“Meet the Author” – Genesis 1 & 2
Trinity Sunday – June 11, 2017
- Famous First Lines
Movies (Audio Files)
“Please sir, I want some more.”- Oliver! (1968)
“The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it.” – Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
“’Mr. And Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” – Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone – J. K. Rowling
“It was a pleasure to burn.” – FAHRENHEIT 451 (1953), Ray Bradbury
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” – A TALE OF TWO CITIES (1859), Charles Dickens
“Call me Ishmael.” – MOBY-DICK (1851), Herman Melville
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” – PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (1813), Jane Austen
“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1877).
“In the beginning God” – the Bible
The Bible begins with arguably the most famous opening sentence ever written: “In the beginning God… created the heavens and the earth.”
- The Bible – God’s Book!
Often, if you want to really understand something, you’ve got to go back to the beginning. If you want to develop a serious relationship with another person, you want to find out where they came from, what their family was like, how they grew up, and what they did before you met. If you want to really understand a book, you might want to go to a book signing and meet the author and ask a little bit about his/her background and what led to the writing of the book. If you want to buy a house, it would be wise to find out when it was built, who built it, and how the property has been maintained over the years. If you want to find out where the world came from, or where human beings came from, where can you go? You go back to the beginning, the very beginning, and to the source of that beginning. The Bible is a book that includes the beginning. It is God’s book. St. Paul, writing to his young pastor-friend Timothy, calls the holy Scriptures “God-breathed” or “inspired by God,” meaning that every idea, event, teaching and word has its origin in God, Himself. In John 10, Jesus said that Scripture cannot be broken, indicating that this Word of God is completely authoritative and reliable. In John 17, Jesus adds that God’s Word is true.
You can read the Bible as history, or you can read it as literature, but ultimately it is a book about God, and His relationship with people. In the Bible, you meet the author! Its first line, “In the beginning God…” makes no apology for the fundamental assertion… God exists! The Bible always assumes, and never argues, God’s own existence. Although everything else had a beginning, God has always been – “From everlasting to everlasting” as Psalm 90 says. So, right from the start, the Bible introduces us to its main character: “In the beginning God…” The rest of this wonderful book is all about Him. The Bible is God’s “self-revelation.” I guess in literary terms, we would call it an autobiography. But it’s important to realize that it’s not just a book ABOUT God, it’s a book BY God. He inspired the human writers. That’s why we call it the Holy Scriptures or the Holy Bible. It’s God’s book. So, if you want to meet the author, if you want to meet God, read His book!
- Creation… God’s First Word
The full first sentence of the book is “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Before we get anywhere else, the Bible tackles one of life’s biggest questions: the origin of… EVERYTHING!! Some scientists look in the dirt for the answer to that question – exploring rocks and fossils and ice and silt. The Bible looks to the heavens. Science does have its place in helping us understand the natural world. But to truly explain it, we must understand and accept that God made it – “all things visible and invisible” as we profess in the Nicene Creed.
The Hebrew word for “created” in Genesis 1:1 is only used to describe the creative activity of God, and never human creative activity. That means that this kind of creation is unique, and never able to be replicated by human beings.
John 1:1 begins with the same three words as Genesis 1:1, but then it goes on to say that the Word of God – referring to Jesus – was directly involved in creation, saying that “without him nothing was made that has been made.” Genesis 1:2 places the Spirit of God on the creation scene, too. So, on this Trinity Sunday, all three persons of the Trinity – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – are active in the account of creation.
How did God create everything? Genesis 1 is masterful in its creation account symmetry. Each aspect of God’s creativity begins simply with His words, “Let there be…” Then comes the common refrain, “And it was so.” As flies on the creation room wall, we observe that God created simply by His own powerful Word. He spoke, and things happened.
I am about as unartistic as they come. My ability to draw stops at stick people. I can paint… a wall, but not much else. I’ll help our summer Bible camps by telling the Bible story, leading the singing, or organizing the sports and games. I would even prep the snacks and lunch, but don’t ask me to lead the crafts. My artistic imagining is OK, but my actual creativity is virtually non-existent. I wish I could imagine a scene and then speak it into being on a canvass. I can’t… but God did! And the daily creation report card said, “And God saw that it was good.” And at the very end… “it was very good!” God got an A+ as His final mark. So, the first word on creation was “Let there be,” and the last word on creation was “very good!”
- Two perspectives on creation
Today is the start of our consideration of the Essential Bible stories from the Old Testament, and for the next 20 Sundays or so, we’re going to wind our way chronologically through the critical stories and teachings found especially in Genesis and Exodus. As we land on Genesis 1 and 2, we see that the Bible actually gives us two perspectives on creation – one that is wide and one that is narrow, one that is cosmic and one that is personal.
