Sermon from Sunday, January 7, 2024
Speaker: Rev. Doug de Graffenried
Scripture: Genesis 1:1-5
Our lesson this morning comes from the first chapter of the Book of Genesis. The first five verses of that chapter. Hear these words in the beginning, when God created the heavens and the Earth, the Earth was a formless void, and darkness covered the face of the deep while the wind from God swept over the face of the waters.
Then God said, Let there be light. And there was light. And God saw that the light was good and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day and the darkness. He called night. And there was evening. And there was morning the first day. Friends, this is the Word of God for the people of God.
Thanks be to God. Amen. So 35 years ago, I got a phone call from Doug McGuire, who was at that point the recycled district superintendent of the Old Ruston district. And Doug McGuire, said, Do you want to come to Arcadia? And pastor, My my family? And I said, I’d love to do that. And so I arrived at First Methodist Arcadia and also Mount Moriah and just began a long, fruitful journey with those folks.
I love them. And there’s nothing more beloved as the beloved former pastor, and since I’ve been gone all these years, I am officially the beloved former pastor. But I noticed this weird thing on weeks where I’d had a bad week. You know, Methodists can get in the objective case and they can come bother the senior pastor in the weeks where that would happen.
Doug McGuire, would always show up on Friday. He would come in my office and he sit down and we’d have this long conversation about nothing, and he’d say, How is it going? And I got a chance to ventilate. And Doug McGuire, always would have very encouraging, redemptive, hopeful words. It kept happening. It wasn’t often, but there was a pattern to it.
And I know Doug McGuire, was not in Arcadia doing what he said he was there doing. He claimed he’d come to Arcadia to get a haircut. He had no hair. He. He just. He was a high gloss right here. What was he doing? Encouraging, lifting up, caring for. And his words were redemptive and hopeful Words create worlds. That’s my thesis through this whole sermon that words create worlds.
God’s Word created in Genesis one one. He spoke light and there was light. And then he spoke dome. And the dome separated the waters above from the waters below. And he said, Eris. And there was land and he said, Yom home and there was sea. And he said, Cobb And there were stars. God spoke it into being. John begins.
His gospel in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God. In the word was God. Paul reminds us that Jesus is before all things and all things He created, and all things are held together for him. And through him, God spoke and it all came to be. The Psalmist said this by the Word of the Lord.
The heavens were made and all their hosts by the breath of his mouth, for he spoke. And it came to be, he commanded, and it stood firm. Isaiah speaks for God when he says so. Shall my word go out from my mouth? It shall not return to me empty, but shall accomplish that which I purpose and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
If God says it, it’s going to happen. If God promises it, He will fulfill the promise. God’s Word is holy. God’s Word can be depended upon. God’s Word is always kept, His word of blessing and his word of warning. It’s always kept God by His word, created our world, our cosmos and all that is All he had to do is speak it.
And it became. But there’s a funny thing about that first word in the Book of Genesis, and I have the Hebrew version of it is going to mysteriously pop up on the screen. We’re going to have a Hebrew lesson. There it is for all of you who read Hebrew, it is read right to left. That is the first word Bereshith, interesting looking word.
And the reason I had Kyle put the be that that first, the one in red is the Hebrew letter Beit It’s the B is because the B is not a part of the verb. The verb is ROSH the verb means to be chief, to be head of that B floating around on the first part of the word ain’t in the word.
It’s added. It’s added for a reason. The Hebrew letter B beit is the second letter. Alef Hebrew letter A is the symbol of an oxen. Alef is strong. Alef doesn’t need anybody else. Why? Because Alef is the first letter. It’s there all by itself. Beit means together. When you see it standing by itself, it means together. Why does it mean together?
Because Beit is with Alef and it’s with Gimel It’s with all the other letters of the alphabet. So when you see this Bereshith, you can properly translate this as: Together, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Together. With who? For you, English professor, professors together with whom? Well, you would say Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Trinity.
And you would be correct. But there’s another together implied here. You and me.
Together with you and me, God created. Wait a minute. I haven’t created anything, no! Nope, nope, nope. Got any children? How about grandchildren? Are you in their gene pool? Uhuh? Okay. Have you nurtured life If you cared for a dog or a cat or a pony or a cow or a goat or a sheep? Uhhuh? Have you cared for plants?
Are you a creative artist or musician? Do you bring life to others by what you paint, by what you sing, by the poetry you write? Together we participate with God in creation. Together we participate with God in redemption. Together we participate with God in the work of the church in the Kingdom together. God doesn’t do it alone.
It’s together. The very first letter of the Book of Genesis implies our responsibility in participating with God in the things of God.
In words creating worlds. Our Word is creative too. our word is creative too. if you’re not convinced about this together, part of it. What did Jesus say? The greatest commandment was You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind and your strength.
And what’s the second commandment? You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself. Anybody catch those are in a dyad. There are two of them hanging out. What together that you can love God and you can flex your God love muscles and you can just do all this love stuff, but it doesn’t count until you love your neighbor as you love yourself.
