This Sunday marks the beginning of Year 4 in the Narrative Lectionary cycle. Since the goal of the Narrative Lectionary is to carry the church through the scope of the Biblical Narrative between now and Pentecost Sunday it only makes sense that we (to quote a would-be nun named Maria) “start at the very beginning, a very good place to start”, with Genesis 1:1-2:4a. F0r resources (commentary and a link to the podcast ) from the folks at Working Preacher click here.
To begin with, let us be clear. This passage is a hymn. It is a song of praise. It is not a historic account or a scientific explanation. It is a theological statement about creation.
It is also the beginning of the story. It is not the end. Nowhere in the text (nor in the 66 books that follow in our Scripture library) does it say that when God gets to the 7th day and rests that Creation is complete. Creation is an ongoing process, one that continues to this day. Maybe when the eschaton comes Creation will be complete. Maybe. (Personally I suspect that even then, in the fullness of the Kingdom, when the New Heaven and the New Earth have arrived, newness will continue to be created.) And so we turn to the phrase from the United Church Creed that describes God as the One “who has created and is creating”. Indeed one phrase I have often used in benedictions speaks of the God who creates and re-creates us.
- What is being created within, around, among, beside us today?
- How are we leaving room for God’s creative energy to work?
- (Which does assume we are doing that, are we in fact leaving that room?)
Genesis 1, the Priestly hymn to creation, introduces us to the God who actively works with the creation to make more creation. It introduces us to the God who sees creation as a process, as something that takes time (maybe even 14 billion years and counting?) rather than some sort of fait accompli that happens in an instant. And perhaps most importantly, it introduces us to the God who cares about what is being created, who looks at it and says it is good.
- So what? What is our response to reading this piece of poetry?
- What does it mean for us to profess that God is still in the work of creating?
- What does it mean for us to recognize that even in the beginning of our story God is working with that which is to create something new?
- Surely we don’t read this just to argue about Creation vs. Intelligent Design vs. Evolution?
It is my belief that one reason we read this song to give us hope. It is hopeful that creation is not yet complete, that God is still at work creating and re-creating (because if we are honest we all know things and people -even us- that need a bit of re-creating now and then). It is hopeful to be reminded that God looks at the creation and says it is very good.
It is also my belief that we read this song to give us a reminder. We are not in charge of creation. We did not create anything all on our own. There have been partners (present and past), there will yet be partners, and one of those partners is, was, and will be God. God starts the ball rolling, invites participation from the rest of creation and keeps pushing. When we read this song we are reminded that we need to work with the Source. Neither standing back and letting things just happen nor stepping in with a heavy hand to control the final outcome are desirable. This is God’s party. How will we be partners with God in the ongoing work?
Gord Waldie is an Ordained Minister in the United Church of Canada, currently in Northwestern Alberta. He shares his life with his partner and their four daughters and blogs (periodically) at Following Frodo or shares his “churchy-stuff” at Ministerial Mutterings
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