God is profoundly relational
1In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.
3Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
6And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
9And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. 12The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. 13And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
14And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
20And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” 21So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 22God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
24And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. 25God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.
26Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” 27So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
29God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
31God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
2Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
4These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
Matthew 28:16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The Genesis passage read for you is in liturgical format and no doubt written to those in exile. It announced good news to those languishing in Babylon. Rather than the Babylonian myths about the beginnings of the world, here was the announcement of a good God making a good universe with a positive statement about humanity.
Someone once asked Luther what God did before he made the world to which Luther is purported to have said: “He was cutting switches with which to flog inquisitive questioners.” in How the World Began by Thielicke. p. 13.
When we come to examine the creation story in Genesis, we are often puzzled and more than a little embarrassed by some creationists who still want to hold out for a 7 day creation thus doing tremendous disservice to our text of Genesis 1. Like the unfortunate fight with Galileo and Copernicus whereby the church wanted to excommunicate them as heretics for saying the earth orbited the sun rather than the sun rotating around the earth, so too, today we need to understand what the author of Genesis is trying to say.
In the beginning God created, but it can also be translated ‘When God began to create....” In other words it is an ongoing process and God continues. See Genesis, Brueggemann p. 29.
There are two creation accounts in Genesis, and the first account which we read this morning is much later than the second account which begins at 2:4. It is acknowledged to have been written during the exilic period when the people were trapped in Babylon in the sixth Century Before the C. E. Having lost their king, their land, with the temple at Jerusalem destroyed, what remains of their relationship to the covenant keeping God? Just this: - the Sabbath. So the priestly writers pen this brilliant liturgy of creation, which in contrast to Babylonian thought posits a good creation, created by a good God, and a wonderful humanity.
“ To call the creation story true is not to quibble with science; it is to probe deeper than any scientific endeavor can take us. It is to acknowledge who we truly are and where we really come from. It is to affirm, by faith, the reality of a good God, a good world, and a beloved humanity.” Deb Thomas in Journey with Jesus.net
Current scientific thinking places the origin of the universe at 13.8 billion years; the existence of the earth at 4.5 billion years; and that complex molecules which could replicate themselves at about 3 billion years.
Richard Carlson, research professor of physics at the University of Redlands, states: “Most of what we see or experience can be given a good accounting by science. That does not imply that there can be no religious understanding of those phenomena, for theology answers the why questions whereas science answers the how questions. Hence, even though as followers of Jesus we understand that God created all life, including the first life on earth, this compliments rather than replaces or invalidates the scientific goal of a scientific accounting for the development of the first life on earth. In addition, this gap in scientific understanding does not invalidate the remainder of evolutionary thought.” Theology News and Notes Fuller Theological Seminary, Spring 2013 p.22,23.
Do not say there is no room for dinosaurs in the Bible. Nor think of evolution as in conflict with Scripture. Rather understand a brilliant liturgy which for a vanquished people languishing in a country where they did not know how to sing the Lord’s song, this brilliant liturgy set them on a new path of hope.
Deb Thomas [guest essay Journey with Jesus] Where do I come from? Here's what I've discovered so far:
I come from a God who sees. Seven times in the creation narrative, God pauses to reflect on his handiwork. "And God saw." Well before his work is done, he steps back to behold all that is taking shape before his eyes. Like a musician who thrills at a swelling harmony, like a poet who gasps at a beautiful turn of phrase, God lingers over his creation — every leaf, every wing, every stream, every child. He's not in a hurry, and his interest in the world is far from utilitarian. God's is the gaze of the artist, keen, perceptive, and patient. He observes. He attends. He notices. I come from a God who pays delighted attention. He sees.”
How important for the captive people to hear this good news. The culmination of the creation event is found in Sabbath rest. It is called the rest of completion; satisfaction; a job well done. And God rested: And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
“Genesis affirms the world as the good creation of the good God. All that is, is good." - Marcus Borg
Barbara Brown Taylor writes, "The way most people talk about darkness, you would think that it came from a whole different deity, but no. To be human is to live by sunlight and moonlight, with anxiety and delight, admitting limits and transcending them, falling down and rising up. To want a life with only half of these things in it is to want half a life, shutting the other half away where it will not interfere with one's bright fantasies of the way things ought to be."
There are beginnings, and they are wrought by the speech of God which evokes among us a new world. The church has discerned this good news in Jesus of Nazareth, Through him, God’s powerful speech is still being spoken. God’s powerful wind is still blowing. Brueggemann Genesis p.39. In the prologue to John’s Gospel, Jesus is identified as ‘The word”; further as ‘the word made flesh.”
Human kind is created in the very image of God, the so-called, imago dei. God's mark is imprinted on my very being. I might ignore or distort it, but the mark is always there. Whether I acknowledge it or not, I reflect something of God's joy, God's intentions, God's love, and God's beauty just by virtue of existing on the earth. I am His, and so He is mine.
In a book entitled The Search Will Make you Free the author includes a conversation that St. Francis once had with a disciple of his: The student asked: Won’t you tell me how one comes to love God? to which Francis replied: There is only one way and that is to love Him. The student again asked: How do you engender that love? Francis: By loving Him.” Again the student: Just what do you do in order to come into the possession of this love?” Francis: “You begin by loving and you go on loving and loving teaches you how to love. And the more you love, the more you learn to love.” quoted in the Eighth day of Creation p. 66,67 by Elizabeth O’Connor.
Unfortunately in our day with so much that has been explained a way, we tend to lose our sense of awe and wonder. But when that happens, a stunning loss of creativity results. Life loses its verve. “The loss of wonder, of awe, of the sublime, is a condition leading to the death of the soul. There is no more withering state than that which takes all things for granted, whether with respect to human beings or the rest of the natural order. The blase attitude means spiritual, emotional, intellectual and creative death.” Edmund Fuller, Man in Modern Fiction.
Deb Thomas ends her essay with these words; “Where do we come from? We come from the best of beginnings. We come from a glorious Creator. We come from the loving heart of God.”
On this trinity Sunday, we rejoice that love within the Godhead had the need to create - Love has to be shared. God created something to love and a humanity which could love in return. In summary, we can say that we have been created by love for love. Love to our fellow human beings; love for all of God’s creatures and for this planet. God saw everything that God had made, and behold ‘it was very good.’ Thus we have been placed on this planet not to exploit but to value, to care for, to love, and to share good news. Remembering that the Spirit of Jesus remains with us even to the end of the age.
Thanks be to God!