Sunday at St Andrew's

Sunday 25 October 2020, 10am

Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

Morning Worship on Zoom

Series: Genesis 1-11

 

Genesis 2.4-25:

‘The Gift of God’s Creation’

Speaker: James Cook

 

Welcome to this service  at St Andrew’s Eaton 

 

Today we continue in our series through the early chapters of Genesis, and we come to the creation of Adam and Eve.A rich passage that has much to teach us about God’s intentions for this world he has made.But the overarching message of the chapter is that God made a world for us to enjoy.Though that world is broken by sin, it is a world still full of beauty and joy - a world that we can still delight in as God’s gift to us.

As we begin, let’s pray that God will still our hearts and minds and speak to us in this time today.

 

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INTRODUCTION

 

Leader: Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father

             and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you

All:        and also with you.

 

All:        God of our days and years,

             we set this time apart for you.

             Form us in the likeness of Christ

             so that our lives may glorify you.

             Amen.

 

HYMN: Praise to the Lord 

 

FIRST READING

Matthew chapter 22 verses 34-46

The Greatest Commandment

 

This is the word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

 

CONFESSION

Leader:  Human sin disfigures the whole creation,

             which groans with eager longing for God’s redemption.

             We confess our sin in penitence and faith.

  cf. Romans 8.22, 23

Leader:   God our Father, we are sorry

             for the times when we have used your gifts carelessly,

             and acted ungratefully.

             Hear our prayer, and in your mercy:

All:        forgive us and help us.

 

Leader:   We enjoy the fruits of the harvest,

             but sometimes forget that you have given them to us.

             Father, in your mercy:

All:        forgive us and help us.

 

Leader:   We belong to a people who are full and satisfied,

             but ignore the cry of the hungry.

             Father, in your mercy:

All:        forgive us and help us.

 

Leader:   We are thoughtless,

             and do not care enough for the world you have made.

             Father, in your mercy:

All:        forgive us and help us.

 

Leader:   We store up goods for ourselves alone,

             as if there were no God and no heaven.

             Father, in your mercy:

All:        forgive us and help us.

 

Leader:  The Lord enrich us with his grace,

             and nourish us with his blessing;

             the Lord defend us in trouble and keep us from all evil;

             the Lord accept our prayers,

             and absolve us from our offences,

             for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Saviour.

All:        Amen.

 

PSALM 136.1-9, 23-26

 

Glory to the Father and to the Son

and to the Holy Spirit;

as it was in the beginning is now

and shall be for ever. Amen.

 

HYMN: You’re the Word of God the Father 

 

SECOND READING

Genesis chapter verses 4-25

The Creation of the First Humans

 

This is the word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

 

SERMON (James Cook)

Genesis 2.4-25: ‘The Gift of God’s Creation’ 

Have you ever been in a conversation that went something like this? You’re talking with a friend who you haven’t seen for a little while. They say, ‘Oh it’s lovely to see you, how are things going?’ And you respond, ‘Oh, not bad, thanks, pretty busy, too busy probably!’ I know I often find myself replying in that way. We both acknowledge that we’re probably doing too much, and yet we also I think get a certain satisfaction out of being busy. This point was made in a recent book by author and radio presenter Claudia Hammond on the theme of rest: she argues that being busy makes us feel wanted and important. Being busy she suggests has become something of a badge of honour. 

And this impacts our ability to get proper rest. In her book, Hammond draws a lot on a recent survey done on how people rest, and what was particularly interesting was the words people used to describe rest: on the one hand, there were words such as restorative, yearned for, healing, precious; but at the same time, there were also words such as unjustified, selfish, indulgent, waste of time. How is that something can be so longed for, so sought after, so wonderful, and yet at the same time fill us with such feelings of guilt and shame? 

This kind of paradox is something we’re familiar with from the world around us: it can be both incredibly beautiful, but also utterly broken and fragile. A heavy downpour can leave behind a stunning rainbow, at the same time as having wrecked an outdoor wedding reception. We now have possibilities of travel that earlier generations could only dream of, and yet those possibilities have led to families being dispersed around the world putting a strain on our closest relationships. Lockdown has enabled some to properly rest for the first time in a very long time, to find truly restorative activities; for others the enforced rest has been no rest at all.

