Pastor Sherry’s Message for January 10, 2021
Scriptures: Gen 1:1-5; Ps 29; Acts 19:1-7; Mk 1:4-11
Genesis 1:1-5 Imagine, for just a moment, that there were no light at all. We would experience that deep darkness in which, like the blind, we could not see anything around us. If you have ever visited one of the big underground caverns, you may have experienced them turning off all of the lights. You would remember that you could not even see your hands in front of your face! How disorienting! We wouldn’t be able to see obstacles or dangers, like drops in the floor, dangers, or evil-doers. We might find ourselves becoming very afraid. This was exactly the situation before God began His great acts of Creation (but of course, no one but the Trinity was there).
Don’t you wish, however, that God had chosen to share more with us about the Creation events? His account is remarkably brief…one chapter, 31 verses. It is an abridged, “Reader’s Digest” version of what transpired. The story is told that a newspaper editor got onto one of his writers for being too wordy in an article he was preparing. “Cut it down,” he rumbled to the man. “After all,” he continued, “the story of the creation was told in Genesis in 282 words.” The reporter shot back, “Yes, and I’ve always thought we could have been saved a lot of arguments later if someone had just written another couple hundred.”
Nonetheless, God has given us the essentials:
1.) He created all things;
2.) He created them out of nothing (ex nihilo; He used no raw materials);
3.) Because He made all things, He is thus sovereign over, or more powerful than, all things. Most pagan religions deify nature (inventing gods of trees, rivers, the sun and moon, etc.). But these 1st verses of Genesis tell us that all of nature was created by God.
4.) Additionally, verse 3 tells us He first created light, but does not reference the sun or the moon and stars. Those familiar forms of light were not created until the 4th day. Let There Be Light! So, what light is He talking about?
I think Rev. 22:3-5, describing the New Jerusalem, gives us a clue. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will serve Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. So, either God shone His light into the darkness; or He may have been creating morality, good vs. evil; or He may have been creating the dawn of enlightenment/knowledge, the beginning of understanding God’s place in the universe as well as our own. We really don’t know which—until we arrive in Heaven, it will remain what the nuns in my four years of Catholic Girls School referred to as a “holy mystery.”
Psalm 29 Is a psalm of praise to God written by King David. In it, David extols the power of God’s voice, which sounds to him like a thunderstorm. God’s voice is powerful enough to break the cedars of Lebanon (the largest trees of that day, perhaps like our Sequoias). God’s voice is powerful like lightening. God’s voice is powerful like an earthquake. David doesn’t directly say so, but we can certainly begin to comprehend the power contained in God’s voice. It rumbles like thunder or like the roar of turbulent seas. We know the Israelites heard God’s voice and were so frightened that they then said to Moses, in effect, “You talk to Him; His voice scares us.” Certainly his voice would have to be powerful to be able to simply speak creation into existence. This week a friend, Isabella, told me she had heard God’s voice. She had made a total mess of her life when she was younger and was very distressed when she asked the Lord, “Are you there?” (She was worried that He might have abandoned her because she had abandoned Him.) She said she immediately heard, right by her ear, a soft, “caramel” voice say, “Yes.” God may often thunder, but He also occasionally speaks softly.
Because of His great power, God—David assures us in verse 10– …is enthroned as King forever. He is eternal. We can ignore Him if we choose, but He will never be replaced, dethroned, declared incompetent, or suffer a coup. No one will successfully invoke the 23rd amendment against Him. Back in the ‘70’s or ‘80’s, they tried to say He was dead. I remember a Time Magazine cover that proclaimed, “God is dead!” But they were wrong! We can depend upon Him being very alive and very much available to us. And, verse 11àWe can depend upon Him to give us strength, and to bless us with His peace—even in the midst of political turmoil, plagues like the Covid, widespread fear and unrest, etc.
Building on the fact that God is our creator (Genesis 1), and adding in Psalm 29, we can come to Him in faith, no matter our dilemmas; we can depend upon Him to hear and to help; and we can trust that He is both powerful and in charge, no matter what is going on in our families, communities, nation, or even internationally. He is the Light of the World. Let There Be Light!
Acts 19:1-7 Doesn’t appear to fit with the Scriptures just cited. Paul is evangelizing the city of Ephesus (3rd Mission trip). He had cruised by earlier, as he was winding up his 2nd journey. But this time, he stays there for 2 years, teaching and preaching Jesus Christ. When he arrives this second time, he finds some believers. They had been brought to Christ by the preaching of Apollos. Apparently Apollos had only learned of John the Baptist’s baptism of repentance, the preparation for Jesus’ coming. So Paul asks if they have also been baptized into the Holy Spirit. They didn’t know what this was. In a sense reminiscent of “we don’t know what we don’t know,” they had not heard of Jesus because Apollos did not yet know of Jesus. Thus, they were not saved, nor were they “in Christ. Additionally, they were unaware of the Holy Spirit. This, then, is where Paul begins with them. Let There Be Light! (the Light of Enlightenment). Paul teaches them and then baptizes them into the Holy Spirit. Even as “baby Christians,” they begin to speak in tongues and to prophesy.
We too, if we are in Christ and have been filled with the Holy Spirit, can demonstrate the gifts of the HS. God has Let There Be Light in and through us. In other words, our all-powerful God empowers us to strengthen His church. He empowers us to have a powerful impact on others. As Scripture says, God is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine due to His power at work in us.
This past Tuesday, I had my annual sonogram on my liver done at Shands Hospital in Gainesville. A radiology tech there told me that benign cysts like mine are with aperson from birth and that they do not reduce in size. However, my cyst has decreased by about half in the past two years. She asked me what I had done to reduce it. I responded that I had done nothing. The unexpected improvement is due to Jesus acting through your prayers for me. As an obvious non-believer, she was skeptical, but perhaps God will usemy testimony (my healthier liver) and your prayers to bring her to Christ! Let There Be Light!
In our Gospel lesson, Mk 1:4-11, John the Baptist baptizes for repentance from sin, announces Jesus is coming, and then baptizes Jesus. Notice, he has been heralding the coming of Christ when Jesus shows up. God thus demonstrates that John the Baptist is a legit prophet. He predicts what will happen, and it happens. By the power of God, Jesus has taken on human flesh, humbles His sinless self, identifies with our sinfulness, and agrees to be baptized.
The other two members of the Trinity show up as well: The Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descends upon Him. Then God the Father speaks from heaven His approval of Jesus. Let There Be Light! This Jesus is someone really special! Mark 1:11 records the Father declaringàYou are My Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased. Our powerful, Creator God has so loved us that (John 3:16)…He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
This 2021 New Year, let’s not allow our attention to be focused on the events of this world, but praying for the world, let us focus on the power and strength of our God! Let there be the light of Christ in our lives. Let His light shine through us so that others catch it. Lord, Let There Be Light in our dark world! Let There Be Light!
©2021 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams