I have to admit that preaching on Genesis 1:1-2:4 was difficult for me. It was difficult because, in choosing to speak about the genesis, the beginning, I was entering into very dangerous waters. As I mentioned in my sermon, the story of creation and the first pages of the Bible are the source of much animosity and debate. The story of creation is used as a weapon, instead of a story of proclamation. Given this “environment,” you could say, to preach anything about the story of creation could label me as one of the others, simply using the story to propagate my own way. This is not my intention. But I also know that I cannot avoid telling the story due to the current hostile environment. We cannot wait for things to cool down.
In the story of 1 Kings 3:16-28, two prostitutes are fighting over a baby. Both women had babies around the same time. One of the babies dies, and so the mother of the now deceased baby switches the babies in the night. Obviously, the other mother knows what happened when she wakes up to see an unknown, dead baby where her baby ought to be. They fight about it. It probably looked like a Jerry Springer TV show. They fight so much it is brought to the King’s attention. King Solomon ultimately says to cut the baby in half so the mothers can share it. This is point of the story where we need to pause.
In no way would I consider myself to be King Solomon, I haven’t been that lucky with the ladies, nor am I as wise as he is claimed to have been. But he put himself in the position of seeming like a ruthless leader. Cut the baby in half? King Solomon could have been blamed for not caring about the baby, but such an argument would not have held water better than my off-brand paper towels. He was never going to have that baby killed. But he was not merely interested in the truth of facts. He was interested in the well-being of the baby and wanted the baby to be with a mother who would share in his interest.
Fortunately, the mother with the correct information also possessed a love for the baby greater than her hate for the other woman. She was okay to let the other mother raise her child, even after the woman lied to her and the king, because she refused to lose sight of her main concern, her baby.
The debate surrounding the origins of the universe too often ignores the reality that one cannot go back in time. All of us are living after the fact. Yet, as Christians, we believe God has spoken. And the story of creation is about that God who has something to say. This is our baby. This is what we cannot forget.
We cannot fight with those who we believe (or know) have lied to us and the king, to the point that our participation in the fight becomes more about us and not about the baby. Simply possessing the right beliefs is not sufficient for God. Having right beliefs about the beginning of the earth in full detail is for God to know. As Christians, we must admit that He has not told us everything.
Christians suggest not knowing is, in fact, a hopeful thing. It reminds us that we have more to rely on than ourselves in this dangerous world; that we don’t need to know all the answers. It reminds us that the earth, the birds, the air, and the stars are the result of God’s creativity and playfulness. It also reminds us of the mystery of God. There are things about God which we will never know, and anytime we talk about God, we always fail to hit the mark. We can never fully describe or grasp God.
Yet, having insufficient knowledge about God does not seem to bother God. It bothers us far more. Some think God teases us, but I suggest that God is not teasing; God is telling us where to focus. If we keep focused on the things that we’ll never know and fight with each other about it, we will have the same outcome as the mothers in 1 Kings. We will get nowhere. And getting somewhere is the goal. Getting to the place where we can see the creation, from all the lands, the oceans, the heavenly lights, the birds in the sky, the beasts of the field, and each and every single human person, as God’s creative handiwork is a great place to be.
This is the trouble I had in preaching this text. I wanted to avoid the debate about God and his world and the creative way God put it all together, because I don’t believe that is the main purpose of the creation story. I didn’t mean to simply propose the right way to interpret the creation story, for this is much of the same thing, only slightly changing the subject.
I wanted that we all would see the story of creation and see hope. And that in seeing hope we would fall before God in awe, that we would fear God, that we would surrender our very lives to him. When we read the story of creation we ought to see that we don’t know much, that we don’t know how to respond but to say, Damn! That’s awesome.
We are to be in awe, but are not given the details. When we try to grasp the details, we may cease to be in awe. There is mystery, and to us humans this is not easy. We cannot grasp everything. The hope of the creation story, however, is that God has more than a grasp on us and the world.What hope do you find in the Creation story? How hard is it to remove ourselves from the Creation debate and see the story as a message of hope?