Wednesday, 20 August 2008

In the Beginning...

Chapel address, Terms 3 2008. [Genesis 1:1-4a; 9, 10b, 16, 18b, 25, 26a, 27, 31]

If I said to you that I had a splitting headache, you would know exactly what I meant. I could say that my head really, really hurts. Both are comprehensible. One is metaphor, one is something more literal.

There are some people who say that it is impossible to convey anything meaningful except in literal language. Not true. I just gave us a simplisic example, but it makes the point. Today's reading tells us a lot, but it is not meant to be read literally. In fact, the first few chapters of the Bible are meant to be read as myth, by which I mean a story that has universal application. When you read this story, and the others that follow it, we are meant to see ourselves and our world. Evey person is meant to be able to read it and understand that this is their world; we are Adam/Eve.

What we read today is one of the stories of creation, first page of the Bible in fact. When God creates, God looks at what God has made and says it is good. God creates in increasing levels of complexity culminating in the creation of humankind. And at each stage God looks at what God has made and says it is good (not perfect). Eventually, God looks at everything and says it is very good. That's us. That is the world around us. Before you encounter the world, before we decide if someone or something has value, God looked at it and say it was good.

And God gives to the humans a task to be keepers of the creation. Part of the purpose of humankind is to be God's stewards over what God has made. And it is good, remember. How very contemporary.

This was all written well over 2000 years ago. And to reiterate the point, we are not meant to be reading this part of the Bible literally. That is why there are two different stories of creation in the Bible. Genesis 1 and 2. They are basically the same. But, they were composed by different people and eventually put together into the one story, running on from each other. Let's think about that: if the person who put them together, and the people who put it into the Bible, thought we should read the Genesis story literally, why put in two? You wouldn't. You would put in one story. But there are two stories, and they are not the same when literally read.

Here the affirmation of God in your ears today: God made you, and you are God's. And God saw you and said, it is good, you are very good.

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