Saturday, June 12, 2010

Great Stories of the Bible: Genesis

Bringing Light from Darkness – Genesis 1
This weekend we begin our summer long look at the opening stories in the book of Genesis.  The book of Genesis is divided into two main sections: The Pre-History that is contained in chapters 1 through 11; and the Patriarchal/Matriarchal cycles from 12 through 50.  The Pre-History includes the two creation accounts; the story of the Fall; Cain and Abel; Noah and the Flood and the Tower of Babel.  The Patriarchal/Matriarchal cycles include the three primary cycles of stories: Abraham and Sarah (with Isaac and Rebecca); Jacob and Rachel; and Joseph.  We will probably not get through all of these this summer. 
We begin with the Pre-History.  The book of Genesis was written during the Exile in Babylon and was based on centuries of oral tradition which purports to go all the way back to Moses.  The exile was a time when the faith and culture of Israel was at risk and it seemed as though the covenant with Yahweh was dead and that the gods of the Babylonians had been victorious.  It was a time of bitter anguish and loss.  In the midst of this situation, these ancient stories proclaimed clearly that the God of Israel was the God of creation.  Yahweh still stood by the covenant he had made with Abraham and that no matter what God would never abandon His chosen and beloved people.  The book of Genesis invites the readers (and hearers) to look at all of the problems – Adam and Eve’s betrayal, The Jealousy of Cain, The Flood, the Arrogance of the Tower, the unfaithfulness and disobedience of Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Rachel and Joseph’s brothers – and to see that despite all of these setbacks God nevertheless remained faithful to the covenant; and God continues to remain faithful.
So how do we approach the book of Genesis.  There are two things that are very important:
1.     The Book of Genesis is NOT a history or science textbook.  It never claims to be this.  It reflects the cosmology of its day.  The advances in science (including the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin) do not contradict the proclamation that is contained in Genesis.  Those who would turn Genesis into a science textbook, I believe, are missing the point.  And the point is – Genesis is proclamation!  God is the creator.  We do not know how God did it – but this is an amazing universe and somehow God created it.  And not only that, but God loves His creation so much that He is intimately involved in it.  God is at work, constantly and forever creating and loving and being present with His creation.  This is an amazing proclamation! This is a proclamation of grace!
2.     Luther says that as Christians we must always read the Bible in general and the Old Testament in particular with the eyes of Christ.  There are things that we do not understand in Genesis.  There are things that happen that seem inconsistent with the God of the New Testament.  Luther says, when in doubt the God of Jesus is a God of Grace and we always err on the side of grace!
Finally the book of Genesis is a book of praise.  Our God has created the universe, has created us, not abandoned us, remained involved with us, loves us, showers us with grace and love and continues to reach out and create.  This is amazing.  What other response is appropriate besides praise!  Praise the Lord and Thanks be to God!  Amen!
"God creates the World" by Virgil Solis (1514-1562)

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