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.