For Glyndon Lutheran Church, September 11th, 2011
It was a while ago now, when people had to dig out from the rubble. It was a definite turning point. A distinct moment in which people
remembered where they were, what they were doing and who they were with.
Can you see something like that coming? Were there warning signs? I don’t know. Nobody really paid attention to them anyways. Could things have turned out differently? Those questions don’t matter much in the aftermath. Hindsight is a luxury that is not easily afforded in grief. Hindsight has no place in the rubble.
There’s only waiting….
Of all that is unfair in life, waiting in the aftermath of a disaster ranks up there with the worst of them. Minutes move like hours.
Hours hover like days. Meanwhile days descend rapidly into weeks, months and years. And the grief goes on just the same. Where does all the time go?
We wait for things to get better. We wait for things to change. We wait, hoping for a past that will no longer be our future in the
I am talking of the year 587 B.C. when an incredible historical turning-point happened. A turning point that you could pinpoint as an
axis on which history in Israel turned. A turning point fixed like a hinge on a door. But once you close that door, you can never go back.
The Babylonian Empire finally defeated the nation of Israel.
Kings were overruled. Places of worship were overturned. And orders for the people…men…women…and children…were overhead: March. March east to Babylon….This march was a trail of tears that turned into a life of lament. All hope was abandoned.
Of course I could have been talking about the events of 9/11….Or the earthquake in Japan or Haiti…Or about a death in your
family…Or about the moment in high school when you realized that everyone thought you were nothing but a piece of trash and treated you accordingly…Or that time when you lost your job and you did not know how you would care for your family…Or when you got that diagnosis…Or when you realized that your marriage was never going to work. I could have been talking about any moment in which nothing was ever the same again.
It’s not that grief is generic and the same for everyone, but that grief marks our lives in similar ways. We who are left to remember
are left in the rubble of what once was. What we once were. What we once had. Life. Love. Safety. Security. Freedom. Peace. Confidence. Self-Esteem. Health. Wholeness. It all seems like a dream when you are sitting among the nightmare reality of the rubble.
But it is in the midst of rubble that these words, this story is told. In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth…the earth was a formless void….and God said, let there be…and God saw…that it was good…there was evening and morning the first, second, third, forth, fifth day. And then God said…let us make humankind in our image….So God made humankind in his image…in the image of God he created them…male and female he created them…And when God saw all that he had made, indeed it was very good….and it there was evening and morning…the sixth day.
Genesis is a book about beginnings. The word Genesis means “to begin”. Genesis began, came into being as a book around the time of the exile, around the time when life as Israel knew it changed. When people were trying to rebuild their lives from the rubble.
Creation began, of course, many, many years and generations before that horrible event. But the traumatic event of exile led to the
words being written down. The words existed, of course, long before they were written; they were told in stories by grandfathers to
granddaughters and mothers to sons.
But when the exile happened, when life was lived among the rubble of the past, when the words themselves almost ceased to exist along with the people, that was when it was necessary to write them down, remember, keep, preserve for future generations, just in case.
We get that because we do that…don’t we? When times of disaster come, we remember things we once forgot. We hold people a little closer, a little tighter. We realize that our hope lays outside ourselves. We take stock of what is real and what is important….and we regret that we hadn’t done it before.
It’s because we are trying to make sense of it all. We are trying to make sense of the story of our lives. That is what Genesis 1 is. It
is a generation’s attempt to make sense of their lives. How did the world begin? How did we come to be? Who set the stars in their
patterns and the seas in their shores and seeds that would sprout food for all? Why are we the way we are? How is it we have come to belong here?
These questions were important for those rebuilding their lives out from the rubble. Out from disaster. Out from the ashes.
Creation in Genesis 1 tells us a story within a story. In the backdrop of chaos and destruction, God is the author of a story of
order and creation. God is the center of the story. God is the subject of the verbs. …To hear again the truth that God made
everything, was a part of everything, saw that things were good and indeed very good, and that humankind was made in the image of God….was important. …To hear again that it was God who created, shaped and formed them and not their surroundings, was vital, life-giving, hope building and love bearing. It is God who is at the heart of our identity. We belong to God.
Even in despair and nothingness, the people had purpose and the people belonged to God and more importantly, were not cut off from their Creator. Even though all they could see was rubble, God cast a different vision, a new possibility, a transformed future than they could see at present.
How did we come to be? Because God wanted us. God still wants us. God made us in his image. God saw that it is good. Even very good. God will not let us go. God is in relationship with us, in our everyday lives. In the little intricacies, in the big moments…God is in it all. Even in the rubble.
Creation is a deeper story than what’s on paper. Its truth speaks more volumes than a library of books can fill. You see, it’s not
about the black letters on white paper, it’s about the faith behind them.
The story of creation is not some rigid dogma that you have to accept despite the evidence. It is much more than that. It is a confession of faith. It is a confession of faith that God desires to give us life, not death, that God wills creation, not destruction, that just as it was in the beginning, God can again create something out of nothing. Even though rubble is all around.
Creation is a confession of faith, especially for people who are rebuilding their lives from the rubble, it is a confession of faith
that God will once again make something out of nothing…make good out of bad….bring order to chaos…separate light from dark…rebuild lives out from the rubble…call forth life from the grave. This is the heart of our faith, the heart of our story, the heart of our lives. We confess that only God can do this. We confess that God does do this. Again and again. When we sit in darkness, God is our light (Abraham Joshua Heschel).
In the rubble of exile.
In the agony of grief.
In the wake of bad news.
On the tenth anniversary of that horrible day.
We ask: do it again, Lord. Let their be light. Let it be good. Amen.