WELCOME to this post for the worship service for ‘Mothers Day’ 2022. Full service details and announcements can be found in the Bulletin, here on our website. After the service, some video clips will be included in this post.
SERMON: Almost two weeks ago, I was planning my final five sermons. I would call them Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. That same day, I was feeling under the weather, and tested positive for COVID-19. My final five became the final four messages!
And it is just as well I did not preach last weekend, because on that Tuesday I got very frustrated and unhappy with you. Sharon and I were packing up the garbage and recycling around here, and what I found in the bins in the kitchen drove me wild! Ugh, I thought, after eight years, eight years here! these people still are a train wreck of recycling.
Anyway, I cooled down, and got over it. “Gardez votre sang froid.” I’ve had more time to plan my preaching. Today, I have planned this Genesis theme: new beginnings. A new beginning for us church people is what is about to happen this year.
Perhaps all the trash we keep putting into the world, our climate impact, our spreading of invasive species, and so forth, calls for a new creation, a new bang to start it all over again! It is hard to have hope with all the discouraging news around us. How can things be refreshed without crashing and burning first?
The timeless message of Genesis chapter one is timeless because it speaks of a newness that can happen again and again. God is a God of new beginnings.
There can be Genesis out of chaos: there can be a new beginning out of the dark. The famous first sentences of the Bible paint a picture of a chaotic realm where nothing much is. Only disorder and darkness are there, for the Spirit of God to hover upon.
Into that unorganized void the Creator spoke. ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light, a good light.
This scene gets at something that is deeply true about reality, and the God of it all. Light, goodness, order, can come out of dark disorder. ‘It’s always darkest before the dawn,’ we say. Out of chaos comes beautiful things.
On this Mothers Day I notice some mothering images in the Bible. I mentioned Romans 8 just a few weeks ago. To me this paragraph is exciting, but also mysterious. I’m not quite sure I understand it. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning together as it suffers together the pains of labor, 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved.
Somehow, this whole world matters. Matters to God. I know, we sing, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through,” but the New Heavens and the New Earth come together at the end of the whole story. And, as Paul seemed to think, the whole creation groans as if in labour, along with us, waiting for soul and body to be renewed.
Things are rather dark for creation, or so it looks to us. The collapse of the environment, including the climate, could well be a crisis. We people are so slow to change, to figure it out, to do what needs to be done and to stop what we need to stop doing. But may springtime around us inspire us. Remind us that the cycle of life is but a hint of the creation from chaos that started it all. The will to live, in all things, is great. It is from God. It will go on.
Here are some things I saw springing up in recent days…
Our main text today was from Acts, chapter 9. The famous conversion of Saul, who mostly gets called Paul. This is Genesis out of evil: there can be a new beginning in the life of wrongdoers.
Now is perhaps like other moments we have known, when our faith in humanity is damaged. There are too many people doing too much wrong too often. Just this past week, the apartment next door to my parent’s house was raided by the police and a bunch of ‘troublemakers’ living there were taken away in handcuffs. Nearby, in the village where my cottage is, there was a murder committed. Yesterday, up in Parrsboro, where I lived 20-some years ago, theft of copper wire at two sub-stations put the power out in a third of Cumberland County!
And this is just the local news.
And these are the extreme cases of wrongdoing. Of course, our scripture is of Saul, quite a serious wrongdoer. No wonder the Christian fellow, Ananias, is reluctant to believe Saul is scheduled to get prayer and blessings.
You and I are all here at our various stages of recovery from sin. We worship because we know the One who has given us new life. There has been a genesis out of evil, a new beginning; maybe more than 1 new beginning for us. And we strive to have confidence in a God who can work such miracles in all human souls.
I think of someone I know, and you know, who went through a dark night of the soul, twenty years ago. If she were here today, she could tell you how she got to a crisis point, dealing with the abuses in her life, her mental health, and the choices she had made. It was a make or break moment when she called out, wondering if God was really there. And God broke through to her. God was there!
That was Sharon White, and it happened to here while she was living in, of all places, Amherst, NS. Jesus, the Light of the world, breaks through in people’s lives.
This is a traditional “three point” sermon today. So thirdly, I’d say I believe in Genesis out of the faithful: there can be a new beginning in the life of a Christian.
This we see in the story of Ananias, here in Acts 9. He’s a ‘good guy’ in the story, a disciple of the risen Jesus; yet he also has some learning to do, and a fresh conversion of himself. Ananias of Damascus is given a little mission: to go to a certain home on one of the main streets in town, to pray and bless a visiting man named Saul of Tarsus. Ananias seems quite alarmed! This Saul is well-known as an opponent to the new movement of Jesus followers.
Ananias needs a conversion, and he gets it. He does respond to God’s prompting, and goes to this home where the enemy is staying, lays hands for prayer upon Saul, and speaks the promises to him. Saul then sees again. But Ananias also sees something new: more was possible than he expected.
There is always more for us, as followers of Christ. We are always pilgrims on a journey. I think one of the great ‘spiritual formation’ texts in the Bible is from Galatians 4. The apostle Paul wrote to his Christian brothers and sisters to encourage them. Paul was very emotional, he wanted his friends to make progress! 19 My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 20 how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you! Paul felt like he was trying to give birth to these believers, he deeply wanted them to be more and more like Jesus.
I must admit I have also had times when I’ve felt this way. I’ve longed for one person to study the Bible more, for another person to develop their ways of talking about their faith, and for someone else to declare themselves to be Christian by getting baptized. It is sometimes my job to be a spiritual midwife to other believers, as it was for Paul, and help Christ ‘be formed in you’ one stage more.
There can be a genesis for church people: a new beginning. As there was a new step of faith and action in the life of Ananias. He went ahead with his God-given mission to bless nasty Saul.
So for the ‘conversion’ of believers I also pray. ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’ Perhaps as you pray for me, my next chapter will also have a Genesis, and by some miracle I too will be better than ever before. Keep on praying with your life for the renewal of the earth, for the renewal of those who seem wicked or wrecked, and for the renewal of those who are Christians. Our Mighty God blesses all!