In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
For so many people the Old Testament is a closed book. All they know of it are a few foggy, semi-mythical sounding stories from the days they sat in front of flannel graph in some basement Sunday School somewhere. The Old Testament for most is an oddment of strongman Samson, white bearded Moses, sword brandishing Joshua, maybe scaredy-cat Gideon, and the like. It’s a fun book. But it’s a confusing book. Even well meaning Christians will assert that it’s as though there are two different gods at work between the Old Testament and the New Testament. After all, the New Testament God is so loving and compassionate. Whereas this Old Testament God seems like a wrathful, smiting God.
Yet Christ our Lord said the Old Testament was about Him. It revealed Him. He was at its center! (John 5:39; Acts 10:43) Which begs the question: what was the Second Person of the Holy Trinity—the Son of God begotten from all eternity, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God—doing before He took on flesh in the womb of Blessed Virgin Mary? Well, dear friends, we are going to answer that this year. We are going to spend this Church year going through the historical accounts of the Old Testament, looking for Jesus, the Son of God in every historical account. And finding Him we will ask where is the Law of God and the Gospel of God in this narrative? For St. Paul tells us that these events occurred for our instruction. (1 Corinthians 10:11) So let’s learn!
Yet science has nothing to say about that which is spiritual. Because science can only speak about the material. About what can be experienced by the five senses. About matter.
The Bible’s foundational assumption is that there is more than matter. There is God. Which begs the question: who is this God? What can be known about Him? Well, from nature, very little can be known about Him. You can look out at the natural world and see unbelievable complexity, see design, purpose, and complex codes which store vast amounts of information. Think of DNA and the incredible information stored in such minuscule space. This obvious design in codes like DNA is powerful, scientifically observable evidence that suggests there is a designer. A God. Thus, it is actually reasonable, logical to say, “There is a God.” I can’t prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt, but there is powerful evidence that suggests it. But what is a matter of faith is: what can be known about this God? Again, he’s a designer, a creator. But that’s about where nature stops. We can’t know much more about this God from nature.
And so you end up with two different viewpoints on life, the universe and everything. One which posits “in the beginning, God” and one which posits, “in the beginning, matter.” And so the materialist explanation of the universe knows not where the spark of life came from, and has no lawful explanation for it. It merely observes that it is here, and death soon follows. And so unwittingly the materialist sinks into a viewpoint which has little to say about life, apart from trying to explain its workings, but much to say about death, and that which is not alive, and absolutely nothing to say about life after death. And so, a materialistic viewpoint of the universe ends up not increasing life, and exalting life, but at best saying, “Well it happens.” In fact, such viewpoints begin to cheapen life, viewing it merely as consequence of mechanistic happenstance. This logically leads to ethical questions such as, “Why not kill a baby that is already born if it is not desired or is less than perfect?”
While the viewpoint which starts, “In the beginning, God,” is entirely about life! It starts with the Living One who creates the universe. He does this for the sake of life. He creates mankind as the crown of His creation. The one entity in all the universe which is both material and spiritual. Formed of matter from the dust of the ground. Given life by the very spirit of God being breathed into that matter. (Genesis 2:7) And so, (we’re jumping a tiny bit ahead into Genesis 2) there are three diff kinds of life: spirits (God and angels), material life (like plants and animals, made of matter, Genesis 1:24, without eternal soul), and humans who are unique in all creation, having both body and soul. Created at beginning with the image of God—the righteousness of God, the loving communal nature of God, creative capacity like God. Made in His image He gave us authority to govern and manage His world so that we might be fruitful and multiply. (Genesis 1:28) That means, not only were they to increase the number of babies—which are such a joy, for life is joyous—but also they were to increase life, in general, on earth. They were to increase that beauteous paradise garden. For the earth was unformed and unfilled. (Genesis 1:2; 2:5-6, 8-9) And He put the man and woman in a garden paradise with all they needed for life (Genesis 2:8) And He told them, “Increase this paradise, this good life (both the Garden and the people), fill the earth with it.” (Genesis 1:28)
And also a Son. But where is the Son found in Genesis 1? St. John tells us in the first chapter of his Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” So, where is the Son? He is the Word which God the Father speaks, by which all things are made. (Genesis 1:3, etc.) So we have a God who creates. Who lives in loving, harmonious community within Himself. Who created all things good. (Genesis 1:31)
Yet look around. Is it still good? No. We’ll talk about that two weeks, in Genesis 3. So what does this loving, communal God do when He finds His perfect world less than perfect? He enters it. To save it. How? The all creating Word of God takes on flesh. Matter. (John 1:14) The God who is eternal, who is spirit, takes on His own material creation to save it from itself. The eternal takes into Itself the finite. The Spirit of life takes on matter and all of its lifelessness to give it His life. To save we who are spirit and flesh.
So how do we know about this God? Not by the material world, not by science. But by the words, physically written down, about a flesh and blood man, who was God. A man who saved mankind. A God who created us out of the love within Himself. Who created us to live in community, with Him and others. To live, love, reproduce, and increase life on earth. When that got ruined. When death entered the material world, this God in love took the ruination of creation into Himself. He took on our flesh. To save us from inside our own broken system.
He Who created by a Word, who is the Word, became the Word of life in our flesh. A Word which when heard gives faith and life to your dying flesh.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON