In the Beginning, God… In the Present, God… In the End, God

Sermon by Pastor Bill Chadwick | October 6, 2019

Genesis 1:1, 31; Romans 8:31, 35, 37-39

What a deep privilege and honor it is for me to be back in ministry with this congregation. Most of you know that I had the great blessing of serving as pastor from 2004-2009, much of that time with Barbara Ann Keeley. I really enjoyed my time with you and through the past ten years I would occasionally muse, “Once I retire maybe I could go back to the churches up north, if they have a need and would take me back.” And here we are!

I am eager to renew friendships and very, very eager to make new friendships with those of you I don’t know yet.

Romans, chapter 8. 31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?… 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Amen?

In today’s sermon I will touch briefly on some of the basics of my personal understanding of the Christian life as a way for you to get to know me better as we begin our ministry together.

In the beginning, God…in the present, God…and in the end, God,… though in the life of faith, beginning, present and end are intertwined and spiral in and out of one another.

In the beginning, God. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And God saw that it was good.

What an amazing, awesome, astonishing creation God has fashioned!

I will never forget my first time in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. I was a counselor with the senior high youth of my home congregation. After supper and dishes everyone was gathered around the campfire chatting. I slipped down to the water’s edge alone. The sun had set. A full moon, giant and orange, was rising through the trees. The breeze had died down. Mist rose from the glassy lake. Loons began calling to one another with their maniacal laughter. It was magical. “Wow! Good job, God.”

Growing up in a farm family, I have a deep appreciation for the miracle of food production: the complex interaction of soil, seed, sun, rain, fertilizer and bees. My dad was a sweet corn farmer and from mid-July to mid-September at least one meal a day would have me biting into a fresh ear of sweet corn, with butter dripping down my chin. “Wow! Good job, God….”

I lived for a year in the Cascade Mountain wilderness of Washington state. Outside my back door was a 7000’ mountain, most of the year sparkling with snow-jewels. Looking out my bedroom window in springtime I could watch spotted twin fawns browsing next to the gurgling, trout-filled brook. The night sky, unpolluted by metropolitan smog and lights, was dazzling. “Whoa! Good job, God!”

That night sky. Astronomers tell us that there are roughly a hundred billion stars in our galaxy. And perhaps 100 billion galaxies in the universe. And yet God knows your name. It leaves me speechless.

A number of years ago I heard a physician from UCLA speaking on public radio. He said, “We aren’t usually conscious of what goes on inside our bodies. We don’t feel the blood coursing through our veins. We aren’t aware of cells reproducing, food being digested, of antibodies fighting off infection, and so on. And it’s a good thing,” he added. “For if we were aware of all that, we would spend all our time in awe, wonder and celebration and never get anything else done.” That was not a religious program. It was a physician speaking on public radio.

“If we were aware of all that is going on inside our bodies,” he said, “we would spend all our time in awe, wonder and celebration and never get anything else done.”

Yet it is entirely appropriate to spend part of our time in awe, wonder and celebration, and we do that each Sunday morning.

And, of course, in Genesis 1 we read that God has entrusted the care of the earth to humankind, for our careful stewardship. We celebrate Earth Day each April, but as many have noted, really “Every day is Earth Day.”

So, God as Creator is a significant aspect of my theology. In the beginning, God. Yet that is not the cornerstone of my faith.

Recently I read this comment, “I have no idea what God is like.” That is so sad. We do. We know what God is like. In the life, death and resurrection of Jesus we have a window into the very heart of God. A lifetime is too short to savor the significance of Jesus. So just a few tidbits.

This furniture-maker from the hick town of Nazareth is recognized—by nonbelievers as well as believers—as having been one of the world’s foremost moral teachers of all time. Similarly, he has proven to be a powerful example for the manner in which he conducted his life, possessing authority and power yet choosing the way of humility, servanthood and suffering love.

But the primary significance, the life-changing significance of Jesus does not reside in what was two millennia ago, but what is this moment, October 6, 2019 in McGrath/Wahkon, Minnesota. That Jesus is not dead, but is risen to rule the world, and is present in our present this moment.

The Risen Christ invites us to be in relationship. As I explain it, all we have to do is to give as much as we know of ourselves to as much as we know of God as revealed through Jesus. And through God’s grace we know forgiveness, freedom, life; life in its fullness and power.

The essence of life in Christ is that we do not face life alone.

And as Paul wrote in Romans, “If God is for us, who can be against us…I am convinced that there is nothing that can separate us—nothing in this life, nothing in the next—that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

In the beginning, God. In the present, God. And in the end, God.

I may have shared this story with you before. Forgive me. Not that I expect you to remember anything from any of my sermons ten years and more ago. I was extremely fortunate to have a wonderful mother-in-law, Jean Jacobson. She was a committed Christian, a Bible study teacher and Younglife Board Member into her 80s. By vocation she was a physical education teacher and was herself a good athlete. However, she was not a sports fan…she was a sports FANATIC! She had season tickets to the Vikings, to Gophers football and basketball, she watched every sport on TV. Decades ago, when up north at a resort, she would go out to the car to listen to Twins games on the radio, even when the Twins were terrible. So one day a few years back I dropped in at Jean’s house and was not surprised to find Jean in the living room watching Gophers men’s hockey. She was totally into it because it was late in the final period and the score was tied. Now, I like sports, too, so I sat down to watch the game with her. She was always very entertaining as she watched sports—cheering, scoffing at bad plays, or bad calls by the ref. So, as the Gophers would rush down toward the opposing goalie she’d be on the edge of her seat, “Come on! Score!” When the other team would speed toward our goal she’d be grimacing, gripping the arms of her chair. She was expending about as much energy as the players.

Now, as I said, I also like sports and I cared who would win—I’m a U of M alum—but as I watched this particular game, I was entirely calm. Why was she anxious, but I was not? Because I knew we were watching a tape…of the previous night’s game. I knew that the Gophers had won in overtime. So I was relaxed.

Friends, the victory was won for us 2000 years ago. We know how the struggle turns out. In the end, God.

The resurrection of Jesus is, among other things, God’s giant stamp of approval on Jesus’ life and ministry and teaching. It is God’s YES to the Sermon on the Mount. Yes, we are to love not just our neighbors, but our enemies as well.

The Resurrection is God’s YES to Jesus’ kin-dom of inclusion: Yes, God loves righteous, Jewish males. But God also loves Gentiles and women and children and immigrants and people of every sexual orientation. God loves Republicans and Democrats and Greens, God loves Native Americans and Scandinavian-Americans and Russians and Chinese and Kenyans and Innuits. God loves people who are left-handed, one-legged, or bald. God even loves Packers fans.

As the old hymn goes, “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy…”

The Resurrection demonstrates that ultimately
suffering love is more powerful than hatred,
forgiveness is more powerful than violence,
life is more powerful than death.
Love wins.

Knowing how things turn out, we can confidently live as Easter people,
aligning ourselves with life and love,
breaking down walls and building bridges,
doing justice, acting mercifully, and walking humbly with our God.


To God be the honor and the glory and the praise, now and forever!

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