In the beginning… In the beginning, God… In the beginning, God created… it’s such an Iconic opening sentence, and it holds so much power and understanding for us. And depending on how you want to break it up the first few words can put a whole difference spin on the creation story. In the Beginning, tells us that this story starts at the very beginning – there is nothing more before this. In the Beginning, God, tells us that from that very beginning, there was God. And In the Beginning, God created, tells us about this God – that God is a creative God, one who isn’t content to be there alone, but wants others as well.
I watched an interesting video the other day that talked about creation stories of various superheros, and how they reflect who we are, and what we are fearful of, and what we aspire to. For example, he highlighted how in the early mythology of Spiderman, he got his powers from what?
A radioactive spider. He said this reflected the great power and potential that was seen from Radioactive materials, but also the fear and mystery that surrounded it. Fast forward to the latest revamps, and gone is the radioactive spider and it is replaced with a genetically modified spider – again reflecting the great power and potential of gentically modified items, but also the fear that comes with it. And you look through the various superheros of our time, and you see a variety of things that we, as a society are both aspiring towards, and running away from.
So what does this story tell us about ourselves? Well, before I look at that, there’s two other readings that I want us to look at, as well as this first reading.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.2 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.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.4 God saw that the light was good, and he 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.
4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
“John’s baptism,” they replied.
4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.
I see these three readings as three creation stories if you will, each with the common element of the holy Spirit. In Genesis, we read of the Spirit of God hovering over the waters before God started creating. In Mark, we read John the Baptist preaching a baptism of repentance and water, and telling of one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit – after which Jesus is baptised and the spirit of God descends on him like a Dove. Finally, in Acts, we read of some disciples in Ephesus who had received John’s baptism of repentance, but had not heard of the holy spirit, so Paul layed hands on them, the Holy Spirit came down on them, and they were given gifts by the Holy Spirit.
Just like the creation stories of the superheros, the creation stories told here reflect things that we all aspire to, but also something that we’re a little bit afraid of. The Holy Spirit. I love the song, Send the Fire, but always say that it’s a dangerous song, because of the line “We want another Pentecost” – the day when the spirit came down and convicted so many people, gave gifts to so many people, where these days we often sing of it as if it was a nice Sunday Morning worship. The Holy Spirit is something that we long for, something that we want, but at the same time, we are a little bit wary of it, a little bit scared. It’s almost like we say, “We like your creative spirit, and your coming down like a peaceful dove, but if anyone starts speaking in tongues, I’m out of here.” Have we reduced the Spirit of God to something that is too comfortable for us? Is the Holy Spirit the Comfy Chair and Fluffy Pillows of God?
The Holy Spirit is actually much more than that. It is the Holy Spirit who brought about New Life in all of us. We talked last week about being a new creation – if we’re a new creation, it would make sense that we also have a new creation story. Let me tell you mine.
I was born in a Christian Household. My parents were Church of Christ ministers, and I had been going to church as long as I can remember. My parents – perhaps at odds with many of their contemporaries, decided not to baptise my sister and me while babies, believing that it should be a choice we make at a later stage. It came to a stage when my parents were about to leave the church we were at, to step out in another direction. It was then, at age 10, that I decided that I wanted to make a commitment, to be baptised and be called a child of God. So I was baptised, by my father, into the family of God, and ever since that day I have been learning more and more what it means to be a child of God.
I want to tell you about the Creation story of a friend that I got to spend a year with while at College. By the age of 14, Peter had been drinking and getting in trouble with the police for vandalism. By 15 he was smoking marijuana. at age 19, he was arrested for trafficking drugs. He thinks that pretty much every place he lived in, the police had raided and smashed the doors in. At age 29, he tried to get away from it all and moved to Cairns, but soon enough he was back in Melbourne, living in a tin shed with just the clothes on his back. He was prescribed rohypnol by a local doctor, who encouraged him to come along to his church. They picked him up and took him along. When he got there, he realised that half the people who were there had been in the same place that he was. From that day, God started healing him and he had no withdrawals. Peter and his wife are now officers at Whyalla, and Peter’s been clean for over 20 years.
The thing is, that we all have our own creation story. We all have our own story of how we came to God. But more often than not, we don’t tell it, do we? And I’m as much at fault here as anyone else – how many people had heard my creation story before? The way I figure it, a story isn’t a story unless it’s a story told… and what God is doing in each and every one of our lives is the greatest story ever told.
So I want to give you some time today to recall your story. As you came in today you should have been given a sheet of paper, and a writing implement. We’re going to listen to a song, and while you do that you have an opportunity to write down your own creation story. Your paper isn’t large, and you don’t have a lot of time, and that’s the point – we want to be able to share this in a short and succinct way when the opportunity arises. So while we listen, write down your creation story, write down how you came to Christ. Maybe your story has more questions than answers. Maybe your story is still being written. Either way, it’s your story. Let’s listen to this song, and write down our story.
This is my story, this is my song, praising my saviour all the day long. This is your story, it is your song. Each of us have a different story, and each story is part of the wonderful tapestry that makes up our church, and the church world-wide.
Would there be a couple of people who would like to share their story right now?
When we know our story, we can be prepared to share it when the Holy Spirit – the common feature through all the creation stories that we read today – leads us. We can’t save anyone ourselves – but we can be open for the Holy Spirit to work through our lives, and through the interactions we have with everyone we meet. Through prayer and listening to God, we can be responsive –and confident that God has it all in hand.
As I said before, maybe your story brings up more questions that it does answers. Maybe your creation story is still in the process of being written. Maybe you’re not even sure why you’re here, and you couldn’t put anything down on that paper. If that’s the case, I invite you to open up your heart and talk to God, invite him into your life so that you can be a new creation in him. We’re going to join together and sing that song, Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine. If you want to claim Jesus as yours here today, maybe for the first time, maybe for the 100th, you’re invited to come forward and pray. Someone will come and pray with you, or maybe you’d like to bring someone up with you. Your creation story is waiting to be written, all you have to do is allow God to start writing it.