Genesis 1:1-5,27-31; Psalm 104; John 1:1-5,9-10,14

2nd Sunday after Trinity

St Barbara’s 09.06.2024

Rev Tulo Raistrick

For first century Jews there were few more treasured parts of their Scriptures than the early chapters of Genesis, or what they simply called “In the beginning”, and the hymn book of worship, the book of Psalms.

These scriptures would have been lived and breathed by the early Christian believers too. It would have been how they made sense of the world around them, and the framework within which they were trying to work out quite who Jesus was.

And part of that framework of belief was a belief that God had made the world. That may seem an obvious belief for anyone who was religious at the time, but in fact many of the surrounding religions, the faith of the Babylonians and Assyrians for example, were less sure, believing their gods were created out of chaos. For the Jews and early Christians, they believed that before the beginning, God was.

And what also set them apart, what the Scriptures had shaped them to believe, was that the world was created good. What God has made is good. As we look around our world, at the beauty of the natural world, at its intricacy down to a tiny fragment of DNA, or its vastness as great as the cosmos, at its ability to inspire, move, amaze, we can agree with that. As the writer of Psalm 104 puts it:

Praise the Lord, my soul.

Lord my God, you are very great;

He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
it flows between the mountains.
They give water to all the beasts of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
The birds of the sky nest by the waters;
they sing among the branches.
He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.

He made the moon to mark the seasons,
and the sun knows when to go down.

How many are your works, Lord!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.

For the first Christians as they read their Scriptures, what we now know as the Old Testament, as they read Genesis and the Psalms, they would have been in awe and wonder at the world. They would have looked around them and been full of praise for God

And then they began to realise something extraordinary. Jesus, their friend, had been part of bringing the world into being, the source of it all.

We’ve heard in our gospel reading how one of those people, John, began to try and make sense of it.

When they read the opening chapter of Genesis, they would have wondered why the words of the story spoke of God not just in singular, but also in plural “make humankind in our image, according to our likeness”.

And then they realised. It was not just God as Father who was there creating the world. The extraordinary penny would have dropped – it was Jesus, as God’s son who was there too. From before the beginning of everything, Jesus was there co-creating the world.

The cosmic nature of Jesus, his greatness, his awesomeness, his absolute holiness and transcendence would have struck them. Suddenly his words and his actions become even more important, even more significant. He is God. He is to be worshipped and glorified.

And then they would have been astounded all the more when they then thought:

“This Jesus came and dwelt among us, he took on our flesh and blood, he was born as a helpless and vulnerable baby, he endured the hardship of living in poverty, he faced the same risks as we do of disease and illness. Now we realise how great Jesus is, that becomes even more remarkable.”

Infinite and awesome God confined into human frame. And then he allowed himself to be beaten, abused and even killed by the world he had made, by the people he had brought into being. In the words of one of the songs we sing in church: Hands that flung stars into space to cruel nails surrendered.

As they read their Old Testament, as they thought about the greatness of God, and realised that this God gave up his own life for them, those early Christians would have realised afresh just how much God loved them, how much he was willing to do for them.

And one more thing.

When John pondered how he would write his story about the life of Jesus, his gospel, he must have thought long and hard about where to start. He probably knew already the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, who start with either Jesus’ birth or the start of his ministry.

But he wants to capture something more. He wants to capture something of the wonder and the love of Jesus, things that we have just thought about. But more than that, he wants to give a sense of the radical, revolutionary, life-changing and world-changing truth of God coming among us in Jesus.

And so he starts his gospel with the same three words that start the Old Testament scriptures: “In the beginning”

In the Old Testament those words heralded the start of life, the beginning of everything, creation.

Now John uses the same words to say that something as equally important, as equally new and breath-taking, has taken place. Jesus the light of the world has come among us – this is a new beginning, a new creation. Jesus is bringing about a new future, a new world, and unlike the promises made to us by politicians of all persuasions at the moment, these are promises we can rely on, for it is God who is bringing them about.

And Jesus invites us to be part of that as we pray “Thy kingdom come”, and as we love God, one another, our community and the world.