This paradox reflects two sides of Creation, two sides which these opening chapters of Genesis are seeking to draw out and explain. On the one hand, as we saw last week, God made a world that was good, indeed at the end of the creation he declared it to be ‘very good’. Next week we’ll turn to chapter 3 and see the other side, that this is also a world that has been sadly corrupted by human sin. 

This week we turn to chapter 2, which continues the narrative of creation, and in which humanity takes centre stage with the creation of Adam and Eve. There are so many questions that this passage raises for us, which I’m not going to be able to touch on today. But the overarching message of this passage is to tell us what God’s intentions for us are. Though we live this side of Genesis 3, and see the brokenness and pain of the world around us every day, God’s intentions for us are good. He has given us a world he wants us to enjoy. And yet so often we rob ourselves of the ability to enjoy it and rest in it. And I pray as we spend some time in these verses now, we might come to see the blessing, the gift of God’s creation afresh, and that we might be freed to enjoy it rather than be burdened by it.

So we’ll think first about how the goodness of God’s creation is described here in these verses, and then we’ll turn to how it might apply to us today. 

The Gift of Creation

Beauty

First of all, God intended for us to live in a world of beauty. After creating Adam, he placed him in a garden, and put trees in the garden, and did you see how Genesis describes the trees that God placed there? ‘Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.’ God doesn’t just give Adam some basic bread and cheese to keep him alive; no he gives him trees that are good for food, food that is to be enjoyed and delighted in, and not only that but trees that themselves are pleasant to the sight, trees that are beautiful to look at. God intentionally makes Adam’s environment a beautiful place to live. God is not a utilitarian, who creates things only for their usefulness. God’s intention for us is that we live in beauty, and that we enjoy the beauty around us: a little later, he commands Adam to eat freely of all the trees in the garden, with only one exception. He wants Adam, he wants us to enjoy the world he has made.

Purpose

Secondly, God intended for us to live lives of purpose. After creating the garden for Adam to enjoy, he placed him in the garden, verse 15 says, ‘to till it and keep it’. A little later, God brings to Adam all the creatures of the world, and gives to Adam the task of giving them names. God gives Adam a role to play. Life in paradise was not, and will not, be some long, unending lockdown with nothing much to do. God’s intention for us is to have meaningful work, tasks to do that we do not just to earn a living, but tasks that are fulfilling and rewarding to do, tasks that give us a role to play. 

Companionship

Thirdly, God intended for us to have companionship. In chapter 1 we heard again and again the refrain ‘it is good’ as God surveys all he has made. And then suddenly we hear God say the words ‘it is not good’; and what it is that is not good is that the man should be alone. The one thing that is not good about this perfect world that God has made is the man’s loneliness. This side of Genesis 3, many if not all of us will have experienced loneliness at some point in our lives, and there will be many here today who feel the pain of loneliness, or the loss of someone who had been their lifetime’s companion. And I hope that if that’s you, you hear those words of God as words of comfort: God sees your loneliness and says ‘it is not good’. This is not what God intended for you, for us. God’s intention for us is not to be alone, but to enjoy the intimacy of companions.

Rest in the gift

This, then, was the perfect world that God created; but, some of you might be saying, ‘well, that’s nice, but it’s not the world I experience’. And indeed, the sad reality is that, though there are moments when we are struck by the gift of God’s Creation – the beauty of a stunning landscape, that day of fulfilling and rewarding work, the joy of intimate friendship – the sad reality is that we live after Genesis 3, we live in a broken world: a world where there is often ugliness instead of beauty, a world where work can feel meaningless rather than purposeful, a world of loneliness and isolation rather than intimate companionship. And there will always remain with us things that are not good about the world, things we should rightly lament and grieve, whether in our own lives or in the world around us.

But there are also, I think, ways in which we fail to see and grasp hold of the gift of God’s creation, robbing ourselves of the opportunity to delight in and find rest in the world that God has made. Some might not consider these things important and so do not invest in them: there are certainly elements of our culture that do this. We prize usefulness over beauty, and so build bland, concrete council housing. We create a narrative that the working week is simply to be got through in order to get to the weekend, refusing to see any purpose or meaning in our work. And we so exalt romantic relationships, that possibility of close friendships is overlooked.

