Imaginitive Chaos: Growing in Creation's Story

This Sunday we begin a sermon series that invites us to look at some of the Old Testament stories that are the most familiar to us. The stories of creation, Noah and the Ark, the Tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, and David and Goliath. They are the stories we learned as children in Sunday school and a few of them have unraveled in our lives at the center of heated controversy, and the challenge for most of us is we never learned any more about these stories than we did when we were children in Sunday.

Left with hazy details and a few images from coloring books many of us have not moved beyond our child like understanding of these stories, and we feel confused about what these important Biblical stories mean for our lives today.

Let’s start with what we remember.

Before I read the stories of creation in Genesis, what do we remember about the creation stories?

Would you say that most of what we remember from the stories told in Sunday school doesn’t necessarily help us with some of the bigger questions and controversies we face later in life? And by later I mean, old enough to notice that there isn’t just one story of creation but two.
That the details don’t always match up?

Both stories say God created 2 people, so where did everyone else come from?

Did God really create the world in 6, 24 hour days?

How long ago did God create the world? 6000 years? 4.5 billion years?

These detail oriented questions of “how” creation happened have led to scores of debates and controversies swirling around what we are taught in Sunday school and what we consequently find out about the scientific theories concerning creation. Many of us have been confronted with the notion that science and religion were at odds with one another, in 2005 Time Magazine called it the “Evolution Wars.”

So we are forced to choose.

Science or faith?

Genesis or evolution?

We turn to our Bibles and the verses I am about to read with clinging hope that they offer some answers to all our questions about “how” creation happened. Hoping there is some science or history that coincides with the revolutionary scientific discoveries of our time.

And many Christian walk away disappointed. Confused. And give up on being able to pull together their understanding of science and faith, convinced they have to give up one or the other.

Other Christians will run head into the stories of creation, with very bad science, trying to pull apart each verse of the story to prove it as fact.

It is my belief, and I realize I represent just one belief, and yours may be different from mine, but I believe that our frustrations, confusion, disappointment come from how we read these poems of creation.

Notice I said, poems.

It doesn’t look like it written out in English. Printed in tiny font and crammed into these few pages.

Printed in many ways like a history book, we lose sight of how these words were first told.
They were beautiful Hebrew poems and thousands of years ago when they were told were not meant to answer questions about how the world was created.

To help us this morning move from our basic Sunday school understanding of the beginning of creation to a place where they come alive with meaning in our life today, I invite us all to allow our minds and hearts to be opened to the wondrous mystery of the Creator God who speaks all things into existence, who brings order to chaos.

As I read it, hear its rhythm, its resonance, its beat. See its imagery, hear its sounds; enter deep into this text and allow the Spirit to sweep into us, much as the Spirit swept over the face of the waters.

Genesis 1:1 - 2:25

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the 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. 3 Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. 6 And God said, "Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." 7 So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8 God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day. 9 And God said, "Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear." And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, "Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it." And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. 14 And God said, "Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth." And it was so. 16 God made the two great lights-- the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night-- and the stars. 17 God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day. 20 And God said, "Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky." 21 So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth." 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. 24 And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind." And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." 27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." 29 God said, "See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so. 31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. NRS Genesis 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2 And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. 4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, 5 when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up-- for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; 6 but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground-- 7 then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. 8 And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 Out of the ground the LORD God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 10 A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. 11 The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; 12 and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. 15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, "You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die." 18 Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner." 19 So out of the ground the LORD God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. 21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken." 24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.


Poetry that expresses joy, wonder, awe in a creation which God spoke into being.

Poetry that affirms God is creator of the world
For the ancient Hebrew writers of this poem that is the controversy this poem clears up.

Not the “how” of creation, but the “who.”

“Who” is the creator?

The God of the Israelite people wasn’t the only proclaimed creator of the world during that time.
In fact, the oldest written creation story in the world is the Babylonian creation epic in which gods were first born from a watery mass. The short version (of a 7 tablet tale) is Marduk, the greatest king of the gods, created the heavens and earth out of the carcass of the slain goddess Tiamat.

Creation was brought about by death and destruction; the Israelite people in the telling of the Genesis story reveal through powerful poetic illustration that the God they believe in is a God of life. The Israelite people were experiencing enough chaos and death--- their nation destroyed, the people living in exile under foreign rule.

In the Genesis account of creation the exiled people of Israel make a remarkable confession of faith, proclaiming to all the world for all time, their faith in God is a God of life, of hope, of beauty and awe.

By choosing to engage in the “Evolution Wars” and fighting in destructive ways over the “how” of creation with the poems in Genesis, we are missing the opportunity to experience the hope and life it brings.

The hope in faith that God is the creator.

That God delights in creation and believes it to be good.

Science is part of that creation, not the opposite of it.

Despite the ways we have been culturally conditioned to believe the two are exclusive, science is God’s gift to human kind.

When used properly, science can do the healing Jesus began when he told the paralytic to take up his bed and walk.

When used properly, science can do the calming of nature’s fury that Jesus began when he stopped the storm at sea.

When used properly, science can feed the hungry as Jesus did when use used those loafs and fishes to feed the 5,000.

By God’s mercy and grace, science can and does give us hope. And hope for a better world can produce good science.

But when science fails, as often it does. When science is abused, which often it is. When science is manipulated and fails to conform into a religious box…

When any of this happens we do not lose hope.

We do not lose hope because God is still at work in the ongoing process of creation.

We do not lose hope because God invites us to be co-creators in this ongoing story of this word.
We do not lose hope God because God works beyond our imagining, so our faith is not dependent upon someone’s tortured, literal interpretation of this ancient, beloved story.

And we don’t have to choose.

Science or faith?

Creation or evolution?

Because we have this story of creation, and the whole story of God’s journey with God’s chosen people . . . . The whole story of God present in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. . . . . The whole story of God’s gift of the Spirit, which gave birth to the Church. . . .

Because we have these stories, we have hope that God works beyond any limited number of our assumptions, theories and arguments.

When we read these creation stories with the lens of hope of what God is doing from the beginning of time to today, doesn’t that help us move more faithfully from what we learned in Sunday school to engage our real questions where life and faith intersect today?

I encourage you to read the first two chapters in Genesis again at home and stay for the conversations after coffee fellowship. As we do so may we invite the hope filled presence of the Holy Spirit to hover in our midst as it sweeps over the dark waters of controversies and disagreements and is reborn a new in the ongoing possibilities of God’s creation.


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