Acts 1 & 2

Sermon Series: The Drama of Scripture

By: Donnell Wyche – March 17, 2019

Preamble
We’re so glad you are here with us this morning. We’re grateful for you and the gifts of God that you bring with you into this space. Together we’ve been welcomed into God’s family through Jesus. As we become the people of God and learn how to neighbor, we choose to reflect God’s love in our gratitude, in our joy, and in our generosity as we navigate the complexity of our daily lives. We pray that whether this is your first time with us this morning, or you’ve been a part of our community for a while, that you will feel the invitation of the Holy Spirit to join in with our vision. If you are looking for a church home, we would love to be your church home, and I, in particular would love to become your pastor.

Introduction
Last week, we launched our Lenten Sermon Series, The Drama of Scripture – a six-act story. There are a few resources that might be helpful to you as you attempt to engage the Bible as a grand narrative.

Pick the resources that work best for you:

Books: The Bible as Story

  1. The Book of God, by Walter Wangerin – This book is a novelized version of the story of the bible. It is a fast engrossing read.
  2. The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Story of the Bible, by Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen – This is a great resource for understanding the grand narrative of the Bible. It attempts to tell the whole biblical story from Genesis to Revelation in about 200 pages.
  3. The Story, published by Zondervan – Tells the biblical story using the scriptures from the NIV Bible in 31 chapters. This is a great book if you are new the Bible, this book, uses the scripture to tell the unfolding story of God, his creation and work of redemption.
  4. Story Thru the Bible, by NavPress – The biblical story presented in 52 chapters that can be used as a personal or family devotion, or used within a small group setting. This book includes questions for reflection and discussion.

Video: The Bible Story Project

  1. The Bible Project, The Bible Project is a non-profit animation studio that produces short-form, fully animated videos to make the biblical story accessible to everyone, everywhere. We create 100% free videos, podcasts, and resources that explore the Bible’s unified story. The Bible is a divine-human book that speaks God’s word to his people. We believe it ultimately points us to Jesus, who has the power to change individuals and whole communities when we let the biblical story speak for itself.

Audio: The Bible Experience or the Pray as You Go Podcast

The Importance of Story
Our lives are shaped by some story. The stories we tell ourselves form our realities, they give meaning and understanding to our lives, our existence. As Americans, we have a story that we tell ourselves about ourselves. This story changes depending on what outcome we want to see, but the story we tell ourselves is often based in the American Dream–the belief that freedom “includes a promise of the possibility or prosperity and success.”  James Truslow Adams, in his book, The Epic of America, which was written in 1931, stated that the American dream is “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”

We tell ourselves that if we work hard, our hard work will be rewarded with prosperity and success. This story we tell ourselves shapes our reality, it has an impact on our lives and affects the way we see each other and the rest of world.

The challenge of the American Dream and most of Enlightenment is they tell a story that’s largely individualistic. Self-determination and individuality are the twin gods in this story giving life and meaning to everything. However, the Creator God of the Bible tells a different story. The Creator says that our best life is one that is lived in dependence on Him. The Creator says that our best life is one that is lived in harmony with oneself. The Creator says that our best life is one that is lived in relationship with others.

The God of the Bible tells us that a life lived apart from Him or independent of Him is disastrous. It disrupts the created order, it corrupts our mind, it causes us to rely on ourselves to determine what’s right and wrong, what will and won’t work. This isn’t the world that the Creator God created and said was good. The God of the Bible tells us that our desire for autonomy is what’s wrong with the world.

Here lies the power of story. When we pause, we can allow the truth of the biblical story to crash into the story we are currently living within. When we allow this collision to occur, the world makes sense again, we discover: where we are, who we are, what’s gone wrong, and what’s the remedy. God is calling us to live at the crossroads of the biblical story and the story we have created. The biblical story seeks to supplant our stories with the one true story that gives meaning and purpose to everything.

As we turn our attention to Act 1 and 2 of the biblical story, let’s be reminded of the Big Overarching story that gives life to all the stories of the Bible—this is the story behind all the laws, narratives, poems, and prophecies. This is the grand narrative of the Bible that tells the story of a God with a mission. A mission to rescue his creation from the results of the rebellion–the sin that separates us, the evil that destroys our peace, and the death that robs us of life.

Act 1 – Creation
In the very beginning, God made the heavens and the earth. The earth was unproductive and empty and dark, but God’s spirit hovered over the waters. When God said, “Let there be light,” there was light. He separated light from darkness and called it “day” and “night.” That was the first day of creation.

