Sermon 7 Sept. 2014: “Beginnings & Promises”

We are beginning with the Narrative Lectionary this fall.  I think it’s a worthwhile lectionary that will, “make a difference” in our communal life of being church & individual lives of faith!

Text: Genesis 6:1-8:22 (Story of Noah)

So I’m guessing you’ve noticed things are a little bit different this morning.  And if you’re thoroughly confused and uncomfortable, I understand and get that.  Yet it’s my hope that “different” means “meaningful.”  Let me explain:

The Kyrie: The Kyrie is really a prayer, a confession of our need for God and God’s mercy as sinners who live in a sinful world.  “Kyrie eleison” means “Lord, have mercy.”  We as a church cry “Kyrie eleison”….for the world, for our nation, for our communities; for the sick, the poor, the hurting, lowly; for our families and loved ones, and for ourselves.  This is how we open worship; this is our confession.

Sharing the Peace:  We share the peace after the confession and forgiveness, because as we’ve been forgiven by God, we are freed then to forgive our neighbor, to greet them with peace rather than hostility.  It’s a way for us to welcome visitors and newcomers; friends and “church family.” But it’s more than just saying hi…. it’s a moment of reconciliation we offer to each other, because God has reconciled with us in Christ.

Opening Hymn: It’s a hymn of praise for God’s forgiveness and grace, and for the privilege to gather and be church in worship together.

Reading:  There’s only one…and I’ll explain a little more in detail in a second…..

Prayers:  This is just me, but I long for our prayers to be more personal, more specific.  I want to feel like we’re praying together, not just reading words off a sheet.  And so, perhaps we try writing our own prayers….and I’ll start that off.  But considering we only see each other once during the week for the most part – maybe we’d do well as a community to share more of ourselves during our time of prayer – our concerns and cares and joys and thanksgivings.

Announcements:  We’ll do them at the end…because 99% of the time I’m giving announcements I forgot about anyway.  And, it’ll force me and everyone else giving announcements to be brief.  How’s that work for ya?

The whole point is to make worship about this time with God in community – experiencing God grace and call in our lives in Word and Sacrament.  It’s worship where sinners like you and me come to take stock of our lives and how we fall short, and to be forgiven and redeemed by God’s grace.  And as forgiven sinners….in the hearing of the Word in Scripture; in the shared meal of bread and wine – Christ’s body and blood…..we go out to share God’s message of love and grace with all people in and through our lives.

And that’s the point of this Narrative Lectionary – it’ll take us through the whole story of the Bible, one story at a time.  Because here’s the thing: while Jesus is the fullness of God’s love, forgiveness and mercy…..God’s been in the business of loving and forgiving the world for a lot longer than that.  And we’ll see that in these great stories and scriptures in the Old Testament…and perhaps, you’ll see how the whole Bible really does tell a complete story of God’s love…..and of Christ’s love.

And so we start at the beginning….well sort of.  It’s not Adam and Eve and the garden….but the story of Noah and the Flood is a lot like that creation story.  There’s a pattern we can see that’s the same in the story of Adam and Eve and in Noah and the Flood:

God has created the world – a world he calls good –  because God has a desire to love.  The world was created and God said it was good.  He created humankind and said it was very good.  And God doesn’t totally destroy the whole world in the flood.  He spares Noah and his family, every living creature “two by two,” and even the food from the earth for them.

But humankind is inclined to sin, and this affects God.  In other words, God gets angry, but I think deeper than that God is hurt by human sin.  God’s cry to Adam and Eve is “What have you done?”  And at the beginning of the Noah story, Genesis Chapter 6, which we didn’t read, says that “the LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually….and it grieved God to his heart.”

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like responses of a pained parent who loves rather than an angry God who wants to punish.

And God’s response is two-fold: a judgment on humanity and its action that comes with consequences, but also an act by God to save, restore, space, and redeem the whole creation.  Adam and Eve are cast out of the garden, but God doesn’t destroy them…rather they now work the land as a consequence of their sin.  Everything in the ark is spared – even though a flood is sent to wipe out the rest of the creation.

And finally, God makes a covenant – a promise – with humanity that expresses God’s faithfulness to all of creation and humankind.  And God gives humankind a special role within creation as part of that promise.  Adam and Eve are able to bear children, and promises their son Cain, after he murders his brother that he will protect him from those who might want to kill him.  God sends a bow in the clouds as a promise never to destroy the earth again and gives Noah and his family a role as caretaker – even though God still judges that “the inclination of every human heart is evil from youth.”

Sin and judgement; grace and promise.  That is the movement of the story from the beginning.  This is the theme of the bible, it is the theme that patterns our worship, and it is the theme that tells the truth about our lives.  

We are sinners in need of grace – grace that God gives freely and unconditionally.  Against popular thought these days, “God doesn’t accept us just the way we are; but God embraces and loves us just the way we are.”

We are sinners – not simply people who do bad things, but sinners in that our hearts are so often turned towards mistrust and hate and pride and prejudice that destroy relationships and even the earth we live on.  That is not acceptable to God.

But God embraces and love and forgives sinners.  Because God created us and God still loves his creation – including humankind.  God promises never to completely destroy us, to cut us off completely from a relationship with him.

And out of this promise, God calls us to a new role and life – a life that’s framed around the simple commandment to “Love God, and Love your neighbor.”

That takes me back to our worship: I hope you sense those movements in worship.  We cry “Lord have mercy”, “Kyrie eleison” in our confession that we are, indeed, sinners…..but God embraces us AS SINNERS – not as do gooders, waiting for us to become a better version of ourselves..…but sinners in need of God’s grace.

And God forgives, redeems and is gracious to sinners – to us.  We hear that in the Word – I hope you’re hearing that in the sermon! – and perhaps even more powerful, we experience it in the sacrament of Holy Communion.  It is at this meal, bread and wine, that people in their great need come, and they leave….forgiven sinners.

And as forgiven sinners, we’re then sent…..that’s what the blessing is for.  We’re sent blessed before we go, so that we might be a blessing to others.  We are a blessing….freed to live out the great commandment, “Love God and love your neighbor.”

So yeah, it’s going to be a bit different around here – not just on Sunday mornings either.  But perhaps we’ll hear familiar stories in a new way, hear stories for the first time…but we’ll hear anew, and experience together that age old good news of forgiven sinners always in need of God’s grace….grace that God promises and gives over and over, throughout the story of the Bible, in our Lutheran tradition, and today and to your children’s children and as God promised Noah….from generation to generation.

So maybe different is a good thing.  Something to be thankful for.  Amen.

 

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