Family stories are powerful because they can give us an understanding of where we come from and a sense of where we belong. But there are even bigger stories than family stories. These Big Stories not only help us to see where we fit in—where we come from and where we belong—they can also help us to discover our purpose in life and know where we are going.
And while there are different stories available for us to choose from, whichever one we choose as our own Big Story will make a huge difference in our lives. For example, the Big Story in the Culture is that we are bits of matter that have come together by random chance over time. When considering which Big Story to adopt as our own, the Big Question with any Big Story is “Is It Really True?” I would say that this Big Story—that we are bits of matter that have come together by random chance—is not true because it fails to explain things that we see in the world like morality, beauty, joy, intelligence and pleasure. I would also say that it is not true because it is not plausible. For an explanation of what I mean, I invite you to check out the video “How dice can show that God exists” .
However, even though this Big Story that we are matter + chance + time fails in terms of explaining things and in being plausible, it still has an impact because so many people believe that it is true. And here is why that is a problem. While the Big Story that we are matter + chance + time may explain where we came from and it may tell us that we belong to the animal kingdom, in this Big Story we have no purpose in life except to pass on our genetics and die. And there is no future for us after this life because, according to this Big Story, we cease to exist when we die. This means that life is essentially meaningless.
There is a connection between this belief that life is meaningless, which is called nihilism, and some of the tragic things that are happening in our culture. If life is meaningless, and we drift into nothingness when we die, then why shouldn’t someone gather some guns and ammunition and go out with a bang. If life is meaningless, then it is okay to use the people around us as objects so we can get as much as we can out of this life while we can. If life is meaningless, then we might as well drink and eat to excess and party our faces off because tomorrow we could die. If life is meaningless, then I can use my body in any way I want to get whatever I want whenever I want it. If life is meaningless, then when things start to get tough, I might was well check out, because things aren’t fun anymore. All of these patterns are rising in our culture because of a lack of deep meaning and purpose in people’s lives, and that lack of deep meaning and purpose is destroying people’s souls and our culture.
But God has a better Big Story. To find it we need to switch from natural to revealed knowledge. And in the revealed knowledge that God has given us in the Bible, we find a narrative that is consistent with what we see in the world. It not only explains how the material world came to be. It also explains things like morality, beauty, joy, intelligence and pleasure. God’s Big Story is more plausible, if one accepts the possibility that God exists. It answers the questions of where do we come from, where do we belong, what is our purpose and where are we going?
We can say that God’s Big Story has Four Chapters: Creation, The Fall, Redemption and Restoration. Over the next four weeks we will look at each of these four chapters. For today, let’s reflect on the First Chapter in God’s Big Story: Creation.
As we look in the Bible, we see that God created all that exists out of nothing. We see that in Genesis 1:1 (In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth) and in Hebrews 11:3 (By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.) The fact that God created everything out of nothing tells us some important things about God. First, God is Other. He is a totally kind of being than anything that exists in this world. In John 4:24, we read “God is spirit…”. God stands outside of space and time and yet God has created within space and time. We also see that God is a personal being. We know that because, at some point, God made a personal decision to create the cosmos. We also realize that God is powerful. He must be in order to create all that we see around us.
The Big Story that we see in the Bible also tells us that God created with a plan. We can tell that His plan was complex because of the incredible amount of complexity and design that we see in the world. Small things like a human eye or a woodpecker show evidence of a high degree of design and each of these small things fit into a much larger and more complex system like the human body or a forest ecosystem.
God’s plan was also personal in that it was designed to include you. We read that in Jeremiah (“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (1:5) and “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (29:11) and Ephesians “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes” (1:4). Even before God created the world, He was thinking of you and how you would fit into His plan.
God also included Redemption in His plan because, if we are honest with ourselves, we can see that there is something terribly wrong out in the world and within us. So God made plans to buy us back from sin and everything else that can hurt us. We read in 1 Peter 1:18-21 “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.”
Having made a plan, God began the process of creating and He did it by speaking things into existence. For example, we read in Genesis 1:3, “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” God’s Words have the power to create and recreate, and that gives us hope because that means that God has the power to recreate you and me, and we need to be recreated. We need to be made new.
So who are you? In God’s eyes, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. He tells us that Himself: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139: 13-14). When God looks at you, He know that you were made in His image: “So God created mankind in his own i. mage, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Because you were made in the image of God, you have His imprint upon you, you were made for relationship with God. God also knows that you washed clean of all your sin and brought into His family through the waters of Holy Baptism. God loves you infinitely and accepts you unconditionally just as you are.
The question is do you believe that? Do you believe that God really does love you just as you are? Do you know and trust that in your heart, as well as in your head? All of us have some hard places in our hearts where God’s love has not yet fully penetrated. And until we truly believe in our hearts that God loves and accepts us just as we are because of Jesus and what He has done for us, we are unable to love and accept ourselves just as we are, and we are unable to love and accept others just as they are. Therefore, my challenge for you today is to believe that Jesus loves and accepts you just as you are.
People in the world are longing for a place where they are loved and accepted, a place where they belong. We belong to the clan of Jesus and this clan is open to everyone. We have the opportunity to tell people about that head of our clan, Jesus, and about the love, acceptance and forgiveness that He freely gives to all who look to Him in faith. What we are really talking about is Grace and, in Jesus, there is more than enough grace for us, there is more than enough grace for the people around us who are struggling under a burden of brokenness or a burden of meeting a performance standard to gain acceptance.
Dear friends, let us rest in the love and grace of Jesus. Let us be people of grace who share God’s grace with others so that the people that God has placed around us will also know where they belong. With Jesus. Amen.
(This message was shared at Walnut Grove Lutheran Church in Langley BC on March 4, 2018. It is based on Genesis 1 & 2.)