Sermon delivered by Joel Snider, pastor of First Baptist Church in Rome, Ga., on July 19, 2009.
Genesis 2: 4-14
She guessed that behind the conscious evil there was an unconscious blackness. That was distinguished by the earth’s children of darkness;
they couldn’t make things but only break them. God, the Creator, had
made man in his own image and that meant that every man and woman
who dwelt under God’s light was a creator of some kind, a person with an
urge to stretch out his hand and shape the world in some rational pattern.
The black man wanted—was able—only to unshape. Anti-Christ? You
might as well say anti-creation.
—Stephen King in The Stand
This is the fourth and final sermon in a series on what we have called The DNA of God. If God had a genetic code, these are some of the things that would be in God’s code. These are things that are foundational. They are critical. They are of the essence of how we understand God. When we think of God, these are among the first things that occur to us.
Not only are they a part of God’s genetic code, if there were such a thing, but we also think about what it means to be created in the image of God. We know that from the creation story, “God created them, male and female, in his image.” We sometimes will say to a child who looks a great deal like one parent, “You are just the spittin’ image of your mother.” There is this sense that when God places his image upon us, there are spiritual components of that as if the DNA had been passed on to us. When we look at this sermon series, it is not simply what God is like but also some of the things that are given and poured into us that make us like God.
This is the last sermon in the series and we actually go to the beginning. You could be a Bible scholar of great repute or you could be an individual who decided to read the Bible through all the way for the first time and you would know what comes at the beginning of the Bible. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” God spoke a word, and it happened. He said, “Let there be light and there was light.” That’s all he had to do was speak the word. In the longer version that we are familiar with, God speaks, something happens, and then comes back the refrain, “and it was good.” God gets so much joy and pleasure out of making and creating. It was good. When we read through scripture from the beginning, this is the first way that we encounter God. Probably not in our experience, but in scripture it is the first way we realize that the essence of God is to create and make life. His image being upon us means that we are to use our strength and our hearts to be about the things that matter to God. We are to be participants in God’s creation.
Almost every one of these sermons has had a word in it that if you saw just the one word, your mind might go in a different direction. We talked about how justice in our culture is not the same thing as justice when we read it in the Bible.
We used the word charity last week to describe that combination of love and giving that is a unique part of God being love. Today, if we talk about creative, everybody begins to go in their minds to things like art. A lot of people in the congregation immediately begin to say, “I am not very creative. This sermon isn’t for me because I am not a very creative person.”
We do think of things like Michelangelo’s David. We think about Handel’s Messiah. We think about Tolstoy’s War and Peace. We think about these great creations of art, but art is not the only part of what it means to have this creative piece of God in us. There is the desire to build, make, create, and rise up and it expresses itself in as many different ways today as there are people in the congregation.
You can turn on the TV and start flipping through the cable channels and you will come to I don’t know how many cooking channels. It is amazing how interested people are in cooking and how we see cooking presented to us in so many different ways. People take vacations to go to culinary school in order to create a dish or a meal, something for people to eat that is just simply beyond peanut butter and jelly on a piece of bread. They want to make something. Isn’t that part of the creative spirit trying to come out?
We watch the Home and Garden channel where people are trying to create something in their homes. Think about this: When you meet somebody for the first time, what is one of the first questions they will ask you?
“Nice to meet you. What do you do?”
Somewhere in our job there is going to be a clue of what we might make, help shape, or develop. If not in our job, then perhaps in a hobby where we work with wood or someone knits, crochets, or does needlepoint or a hundred other things. If we were to go around the sanctuary this morning, everybody could come up with something that is a part of their life of making and doing.
Max DePree writes a lot of books on leadership. In one of his books, he tells the story of a millworker who had worked for decades in the same mill. The man died suddenly of a heart attack. The mill owner went to the home to pay his condolences to the family of this lifetime worker in the mill. While he was there, the family brought out poetry that the millworker had worked on all of his life. The man left and asked himself the question, “Was this a millworker who wrote poetry or was this a poet who supported himself and his family by working in a mill?”
That is just one example, but in every person, there is something that wants to come out. We don’t always know how it is, and I think one of our great frustrations in life is when we have not been able to identify it or express it.
Let me say that God’s work in creation is not done, and we are thankful for this because nowhere is the damage done by sin more apparent than when it comes to this part of what it means to be created in God’s image.
