Sermon – 2nd before Lent 2020

Sermon: 2nd before Lent
God’s creation and hope
Readings: Genesis 1: 1-2:3, Romans 8: 18-25, Matthew 6: 25-34
Preached at 0800 Service on Sunday 16 February 2020
Paul Ramsey, Reader

In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

There is much for us to take in in our three Bible readings this morning. First, the very start of the written down Bible, the great story of creation by God, passed down through generations, of all we know as the universe and this planet.

It is perhaps appropriate that we have the King James’ version of the Bible at this service on this Sunday, which previously was called Sexagesima, roughly 60 days before Easter. A pattern of worship which has lasted over 400 years.

I have always wondered why we have the phrases: ‘And the evening and the morning were the first day’. They seem to us to be the wrong way round.  But there is an explanation. In Jewish life, the 24 hours that we call a day begin in the evening. Thus their weekly day of rest and worship – the Sabbath – begins on the evening before. So an evening comes before a morning each of their days. I wonder whether it was a way of implying that God was there on the evening before the first 24 hours of creation. Indeed he was, and we find we don’t really have words that describe that period before any time that we can ever think of!

In Genesis, God created in eight different ways over the six days. Light out of darkness. The firmament (the sky and heaven) in the midst of the waters. Dry land separated from the seas. Grass, herb yielding seed, fruit trees and their self-sustaining fruit – a very busy third day. Sun, moon and stars to divide light from dark, and seasons. Fish in the sea and birds in the air. Animals and mankind – male and female. All that is – succinctly described.

And even this week, we have a new insight into the creation of the universe – all that is. Instead of the established view that material violently crashed together to form ever larger clumps until they became worlds, new results suggest the process was less catastrophic – with matter gently clumping together instead.

The claim arises from detailed study of an object in the outer reaches of the Solar System. Named Arrokoth, the object is, we are told, more than six billion km from the Sun in a region called the Kuiper belt. It is a pristine remnant of planet formation in action as the Solar System formed 4.6 billion years ago, with two bodies combining to form a larger one.

The newer gentle clumping theory was developed 15 years ago by Prof Anders Johansen at Lund Observatory in Sweden, but was presented at a lecture in Seattle. Back in Sweden, when the news was broken to Prof Johansen that his theory had been confirmed, he paused before he replied that he “felt great” – in relief that he had not made a code or calculation error. In typical Swedish fashion, Prof Johansen commemorated the occasion with a pizza and coke with his family.

I like the gentle clumping theory. It has the suggestion of a loving, caring God creating everything.

The one word that stood out to me as I prepared this sermon is HOPE. There was so much hope in the story of Genesis – all new, all looking to the future. So there was also in St Paul’s letter to the Romans – creation then waiting in expectation, and still for us now, as we work towards the glorious freedom of the children of God. We too have the hope by being saved through the way Jesus redeemed and continues to redeem the world in which we live. And Jesus himself says, in a way that particularly looks at hope as we live as a Christian, “Do not worry”.

What then is hope? The short sermon is not perhaps the ideal time for us to try and answer this question. But it is fundamental to our life and being.

The noun Hope is defined in the OED as ‘expectation and desire combined’ or Biblically ‘feeling of trust’; then as ‘ground of hope, promise or probability.’ ‘Person or thing that gives cause for hope; what is hoped for. From Old English ‘Hopa’. And the verb to Hope: ‘to look with expectation or desire, feel fairly confident that.’

In Scripture, hope is a confident expectation for the future, describing both the act of hoping and the object hoped for. When grounded in God, hope provides the motivation to live the Christian life even in the face of trouble.

As always this past week has been a time when we have to take in and absorb so much. The spread of the Covid-19 virus and its coming to the UK, the announcements of no more petrol and diesel cars after 2035 (or is it 2032?), and the go ahead for the High Speed North railway, but with an indeterminate end date. Even a new Chancellor of the Exchequer. We do indeed live in a time of much we could worry about.

In all aspects of our lives, we live within the grace and love of God, and following Jesus Christ in our lives not just in worshipping here as now, but in how our faith influences our lives, all day, every day, Sunday to Saturday.

Our belief is this that our faith is one of uncertainty, that is what faith means, but it is our uncertainty, not God’s. God is the bedrock of our faith; and hope, shown supremely in Jesus Christ, is an ever present feature in how we live out our faith.  Amen