By Rev. Dr. Sergio E. Arevalo, Jr.
January 11, 2015 (Baptism of the Lord, First Sunday after the Epiphany)
If you are a fan of Fernando Poe, Jr (FPJ), you know how he boxed. If you always watch Jacky Chan’s movies, you know how he acts, and you know that his movies are always actions and comedies. When you know a certain character actor in a movie you know he is the bad guy in that movie—stereotyped!
In our passage today, I want to introduce to you a different actor, God is the actor in creation. It tells the character of God as the creator, and is active and liberating.
The passage is not a scientific piece or history, but is one of revelation, testimony and theological affirmation, while science is concerned with the relation between finite causes and effects (Joseph Price, Feasting on the Word, p. 222).
Our text tells about the God who can create something out of nothing, creatio ex nihilo.
I. God Creates ex Nihilo
Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God created the universe” (ISV). King James Version says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” International Standard Version believes that everything was created by God, and not just heaven (or heavens, ASV) and earth—which may mean sky or cloud (shâmayim shâmeh) and land (‘erets).
This perception of God’s act was popularized by the writer of 2 Maccabees when he implored the faithful “to look at the heaven and earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed” (7:28). Creatio ex nihilo, God created something out of nothing!
In this first verse of the Bible, it shows the power of God. Power that can create something out of nothing for his own purpose. This also shows that in God, all things are possible. Indeed, all impossibilities are possible only to God.
If we believe this kind of God, it gives us big hope and huge possibilities! Sometimes in our lives, we encounter difficulties, death, depressions, destructions, sickness, sufferings, hopelessness, and hardships. Every human being in every nation experienceS that, but we Christians are blessed to know that despite all these things we have hope that God will show his power out of nowhere, out of nothing, out of somewhere. God will show his power by making possible the impossible in our lives. Say AMEN to that!
The English Channel is 22 miles wide. Its waters are unpredictable and cold. A little percentage tried and became successful in swimming the channel. Most have failed. In 1961, a certain Antonio Albertondo, a 42 year old man from Argentina swam the English Channel.
It took Antonio 19 hours to make his swim. When he came ashore in France, his friends congratulated Antonio for accomplishing what they thought was impossible at his age.
Antonio paused for a few minutes to sip a hot drink. Then he told his friends they had not seen the impossible yet, but were about to. With that, he dove back into the water and swam for 22 more hours; all the way back to England.
The impossible makes possible.
Mary Fasano was pulled by her parents out of the eighth grade so she could work in a cotton mill in Rhode Island.
Fifty-five years later, Mary decided to go back to school. She went to high school at night, and at 71 Mary got her high school diploma. Then she enrolled in Harvard University’s extension program and took one course at a time.
Mary commuted twenty miles to Cambridge every week, every semester; every year for seventeen years!
In June 2003 Mary Fasano graduated from Harvard University at the age of eighty-nine.
The impossible makes possible (illustrationexchange.com).
A lot of impossibilities around us, but God is with us and he will help us to reach our dreams and desires, God will empower us to make possible the impossible.
Let us remember these two verses in the Bible, “For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37), and “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).
II. God Creates with Ruach and the Word
Verse 2 says, “When the earth was as yet unformed and desolate, with the surface of the ocean depths shrouded in darkness, and while the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters” (1:2, ISV),
King James Version says, “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God (rûach) moved (râchaph) upon the face of the waters” (KJV).
God was not alone in the creation. Actually his name alone means the plurality of God (Elohim). John 1:1-3 says that the Word (logos) was with the creation. In Genesis 1:2 ruach is found. Ruach is the Spirit of God.
Every person of the Holy Trinity is participant in the creation. We just don’t know exactly what are their roles in each part of the creation, but here in verse 2 we see that the Spirit was hovering or moving upon the surface of the waters.
The Hebrew Bible used rachaph for “hovering over” or “moving upon” which may mean “brooding.” Brooding means “to sit upon eggs to be hatched.” We can deduce here then that in creation the Spirit of God was brooding over the surface of the earth, and waiting for the right time given by God to make reality the vision of God. He was like a hen brooding her eggs and waiting to be hatched.
Even in creation God did not rush, he waited for the right time. We should also wait for God’s time in our lives. Why we need to wait? For example, (1) when a baby is born prematurely, he is weak and he needs to be incubated to make him strong for his new life. (2) Don’t force the larva to leave his pupa or else the butterfly will forever weak or will soon die.
Through Ruach, God created from tangible chaos into something good. What does it mean for us nowadays? We might be in trouble, tribulation, hopeless, homeless, broken, sick, depressed, distressed, destroyed, destitute, poor, persecuted, or penniless. Have faith, since we know that the Spirit of God is just brooding over our lives, and in God’s time, out of chaos of our lives, hope and victory will be hatched!
