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Evan Earwicker: The Order of Creation, Genesis 1:1-2:25

November 8, 2023

Audio Recording

In the beginning, God brought order and life into a world filled with chaos and disorder. Spiritual rhythms connect us to God, bringing order to the darkness and chaos of our own hearts.

Rhythms
Rhythms
Evan Earwicker: The Order of Creation, Genesis 1:1-2:25
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Sermon Transcript:

You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

Walking in all the things that God requires develops something in us and has a certain outcome that looks like life in a world that is suffering from death and destruction and chaos.

And so what we have been talking about these past few weeks is placing ourselves into rhythms, placing ourselves into those places where we say, listen, there is what must be done and then there is what God, you say, must be done. And I'm going to actually carve out space in my life carve out space in my life to say yes to the voice of God.

There's this story in the Gospels where Jesus visits his friends Lazarus and Mary and Martha.

And in Luke, chapter Ten, Jesus shows up for this house party at the family's home there. And it says, as Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. And she had a sister called Mary who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. And so she came to him and she asked, Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Sounds like siblings, right? Tell her to help me.

And then Jesus does a really frustrating response to Martha. He says, martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed, or indeed only one. And Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her. And to that I say, Jesus, that's just patently not true.

The idea that the only thing that Mary has to do in her whole life is sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to him teach is not true.

Because there's times when other things are needed in Mary's life. Mary can't just spend her entire life sitting at the feet of Jesus. But in this moment, one thing was needed. And I think many times we allow the lives that we lead for everything else to take precedence over those moments when we need to pause for the health of our souls and our connection to the life we have in Jesus.

But the thing is, it's not all the time, right? We don't live in a constant state of religious devotion. We don't.

I'm here at the church a lot, as you would expect, and I know that at some point today you're going to go home. I'm grateful that at some point today you're going to go home.

The last thing I want when we talk through a series about staying more connected and abiding in Jesus is that we all feel this pressure to become more churchy and spend many, many more hours in religious settings. As beautiful as our times of worship are and times when we come together in these spaces, how many know that that represents only a fraction of the hours we have in our week? And as it should be, we have moments where we come together, but then we have this whole other life, Monday through Saturday, where we have a choice. Do we abide in Christ then, or do we compartmentalize it to only the spaces like this that we sit in together?

And the question is, is the Christian life something that we add on, or is our devotion to Jesus something that envelops our whole life, our normal life, our life, that has nothing to do with sitting in a seat in church, but it looks like meals around a table with a close friend. It looks like finding times to take a walk and just rest. Sometimes it looks like getting a good night's sleep.

I remember when I was in middle school, our youth group hosted an all nighter, a lock in God bless Youth ministry and Youth ministry volunteers for doing all night lock ins. But I was in middle school and how would you say it? I was very spiritually enthusiastic, let's put it that way.

I had this idea that it would be really cool to enhance our spiritual experience at this lock in as a 7th grader or whatever, that we should all get up at three in the morning or four in the morning, somewhere in the early hours of the morning and walk from the church up to Pilot Butte so that we could have a prayer service on pilot Butte as the sun was coming up. Doesn't that sound nice? No, it does not. It sounds terrible and cold. But I was really passionate about this idea. So I convinced our youth pastor that this is what we were going to do, and he reluctantly signed on to this. So 03:00 rolls around. I had set an alarm. So I wake up and I go into the church office where our youth pastor is sleeping, and I open the door and I go, hey, it's 03:00 it's time to go. It's time to pray and listen. I know that I woke him up, and he knows that I know that I woke him up, but he did a really good job of pretending like he was not awake and he stayed asleep. This would not be the last time someone would pretend to be asleep to avoid interacting with me, unfortunately.

I don't know personality. I don't know what it is, but it keeps happening. But that's okay.

You still love me, right, Lissa? Yeah. Okay. All right.

But the thing is, sometimes what's needed is not necessarily a formal religious experience in the middle. Sometimes you need a good night's sleep, and actually, that is the practice and the rhythm of life that is going to lead to health.

Come on.

Sometimes what is needed is a meaningful interaction at work, where your work is creating structures and ideas. And I'm not saying, like, oh, go to work, but actually be doing this. No, throw yourself into the task at hand and honor God in that.

