Genesis 1: God Sets the Stage
Scripture Readings Genesis 1: 1-13, John 1:1-5,14-18
Late last year, you might remember, I began asking that if anyone had questions about faith, Jesus, church, etc they could email me or put them in the box and then I would try to respond from time to time – be it in the form of a sermon, or in an edition of the e-news or a kid’s talk. I got a couple of question about creation (one about the complementary relationship between God’s action and the evolutionary process, another about how God made the world and a third about what is God). So today, I’m going to be preaching about creation… however, I’m not going to be focusing on the how of creation, rather on a more fundamental question beneath the how. That is: why does it matter to say the world was created by God? Or perhaps put another way how do we understand ourselves as part of God’s creation.
And I feel somewhat justified in this particular focus because the various creation accounts in Scripture (be they those found in Genesis 1 or 2, or in Job, or in John) are not really interested in accounting for the exact mechanics or processes of how the world was made.
Indeed in Genesis 1 God creates by speaking, in Genesis 2 by breath and touch. In Genesis 1 humans are the pinnacle and climax of the order of creation, in Genesis 2, we’re made much earlier – the accounts are placed one after the other to make emphasise particular truths about God and creation. In a similar way, John begins his gospel with a creation account in a way that reaches back to Genesis but shifts the emphasis to make explicit the role of Jesus, the Eternal Word through whom all things came into being and without whom not one thing came into being.
What unites these accounts is not the mechanical process but an emphasises reminding us that to call the world created is to confess something theological – it is to say something about God and the world (and our place and purpose in it). The point of the doctrine of creation is to say that the universe was created by God (and so too each of us). The words “In the beginning” are not trying to establish a specific time and date, rather it signals the move of the eternal God into time and history. God has no beginning or end, but creation does – yet creation’s beginning and end is found outside of time, it begins and ends in God. As literary critic Terry Eagleton writes: It is not that the creation of the world was the first thing God got up to, “the first item on the divine agenda before God went on to organise dreadful weather for the English… we are talking about the source of the universe, not the genealogy of God.”
So how then might we come to these words?
I have come to experience the words of Genesis 1 not as an account of the creation of the world, but rather to confess that the words of Genesis 1 are the creation of the world.
Every time this passage is read, sung, chanted, or even thought about in passing, it flings the world into being. It creates the world we are living in. Not any old world, but the world gifted by God, the world spoken into being by God, the world ordered and looked upon by God. It testifies to the world brought into being through the One who will walk upon it and redeem it, the world held in the creative and creating embrace of the living God. The reader (or hearer) encounters the creation of the world, written into being, and can step forward into this world, in which they are called to bear the image of the One who spoke it into life! We hear the words and say “Yes!” this is the world I will choose to live in.
Examining the how of the world (whether through microscope, telescope, or any other means scientific, artistic, of reflective) is a noble, God-blessed intellectual pursuit that can indeed draw us into greater understanding and thus appreciation and care of the created world and through that the one who created it. Yet Scripture is not so concerned, it is, determined, rather, to cast a vision of what the world is (the good creation of the God who holds and redeems all things) and how we are to live upon it (tending to it, walking gently, and seeking the justice, reconciliation, and flourishing of all things). Scripture begins at the beginning not because it is a history of the world, but in order to set to stage upon which we players perform our lives. The question for us then, is do we play the script as those who know what this world is, and who we are upon it? Do we live as God’s creatures amidst (rather than above) God’s good creation? Or… do we follow another script? Do we live as if another kind of world is created (or uncreated), one which does not ask for our participation in its care, which does not ask for our concern for its future, which does not place us squarely amidst the whole of the interdependent created order?
In many ways to be a Christian is to live in the world as created. To be a Christian doesn’t depend on confessing a particular process of creation, but to recognise and gratefully receive its status as created! To be a Christian is to recognise the call to live as one who knows which stage is set; that if the play takes place in Scotland, it is Macbeth not Hamlet. The Christian is one who recognises that if the world is God’s that affects how we walk upon it. What this looks like is for each of us to discover in community in our own day and place, but we are given insights throughout scripture of what this kind of life and community might resemble - insights which come into startling, dazzling, awe-inspiring clarity around the person of Jesus. Jesus who - in his earthly life - lived fully ‘in character’ as one who knew the kind world that has been created: for the glory of God and the salvation of all.
The Christian confesses that the world is created for the intention of being lived upon in the imitation of the one through whom it was created. Amen.
Leave a Reply.
Please enjoy a collection of sermons preached in recent months at the Kirk. If you have questions about the sermons, or attending a service reach out using the Contact Page.