In the Beginning …

The majestic story of God begins with these words:

In the beginning when God createda the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from Godb swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

a Or when God began to create or In the beginning God created
b Or while the spirit of God or while a mighty wind

The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version, (Genesis 1:1-5). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989.

From there the creation story unfolds for four more "there was evening and there was mornings" until we reach the sixth day of creation, where Genesis' author offers these words:

26 Then God said, “Let us make humankindc in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth,d and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
27     So God created humankinde in his image,
in the image of God he created them;f
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” 29 God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

c Heb adam
d Syr: Heb and over all the earth
e Heb adam
f Heb him

Did you get the impact of what was just read … we were created in the image of God.  Each of us, male and female, young and old, rich and poor, red and yellow, black and white, is precious in God's sight because we were made in Godself image.

But before lean into this passage, let's hear the whole creation story again, from the pen of James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938), Harlem Renaissance poet and preacher.

The Creation by James Weldon Johnson

AND God stepped out on space,

And He looked around and said,
“I’m lonely—
I’ll make me a world.”
And far as the eye of God could see         5
Darkness covered everything,
Blacker than a hundred midnights
Down in a cypress swamp.
Then God smiled,
And the light broke,         10
And the darkness rolled up on one side,
And the light stood shining on the other,
And God said, “That’s good!”
Then God reached out and took the light in His hands,
And God rolled the light around in His hands         15
Until He made the sun;
And He set that sun a-blazing in the heavens.
And the light that was left from making the sun
God gathered it up in a shining ball
And flung it against the darkness,         20
Spangling the night with the moon and stars.
Then down between
The darkness and the light
He hurled the world;
And God said, “That’s good!”         25
Then God himself stepped down—
And the sun was on His right hand,
And the moon was on His left;
The stars were clustered about His head,
And the earth was under His feet.         30
And God walked, and where He trod
His footsteps hollowed the valleys out
And bulged the mountains up.
Then He stopped and looked and saw
That the earth was hot and barren.         35
So God stepped over to the edge of the world
And He spat out the seven seas;
He batted His eyes, and the lightnings flashed;
He clapped His hands, and the thunders rolled;
And the waters above the earth came down,         40
The cooling waters came down.
Then the green grass sprouted,
And the little red flowers blossomed,
The pine tree pointed his finger to the sky,
And the oak spread out his arms,         45
The lakes cuddled down in the hollows of the ground,
And the rivers ran down to the sea;
And God smiled again,
And the rainbow appeared,
And curled itself around His shoulder.         50
Then God raised His arm and He waved His hand
Over the sea and over the land,
And He said, “Bring forth! Bring forth!”
And quicker than God could drop His hand.
Fishes and fowls         55
And beasts and birds
Swam the rivers and the seas,
Roamed the forests and the woods,
And split the air with their wings.
And God said, “That’s good!”         60
Then God walked around,
And God looked around
On all that He had made.
He looked at His sun,
And He looked at His moon,         65
And He looked at His little stars;
He looked on His world
With all its living things,
And God said, “I’m lonely still.”
Then God sat down         70
On the side of a hill where He could think;
By a deep, wide river He sat down;
With His head in His hands,
God thought and thought,
Till He thought, “I’ll make me a man!”         75
Up from the bed of the river
God scooped the clay;
And by the bank of the river
He kneeled Him down;
And there the great God Almighty         80
Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,
Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,
Who rounded the earth in the middle of His hand;
This Great God,
Like a mammy bending over her baby,         85
Kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay
Till He shaped it in His own image;
Then into it He blew the breath of life,
And man became a living soul.         90
Amen. Amen.

Returning to our theme of being created in the image of God, let's review a few passages:

Psalm 8:3-5

3     When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
4     what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortalsa that you care for them?
5     Yet you have made them a little lower than God,b
and crowned them with glory and honor.

a Heb ben adam, lit. son of man
b Or than the divine beings or angels: Heb elohim

Psalm 139:13-16

13     For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14     I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15     My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16     Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.

Isaiah 43:1,4

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
Because you are precious in my sight,
and honored, and I love you,
I give people in return for you,
nations in exchange for your life

Jeremiah 1:4-7 (Jeremiah's calling)

4 Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,
5     “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
6     Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” 7 But the Lord said to me,
“Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you.

Today we are in the midst of a two Sunday celebration of our baptismal vows.  And the insight I want you to hear in your being is that you and I were created in the image of God.  This is no small thing!

The second truth I want you to hear in you being is that God cares passionately about you.  No matter where you are, no matter what your successes may be, no matter what your failures may be … no matter what God loves you!

Finally, in our baptism we take on Jesus.  What does that mean?  One of the Cappadocian fathers was fond of saying "that which was not assumed was not redeemed."  Now he meant that if Jesus did not become fully human, then we could not be redeemed by his sacrifice.  But I want to push that a bit today.  We come to the waters of baptism today to renew our vows … when you touch this water you are touched by Jesus.  To renew your vows is to know that Jesus is your brother and that you are God's child.  And what did God say at Jesus' baptism:

Mark 1:9-11 (Jesus' baptism)

9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved;h with you I am well pleased.”

h Or my beloved Son

You are a child of God.  You come forward today as a messed up child, but in baptism God says you are mine, I have called you by name, you are precious in my sight!

Lectionary Notes (Genesis 1:1-5):

  • Why does it proceed, first heaven then earth?  The temple's roof made before its pavement?  God is not subject to nature's demands nor to the rules of technique.  God is the creator and maser technician of nature, and art, and everything made or imagined (John Chrysostom, Sermons 1.3, in ACCS, 4).
  • The good architect lays the foundation first and afterward, when the foundation has been laid, plots the various parts of the building, one after the other, and then adds to it the ornamentation ….  Scripture points out that things were first created and afterward put in order lest it be supposed that they were not actually created and that they had no beginning, just as if the nature of things had been, as it were, generated from the beginning and did not appear to be something added afterward (Ambrose, Hexaemeron, 1.7, ACCS, 5).
  • ACCS = Andrew Louth, ed., Genesis 1-11, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Old Testament 1 of 14 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001).