Bible is factual’. Facts are an important part of truth, but they are rarely the whole truth. Yet, if we begin to say that the creation story is not factual, we risk sliding off the other side into the abyss of ‘The Bible is just a myth’. That isn’t the whole truth either. We need information; more than that, we need formation and re-formation, The key purpose of the Bible is to form and reform our inward character, our
world-view, our spirituality, our transcendence.
we find ourselves created in the image of God;
we find ourselves blessed by God;
we find ourselves called to fruitful multiplication;
as we fill the earth, we find ourselves called to ‘subdue’ and have ‘dominion’.
We find ourselves able to shape the the landscape, its flora and fauna.
With the image of the Creator, we find ourselves co-creators and co-carers. Other, non-biblical stories begin with an ideal, ordered world which descended into chaos. Or they begin with a world of static, unchanging perfection. This Semitic narrative tells of a world that emerged from formlessness, emptiness and darkness. The initial chaos was called into something rather more orderly, though it could hardly be called ‘neat’. Elements were coaxed into molecules, molecules into chains and chains of molecules into the complex interlocking systems required for living beings.
Life exploded with tumultuous variety, much of which waits for us to discover. I noticed recently that research from the University of Bergen suggests scientists have previously underestimated the age of dry land by 500 million years. Even in geological terms, this is a very big discrepancy. Probably there was dry land when life first appeared. True science is constantly adapting to new information, reshaping its theories while maintaining a framework of predictability, a pattern. Predictable pattern is there in the ancient poems: oak trees bear acorns, which become oak trees; elephants give birth to elephants, not to lions. Yet, as we look carefully, we see the patterns are quite fluid. Charles Darwin did a
lot of careful looking. Out of what he saw, he formulated a theory of evolution by natural selection. Darwin himself was able to hold the tension between his focus on the processes and the focus of the biblical poems on meaning and purpose. But his theory quickly became an -ism, something to be believed and defended. That isn’t how science is supposed to work. The established Christian religion felt threatened. The threat seemed real, though it was focussed on ‘What are we made of?’ not on ‘Who are we made by/like/for?’ The Christian response was to solidify the text. They took the fluid, mysterious, creative beauty of ancient poetry and insisted it was rigid, unchanging, objective, literal truth.
‘Day’ equals 24 hours, measured by our view of the sun from a fixed point. ‘According to its kind’ equals fixed species, as defined by the uniform system of the 18th century. They closed out any new scientific information with a fortified, defensive wall, insisting that the Semitic nomads had seen all there was to see, devaluing the poetry from formative to informative, robbing it of its purpose.
The resultant storm has settled somewhat, but has never been resolved, unlike the previous storms concerning the physics of the universe. ‘Evolution’ remains a negatively-loaded word for many Christians. We face a fool’s choice: either evolution-ism or creation-ism. It can get very nasty, used as a basis for belonging or exclusion. Not only long ago, far away. Here, now, for us. Perhaps especially for those of you in school, but for any of you willing to talk openly about Jesus. Complex theories of evolution will be simplified into unquestionable truth, which excludes God, rather than a developing scientific hypothesis focussed on processes, not on purpose or meaning. It is healthy and allowable to ask searching questions both in school and in church. The Being Who Is does not exclude science. Science does not exclude The Being Who Is. Neither true spirituality nor true science excludes honest, humble, respectful enquiry. People who ban questioning are usually trying to defend something which cannot be defended. When the Being Who Is surveyed everything he’d created, he considered it ‘very good’. Part of that goodness is its adaptability, its potential for
development, its immense variety and overlapping interdependency, amidst it all a species of sentient, creative thinkers surviving by wit and grace called out of chaos, to which there is an ever-present possibility of returning. Your confidence in the Creation poems may have taken a serious knock. I invite you to plunge again into the wild adventure of poetry and find yourself in it. Find your answers to the questions,
Who am I made by?
Who am I made like?
Who am I made for?
You may find yourself
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Song: Creation sings the Father’s Song
Creation sings the Father’s song
He calls the sun to wake the dawn
And run the course of day,
Till evening falls in crimson rays.
His fingerprints in flakes of snow,
His breath upon this spinning globe;
He charts the eagle’s flight,
Commands the newborn baby’s cry.
Hallelujah! Let all creation stand and sing,
‘Hallelujah!’ Fill the earth with songs of worship,
Tell the wonders of creation’s King.
Creation gazed upon His face;
The ageless One in time’s embrace
Unveiled the Father’s plan
Of reconciling God and man.
A second Adam walked the earth,
Whose blameless life would break the curse,
Whose death would set us free
To live with Him eternally.
Creation longs for His return,
When Christ shall reign upon the earth;
The bitter wars that rage
Are birth pains of a coming age.
When He renews the land and sky,
All heaven will sing and earth reply
With one resplendent theme:
The glory of our God and King!
May the Lord bless you and take care of you; May the Lord be kind and gracious to you; May the Lord look on you with favour and give you peace. Amen