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.