Sunday, September 18, 2011

Great Beginnings - Week 2

THE STORY - Great Beginnings (Genesis 1-8)
Reflection by Pastor Penny

"1 How well God must like you – you don't hang out at Sin Saloon, you don't slink along Dead-End Road, you don't go to Smart-Mouth College. 2 Instead you thrill to God's Word, you chew on Scripture day and night. 3 You're a tree replanted in Eden, bearing fresh fruit every month, Never dropping a leaf, always in blossom."
 --Psalm 1, The Message

There are so many ways that the Bible invites us into the story of our lives. The scripture says it helps us to know how to live by guiding us into the right paths. Wonder how we started out? Just open to Genesis and begin to read.

We begin as the beloved friends of God. The Bible holds our story in ways that let us know how deeply we are loved, how we make dangerous choices, and how God reacts to our disobedience. One of my favorite ways to tell this story is from: YHWH is not a Radio Station in Minneapolis, by Craig McNair Wilson*. (I neglected to give him credit in the sermon.) Here’s my adaptation of his version:

God created the world in wonderful ways – speaking into shape all we see as lovely: sun, moon, stars, mountains, seas, maples-changing-color, ferns, and Star Gazer Lilies. There were underground utilities, snow never fell on the sidewalks and the pets were incredible (as you can imagine!). On day 6, things are not just ‘good’ but “very good.” As God breathed life into Adam and Eve, created in God’s image, God told them to be creative, make a family, and manage the wonderful place - But to stay out of the Banana Grove. It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with bananas – God just wanted to see if they would obey or decide for themselves what was good.

One late morning, as Eve was playing with the pandas, she heard a voice; it turned out to be a banana salesman who said: “You got any bananas?” She replied, “God told us not to touch the banana tree. How about a pomegranate, or some granola?”

“Nope,” he insisted, “I’m a banana man myself, I’m not myself unless I have some every day. I used to be God’s number one man, till I got as smart as God and got kicked out of the organization.”

Eve replied, “Well, God said…”

“Ha!” hooted the Banana Salesman. “God just wants to keep you away from the neighbors’ garden—it’s greener than Eden. And God knows that if you eat the bananas you’ll be as smart as God is.”

And so, because it was long past lunch, because the bananas were right there, and because she was curious about those neighbors, Eve reached out and helped herself. Yum! She picked a huge bunch of ripe yellow bananas and took them home to Adam. Pealed one for him, smiled and handed it over. Big Banana Party – pealing, eating, till they heard God’s voice.

They began to run, knowing how sad God would be. But as they tried to make a quick escape they tripped and fell in all the banana peels. That’s where God found them.

Today we are still slipping because we want to be as smart as God. That’s where God has found us – slipping and falling in the banana peels of our disobedience, laziness, anger, selfishness, stinginess, etc.

It’s very important for us to know just how God acts when God’s friends – we -- walk away from the friendship. We have God’s reaction to the disobedience in Genesis 3:20-24; it’s The Story, page 6, bottom paragraph. There are a number of amazing things God does in response to the disobedience of Adam and Eve. Yes, they receive consequences but God also acts in strong ways to protect them.

First, (my very favorite), is that God makes clothes for them. God doesn’t dump them out in the cold without protection, but we get the picture of something handmade by the master craftsman—a gift from someone who knows them inside and out.

Second, they are taken from the garden. How’s that good? It’s away from the place of even more temptation and eternal trouble. As they would have had the chance then to touch the other forbidden tree, the Tree of Life. To have lived forever in their disobedient way, would have been even farther than God’s best for them.

Third, there’s a guard to keep things the way God knows they should be. An angel, with a flaming sword, is placed in front of the garden gate, just in case the temptation to return is too strong. It’s another way they are kept in a safe place by God.

As we all read The Story I’m glad we’ve had a chance to bless the experience together and begin to draw on this great resource for our future together as a new congregation. We are accepting God’s great invitation to learn and to grow together.


What’s next??? We get a little glimpse in The Story page 12, “God promised the impossible to Abram, and Abram watched as the impossible occurred.” Next week, first person narrative: “Sarah’s Laughter”

This Week’s Aside
What about the things I don’t agree with or wonder about? I’m sure we could all find a reason to stop reading. There’ll be ‘too something’ for all of us.

Timeline: Look at the timelines as suggestions, although the later ones are certainly close to dates when things probably happened. The Story says these are approximate.

Gender Language: I’d like to re-write the whole book to make the language stop reflecting God as having gender. Methodist churches use either NRSV or The Message – both of which are translated, paraphrased, to give us accurate understandings of God as being above gender. Male and female are created in God’s image, so please try to tune out the male pronouns.

*Resource: YHWH Is Not A Radio Station in Minneapolis: And Other Things Everyone Should Know. Craig McNair Wilson. 1983

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