Origins – Division

This is the radio devotion for Tuesday, July 7, 2020. Thanks to KCNI for airing these devotions from the Custer County Ministerial Association.

What led Darth Vader to the dark side? What happened to make Batman or the Joker like they are? 

In comics and sci-fi, each character has an origin story, a story of how they came to be, which they often reveal in bits and pieces as the story goes. 

Good morning. I’m Matt Fowler, the pastor of Broken Bow United Methodist Church. This summer, I’m preaching on through Genesis – which means “origins” – and there’s so much there I wanted to take a different angle this week. Genesis helps us know who God is, and who we are as God’s people.

You’re listening on the radio, so you’ve likely also heard at least some news stories lately. Have the divisions of our country – over political, religious, or social issues – come home to roost in your homes and families? Have you “unfriended” or “unfollowed” anyone on social media lately? Have you added your voice to the fray, in heated comments, in scathing or muttered remarks, or in protesting one way or another?

While the topics may be different, the origin stories of Genesis offer us a certain sort of comfort and encouragement for our own experiences of division. From the point, “in the beginning,” when God created all that is and called it all “very good” (Gen 1:31), it only took a couple of chapters before God’s “very good” fell into division. Of course, there’s the familiar story, we ominously call it, “The Fall” in Genesis 3, in which the first humans, Adam and Eve, do that which is forbidden and start blaming each other for it. A chapter later, their sons, Cain and Able, experience rivalry that reaches a fever pitch in a murderous fight. Division, and its painful repercussions, springs forth from the soil of creation quickly.

As the story of Genesis continues, the theme of family division continues. We witness heartbreaking division between Abraham’s sons, Ishmael and Isaac, exacerbated by Abraham’s inaction and Sarah’s fear and jealousy (Gen 16 & 21). Then, we see Isaac’s wife pitting her sons Jacob and Esau against each other, stoking the fires of rivalry that had been grown along with the boys, ending with Jacob stealing his father’s blessing from Esau before fleeing (Gen 25 & 27). We might think Jacob would change, but he runs into the same sorts of divisions by marrying sisters Rachel and Leah, and obviously loving one more than the other. Then, Jacob’s sons gang up on their brother Joseph, selling him into slavery (Gen 37).

Beyond a genealogy, these stories combine as an origin story of human struggle and divine grace. We don’t try to live like these patriarchs and matriarchs, but we still experience their bitter fruits of jealousy, fear, and division in our lives. Nevertheless, God continues to be faithful to hard-hearted, divisive, and unfaithful people, then and now. In each case of division, God finds ways to bless and walk with both parties. Perhaps it’s not as they expected, and yet, God continues to bless beyond and in spite of division. And often, though not always, God manages to lead people through division to renewed relationship.

I wonder how God might be calling and leading us, in our personal lives and beyond, through division to renewed relationship? If this is who God is “in the beginning,” then I can’t help but believe that this is still who God is.

Let’s pray. God, guide us through division to renewed relationship, in which we reveal your grace. May it be so.

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