“Create Joy” | Genesis 2:4b-7, 15-17; 3:1-8 | Mission First: Called Series |Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost | September 11, 2016 | First Christian Church of St. Paul | Dennis Sanders, preaching
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Before I get into today’s sermon, I wanted to share a little bit about what we are planning to do for the next few months. We are starting a new worship theme this Sunday that will go from now until next May. We will be talking about mission and the future of our church by using the Mission First emphasis that is being used by the wider denomination of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). For our purposes, the year long theme is broken down into three parts: from now until Advent, we will focus on what it means to be a church that is called. During the winter until Easter, we will talk about the church gathering and during Eastertide we will talk about the church being sent into the world. So, let’s begin.
The Grand Canyon is not just a place in Arizona; it also is a 1991 movie. The movie, starred Kevin Kline, Steve Martin and Danny Glover and while it didn’t make a whole lot of money when it came out in late 1991, it was a movie that seem to fit the time. One of the issues the movie takes on is race, and it seemed to speak to the 1992 LA riots which would ocurr a few months later in the spring of 1992.
If there is a theme in the movie, it has to be trying to bridge the gaps that are found in human relationships. Divisions of race and class were exposed and there were attempts to try to heal those divisions. The Los Angeles of 1991 was a somewhat grim place, a place full of crime and isolation, but the connections that are made help make the world around these people a better place. Not a perfect place, mind you, but a place where connection and reconciliation could happen.
That reminder that the LA of 25 years ago was not a sunny place. Crime was rampant and the movie picks this up. The movie opens with Kevin Kline’s character, Mac watching an LA Lakers game during the Magic Johnson era. When the game ends, Mac leaves the arena and take a wrong turn that puts him in the wrong side of town. Of course this is where the car decides to break down. Mac gets out and calls for a tow truck and waits. Well, being a white guy in a well to do car in a sketchy neighbood, basically means you are probably going to meet some people who are not so nice. Pretty soon, Mac is surrounded by a group of young men who are looking ready to jump him.
In the nick of time, the tow truck arrives. An African American man gets out to do his job. Simon, who is played by Danny Glover interrupts what might have been a robbery or worse. In the midst of this one of the muggers, Rocstar, who happens to be holding a gun enters into a conversation with Simon, all the while with the gun pointed at Simon. Rocstar is willing to let him go and do his work if he can answer this question: was Simon pleading because he respected Rocstar or was it because of the gun? This is how Simon answers:
Man, the world ain’t supposed to work like this. I mean, maybe you don’t know that yet. I’m supposed to be able to do my job without having to ask you if I can. That dude is supposed to be able to wait with his car without you ripping him off. Everything is supposed to be different than it is.
The world aint suppose to work like this.
Chapter 2 of Genesis presents us with a second story of creation. Where Genesis 1 seems to look at things from 10,000 feet, this second story zeroes in and focuses on the relationship between the human and God. This creation was formed from the earth, hence why some called this person, adam which is a play on the Hebrew word, adamah or the earth. This human is given a task to do, a job to take care of God’s creation. Some has said that work was a result of sin, but here we see God ordained work. When the human was lonely, God created a partner to work with him. The man and woman had a tight relationship with God and as we see later, it is not unusual to see God walking in the garden. God and creation were in relationship.
The church is a gathering of people called to be in relationship with each other and with God. The church is a recreation, a taste of the coming kingdom of God when creation is restored. Adam and Eve had a relationship that was not exploitative and they had a relationship with God, one that was close. Things were good.
But that’s when things went South. We are introduced to this serpent, a symbol of temptation. The serpent asks questions and is able to tempt the man and the woman. The woman tells the snake that they aren’t allowed to even touch the tree, because if they do, they die. Now this is not what God said, but already they were making God into a harsh parent trying to take away fun. The snake keeps tempting them telling them that they could be like God, heck they could be better than God!
So they eat the fruit and their eyes are opened. They see everything in a different way and it is not fun. They realize they are naked and feel the need to hide. They take some fig leaves and cover up and hide from God. This call to relationship is shattered. Humanity starts to hide from each other and from God. Instead of thinking of others, humanity thinks only of itself.
The world aint suppose to work like this.
God’s plan for creation changes. Humanity has fallen from God’s grace and is now separated from God and each other. Sin enters creation. We end up with a world where there is racism, domestic violence, lying, murder, genocide and others. Humans can’t stop wanting to be godlike and falling short every time.
So what does this mean for the church? We as humans are part of this fallen creation. We are tempted to be like God and sometime we fall for the lies. But we are also redeemed through God’s backup plan, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In Jesus, we are redeemed, even thought for now, we are still imperfect. We are called to be a place where the world can witness what God intended for creation, to be a place where we are honest and live for others.
This past weekend, as I was moving my mother, I looked at my phone and noticed a news alert. This was the alert which told us all that Jacob Wetterling’s body had been found. Since 1989, his parents and the whole state were held in limbo wonder what happened to this young man. The Wetterlings hoped that Jacob was still alive somewhere. But that was not the case. A grave in rural Minnesota gave witness to the horror, that Jacob was dead and had been dead for nearly 30 years.
It got even worse when a few days later, Jacob’s killer told everyone in chilling detail how he kidnapped, sexually assaulted and killed Jacob. It was disturbing.
In the midst of all of this we heard from Jacob’s mother, Patty Wetterling who has been the family spokesperson over the years. In a time when she could have been bitter, and showed anger, she instead offered words of hope. This is what she wrote on Facebook a few days after the news broke:
The Wetterlings are deeply grieving and are pulling our family together. We will be eager to talk to media as soon as we are able.
Everyone wants to know what they can do to help us.
Say a prayer.
Light a candle.
Be with friends.
Play with your children.
Eat ice cream.
Help your neighbor.
That is what will bring me comfort today.
Create joy. Create joy. That was her answer. In the midst of horror and hate, she told people to bring joy.
This is what the church must be called to be in the world. This is what this church must be in the world. We must be a community that is joyous, one that models a different way being in the world, one that gives people a glimpse of what it God intended for the world.
Simon tell us the present world isn’t supposed to be this way. He’s right. The world isn’t supposed to be a place where an 11 year old riding his bike with his brothers and friend is kidnapped and forced to spend the last few hours of his life in pain.
The killer of Jacob Wetterling proved Simon right, the world isn’t supposed to be this way. But our response is to listen to Patty Wetterling and create joy. Let us be a community that goes out from these walls and befirend the lonely, feed the hungry and tell everyone that God loves and so do we.
We are called to create joy, so let’s get to it. Thanks be to God. Amen.