In Genesis 1, it’s like we’re a fly on the wall of the universe (maybe an astronaut on the space station), watching as the master craftsman brings all things into being. On the first day of creation, as we stand back and watch, God creates light itself, and separates the light from the darkness. On the second day, God separated the waters above from the waters below – essentially distinguishing between sea and sky. On the third day, God once again separates things – this time separating the land from the water, and also creating vegetation.
While the first three days had a definite theme of separation, the next three days had a theme of creation. On Day 4, God made the lights in the sky, or more properly in space, to govern the day and the night – sun, moon, stars. This corresponds to the Day 1 separation of light from darkness. On Day 5, God created the fish of the waters below and the birds of the waters above to be consistent with the Day 2 separation of sky and sea. On Day 6, God created the creatures of the land (including human beings, male and female) to match up with the Day 3 separation of land from water. There was an order in creation, for God is a God of order – bringing order out of chaos.
So, when we confess that 1700 or 1800 year old statement of faith – the Apostles’ Creed – we begin with those words from Genesis 1: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”
But when Martin Luther explained that First Article of the Creed, he moved from the cosmic perspective to the personal one, from the Genesis 1 account to the Genesis 2 account, from the fly on the wall of the universe point of view to the fly on the trunk of a tree in Eden point of view. Luther said, “I believe that God made… ME!”
When we turn the page from Genesis 1 to Genesis 2, we read the human interest story of God personally creating the first human beings – Adam and Eve. My imagination of the creation account sees God on His hands and knees intentionally forming and shaping the dust and dirt and mud, and creating the first living being. It was both personal and perfect as God – dirty hands and all – took that dirt and massaged it and molded it and sculpted it so that it ended up just as He wanted it to be – arms and legs, feet and hands, a head with ears and a nose, and then He breathed the very breath of His life into it so that the man became a living being. God was intimately involved not only with what that first man’s appearance was like, but also with his very nature. For that, we turn back to Genesis 1, where the creation accounts features God’s creative words: “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” Then the narrative reports, “In the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
In his lectures on Genesis 1, Luther points out a significant distinction in the wording of creation. When God was creating the other creatures – especially on Days 5 and 6 – the account says, “Let the land produce vegetation… let the water teem with living creatures… let birds fly above the earth… let the land produce living creatures…” But when God was about to create human beings, a different expression is used. It’s like God summons Himself – His Trinity self, for the word is plural – to a council, and announces some sort of deliberation, before declaring “let us make man in our image.” There is a qualitative difference between “let the water teem, let the land produce,” and “let us make…” The creation of the man was personal for God.
The creation of the woman was different in nature from the man. After finding no suitable companion among the beasts of the field and the birds of the air, God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep, and then took one of his ribs and formed the first woman to be his wife. And yes, Genesis 2 is where we find God’s institution of and plan for marriage: “A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”
So, although God did indeed make the heavens and the earth, what was important to Luther was that God made… ME! When King David wrote Psalm 8, he had the same perspective as Luther: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place – [that’s the cosmic creation] – what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? – [that’s the personal creation]”
Please join me as we confess together what Luther wrote about God’s work of creating, providing for, and protecting each one of us personally… Luther’s Explanation.
- Creation is not enough
People can know a little bit about God from creation, but it’s not enough. We can look at the mountains and the rivers, the trees and the animals, the sun, moon, and stars. But they don’t tell us anything personal about God. They may convince someone that there has to be a creator, but they don’t reveal His nature, His passion, His will. People may come to the conclusion that Bette Midler sang about in her song… “God is watching us from a distance.” That doesn’t really help. A cosmic God is impersonal and indifferent to our lot in life.
When our opinion about the creator is flawed, when we worship the creation rather than the creator, when we make ourselves out to be our own God rather than seeing ourselves properly in the image of God, when we disobey God’s commands as Adam and Eve did (that’s next Sunday’s story), then we need to repent of that idolatry, and we need to read the other book of the Bible that begins with those three words, “In the beginning…” It goes on to say, “In the beginning was the Word… and the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us… [and He is] full of grace and truth.” That Word of God was His Son, Jesus – His saving Word. We meet the author in the creation story, but we get to know the author best and most personally by His Son… Jesus, who suffered and died in our place! He is God’s grace! That is God’s truth!
If you want to meet God, the author, the creator, read His book, the Bible. If you want to really get to know God, meet Jesus in the New Testament. Begin with the Gospels. Learn what He thinks about your sin. Observe His love. Study His conversations. Memorize His words. Learn how he went to the cross and died for you. Rejoice in His resurrection. Know that He is coming back again to take you to where He is, in the heavens, in His Father’s house. Jesus is the full and complete picture of the author’s character, nature, love, grace and truth. That’s what Jesus said to Philip in John 14: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” If you want to see the Father, look at Jesus. Amen.