Back to Bible Basics

Thoughts on the passage:

Normally, we like to use a brief passage of scripture or maybe even as a much as a whole chapter as the focus for the worship service. This week we are starting our summer sermon series called “Back to Bible Basics” which will look at the classic stories that many of us might have heard for the first time in Sunday school years ago. Since some of us did not go to Sunday school and for others that was a long time ago and we do not remember it, I felt it would be good for us to look at these basic stories. These core stories make up our faith tradition and give us so many great insights into who God is and what God has done, and is doing, in the world.

We will be looking at these stories chronologically and so naturally we start at the very beginning with creation. There are three parts to the creation story, and they span the first three chapters of the book of Genesis. I did not feel it was possible to capture the full essence of this story with just a small portion of the text and it felt like too much to try and read all three chapters as a part of a worship service. Instead, I found a compromise. Archbishop Desmund Tutu wrote a children’s Bible that retells the stories of scriptures in a manner that is easily accessible to children. As we look at the basic stories of our faith, I think it actually helps to approach them at a basic level first and then to dive deeper from there.

As I mentioned, there are three parts to the creation story. The first one tells the story of creation spread over six days. Creation begins with the void, the waters of the deep, and chaos. Into this space, God begins to work to create order. First there is light and darkness, then on the second day there is sky, and the third day land. On each day, more and more is done to provide order and structure to creation and through it all the same message resounds, it is good. There are several key points that are made in this part of the creation story. First, it is God’s hand at work that is bringing order to the world, God is the prime mover in this story, the beginning of everything we know. Second, creation is an ongoing act that God is involved in. Third, creation is good.

I want to pause a moment on this last point because it is one that has importance for two reasons. The first is that this message is one that stands in contrast to the creation stories of various mythologies present in the Middle East. The Babylonians for example have some similar themes to their creation story but for them, creation, and specifically humanity arises out of evil rather than good. We can take for granted the inherit goodness of creation and humanity, but this was not a universally held belief. The goodness of creation also is meant to inform our actions. If we believe creation is good and beautiful, then we need to ask ourselves what our role needs to be in the care and protection of that creation. Are we doing all that we can to be the faithful stewards that God wants us to be when we are brought into the creation story on the sixth day? The goodness of creation, and humanity is a central element of this story.

The second part of the creation story is the story of Adam and Eve. Over and over in the Bible we see the shifting from the big picture to the little picture. There are times when we are reminded of the vast greatness of God and God’s plans for the whole of creation. There are other moments where we shift down and see the personal care and attention that God gives to each and everyone of us. The first chapter of Genesis tries to capture the vastness of God’s scope and power. The second chapter tells us of God’s intimate care and focus on each one of us. In the story of Adam and Eve we see the love that God has for humanity in how God attends to the needs of Adam, gives him breathe and life, but also helps him to have a partner.

If the first chapter is meant to tell us the author of creation, God, and the nature of creation, goodness, the second chapter tries to capture its purpose: community. We see this need for community on two levels, first the relationship between God and humanity, but also the need for community between Adam and Eve. We are meant to be in relationship with God, with the world, and with each other. The story of Adam and Eve frames that partnership and shows God’s level of caring that extends to a personal relationship with each of us. Like Adam, we are formed by God, are given the breath of life, and are meant to be in relationship with the divine.

The third part of the creation story is often referred to as the Fall or the story of Original Sin. This part of the story attempts to bridge the gap between the beauty and goodness of creation as God intends it in chapter one, and the realities of our world as we know it today. We can see the beauty that God intends in creation and yet we know that it is not always that way. We experience brokenness in our relations. We are not in harmony with the world and the rest of creation as God intends. We are not in harmony with each other and know brokenness in our personal relationships. We are not in harmony with God and often feel distant from the one who created us.

What is the source of this brokenness? In the story of the serpent, we find a source for this disharmony, our inability to follow God’s rules and respect the natural order of the world. One of the mistakes that I think we make in this story is that we correlate the serpent of the creation story with the devil and evil. In doing so I think we enter into the blame game that entraps both Adam and Eve. The brokenness in this story is two-fold. First, both Adam and Eve are not able to listen to God’s command to not eat the forbidden fruit. The second brokenness is that they are never willing to account for their actions. Neither Adam nor Eve is willing to stand up and admit that what they did was wrong or acknowledge the ways that they fell short. Instead, what results is the broken relationship between humanity and creation, between Adam and Eve, and between humanity and God. Until we are willing to admit our own role in a problem we will never be able to repair the damage of a relationship.

In these three parts of the story, I hope we understand why this creation story really becomes the building blocks of the story of the Bible. Over and over in the coming weeks we will see these same themes be repeated. We will be reminded of God’s desire for a personal relationship with all of us. We will see the ways that we in humanity turn away from creation, from each other, and from God, and we will be reminded again and again that God knows our fundamental goodness and is always open and ready to seek that new relationship with us.

I wanted to end with a poem I found by Mary Oliver.

The god of dirt
came up to me many times and said
so many wise and delectable things, 
I lay
on the grass listening
to his dog voice,
frog voice; now,
he said, and now,
and never once mentioned forever

We need to remember that the God who created us and called us by name is still with us and is whispering to us. God is speaking through the voices of creation and God is speaking through stories of scripture. Let us listen to those whispering words of the Holy Spirit and know that the separation and brokenness we see in the world is not a “forever” moment. It is a temporary point as God continues to bring all of creation back into order so that it can once more reflect the beauty and goodness of that sixth day when God looked out over everything that had been created and called it very good.

Questions to Ponder:

What do you love most about the creation stories in Genesis?

How would you describe your relationship with God, creation, and humanity?

What is the original sin in the story to you?

Prayer:

God you created us, blessed us, and called us very good. Help us to remember your role in the creation of the world and to always seek a better relationship with creation and with you. Amen