Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time

Genesis 1:20-2:4a
Psalm 8
Mark 7:1-13


Yesterday we began reading from the Book of Genesis. Because Lent starts next week, we'll pick up Genesis again in after the Easter Season concludes. Since we're in the Book of Genesis, we're starting with the account of creation... and boy is that a touchy topic these days.

About an hour and a half from here, there is a museum dedicated to understanding the Genesis account as literal history. I've been there. It's well done.

About fifteen minutes from here, on the campus of Butler University, a national campaign to teach evolution in Churches has its headquarters. They make some persuasive arguments.

And sadly, I've come to the conclusion that they've both missed the point.

The Genesis account lays out for us an overview of the process of creation:

Existence of the Physical Universe begins on Day 1.
Separation of Waters on Day 2 - the waters up there and the waters down here.
Land and Vegetation emerges on Day 3.
Astronomical bodies are created on Day 4.
Fish and fowl are created on Day 5.
Land animals and, ultimately, the human race, is created on Day 6.
God rests on Day 7.

Some aspects of this narrative are reconcilable with today's scientific theory about the development of the earth and the origin of life. Others are not. A big bang on day 1 is just fine. Vegetation appearing on Day 3 before astronomical bodies to 'power' them on day 4 seems off... unless we're counting cosmic microbes among the vegetation. Days 5 through 7 generally agree with what science today proposes.

But is the Book of Genesis meant as a scientific textbook? Well, no... that's not its literary genre. Trust me... I've read scientific textbooks. They're pretty boring in comparison. And I enjoy science! Okay, in fairness, I enjoy astronomy and meteorology, but even textbooks in those areas are quite static and, well, boring. The Creation Narrative of Genesis is alive, active, and vital... it is seeking to convey truth.

For example, the doctrine we today call the Trinity is founded in the very first chapter of Genesis. In our reading today, we hear "Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us" and not "I'll make human beings in my image, to be like me". Our human nature is reflective of God's pre-existent nature. As fully revealed in Christ Jesus, that means we are a creature of mind, body, and spirit... reflecting the Father, Son, and Spirit as confessed in Scripture. The three elements have their own nuance, but the three are one, inseparable, and indivisible.  When we are formed in the womb, all three elements are present, from the moment of conception. They remain united until one of the three elements is irretrievably destroyed... at which time the body and mind cease to function in our conventional sense, but the spirit within us goes on. 

No Genesis... no Trinity. No Trinity, no unity of our multi-faceted existence. Chaos would ensue. 

Now, let me be clear for a moment... I am not attacking Creationism here. I believe that God can be taken at his word, and that he, indeed, created the heavens and the earth exactly as he described. But, if that is the message we take away from Genesis 1, oh my, have we really missed the boat.

When I say that Genesis isn't a scientific textbook, what I mean is not that it is incorrect - though, undoubtedly, some would start attributing to this kind of sermon an allegorical interpretive position on the matter. My core point is that Scripture is much deeper that simply the content of the words it shares, or the order in which it shares them... for Scripture reveals to us the heart of God, from the beginning.

Perhaps (Yes, I am willing to admit it!) Genesis 1 and 2 aren't literal history... but even if they aren't, they still reveal the love and concern that God had for his creation, even before he began the work of bringing it into existence. 

I am not ashamed to stand on Genesis 1 and 2 as literal history. I am also not ashamed to admit that it is altogether too easy to get prideful over the matter. Let's forsake the pride, preach the deep truths contained within the text, and move forward towards the day when all things will be renewed in the one who formed and created all things, our Holy Triune God, who lives and reigns beyond the bounds of even the universe he has created. 


For a deeper understanding of the worth and value of each human being,
and for the preservation of human dignity and respect
from conception to natural death,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For the courage to delve deeply into each portion of Scripture,
those portions which are easy to understand,
and those which are more complex,
that we might more fully understand who we are
and what we are called to be in the sight of our creator,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For the patience to recognize
that we may never receive full understanding of God's complexities in this life,
and the faith to accept that such a lack of understanding is OK,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For the development of an insistence on calling to the Spirit,
that we may be led by God's truths in our lives and in our hearts,
even when the wisdom of the world would call us
to do things or approach our beliefs or problems in another way,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For the wisdom to accept
that, at times, our own biases hinder us
from a deeper understanding of God's word,
and the willingness to set them aside under the guidance of the Spirit,
that we may drink more deeply from the Word of God,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For our own needs and intentions...
...and for the needs and intentions of those we love,
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, hear our prayer.