Thursday, January 1, 2015

Let's start at the very beginning.... Genesis chapters 1-3

Let’s start at the very beginning.  That’s a very good place to start….[i]
The ancient Hebrews would agree.  The beginning of their Scriptures begins with Genesis – a Hebrew word meaning “origin” or “beginning.”  To make sense of their story, of their relationship with God, they needed to start at the beginning.
We need to start at the beginning too.  Humans have always tried to explain where everything comes from.  There are lots of stories of how the earth began - ancient myths, the Biblical accounts, scientific explanation.
I was in 3rd grade when I first heard about the theory of evolution.  In the 60's they weren’t teaching evolution explicitly to 3rd graders, but my Sunday school teacher was extremely upset that we might believe this evil theory instead of believing what the Bible clearly said – that the earth was created in six days and on the seventh day, God took a nap.
I didn’t really understand all the fuss.  I was wise enough in 3rd grade to know that God could do anything, and could do it any way God wanted to.  I figured that since the Bible also clearly said “that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day (2 Peter 3:8),” whether each day in Genesis chapter one was a 24 hour day, or thousands of years wasn’t really important.  After all, God could have created the world in 6 seconds if God choose to.  I wasn’t so sure about the whole humans-evolved-from-a-monkey stuff, but I figured that probably wasn’t important either.  I knew that God created me and loved me. That was all I needed to know.  God could explain the rest all when I got to heaven. 
Ah, the faith of a child!
Fast forward about 30 years.  I was on the confirmation teaching team at Zion Lutheran in Lima Ohio.  I was talking to our new pastor before the first class in our Bible year.  Of course we were studying Genesis.  I casually mentioned that I had no problem with evolution (citing the above reasoning) – after all the order God created the world matched the order evolution stated. 
Not so, said Pastor Kent.  There are two accounts of creation – Genesis 1:1-2:4a and Genesis 2:4b-25.  And the order things were created in those two stories is different.
It was? 
How had I never noticed it before? 
I had to check it out.  I made a chart – and sure enough, the order of creation IS different in the two biblical accounts of creation!  Go ahead – check it out.  I’ll wait…

So - which account is true?  
They both are! 

I teach my confirmation students that the Bible is not about the ‘how,’ it’s about the “Who” (thanks Pastor Kent!).  Put another way, it’s not a book of science – it’s a Book of Faith.  Those ancient Hebrews,when explaining how everything came to be, told two different stories of the beginning.  Both were important statements of faith to them.  Both said something vital about God, and us, and the world. 
The first account tells us something about God.  God is the Creator – of heaven, of earth, of water and land, plants and animals and humans –everything that is seen and unseen.[ii]  The second account tells us something about God and us.  We were created to be in relationship with God – and through God in relationship with each other and all creation.  These two stories set the stage for the rest of the Bible.

There’s one more story in today’s reading:  The Fall.  Serpent tempts woman, woman gives fruit (The Bible never says it’s an apple!) to man. Humans covet God’s wisdom - relationship with God is broken.  God asks what happened, man blames woman, woman blames serpent – relationship with each other and creation is broken.  Sin enters the world.
The last time I preached on this, I noticed something.  God says they can eat from every tree in the garden but one - The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  But there’s another big, capital letter tree in the garden – The Tree of Life.  Adam and Eve can eat from that tree, but they don’t.  They choose the fruit that brings death. 
Why didn’t they eat from the Tree of Life? 
Does this story teach us that God gives things that lead to life, but humans so often choose those things that lead to death?

Looking around our world, I’d have to say yes.

Take-aways for today:
  • ·     God made everything.
  • ·     Everything God made is good
  • ·     God made humans to be in relationship to God
  • ·     Left to our own devices, humans will choose death over life
  • ·     Sin is broken relationship with God, which also breaks our relationship with each other and creation

How will God redeem this beautiful mess?

[i] Opening lines from “Do-Re-Mi” from the Sound of Music.
[ii] From the First Article of the Nicene Creed

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