Then on the second day, God stretched out an expanse above the waters and called it “the heavens.” Then on the third day, He separated the waters by creating dry land, and he called the land “earth” and the waters “seas.” He looked at all he had made and said it was good.

God said, “Let the earth bring forth plants,” and plants began to grow–grass and trees and all kinds of seed-bearing vegetation so the plants could reproduce themselves.

On the fourth day, he made the sun and moon and stars to give light during the day and the night. He set the sun and the moon in the sky and planned their times and seasons to give us days, months, and years.

On the fifth and sixth days, He began creating animal life the same way He had created everything else, just by speaking them into existence: first creatures of the sea and the birds in the air, then land animals of all kinds. He blessed them all to “be fruitful and multiply,” and they all reproduced according to their own kind.

Finally, but still on the sixth day, God made human beings in His own image–designed to be just like Himself. He made both male and female and blessed them to “be fruitful and multiply,” just as He had blessed the animals. He formed the man out of the dust, but the man was alone so God made the woman out of the man. He united them together and said they were “one flesh.” He gave them authority over all the other creatures and over the earth itself, and He gave the man and woman a command to “fill the earth and subdue it.”

He gave them a beautiful place to live: a garden they would work in and take care of.

Every step of the way, God looked at what he had made and said it was good. After He made human beings, when He had finished everything, He looked at it all and said it was “very good” Then on the seventh day God rested, and he blessed that seventh day and set it apart for rest.

The story we receive
This is a story we receive. This story speaks to us; it was written for us, but it wasn’t written to us. It was given to a people at a particular time in their history. We come to this story to hear what it has to say to us, not to impose our thoughts, culture, and expectations on it. “God has chosen the agenda” of this story, and we must trust his decision–anything else will distort the story we hope to receive.

The setting for Genesis 1 is within an ancient storytelling culture. This is a pre-scientific culture.  Into this setting, Moses, chosen by God to free the people of Israel, tells the creation story to Israel. His desire was purely religious, Moses wanted to reveal that the God who liberated Israel from Egypt is also the Creator God. But he does more, as he tells the story of the Creator God’s work in creation, he simultaneously undermines the creation stories that Israel would have been familiar with. He presents God as the one true God, creator of all things, sustainer of all things–the life bringer.

The great thing about God is that he meets us right where we are. It’s the thing that I love most about God. Having just been liberated, God establishes in their memory the truth about the world they live in. He meets them in the desert and reveals that they are characters in a story he has been telling since the beginning of time. That

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; (Psalm 24:1).

What does Act 1 teach us about God?

    • Eternal – He has no beginning and no end.
    • One – He has no co-creators; he acts alone. In the ancient world every force was a god, and every god required an offering.
    • Good – God’s creation is “good,” and this reveals the Creator’s own incomparable goodness, wisdom, and justice.  Unlike the gods of the Ancient Near East or the gods we worship today, you don’t need to make an offering to have right standing with the Creator God. His goodness is not determined by what we have to offer.
    • Distinct from creation – He is not part of the creation.
    • Sovereign King over creation – God establishes the earth as his kingdom and makes it his dwelling place.
    • Powerful – Creation exists because he spoke it into existence.

You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.” (Revelation 4:11)

    • Personal – As King, God does not hold himself distant from his creation. He is not an absentee King ruling from afar taking no interest in his kingdom, territories or his subjects. The God of Act 1 is personal, having built his kingdom, God reigns over it in a deeply personal way. Genesis 1 and 2 reveal a highly relational God. God speaks to the humanity, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”  God has a particular task and invites them to participate in it with him, filling and ordering the world, which he has given to them for their home.

What does Act 1 teach us about humanity?

Act 1 establishes a biblical understanding of the humanity. We are in relationship with God, ourselves, each other and the world.

    • Unique – Humanity is unique among the creatures, which God creates. God only addresses the man and the woman. They enjoy a uniquely personal relationship with God. St. Augustine observed in his Confessions, that we were made for God, and our hearts are restless until we find our rest in him.
    • Relationship with God – The relationship expands, God gives humanity a purpose, “Be fruitful and fill the earth” this purpose also includes a vocation to work in and care for the garden that God created to sustain life. Act 1 describes humanity as stewards ruling before and in the presence of God. We express our relationship with God in how we answer the vocation we have been given, are we good stewards partnering with God or are we tyrants exploiting God’s good creation for our own selfish purposes. When we exploit the garden for our consumption and selfish reasons, we misunderstand our vocation and we dishonor our Creator.
    • Made in God’s Image – We contain the divine spark. God endows his creation with qualities that he himself has. Genesis 1:26, “…let them rule.” Genesis 1:28, “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it.”  Humanity was given freedom, the power to create, the authority to rule. As his image bearers, we reveal God as we are busy within the creation “developing its hidden potentials in agriculture, art, music, commerce, politics, scholarship, family life, church, leisure and so on…” Humanity is created for God, for each other, and for the creation, to be at work within it.
    • Community – As God creates humanity, he creates us to be in relationship with each other. None of us can be fully human on our own: we are always in a variety of relationships. This act of creation underscores God’s particular love for creation–it isn’t good that we attempt to live life alone.