Because when we model and live in these healthy rhythms in our lives, it doesn't just look like, how many scriptures have you read today? How many times have you prayed today? How many songs of worship have you memorized today? Sometimes it looks like, how healthy are the rhythms, the ebbs and flows of your rest and work and life and love and relationships? How are you eating and how are you processing so that anxiety doesn't come and take over? How are you coping when stress comes? All these things feed into this idea of living a healthy life with healthy rhythms that honor God and keep us connected to life in Christ and Jesus. I think this is what he was referring to in John 15 when he says, I'm the vine and you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him bears much fruit, for without me, you can do nothing abides in me. Some of the translations there says, if you remain in me, you'll bear much fruit. Well, remaining means that you never leave.

Remaining means that there is a constant connection, not a selective one, not an occasional connection to the life of Christ. But he's saying, if you will stay connected to me, and Jesus knows full well that you're going to have a life outside of religious settings. And he's saying, if you stay connected to me, even then, you're going to bear much fruit.

Is this easy? No.

Is it natural when stress comes or when we feel overwhelmed, to reach for the life of Jesus instead of other substances and activities and unhealthy behaviors? No, it's not easy.

But what I don't want for my life, I don't want for my family, I don't want for our church, is that we just slide into the path of least resistance, and we find ourselves living lives that we would never have chosen, that we look at the way that we walk out our days and we realize that we are actually walking out a life that looks nothing like being connected to Jesus. And so we come into these places and we say, God, would you draw us back to the vine.

Would you invite us back to offering not just our religious moments to you, but all the rest?

Can we abide in Jesus? I actually would like to become less churchy and more in love with Jesus.

I would actually like to focus maybe a little bit less on how gatherings like this are going to go. First service, we had that lights out. It was actually blinking, like strobing. All of service, last service, and then my mic was dropping out, and I'm like, yeah, I kind of want to leave church. And I'm preaching in the middle of church right now, and I want out.

And I love what happens here. And don't hear me wrong that I'm somehow down on our gatherings. I love when we come together. But my heart is not that we just become more and more like church rats that just hang out heRe, right?

My heart is that when we gather, we gather for a purpose. And then we go live lives that look like abiding in Jesus.

On Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday and Saturday.

And so we have to invite this into our lives. And I think this is what Paul is talking about in Romans twelve one. He says, so here's what I want you to do. God helping you. You take your everyday, ordinary life. You're sleeping, you're eating, going to work, walking around life, and you place it before God as an offering.

So these spaces, this is all in honor of Jesus.

This room, the prayer wall, the times we baptize folks, the communion tables, his word that we read, it's all for him. But what if we had that same sense of sacredness on everything else in our lives? And I don't mean that we become like stoic, super serious people that are just not any fun at dinner parties, but instead that we stay connected and abiding in the life of Jesus.

A few ideas around this idea, these rhythms of life that we integrate, that help us abide in Jesus. Number one, a rhythm of life helps us abide in Jesus. Every day of the week, we've been talking about this, not just in relationship to what happens when we're all together, but when we have our normal lives. How are we abiding in Jesus? We make a plan for this. We write things down like, hey, Evan, turn off your phone on Saturdays and spend time intentionally present with your kids and your wife. I mean, these are the things that I write down in my rhythm of life. And I would encourage you, what does that look like for you? It looks different for all of us.

I want to read really quickly a passage that will kind of give us a picture of the ways that God works in bringing order into our lives. I feel like many times, if you just allow yourself to absorb and understand all the things going on in the world, it can feel overwhelming. Are you with me?

Look at the news. Look at the state of the world. Look at the state of our country's divisions over ideas and cultural things and poLitics. And we're heading into another election year. Who's excited? Yeah.

And it can feel chaotic, and it can feel overwhelming. It can feel like the ground is moving under our feet.

But the news is good, because I believe that the Bible would paint a picture of a God who does really well in chaos, and with a word speaks order into disorder that brings life.

Genesis one. One.

If you need help finding it, it's the very first verse in your Bible.

Maybe you memorize this as a kid. It says, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Verse two, the earth was without form and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Maybe you've spent a lot of time trying to decipher this along cosmological and geological terms. How is this all working? And can I tell you that many times what the Bible is doing is actually telling a theological, a spiritual story more than it is telling a geological one. And so when we read the Bible to understand who God is and who we are in light of that, it actually, many times is more helpful to how we now should live.

And so when we read this through the spiritual, theological lens, we find some interesting things. In ancient times, there was many creation stories. Every people, group had their own gods, and they had their own creation stories.

And most of them in ancient times started from a very similar point to what we read in Genesis. One of these chaotic, water filled.

All I think about is Kevin Costner in the movie Water world. That's all I'm thinking about right now.

But this idea, and scholars would call it this primordial chaos.

