Today I'm starting a new project as a part of our Fall education offering. Most of you know, especially if you are fortunate enough to attend Ruth Dobson's adult Bible study (downstairs around the kitchen table at 9:00 a.m on Sunday mornings--don't miss it!) we've had the practice for the last few years of studying downstairs the same text we later read upstairs in the worship service. This year I am attempting to add a daily devotional reading on the week's story and to send these out to you each day from Monday through Saturday. I say "attempting" because writing this volume of material every day will be challenging, to say the least, so we'll see. Most weeks will have 6 installments, some may have fewer.
Today and tomorrow I will be emailing installments to you, but by Wednesday I will be posting these to a "Daily Reflections" page on our new (and very impressive--you really ought to check it out) website: mtvernonucc.org . I will continue to remind you by email for a while as the installments are published, until everyone gets in the habit of going to the website every day. Please let us know what you think.
The reading for September 10 is Genesis 1.1 thru 2.4--the first Creation story. To get the most out of the week, start by reading the entire story in one setting. You will find it below today's reflection. Enjoy.
Week 1, Day 1
Sep 10 14th Sunday after Pentecost
Text: Genesis 1.1—2.4a
Monday: Genesis 1.1,2
“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void…”
Properly understood, a myth is not a fairy tale. Myths are stories that arise from deep within the consciousness, or even the sub-consciousness of a community. Richard Rohr writes, myths “are usually not historical fact, but invariably they are spiritual genius. They hold life and death, the explainable and the unexplainable together as one”. (Richard Rohr, "Falling Upward")
Reading Genesis 1 as a myth, as we will do here, rather than as a historical/scientific account of how the world came to be, opens doors for exploring some of the the large questions: Why is there something instead of nothing in the universe? Who is this God we worship? Who are we and what is the meaning of our lives? What is our place in the story of the world?
These questions beg our attention. They are intimately linked to our understanding of the gospel and the mission of Jesus, and to our grasp of what it means for us to be followers of Jesus today. It is not too much to say that how we understand the Creation story in Genesis 1 will powerfully influence how faithfully we fulfill our calling to follow Jesus.
History may be able to tell us what happened, but not why. Science may be able to tell us how the world turns, but never why. For scientists and historians, and for us, to ask “Why?” is to move into the realm of the unexplainable. “Why” is the territory where the “spiritual genius” of myth comes out to play.
We cannot speak of the unspeakable as a scientist might speak of atoms and apples. Words don’t work that way; neither does science or history. But we can tell stories—stories that hint (as Bible stories do) at the nature of the Creator and the meaning of life. This is exactly what the early chapters of Genesis do—including this Creation story in Genesis 1.
You may be one who reads the Creation story as a historical and scientific account of how the world came to be. I’m not asking you to deny that. Only to gently set it aside for this week so that you can consider the story from another angle. Scripture has 70 faces, the old rabbis said. Hold this gem in your hand and turn it just slightly, and see what new light shines out as this week we focus not on the what or the how of Creation story, but on the why.
Prayer: God of Mystery, we begin at the beginning—with nothing. May your Spirit, who stilled the troubled waters at the beginning of Creation still our hearts, grant us hope and bring us peace. Amen.
In 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.
6 And 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.
9 And 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.
14 And 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.
20 And 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.
24 And 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.
26 Then 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.’
27 So 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.
Thus 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.
4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.