Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Creation, Part 1

Hey, It was exciting that I got to go lead Bible study this week at Evenglow after all these weeks of medical leave.  We studied Genesis 1:1-2:4 (the first of two Creation Stories).

Before I get into the scripture.  I need to explain how the ancient Hebrew people understood the order and structure of the cosmos:

Image found at:
They believed there was a God which separated the waters above and the waters below with a firmament.  Now, before you dismiss it as something "primitive," keep in mind these early people were trying to explain the world as they experienced it.  The heavens sometimes broke forth with rain (The waters above came down), for instance.  So keep the image (above) of how the ancient Hebrew people saw the cosmos.

This image of the world brings up some problems.  Look at the picture again.  What does this mean for the Ancient Near Eastern people?

  1. What happens if the firmament breaks?
  2. How do the people see the shape of the earth?
  3. What do the sides of the dome mean for the people living on the earth?
  4. What dangers do you see in this world?
  5. Are there any advantages to looking at the world in this way???

Image found at:
Now as we prepare to read the scripture, imagine that you are in the ancient Hebrew world and living in a tribal society.  This fragmented people must have felt alone and vulnerable.  I mean, they lived in a world where an angry God could just let the firmament fail and leave them drowned and dead.  They live in a world where earthquakes can swallow up cities.  but the Hebrew people had a God that was faithful and steadfast and kept them safe in a crazy world of hurricanes, floods, and roving dangerous bands.

Okay, so let's take a look at the scripture, Genesis 1:1-2:4.  It was meant to be performed for others, so we'll be reading a paraphrase from "The Message" by Eugene Peterson and I hope that you will read it out loud and, perhaps even, dramatically:
Genesis Chapter 1 
1-2 First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don't see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God's Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss. 
3-5 God spoke: "Light!" And light appeared. God saw that light was good and separated light from dark. God named the light Day,God named the dark Night.It was evening, it was morning—Day One. 
6-8 God spoke: "Sky! In the middle of the waters; separate water from water!" God made sky. He separated the water under sky from the water above sky. And there it was:God named sky the Heavens; It was evening, it was morning—Day Two. 
9-10 God spoke: "Separate! Water-beneath-Heaven, gather into one place; Land, appear!" And there it was. God named the land Earth.God named the pooled water Ocean. God saw that it was good. 
11-13 God spoke: "Earth, green up! Grow all varieties of seed-bearing plants, Every sort of fruit-bearing tree."And there it was.Earth produced green seed-bearing plants,
all varieties, And fruit-bearing trees of all sorts. God saw that it was good. It was evening, it was morning— Day Three.
14-15 God spoke: "Lights! Come out!
Shine in Heaven's sky! Separate Day from Night.
Mark seasons and days and years, Lights in Heaven's sky to give light to Earth.”And there it was.
16-19 God made two big lights, the larger to take charge of Day,The smaller to be in charge of Night; and God made the stars. God placed them in the heavenly sky to light up Earth And oversee Day and Night,
to separate light and dark. God saw that it was good. It was evening, it was morning— Day Four. 
20-23 God spoke: "Swarm, Ocean, with fish and all sea life! Birds, fly through the sky over Earth!"God created the huge whales, all the swarm of life in the waters, And every kind and species of flying birds. God saw that it was good. God blessed them: "Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Ocean! Birds, reproduce on Earth!" It was evening, it was morning— Day Five. 
24-25 God spoke: "Earth, generate life! Every sort and kind: cattle and reptiles and wild animals—all kinds." And there it was: wild animals of every kind, Cattle of all kinds, every sort of reptile and bug. God saw that it was good.  
26-28 God spoke: "Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, And, yes, Earth itself,
and every animal that moves on the face of Earth." God created human beings; God created them godlike, Reflecting God's nature. He created them male and female. God blessed them:"Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth."
29-30 Then God said, "I've given you
every sort of seed-bearing plant on Earth And every kind of fruit-bearing tree,
given them to you for food. To all animals and all birds, everything that moves and breathes, I give whatever grows out of the ground for food."And there it was.31 God looked over everything he had made;
it was so good, so very good! It was evening, it was morning— Day Six.
Genesis Chapter 2 
Heaven and Earth were finished, down to the last detail. 
2-4 By the seventh day God had finished the work. On the seventh day God rested from work. God blessed the seventh day and made it a Holy Day.Because on that day he rested from work:
all the creating God had done. This is the story of how it all started, of Heaven and Earth when they were created.
Did you read it aloud and with enthusiasm?  Were you able to pay attention to what was happening in the story?  Here are a few questions for you to consider about this text before I talk with you:

  1. When people heard this account of creation, what did they get from it?
  2. What is it important that the writer talked about day and night and light and dark?
  3. What is the role of God in this account?
  4. What is the role of human beings?

This week you'll notice a new trend with my video.  I'm trying to keep it very short :-)

Thursday, March 1, 2012


During these first few weeks of Lent, the season as we approach Easter, our Hebrew Scripture readings will be from Genesis.  Last week it was Genesis 9:8-17 and this week it will be Genesis 17:1-7 & 15-16.  For Lent Genesis is a great place to start, but then, Genesis being a great place to start isn't exactly a new idea is it?  When the Hebrew Scriptures and, later, the Christian Canon was being put together where did they put Genesis, but at the beginning, right?

There is the obvious reason that Genesis is at the beginning of scripture.  It's about beginnings.  I mean, literally, right at the start, Genesis says, "In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth..."   There is no other single phrase of scripture that would be more apt for the beginning of the Bible, right?  Certainly, Genesis is about beginnings.  Genesis is about the beginnings of the universe, the ordering of the things and people of the universe, and, as we progress through the book, it is about the beginnings of the Hebrew people.

But Genesis isn't just at the beginning of scripture because it talks about beginnings.  Gosh, John starts off talking about beginnings, right?  If Christians were looking for a first book of the Bible they could have started there, if they were just looking for a landmark text about how things began.  What Genesis does better than any other scripture is to remind us that things began not only with God but that God's redemptive work didn't happen in a void.  God's redemptive and creative work happened in relationship.  No, let me correct myself.  God's redemptive and creative work happened in relationships.  Do you see the "s" on the end of that word?  God is in relationship with all of the things that were created.  Not just humans, not just butterflies or daffodils.  God creation and more importantly God's love is universal for all of creation.  By the time we get to the scriptures for this Lent (chs 9 & 17) a shift has occurred. Oh, don't worry, Genesis never lets go of 'beginnings' and 'creation' as its theme, but God begins making covenants, that is to say, promises.  So Genesis is about how God  put the universe into motion and created (and ordered) it, but also Genesis is about God's promises to that creation and God's faithfulness and love for all of that creation.

So why is Genesis at the beginning of our scriptures?  Why is it perfect for the beginning of Lent?  Why is it where I start when I teach confirmation?  Because God's life-giving relationship to creation is the foundation of everything else that comes to us in scripture.  Genesis isn't just at the beginning of the Bible because the fist words are "in the beginning."  I think Genesis is placed at the beginning of our Biblical Canon because it is foundational to every other scripture in our Bible.  When we hear about a baby in the manger we should be reminded of God's creation, redemption, and God's promises.  When we read about Christ upon the cross?  Yup.  We should have in mind that God was at the beginning creating, in the end redeeming, and throughout all of our trials, God's promises are secure.  When Paul writes his frustrations and successes in his letters?  We can keep in mind that God is at the foundation of his work and God stands with Paul and those churches, and, today, we can keep Genesis at the center of our theology and keep creation and promise at the center of how we respond to the people, things, and world around us.