What does Act 1 teach us the World?

    • Good – God saw all that he had made, and it was very good (Gen 1:31). And the world remains a part of God’s good creation.
    • Ordered by God’s word – God sets time in motion, establishing the seasons and climates, he is likewise responsible for setting up all aspects of human existence. He forms and fills the earth. The availability of water and the ability of the land to grow vegetation; the laws of agriculture and the seasonal cycles; each of God’s creatures, created with a role to play—all of this was ordered by God and was good, not tyrannical or threatening.
    • Kingdom – While we may be citizens of God’s kingdom, Act 1 tells us that that kingdom has it home here on the earth.

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; (Psalm 24:1).

Put another way, there isn’t a “natural” realm or “heavenly” realm. Act 1 tells us that heaven and earth are the same place. And that God has it made it His dwelling place.

Let’s turn our attention to Act 2 – The Rebellion
When God placed Adam and Eve in Eden, He told them they could eat of any tree in the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If they ate of that tree, they would die. But one day a serpent came to Eve and asked her, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Eve explained that they could eat the fruit of any tree, but they must not eat or touch the tree in the middle of the garden. The serpent then told her that the reason God did not want them to eat from that tree is because He knew their eyes would be opened and they would be like Him. The serpent said they wouldn’t die.

Eve looked at the fruit of the forbidden tree and saw that it was desirable, so she ate it. Then she gave some to Adam, and he ate it too. When they had eaten, their eyes were opened, and they realized they were naked and tried to cover themselves. When they heard God walking in the garden later, they tried to hide form Him because they were afraid.

“Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” God asked. Adam confessed but blamed Eve for giving him the fruit, and then Eve confessed but blamed the serpent for deceiving her. Then God cursed the serpent to crawl on his belly as a snake and declared that there would forever be hostility between humans and snakes. He also foretold a time when the woman’s offspring would crush the serpent’s head, though the serpent would bite his heel.

Then God declared that, as a consequence of sin, the woman would have greater pain in childbirth and her husband would rule over her. And because Adam listened to his wife and disobeyed, God cursed the ground and declared that it would produce food only through the hard labor of mankind. And, as God had warned them, they would now die; as Adam had been made from dust, they would return to dust. Then God made clothes for Adam and Eve out of animal skins, banished them from Eden and set an angelic guard to keep people from eating from the tree of life.

What does Act 2 teach us about the creation, humanity and the world?

    • Before the rebellion there was peace in God’s good creation (Eden)
      • There was peace between humanity and God
      • There was peace within the humanity
      • There was peace with the creation

However, all of that is disrupted when humanity decides to pursue autonomy instead of dependence. The Creator provided everything that was needed; however, the first humans decided to take what didn’t belong to them. In this act of rebellion, we learn about the nature of sin. At its core, it’s about the pursuit of autonomy–the desire to be the sole determiner of what is good or bad, what is right or wrong, what is true or false. In this act, we break relationship with the Creator who gives life, meaning and purpose to all things. In this act of rebellion we set ourselves up as god, telling the Creator we no longer need him, or his provision. 

What happens when we sin and join the rebellion:

    • Alienated from God – We become alienated from God. We break our relationship with God when tell him he is no longer needed to sustain our life. When we establish ourselves as the sole determiner of what is right or wrong, good or bad, true or false, we make it clear we have need for the Creator God in our lives.
    • Broken Relationships with Others – The first humans show us clearly the result of this rebellion, immediately they start to blame each other.
    • Death – While it is true that Adam and Eve didn’t die immediately after taking what didn’t belong to them, they did experience death. They experienced death in their relationship with God, which caused them to be afraid of him, to flee from him, and experience shame in his presence.
    • Shame and Guilt – Shame and guilt take up residence in our lives.

Act 2 is not the end of the story. Thank God!

Disappointed, but not defeated, God, turns his face in love toward the humanity that has just rejected him. As a sign that he still has a purpose for them, He provides clothes for their shame–a foreshadowing of the innocence that will be lost to restore humanity again. He protects them by exiling them from the garden. As they start their exile, their future is uncertain, but there’s hope. The woman’s offspring will bruise the head of the serpent.