Some might not consider these things important, others might feel guilty about enjoying them. It’s interesting from that study I referenced at the beginning how much taking time out to enjoy the world around us has become associated with negative feelings. Why is it that we think it indulgent, selfish or a waste of time to delight in the world around us? Why do we feel guilty when we take time away from work, time away from ‘being productive’, time away from ‘keeping busy’? Certainly we can over-indulge, enjoying the world at the expense of others; but it so sad when we feel bad about enjoying the beautiful world that God has made. Stephanie painted this picture for me of my Oxford college a few years ago, and she would be terribly upset if I just threw it in a drawer and never looked at it. I’m sure God must look on in bewildered disbelief and sadness as we run around his world making ourselves busy, ignoring his creation, or worse still feeling bad about enjoying it. Indeed, our Lord Jesus invited those who are burdened and heavy-laden to come to him and find rest. God wants us to rest in him and enjoy his Creation.

The classic film Chariots of Fire tells the story of two very different Olympic runners. One, Harold Abrahams, forced to prove himself, is obsessed with his athletic career, with winning the gold medal. At one point in the film, he says that in the 100m he has 'ten lonely seconds to justify my existence'. He is a man burdened by the pressure to perform. His rival Eric Liddell has a different outlook. He at one point famously says that he feels God's pleasure when he runs. He was able instead to see his running as a gift from God and to delight in it. 

And I wonder whether we could be more purposeful in seeing the things we have, the tasks we have, the companions we have as gifts rather than sources of stress and worry, as things to delight in and enjoy, things to give thanks for. 

 

A version of this sermon in video format will be available on the St Andrew’s channel on YouTube, from later on Sunday 18 October.

 

HYMN: We believe in God the Father

 

PRAYERS (Valli Rao)

‘The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it;
for he has founded it on the seas,
and established it on the rivers.’ (Ps. 24:1-2)

The more we learn about the creation and the vastness of the universe it reveals to us how majestic is your name in all the earth. Let us pray to the all-powerful God.

Omnipotent and omnipresent God, we are like a speck in the immensity of the cosmos, but you place your love and unwavering attention on us. We thank you, praise and glorify you.

Creator God, thank you for the beautiful rich and abundant world which you have created and entrusted to our care as stewards. Help us care for it responsibly.


Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayers

Dear Father, we come to your presence humbly pleading to protect us as the country is experiencing increasing waves of COVID cases, especially in north east England, in Wales and in Scotland. In some areas, lockdown has been implemented, meaning businesses are shut down and there is a lot of unemployment and hardship. We pray for the leaders of the Government and the scientific advisors to make the right decisions for the welfare of the people.

 

We pray for doctors, dentists, and front-line care workers who risk their lives to care for their patients. Please protect them and give them a double portion of immunity.
 

We pray that you would give wisdom to the research scientists to find a suitable vaccine to control this pandemic.
 

Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayers.

We pray for the global Christian church as they are struggling to reach out to the needy and vulnerable. Have mercy on our brothers and sisters.

 

We pray for our clergy Phil, James, Sheila, Patrick and Shawn as they conduct regular services in church and on Zoom.


In a moment of quiet let us bring to God those on our hearts who need our prayers and those who have asked our prayers, thinking especially ofthose who are unwell and  the bereaved family and friends of those who have recently died. 


Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayers.

Lord we praise and thank you for your tender faithful love.
Everything we are and everything we have is your gift.
Help us to develop and share our gifts as good stewards that we may use them in love and service in your kingdom.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

 

A prayer to collect together all our intercessions today

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures

to be written for our learning:

help us so to hear them, 

to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them

that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word,

we may embrace and for ever hold fast

the hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Amen.

 

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come, your will be done, 

on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours 

now and for ever. 

Amen.

 

HYMN: Great is Thy faithfulness

 

THE BLESSING

 

Leader: May God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

           who is the source of all goodness and growth,

           pour his blessing upon all things created,

           and upon us his children,

           that we may use his gifts to his glory

           and the welfare of all peoples;

           and the blessing of God almighty,

           the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,

           be with us and remain with us always.

All:      Amen.

 

Leader: The peace of the Lord be always with you.

All:      and also with you.

 

 

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND REFLECTION

 

  1. Do you feel guilty about enjoying God’s gifts?

 

  1. How do you delight in God’s Creation?

 

  1. Where do you feel God’s pleasure?

 

 

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