And God said, “Let there be light! And there was light” (1:3). When God speaks there’s power in it. Actually the Hebrew Bible uses “amar” for the word “said,” and it may mean a command or declaration. For the word “light” the HB uses “or” which may mean “sun.”
Through God’s command, there was light. Actually through His words, he created the sun from nothing. “Let there be sun! So there was sun.”
This verse reminds us that there’s power in words. Words can create or destroy, words can make you happy or can make you sad, and words can make you victims or victorious.
Henry Ford used his powerful words to his workers. One time he came up with a revolutionary plan for a new kind of engine.
Ford was eager to get his great new idea into production. He had some men draw up the plans, and presented them to the engineers. As the engineers studied the drawings, one by one they came to the same conclusion. Their visionary boss just didn’t know much about the fundamental principles of engineering.
They told him gently that his dream was impossible. However, Ford said, “Produce it anyway.” They replied, “But it’s impossible.” “Go ahead,” Ford commanded, “and stay on the job until you succeed, no matter how much time is required.”
For 6 months they struggled with drawing after drawing, design after design. Nothing. Another six months. Nothing. At the end of the year Ford checked with his engineers, and they once again told him that what he wanted was impossible. Ford told them to keep going.
Then one day they discovered how to build that engine. They discovered how to build a V-8 engine (Napolean Hill, Think and Grow Rich, 1960). The V8 with a cross plane crankshaft is a common configuration for large automobile engines. V8 engines are rarely less than 3.0 L (183 cu in) in displacement and in automobile use have exceeded 8.2 L (500 cu in) in production vehicles, such as the American Cadillac Eldorado for instance.
Ford is not the first that made v-8, but Ford was the first company in the world to use V8s that produced them in very large quantities for use in mass-produced vehicles. Instead of going to an inline six like its competitors when something larger than an inline four was needed, Ford designed a simple V8, the Flathead of 1932. This flat head engine powered almost all larger Ford cars through the 1953 production year, and was produced until around 1970 by Ford licensees around the world, with the valve-in-block engine powering mostly commercial vehicles (Wikipedia.org).
Our words have power!
[Let’s demonstrate now its power. Face your neighbor, tell him or her some positive traits or good things that he/she has done. What do you feel after this demonstration? It feels good, right?]
Tom Stoppard says, “Words… They’re innocent, neutral, precise, standing for this, describing that, meaning the other, so if you look after them you can build bridges across incomprehension and chaos. But when they get their corners knocked off, they’re no good any more… I don’t think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little or make a poem which children will speak for you when you’re dead” (The Real Thing: A Play, www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/power-of-words).
The Bible has many verses on words, here are some of them:
Proverb 15:4 says, “A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” Solomon encourages the reader to be gentle in words.
Proverb 15:2 says, “The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.” Solomon encourages us speak with knowledge than foolishness.
In Colossians 4:6 Paul says, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” The Apostle Paul encourages us to speak with grace and wisdom.
Proverb 27:2 says, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” Solomon warns us not to be arrogant, let others appreciate our works.
IV. God Creates Light from Darkness
Genesis says, “And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day” (1:4-5, KJV).
I see two theological interpretations here: (1) God divided light and darkness wherein before they were together being in chaos. Through the power of the Spirit, he divided the two in one day. Since God created the sun and it was good or beautiful. (2) God created the sun, the light, out of darkness. Remember the creatio ex nihilo, God created something out of nothing. God created the light out of darkness! That’s not impossible with God!
These verses empower and liberate us that even in the dark situation of our lives, God will create light. Sometime we hear “there’s light at the end of the tunnel.” It means that after we travel towards the direction of the light we might see hope and victory at the end.
The words of Jesus Christ are fitted here, in John 8:12 he says, “I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” In John 9:5, he says, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
In our passage we see God as the creator of the universe. Actually the whole First Chapter of Genesis we read three major creative acts of God: (1) God created the universe (1:1); (2) he created the animal life (1:21), and (3) he created the human life (1:27).
In the creation of the first human beings, they are created in the likeness of God himself, theologians call it the doctrine of the imago Dei. If we are the imago Dei then we are co-creators of God. Now we are reminded of the role or the calling of human beings on earth. We are called to bring light in the dark world, we are called to create life from death and chaos, and we are called to create something positive out of negative environment. When Jesus was baptized (Mark 1:4-11) he revealed his calling as co-creator of God to bring light in the dark world, and to bring life from death (John 1:4-5).