This morning we begin a Lenten sermon series entitled, “Pursing God – Pursued By God.” Over the course of these weeks we will look our story with God that carries us from the beginning of the beginning in creation to the cross where God’s heart of grace is on display. I am hopeful that over the course of these six weeks we will learn a lot about who we were created to be and about the God that created us, loves us, and makes the way back home for you and me.
We begin at the beginning at the dawn of creation. I love the story that Kristin read to us earlier in the worship service. (The Dreamer by Rylant) It beautifully describes the wonder of creation. The illustrations are equally striking. They draw you in and helps give you a sense of the marvelous spectacle of God’s creation. As I first read the book and thought about the young dreamers that God created I could not think about what happens when you put a blank piece of paper and crayons in front of a child and let them go. In minutes their imaginations flair, and with a flurry of activity and joy the blank piece of paper becomes something incredible, if only in their eyes. In that moment, in the face of a child you get a glimpse of the creative wonder of the hand of God.
Even as an adult there is something wonderful about getting sit down with a fresh box of 64 Crayola crayons and a coloring book. It is funny to watch the thrill grandparents get when the color with their favorite little ones. If you watch them for a couple of minutes you begin to wonder who is having more fun coloring. While I loved the colors in my Crayola box, over the years I have begun to appreciate that God had a box of colors larger than the ones I used to hold. I always liked the color blue, but when Beth I took a cruise last May and the ship was far from shore I saw an ocean blue that was deeper, richer, and more remarkable than any blue I had seen before. On a drive from Texas to California I saw a sunset set against the red hills along the New Mexico-Arizona border that glowed with an orange hue that took my breath away. When Beth and I lived in Southern Thailand, just before the harvest, the rice fields teemed with a vibrant green that that could make you stop and stare. The wonder of God’s creation never ceases to amaze me. But Scripture tells us something even remarkable; there is within all of us hint of the great artist that created all that we see and who created us in His image. He calls us his children and we call him our God.
We hear in the very first chapter of Genesis; 26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Did you hear that, you were created in the image of God? So often we see our flaws rather than to appreciate that the same God that created the wonder and beauty of all of creation saw humanity – saw us – as the culminating ultimate act of creation. God sees you as more beautiful, more wonderful and more incredible than the Grand Canyon, the Igwasu Falls in Brazil, the Swiss Alps, St. Barths in the French West Indies, or anywhere else you can imagine because you are a reflection of the image of God. You were created in God’s image
In the verses that follow in Genesis 1 we hear God give us the gift of and responsibility for the birds of the sky, the living creatures that move on the earth, the seed-bearing plants, every tree, in fact the rest of creation. God gave the bounty of creation to us to a means to care and sustain us. God gave it to us as a gift of beauty and wonder. Gad gave dominion over creation as a gift as tangible symbols of his love and provision for us. 31 God saw all that he had made, and all he had given to us, and saw it was very good.
When we turn the page to Genesis 2, we hear the Bible re-tale the story in even more intimate personal terms. We hear; 2 7 Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. I cannot help but think about the picture of Bob Willis shaping a face with clay as a part of a class at the House of Clay. Here we see God fashioning us from the mud of the earth and then with a divine kiss of life God gives us a living soul. This living soul is breath from God’s breath. This is more than the story of the beginning of life – it is the story of the beginning of the living soul design to be sustained and nourished in a relationship with God.
The story of God’s artistic creation of the world continues; 19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. Adam understood this gift was not like the others. The gift of a helpmate was not something over which he was given dominion, but rather she was given as a compassion that shared the distinction of being created in the image of God. We hear this in Adam’s love song; 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” When Adam sees Eve he sees that his time alone has ended and understands that she is like him in his eyes and the eyes of God.
Too many come to this creation story looking for an explanation of how the whole of creation came to be. They struggle to create timelines and look for scientific evidence to validate their arguments against the theory of evolution that is equally virulent in its attempts to proclaim itself as fact despite the leaps of faith in science it requires. Hear me loud in clear, I come to these stories and begin and end at the same place; “In the beginning God,” before there anything God, and everything was created by God in God’s time and God’s way. But, what these two creation narratives tell us is more important than an establishing an effective supportable scientific understanding of how things began. It is the story of why things began and the nature of the relationship between God and humanity – of the story of the Creator and the ones He creates in His image.
In the seconds after a babe is born parents and grandparents strain to look at its face and see if this little one shows some kind of family resemblance. Never mind that some time will need to pass before the child’s features are defined enough to actually identify family traits, we want to know that this little one is more than a baby, it is one of us. The God that created us in His image and shaped us for a relationship with Him looks at us and longs to see that we have chosen to look like him in how we live. God desires to see glimmers of his nature reflected in our life and faith.
We were created in the image of God for a relationship with God. The spiritual longing for forgiveness and reconciliation with God comes from the depths of who we are as those created by God. When we hear the words of John 3:16 that God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son we know that God is pursuing us with love and grace that we might be reconciled by him for the kind of relationship we were created for. It is not an either or but is instead both and. Our story with God is both seeking God and experiencing being sought by God. Our story is that we are created to walk with God like Adam and Eve in the Garden and the breadth of Scripture is about when the relationship was broken that God was willing to do the unimaginable for us to walk with him again – to be his children again – for him to be our God again. We are intended to walk with God so often and so closely that our mannerisms begin to model His; that our heart for others begins to model His heart for the world; that our feet carry to the same kind of people and places where Jesus walked.
As you look in the mirror and you look across your life, does the family resemblance show? You are reflection of God’s divine artistry. Is your life colored by His heart, His forgiveness, and His grace in your relationship with others? Have you painted your life with God’s joy? Have you allowed God to mold and shape you with His will and way? You and I were created by God in His image to walk with God and to relish in the beauty and wonder of the world God has given us. We cannot – we must not – settle for less.