And I'm happy to say I graduated seminary, got my master's degree in theology this year. Yeah. Thank you. Thank you. Very cool.

And that means now I say things like primordial chaos. Okay.

And yes, I'm very fun at dinner parties. Thank you very much.

But all these creation stories from all these different people that are living in the land around the Hebrew nation, they all start from the same place. But immediately, in all the stories from all these cultures around them, it goes from this primordial Chaos, this wet water world, where everything's crazy and disordered into a war, a battle. And from that battle, the gods that they currently worship are the ones who win.

Not so for the Hebrew people. Because in this account of the God of Israel, it says that God was hovering over the face of the deep in the spirit of God. And then what happens is a voice. Not a sword, not a battle, but a voice.

And that voice speaks into the chaos and the disorder with order.

And why does it start with order before it gets to life? Because if you know the order of creation, it starts with light and the separation of waters, and on and on it goes. And then life begins to happen towards the end of the week in the creation account. Why is it order then life? Because you need a structure for life to thrive.

And so when I read Genesis one and Genesis Two, we could debate over the historosity. I don't even know if that's a word. I have to get my PhD to figure that one out. But instead of arguing over that, can we seek to understand what they're trying to say? What the authors of the Book of Genesis are trying to say about the nature of God is that he is one who stands in chaos and disorder, and he speaks order so that life can thrive, so that where there was only darkness and death, that now there is life and hope and a restoration of our peace, a rhythm of life invites God's creative order into our lives.

And what does that creative order do? What does a rhythm of life do? What does it look like when we begin to take a Sabbath, a day off every week, and rest?

It begins to create a sacred order in our lives. And life can thrive when it is placed upon the structure and the Trellis of God's order.

If you know the story, we get into Genesis chapter two.

And no sooner are humans, Adam and Eve formed and set to live in relationship with their creator in the garden, when they very quickly begin to question whether the order that God has set up for them and the environment that God has placed them in is really the best thing for them. The story goes that the serpent speaks to Eve and says, did God really say that you shouldn't eat this fruit?

What we learn from that, if we read it through a spiritual lens, is there's always a voice that's going to ask if really God's way is the best way for you to flourish and thrive in your life.

And ever since this moment, we've been deciding, I think, over and over again, that we know best.

I read this fascinating quote from Mark Sayers in his book Disappearing Church.

And this is what he said. He said, what we are experiencing is not the eradication of God from the Western mind, but rather the enthroning of self as the greatest authority.

I mean, a lot of people are totally cool if you want to be a spiritual person, but it seems laughable to many that we would ever downgrade the authority that we have in our own lives and give it up to God. That seems crazy.

And the most natural, normal, logical thing to do if we are like Eve in the garden, is say, yeah, I think actually I know what's best for me.

And with that decision, distance is created between the Creator and the created, and the man and the woman in the story are exiled from the garden as a picture of what this enthroning of self does to our relationship with God.

And so we come to our day in our moment, and we're trying to know God and we're trying to understand our place before him.

And we find in our own lives and our hearts and our minds chaos, right?

Disorder.

And isn't it true that many times the chaos that we experience in our lives, we like to think it's on the outside, we like to pin it on somebody out there that is causing all these troubles when really many times the chaos is in my own heart.

It's in the way I think, it's in my rhythms and patterns and the way that I live.

And so as we step into another election year and we know how divided and divisive people can get inside and outside the church. And granted, I know governments are important, politics are important.

Many of you are in politics and you're doing good work, and I encourage that.

But the reality is that before we get really excited about this idea that Christians are going to form these voting blocs and get the job done, what we should really be excited about is when communities of faith come and realize that it is our job to come before Jesus and say, there are disordered things and chaos in our hearts. And Jesus, would you speak light and life into the darkness that exists on the inside of me?

That's where we start.

I have very little hope that we can fix the world externally, but I have all the hope in the world that Jesus is standing ready and present to invade the corners of my heart and to restore and to redeem and to speak life and order into the chaos that can creep into my heart. You hear what on.

And so, you know, as the year goes on, you're going to hear us talk not a lot about our positions on political ideology. But you're going to hear us talk a lot about how we must be anchored. We must be anchored to the life of Jesus.

Everything good will flow out of that. Everything good will flow from a place where you are connected and abiding in the life of Jesus.

So we pray this every day. I think, God, would you speak to the darkness in my heart? And where there is chaos and trouble, bring order and life?

I think this might sound subversive, maybe.

