Today is our fall kick-off… kind of.
It’s not exactly the beginning of our program year. Circle of Grace and Confirmation started last week; Sunday School and How to Read Your Bible start in a couple of weeks; I’m still trying to figure out how to get a Bible study on the calendar. But it’s the day when, later in the service, I will tell you about what we’ve got going on.
It is the day when we return to the lectionary.
You might know that we follow the Narrative Lectionary. And you might know that a lectionary is just a list of readings for every Sunday and every holiday.
And every year, we start in Genesis. We spend the fall working through the First Testament, reading through the stories of patriarchs and kings, hearing the wise words of anonymous writers, listening to the proclamations of the prophets.
In the deep darkness of December, on the fourth Sunday of Advent, we’ll start focusing on a single gospel. This year, that will be the gospel according to John. Then, sometime in the season of Easter, we’ll start reading about the acts of the apostles and hearing the wise words of the authors of one of the epistles. This year, that will Paul’s words to the church in Philippi.
And finally, on Pentecost, we’ll tell the story of the Spirit among the disciples and the tongues of fire, we’ll say some hard words and we’ll confirm some young people, and the lectionary will end for the year. The summer is for other stuff. The summer is for the scriptures that we would miss if we only had the lectionary.
And since this is the beginning of our lectionary year, we start at the beginning of the scriptures. We start at the beginning of the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth.
We watch God take this dark formless watery mess and… make it into something. God calls the light into being and separates day from night. God separates the waters so that there is rain and ocean; and then separates them again so that there is land and sea. God creates the sun and moon and stars to mark the months and seasons and years. God calls on the world to bring forth life.
And then God makes people. God makes the ones who bear—who reflect—the very image of God. And God shows them the birds of the air and the fish fo the sea, the beasts of the field and all of the plants, and says, “All of this… is yours.”
And God looks at everything that they have done, and sees that it is very good. And then God… rests.
Beginnings are strange things.
Every year, Mariah and I celebrate our wedding anniversary. And our wedding was certainly a beginning, but it was not the beginning. Like every long relationship, ours has a bunch of beginnings: the first time we saw each other in the courtyard at school, the first class we had together, the time that I nervously asked her out, our first date, and… so on.
But we don’t celebrate all of those beginnings. We celebrate the beginning that came years after we got started. We celebrate the beginning that separates this relationship from our other relationships.
There is a difference between the relationship whose story starts with the first date… and the relationship whose story starts with a wedding.
And that’s because the stories we tell about beginnings aren’t so much how the thing—whether it’s a relationship or an entire cosmic order—started; they’re about what the thing is.
And this story about the beginning—about the beginning of the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth—isn’t really about how the thing started; it’s about what the thing is.
It’s the world that God created. It’s the world that God gave to us as a gift. It’s the world where God rests.
Not the world where God is sprawled out on the couch and taking a nap. Not the world where God sits in the recliner, with their feet up, watching old episodes of The Simpsons. Not the world where God climbed into the porch swing out on the veranda with a glass of lemonade and a good book.
But the world where God stopped creating and organizing and getting everything set up, and settled into the peaceful day-to-day of being in relationship with all that they had made. The world where God stopped getting ready and started living.
I know that sounds weird.
But there’s a difference between the world whose story starts with how God made everything and the world whose story starts with what God made.
And I believe that God did, in fact, make everything; I believe that God called the world into being, and gave it to humanity as a gift, and laid before us the path of life and the path of death. And I believe that when the world gets broken, and when we choose the path of death, God redeems… God restores… God makes whole.
But I also believe that this story… is not about that. I believe that this is a story about what the world is. It is a gift. It is a place where God can rest. It is a place where God can live.
And it is a place where we can rest. It is a place where we can live… in the peaceful day-to-day of being in relationship with God, and with each other, and with all of creation.
And I know that sounds weird. And I know that sounds weird because we work so hard to make life so hard.
We worry about the stuff that we have. We worry about the material stuff, of course; and we worry about the power and the privilege and the prestige. We worry about how we can keep what we have. We worry about what might happen if other people get some of it. We worry about how we can get more of it.
We worry about today and we worry about tomorrow. We worry about next month and next year.
And we toil to get more. We toil to get enough. And we hope that if we toil hard enough… then one day… maybe one day far in the future… we will have created enough, and organized enough, and gotten everything set up enough… that we can… rest. That we can stop getting ready and start living.
Y’know… once we get to the weekend, or once things calm down a little bit, or when we retire, or…
But here’s the thing. Here’s the truth. Here’s the good news.
The world is already a place of rest; God made it that way.
God called the light into being and separated day from night. God separated the waters and separated them again. God created the sun and moon and stars to mark the months and seasons and years. God called on the world to bring forth life.
And God keeps it running. God feeds the ravens and clothes the lilies in glory. God brings forth grass for the cattle and prey for the lions. God gives shelter to hyraxes and picas and mountain goats.
And God makes people. God makes you, and me, and all of us… the ones who bear—who reflect—the very image of God. And God shows us the birds of the air and the fish fo the sea, the beasts of the field and all of the pants, and says, “All of this… is yours. All of this belongs to all of you. And there is enough and more than enough.”
And when we inevitably mess it up, God redeems us and restores us and makes us whole. God invites us to get up and try again.
Which is all to say that we can find rest here. We can find rest now.
Now sprawling out on the couch and taking a nap… or sitting in the recliner, with our feet up, watching old episodes of The Simpsons… or climbing into the porch swing out on the veranda with a glass of lemonade and a good book…
…well, sometimes those things, because those things are important…
…but, more importantly, living in the peaceful day-to-day of being in relationship with God, and with each other, and with all of creation.
And imagine what a world it would be, if instead of toiling to get enough—enough material stuff, enough power, enough privilege, enough prestige—to rest in the future… we looked for those ways that we can find rest in the peaceful day-to-day of the present, and worked for a world where everyone could find that blissful and holy rest.
Because that world, indeed, would be very good.