Today we start as series of seven devotions looking at some of the stories in the early parts of Genesis.
Genesis 1.1, 2; 1.24 – 2.3
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 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. 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. 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.
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.’
So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
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.’ 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. 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. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 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. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
Some years ago I was in the position of talking, individually, to a group who had been involved in a security breach the previous evening. They were nervously awaiting “debriefing”. Two of the group in particular were concerned that they hadn’t been involved but had arrived, one “when it was all over bar the shouting” and one “when they were packing up to go home”. Both asked, effectively: what shall I say when they ask what happened? I tried to encourage both to be honest and say they didn’t know and to tell simply how they had happened on the scene and what they had seen and heard. Neither were enamoured of the answer “I don’t know”. As one said: what kind of an excuse is that?
We can be clever and try to explain the stories at the beginning of Genesis as, rightly, stories told from two different perspectives. We can try to be clever and point out how the first thing which happened after the big bang was light (maybe) and even more clever pointing out that the 2 great lights in the sky come on the fourth day and our sun is indeed a second generation star. But none of this gets us very far because it is speculation. Theories of the big bang, or whatever, will always be changing, refined by more discoveries and yet more speculation as technology changes science.
What we can say is that we have faith in a God who makes all things; that God makes all things good and sees that it is good. “I don’t know” isn’t an acceptable excuse to a world which thinks we have all knowledge pegged and available if you ask the right question. “I don’t know” isn’t an excuse implying blame, it’s a reason implying judgement. When someone tries to tell you otherwise, then the question is: were you there, if not how can you know? To say “I don’t know” becomes the first step to an increasing faith, a closeness to God, a discernment to find out more, and an awareness of the goodness of creation.
We praise you,
God our creator,
for all the gifts of this world.
The daring gifts of air and water;
the surprising gifts of how the moon covers the sun
during an eclipse;
the interlocking, intricate, interacting gifts
of our global ecosystem;
the complex gift of intelligence for domination or dominion –
to destroy or protect.
We do not know how it all works together,
how you envisaged the whole.
We pray for the faith to increase our understanding
so that we live in ever new awareness of your goodness
and grow together in the peace of Christ.
The Rev’d Ruth Browning is a retired minister and member of Thornbury URC in Gloucestershire.