Then it’s manifest, then it’s shown, then it’s proven out. And there’s the bait, there’s the Bereshith, there’s the creating together in the beginning. But your word, your word is just as powerful as God’s word. hang on for a minute. Your word is just as powerful as God’s word in creating worlds.
Seventh chapter of Luke’s Gospel. After Jesus finished all His sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum a centurion there had a slave whom he highly valued, who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some of the Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly saying He’s worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people.
It is he who built our synagogue for us and Jesus went with them. But when they were not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to the Lord, Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore, I did not presume to come to you, but only speak the word and let my servant be healed.
For I am also a man said under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one go. And he goes. And I say to another, come and he comes and I’m a slave. Do this. And the slave does it. When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him and turning the crowd following him. He said, I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.
A soldier was saying to Jesus, I speak the word and things happen and all I know is you have to speak the words and things will happen too. So speak the word Jesus. And it’s by the word of the centurion that the slave is healed. Or Paul said, this finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable.
If there’s any excellence or if there’s anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Why put them deep into your soul and think about them and dwell on them? Because they are eventually going to come out. Jesus said. It’s not what goes in the files and individual. It’s what comes out. Because out of the mouth you can clearly see the heart.
So put pure things in your heart so that your words will come out in a pure fashion. The writer of Hebrew, the writer of Proverbs, tells us that, you know, a kind word turns away Wrath. The good word lifts up. Why? Because it creates a world. James warned us that the tongue is a small member, yet it boast of great exploits.
How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire in the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members is a world of iniquity. It stains, the whole body sets on fire. The cycle of nature and is itself set on fire by hell for every species of beast and bird of reptile and sea creature can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species.
But no one can tame the tongue, a restless evil full of deadly poison. With it, we blessed the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessings and curse things. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Why? Because words create worlds. If you swing your legs over the edge of your bed in the morning when you wake up and you do that organ recital, that organ checklist you do and you stretch and something pops and you go, it’s going to be a terrible day.
Guess what? You’re going to have a terrible day. But if you stretch and something pops, you say it’s going to be a great day anyway. Guess what? You’re going to have a great day. If you tell yourself, I can do this, I can accomplish this goal, I can overcome this obstacle, I can complete this course. I can do these things.
Guess what? You’re going to do them. Why? Because words create worlds. And if you tell yourself I can’t do it, I’m not accomplished. I’m a failure. I’m a loser, I’m an outcast. Guess what? You’ve just created a reality. That’s why Jesus said you’ve got to be careful of what comes out of your mouth because your words are powerful.
They create realities. So keep your speech positive, keep your prayers positive. I’ve been challenging groups to start praying out loud so your brain can hear what your heart’s praying to God. And when you’re praying out loud, you listen to yourself. Your mind wanders. Do you realize I’m calling on God and I’m asking God for this specific thing? And suddenly your brain goes, Wait a minute, do we really want to ask God for that?
Why? Because our word creates worlds. So be careful with what you put in and what you let out, I was at the gas station the other day, and I wanted to tell the person they need to be careful what they’re listening to in their car. That mom’s spaghetti was not edifying to them, that they really needed to listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing the Hallelujah Chorus that would rather have them rapping along with the Hallelujah chorus than some of this other stuff floating around out there.
What are you putting in your soul? Why am I worried about what you’re listening to or what you’re saying? Because what words create worlds? Two examples.
For the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be talking about the mission statement that the mission team has developed visioning team, and these words are going to come the world that Trinity will create and the world that Trinity will become. Here’s the statement. Our relationship with Christ compels us into connection with our neighbors. I love that our relationship with Christ, it assumes a Christian relationship and we are compelled, we are called into connection with who our neighbors and it fosters a deep need to make Christ known locally and to the ends of the earth.
You’re going to start seeing that it’s going to be printed everywhere. We’re going to memorize it. And the church. That will be a guiding statement for the church as we move out into 2024, as our words create a reality. And then later today, at the end of the service, we’re going to pray that ancient Wesleyan Covenant Prayer, it’s what filled with words that are going to create a reality.
I’m no longer mine, I’m no longer my own but thine. put me to what thou will rank me with whom they will put me to doing. Put me to suffering. Let me be employed by the year laid aside for the exalted for the year brought low for the. Let me be full, Let me be empty. Let me have all things.
Let me have nothing. I freely and heartedly yield all things to thy pleasure and disposable and now gracious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Thou art mine and I am thine. So be it. And the covenant which I have made here on Earth. Let it be ratified in heaven. Words create worlds in 2024. Let’s be intentional about creating a world of love and a world of service, and a world in which we’re God honoring. The other words that Jesus spoke created a new world where He said, This is my body broken for you and this is my blood shed for you. The king of Kings has invited you to his feast. And that, my friends, will definitely create a new world.