Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pages from a Preacher's Prayer Book (12)

12 In the beginning God…Gen. 1:1

Scripture’s first four words are stunning. They put everything into perspective. Theologians rightly emphasize how God in the beginning created out of nothing – ex nihilo. That before anything came to be, anything at all, God is. No matter how far back the time-line extends through billions of light years, there never was time when God was not. Mystery, wonder, awe overwhelm with these four words.

As a newly ordained pastor to a church in Blackburn, England I preached my first sermon on these four words - just these four. I don’t have a record of what I said, but I know I had to stress that the beginning of a new pastorate was just another little chapter in God’s big story, from creation to consummation. I also wanted to check any self-importance seeping into my ministry, that somehow I was initiating something important. As though, by my own energy and vision, I could do something special. It is so tempting to begin with myself, my story, my understanding and experience. But no – in the beginning God.

These four words call for awe and humility. Awe before the great God, without whom there would be nothing, and whose Word became flesh (John 1:1-14) to make us children of God. Independent of our notions of time and space, this God creates everything. And humility about our role – that everything we do and say depends on God first.

Early, while sensing a call to ministry a skeptical friend said to me: “What I don’t understand is why you need God? You don’t need him to make a success of life?” What a tragic misunderstanding of the realities of existence - that who we are and why we are alive depends on God first.

A Prayer:
Lord, we praise you in the beginning -
In the beginning of everything that is. Creator of all. Father, Son and Holy Spirit from everlasting to everlasting. Beyond my comprehension. Without you…nothing
In the beginning of the church’s story…Jesus says: I will build my church, and the Spirit breathes a new people into being. Without you….no church
In our beginnings…our being found by your grace, our gifting and calling…without you nothing.
But with you, with you in the beginning then we belong to your love and purpose which nothing else will ever be able to break. Give us praise, humility, dependence today, O Lord.

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