Saturday, 7 June 2008

Reading Genesis 12

Pentecost 3, Year A, June 1, 2008. Preached at Belair.

Tomorrow we read Genesis 12:1-9 at Holy Communion. It is a crucial passage in Scripture. Genesis 1-11 is what could be called myth. By this is meant a story that tells us something that is applicable to all. So we begin with the creation story, "and it was good". Then comes the Fall, and the spread of sin. This is narrated in the murder of Abel, the evil of the human heart unchanged after the flood, Babel, etc. This is the universal human predicament, the cul-de-sac that all people, of all times, in all cultures, face. And it is characterised in Genesis 1-11 by the human arrogance that seeks to be God and growing violence.(E.g. Genesis 4:23-25, a vengeance even greater than God's! Cf Genesis 4:15) This is the predicament from which we all need to be saved.

And what is God's response to this cul-de-sac of human history? Genesis 12 and the call of Abraham and Sarah. They are to leave this cul-de-sac and live rough because God promises that through them a great nation will arise, and that through them all the families of the world will be blessed. (See Hebrews 11:8-12) They believe God and are obedient to the call. And from there the rest of the Bible unfolds. And all people are blessed in Christ, son of Abraham and Sarah. (Matt 1:1)

A couple of points:
  • Those who try to maintain the historicity of the events of Genesis 1-11 are missing the point. It doesn't matter, truly, because Gen 1-11 is not to be thought of history as we usually think of it. That is Genesis 12 and following.

  • In fact, by trying to switch the focus to whether Adam and Eve existed etc, these funny Christians are blunting the Scriptural witness. I am Adam. I live in Babel. This is the point.

  • Genesis 12 begins what we might normally think of as history, and we can ask of it all of those sorts of questions. That this is not myth in the sense of Genesis 1-11 does not mean it is without universal importance. It is. Jesus, the offspring of Abraham and Sarah, is of universal import, but he is this precisely in his particularity. He is not 'me' in the mythic sense I just called myself Adam. He is the Word made flesh. He is not symbolic of something already true if only I could reach into myself (some kind of pagan salvation myth), he is God's interruption of the cul-de-sac in the flesh.

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