But maybe you are one who is faithfully stuck to a rhythm of Bible reading and prayer, and that's been good.

Sometimes I think it is appropriate to set aside some routines to take up really simple new ones. And maybe there's a season, I'm not saying forever, but maybe there's a season where you find a prayer that you pray and other things kind of just take a pause for a moment so that there is incredible focus on a prayer like this. God, would you speak to the darkness in my heart and help me abide in you? Or maybe you find just a piece of a psalm or a piece of.

You're on like a Bible in three months. You're Trudging through. You're reading seven chapters a day. Maybe you need to dial it back just for a moment and begin to pray a meaningful prayer again and again and let that form you and shape you. Just an idea.

A rhythm of life is an act of protest against chaos.

You want to be really subversive and push back against all the bad things that you perceive are happening in the world. I'll tell you what. Integrate spiritual rhythms into your life and you will be a radical in a world where we're all doing what is most convenient and most maybe obviously, beneficial to ourselves. Rhythms of life push against that and push against the chaos and say, God, I'm choosing your order in my heart and my life.

So today the question goes like this. What are we attempting to manage in our own lives that looks like chaos and disorder?

What are those parts of our habits, our weeks that we find ourselves hitting a wall, where we are constantly choosing to enthrone our own hopes and desires above the order? And what is required from Jesus?

What is taking the place of that abiding and is filling our minds and our hearts? That's what we bring today. That's what we bring today.

Finally, in Genesis chapter two, it says that God planted a garden called Eden, and he places the man and the woman in that garden. And for us, when I say garden, you might think of like a vegetable garden. Or a backyard garden. But for ancient readers and listeners to this story, a garden had a very specific connotation, because in the very, very early times when these stories were written, a garden represented that place that was adjacent, connected to the palace.

To say that someone was placed to live in a garden meant someone had access in proximity to the king.

And so in this beautiful story of how humanity and God are to interact, we find God saying, you're not going to live in some far off place by yourself. My intention and my design for you is that you're right here on the grounds of where I live, that when I step outside each day into the space where life is thriving, you're going to be right there.

And I have this feeling, even in prayer, that I know that naturally my desires and the way that I see the world and want to, it fights against the call back to the garden. Do you hear what I'm saying? Am I the only one? Of course not. We all feel this pull away from that space where we exist, abiding in the presence of God. And we get pulled away, and the picture is clear. In Genesis, chapter two, they choose their own way, and they're exiled from that garden. They're moved far away from it. But the good news is that through Jesus, we're invited back in.

We're invited back in to live in that proximity, that closeness, once again with God. A rhythm of life keeps us close to the Creator.

And so we're going to pray for a moment, and in just a moment, I'm going to invite you, if you have a sense of disorder in your life, in your behaviors, in your habits and rhythms in your mind, and I'm going to invite you, in just a moment, we're going to close our eyes, and I'm going to invite you to raise your hand so that I can pray today, and my hands up, too, that God would speak light and life into the disorder and the chaos that is work at work.

On our Mondays through Saturdays, there's nothing magic about planning to turn your phone off for a day or scheduling a time to take a walk. Nothing magic about that.

But what is so powerful is when we intentionally set ourselves to follow after Jesus and do what is required in order that life can thrive.

So, would you bow your heads, Jesus? Today we are thoroughly imperfect and yet completely loved, completely desired by God and Jesus. Today we hear the call to take up residence again in the garden, in that space close to you, in constant, abiding connection to you, our Creator, with your eyes closed. If today you're saying, man, there's some chaos. There's some disorder in my life and in my heart, and I need a breakthrough.

I need the order of Jesus to help me abide every single day. If that's you, would you just raise your hand right now? Yeah.

Yep. Hands all over. Mine's up. Keep your hand up. Just for a moment. Jesus, we ask through the creative power of the Holy Spirit, where there is darkness and chaos, would you speak?

Speak, speak, speak. Even now, we pray for miracles where addictions are broken.

We pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to drive out anxiety and fear that is maybe feeling suffocating to many Jesus. We pray for behaviors that are compulsive and unhealthy and are leading to death. We pray for a great reversal through the Holy Spirit today.

Jesus. Where we have a root of anger or fear or manipulation or all the things that would come for us today. Jesus, Holy Spirit, we ask, speak life.

Let there be light.

So, Holy Spirit, we just receive that work today. We receive that breakthrough in our lives and our minds and our hearts, our souls.

Jesus, I know you do your best work, not when we prove ourselves, but when we come before you and just ask. So, Jesus, today we ask, do your best work in our lives.