I mentioned work, and a lot of people probably began to think, “My work is not very creative or fulfilling. I don’t see anything in what I do that makes me feel like I am created in the image of God.” If we read the whole story of Creation in the first three chapters of the Book of Genesis, one of the things that we find is that when sin comes into the world through Adam and Eve, work is cursed. That may come as no surprise to some people. But one of the things that God does is redeem our lives and allow us to be put back into a relationship with God so that these things can be made whole again.
The meditation text today is actually taken from a Stephen King novel. If you have never read The Stand, it is a tremendous story of good and evil. In the meditation text, he talks about the black man. It is actually the dark man, the evil man, the character of evil in the story. The character of evil only knows how to destroy because the things that work against God destroy, and the things that work with God create. Sin comes into the world and it ruins, darkens, and breaks so many things. We find ourselves sometimes wondering, How could this part of the image of God be demonstrated in me?
Very simply, I want to walk through this for you. I believe that God created us to make. God created us to make things. I believe that one of the reasons why some people never find satisfaction is because they have not found what it is they are supposed to invest themselves in building. For decades, we have been saying that we are working towards so much leisure time. One of the reasons why there will never be perfect leisure time is because we were not made for perfect leisure. There ought to be a balance of work and leisure. We were made to do. We find great satisfaction in doing when our doing is joined with God’s purpose in our lives. Sin has ruined much of this, and even though it has ruined it, it is still there. The creative power of God did not end on the sixth day of creation.
We read from the Book of Romans, “Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation,” and part of being redeemed from our sin is that God, through Christ, can restore in us that sense of purpose so that we can unite our lives with his. One of the reasons why a person’s vocation is so dissatisfying is it was chosen because it would get them a good job, it was a job of status, or a good paying job instead of seeking God’s guidance for their individual lives and doing what they do in life for God. When we do that, we call it vocation, coming from the Latin for to call. We have been called to do it. When we work our life’s work according to what God has directed us to do, we find ourselves investing, building, molding, shaping, creating, and doing and that is just in our jobs.
Whatever it is that we do, whether it be in work, hobby, etc., we would find better satisfaction if we always thought of it as doing it for good and doing our best. If it is cooking because you went to culinary school on vacation, then think of food as a gift from God. Then prepare the meal as if you were preparing it as a gift for God himself. When we work at things like that, all of a sudden what we do is elevated to a higher plain.
We are one of the few churches that you go to where there is not a lot of applause, and guests are often surprised by that. The reason that there is not a lot of applause in this church is because when the musicians play or sing, it is considered their offering to God. They are lifting it up to God and we have the privilege of observing that. If we could take what we do in our businesses and think of it as, I am doing this because God has gifted me in this way and I will do it my best, then it really doesn’t matter how other people evaluate what we do, does it? We are fulfilling the image of God that is in us.
Those of you who are long-term Romans will remember several years ago when the Brunos family had come to Rome for the opening of a grocery story, and the tragic airplane crash into Lavender Mountain. I was living in Nashville at the time and pastoring a church there. The Brunos family had opened a grocery store not far from our church. The manager called and said they needed someone to pray for the grand opening. Sometimes ministers are called in to lend something that looks good to them, and I really questioned him. I said, “I’m not too sure about this. Why do you need me to come pray at a grand opening?”
He said, “The Brunos family believes that every one of their stores is a family, and every store is a place where people do their best for God. They want every store to be blessed so it is truly all that it can be and that it makes the community in which it exists better.”
So I went and prayed for the grand opening. But it is rare that you hear someone express that kind of Christian conviction behind their business. But what if we all did? What if in our making, building, and shaping, we always thought of it as doing what God has called us to do and doing our best for God? Won’t the image of God that has been stamped upon us find its best expression?
This does not happen by accident and it does not happen on our own. The power of sin to destroy, thwart, bend, and break is great. It is only when this has been redeemed by Christ, and as a part of our salvation is brought back to its wholeness as a part of our total relationship with God, does this happen. But when it does, how complete does our salvation feel to know that our lives have been brought back together so that our hearts and our strength is lended towards the things that, in scripture, we see God’s heart and God’s strength doing.
Whatever it is that you do, whatever it is that you build, whatever it is that you make, whether it is in your job or in a workshop in your basement, whether it is something you crochet or knit on your lap while you are watching TV, whether it is something you write or whatever it may be, do it out of a sense of giftedness from God. And may God bless it and may you find joy in it and know that it is an expression of God’s image in you.
Joel Snider is a coach for the Center for Healthy Churches.