[Note:  This sermon was preached in Chapel at the International Center Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, by Rev. Steven Schave, Associate Executive Director of the Office of International Mission – An excellent example of a sermon that spoke stinging law and comforting Gospel to me – Herbert Mueller, First VP.]

Text: Genesis 1:1-2:3

And God said it was good. And God said: it-was-good. Not sorta good, not kinda good, but when God saw His creation with its crown jewel of humanity… He said it was good, through and through. We had it all, paradise; well cared for, in want for nothing. Sickness, what is that? Pain, wow, sounds awful! I hope that never happens to me. Death, that would be a completely unnatural part of God’s creation. Loneliness, no way, God wouldn’t allow it, only perfect communion with Him and a soul mate to be united to for eternity. Perfect love, perfect joy, and perfect peace…just plain perfect, we didn’t know anything else.

But it wasn’t enough: surely God is holding out on us. Give us an orchard, and if there is one tree that God says stay clear of, it will seem the sweetest. And after all, let’s not kid ourselves, we weren’t so concerned with being like God in some holy sense, we want to be God and have our every desire. No, when the crafty serpent comes on to the scene, it doesn’t take a whole lot of convincing before the juices of forbidden fruit are dripping from our sin stained lips. And so covered only in our guilt and shame, with our tails between our legs, we find ourselves evicted from a paradise lost. All of creation now corrupted by our rebellion and disobedience and death will begin its reign. The tree of life in the garden – forever in the rear view mirror.

But that was so long ago. Now we say, “life stinks and then you die.”  We don’t even bother with “did God really say?” anymore, because our tingling ears tuned out the voice of God long ago. It’s about creating our own paradise now. We build our towers to reach the heavens, we fashion together our golden calves to worship, we feverishly reduce, reuse, recycle and plant our gardens to try to recreate a paradise lost. We mask the pain, we turn our face from truly looking at death, we try to clothe ourselves in our own righteousness and justify our disobedience. But it is all a fleeting breath; because in the end we must still weep at the grave of a murdered son, the soil is still infested with thorns, the labor of bearing a child remains, and the flaming swords of God’s justice still bar the door to the tree of life in an Eden that is but a ghost town.

And so it is that poor miserable sinners fall to their knees on this very day and must confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean…we sinners have no business in a holy place in the presence of God, ashes to ashes and dust to dust of a fallen world. And yet God, God who is faithful and just, still loves His creation. Never doubt that in all of creation, of heavens and earth, you are the crown jewel, you are the apple of His eye. For the creator becomes a creature to redeem his creation and to make it good. And so when Christ puts himself into the Jordan and the Spirit is hovering over the water, God says it is good. When Christ fulfills the Law on your behalf and conquers your every temptation from the serpent, God says it is good. When Christ bears your sins in His own flesh, the seed of the offspring crushing the head of the serpent by being obedient to the Father, even unto death: God the Father says, “IT-IS-GOOD!”

And so when you doubt your worth, when you doubt God’s love for you, when you are convinced that your passport will never be stamped for Eden…you will look to the perfect sacrifice made on your behalf, hanging from this wretched tree planted in the barren soil of Golgotha, and you will hear those words from the very voice of God who says, yes my child, it is good – it is your tree of life! Come and eat from the fruit of this tree and drink it’s wine: filled with forgiveness, life and salvation. Put the bread on your tongue and the chalice to your lips made holy, for it is good. Come and be cleansed in this river of life that flows from a riven side and be made a new creation, for God looks upon you remade in the image of His Son, clothed in His righteousness, and says, “IT-IS-GOOD!”

So make no mistake you sons of Adam and you daughters of Eve, the new Adam has come to conquer death; and to bring you forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. The tomb has burst forth, the trumpets declare that that victory is won, and God says, “IT-IS-GOOD!” The seed of the woman is but the first fruit of those raised from the dead. For from your rest in the tomb, you too, dear child of God, will be awakened. From out of your slumber, the angel will come to show you the waters of the river of life; bright as a crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. And beside the river you will see the tree of life, with fruit that gives life and leaves that bring healing to the nations. No curse here, only the throne of God and the Lamb to be worshiped. And all those who have His name upon their foreheads will see His face, and live in His light, where He reigns forever. And so the day is coming soon, when we will dwell in this new paradise, this new creation, this Eden restored. And until then the bride will wait in great anticipation for her bridegroom who says He is coming soon.  And we will call out day and night, Amen, Come Lord Jesus! Come Lord Jesus, for “IT-IS-GOOD!”

In Jesus name, Amen.