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God Saw That It Was Good

creation of adamGenesis 1: 1-5, 26-31 and 2: 1-3
Matthew 5: 13-16
Introduction to the reading – Matthew 5: 13-16

The verses we read today are part of the Sermon on the Mount, actually more like a collection of teachings rather than a sermon.  Jesus reinterprets the old law given to Moses and also offers new law for his disciples.

Verses 13 through 16 may be very familiar to you...

The passages which Elliot read from Genesis, the first book of the Bible, are part of the familiar and beloved creation story:  In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth…  Because it was a lot to read, we skipped over the verses where God created the waters and dry land; vegetation; sun, moon and stars; and all the living creatures of ocean, sky and earth.  But you did hear about the creation of humankind and how we are to have dominion over all the rest of the created order, and finally how God rested on the seventh day.  Notice that every time God created something, he saw that it was good – it was all good.

When we hear this story, we are reminded that our created world was not of human origin.  The earth did not come about from an idea in any human mind or by the work of any human hand.  We are God’s creatures, God’s children, not vice versa.  Our role is to discover what God has done; to delight in it; to be in awe; to take good care of it, from the vast expanse of the universe to the workings of the innermost parts of the human body.  And, according to Genesis, we are made in God’s image, so there is a spark of holy creativity within us, and, I would say, a sense of holy forgiveness, justice, peace and holy love.

God, the Creator, was the first topic in our Confirmation Class, whose year-long study culminates today as Elliot, Carmen and Abby are received into the membership of this congregation.  In subsequent classes, we talked about human sin and our separation from God; about Jesus, who brings us back into relationship with God; about the Holy Spirit, Scripture and prayer; about the church – its history and mission in this world, its worship and fellowship together.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus reminds his disciples of their distinctive role in the created order as creatures made in the image of God.  Not only are we to be good stewards of the creation, but we are also to be good stewards of that image.  We are to be a reflection of who God is, bearers of forgiveness, reconciliation, peace, justice and love.  We bear the name of Jesus Christ; we are Christians, both individually and as the church.
This is often a difficult load to carry and has been from the beginning.  In many times and places, the church has seemed to be either

  • a small group trying to live out an alternative life in the midst of a culture that neither appreciates or understands them and doesn’t give them voice or
  • a strong, demanding political institution that has pretty much lost sight of Jesus.

In the 21st century, we seem to be suffering through both scenarios.
The hardest part of being Christian is being faithful day after day, maintaining confidence in what, for all the world, appears to be a losing cause or a strident competitor for attention.  Yet we remember that when God created this world – however that happened, it did happen, and here we are – God saw that it was good.  Our call as Christians is to preserve that goodness.  We are, Jesus said, the salt of the earth: only a little bit, a few grains, it flavors the whole, and preserves the whole, sometimes in ways that cannot be detected.  We are, Jesus said, the light of the world.  Do you remember the line from an old song?  “If everyone lit just one little candle, what a bright world this would be.”

Today our focus has been on youth – confirmands, 3rd graders, graduates, scholarship winners.  The fresh salt, the new lights.  

But those of us who have been around longer are no less important.  Unless we let it happen out of neglect, our salt has not lost its flavor, our light has not dimmed.

And now to the One who by the holy power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than anything we can ask or even imagine, to God be the glory in the church and in each of our lives forever and ever.  Amen.

Rev. Kathryn Henry
Peapack Reformed Church, Gladstone, NJ
June 11, 2017

khenryRev. Kathryn Henry
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