“Let There Be Light”
June 11th, 2017
Genesis 1: 1-5
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“This morning’s scripture lesson comes from the book of Genesis, chapter one, verses one thru five; may we open our heart and minds to its intended meaning.”
1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 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. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
“Let us pray that we have heard and felt the fullness of this ancient writing, as we seek to put it’s meaning into the context of our knowledge here in the Twenty-First Century.”
Time, time is an elusive quantity. It has been pushed and probed at every level of humankind throughout history! Yet, without it, we all would be lost; wouldn’t we? So just how do we measure time? Where did we first define what a day is? What about before creation… how did God keep track of time? Or perhaps, time was irrelevant. Consider this old, old story. A young lad was walking down the road when he encountered God. He was so astonished he didn’t know what to say. God said to him, “my son, ask of me any questions you may have.” The lad scratched his head than asked, “how long is a second in heaven?” God replied, “Oh about a million years.” Then the lad asked God another question: what is a million dollars’ worth in heaven? God said to him “oh about a penny.” So, the lad thought a moment and then said, “God may I have one of those pennies?” God said to him, “Of course, my son, in just a second!”
Our perception of heaven may be a bit off, of what it ‘actually’ is. Therefore, we need to be prepared for some slight differences from our life here on earth. Yet, we must have faith that Heaven is and we shall one day all gather there! But, before we can get to heaven we must start from the beginning. From the beginning of time itself. To go that far back we shall need a bit of faith in the reasoning of others. This morning’s scripture passage, from the first five verses of Genesis was written a long, long time ago. This view of creation was most probably an oral tradition for perhaps generations… no one is entirely sure. There is speculation but no one truly knows. Tradition gives Moses credit for this writing. Yet, modern scholars believe it was more likely to have been written in the 6th and 5th centuries Before Christ (BC). So, even if one person actually wrote this accounting, it’s origin came from an accumulation of the limited knowledge of the leaders of the tribes of the Hebrews; mixed with the beliefs about who and what God was and is. It is from this backdrop that we start our discussion.
A modern-day theologian has said: “In the opening verses of Genesis, God exhibits a certain creative style.” /Terence E. Fretheim/ With this in mind let’s take a second look at our scripture lesson. In the beginning…. In the beginning, there was a lot of work to be done. “A formless void,” “darkness,” and “the winds sweeping over the waters.” What an expansive and deep, deep, thought! Without the aid of our modern science and without the extensive maps and pictures of outer space, the galaxy in which they lived, these early contributors to and writers of this first sentence had inspirational insights into what the expanse of space may actually encompass! Wow! What a dramatic and eye-catching way to start the Creation story! Every good writer ought to seek to capture such an expansive opening statement.
Some of us may be writers, and others of us are not! Yet, most everyone was taught to write a composition in school, at some level or capacity. Even the simplest of writings, such as a letter to a friend, will follow some elements of structure. In early English composition classes, students are taught that there ought to be some basic elements, such as an introduction which leads to the body or the heart of the message, with some type of ending. Take for instance the illusive letter from a son or daughter from across the country in a college or university setting. The letter to the parents perhaps starts like this: “Dear Mom and Dad, I have been studying hard. Tell my sister hello from far away. Needing new school supplies and running out of cash. Please send more ASAP! Thanks so much. Sincerely, your loving son Johnny.” I suspect this lad’s parents are praying he will learn a bit more about how to expand upon his thoughts when writing letters. Thankfully, the writer of Genesis gives us more descriptive sentences to work with, and carries forward the process of illumination throughout this creation narrative. The introduction: “In the beginning, God created.” The body of the narrative speaks of “separating light from the darkness.” In conclusion, we hear: “And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” In this sense, the writing is easy to follow. Even so, we are only given samples and teased with the broad strokes of the writer’s pen! Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. /Genesis 1:1/ Yet, we are left trying to fill in the blanks; where did the light come from, what sustains it, and what is its purpose?
Looking deeper into this passage, even while we are left with questions, we start to get some formative impressions of God at work in this process of Creation. Never-the-less, as God began the work of Creation we do not hear, even in this creation story, we not hear God snapping his fingers and making it all happen all at once! Not even in this narrative does the writer suggest such an occurrence! Our author lays it out, one step at a time. During this first mystical day, things still only occurred one piece, one step at a time. It is important for us to grasp the methodical simplicity of this composition. Before there can be something, there is nothing. One of the key points for us to grasp is the author of this writing, puts forth the belief that God came before, was before Creation began. Secondly, we need to acknowledge that even without modern science to aid this dialogue, there was the belief, the understanding that creation was a process which even the Divine had to work at in stages, to get it done, one day at a time! This leaves open the question as to God’s understanding of time; and did the writer, the author of this writing fully grasp this concept of time, or was the reference to a day used merely as an illustrative point? Surely, we shall never know for certain, therefore, we must glean and collect what is here, as we seek out the intent and meaning of this passage.
In the verses following, we hear of the second day, the second stage of this course of action, and this continues through to the sixth day when it is done, when God’s creation work is completed. Followed by, God setting aside a day, the seventh day, to rest. But before doing so, God turns this process over to humankind, to finish that which God had left undone. Even these early theologians, at the time of Moses, believed Creation was not finished. Much still needed to evolve and humankind was put in charge of caring for the finishing touches. In verse 28 God gives dominion, meaning God gave authority and responsibility over to humankind, leaving instructions to subdue, to ‘tame’ creation itself! This term subdue has a wide range of meaning, from ‘pacify’ and ‘calm’, to ‘restrain’ and ‘control’! This could also be meant to say, we have been charged, by God, to take care of the needs of creation! Strongly suggesting: creation was not yet finished, and God expects humankind to work on the details which are still under construction, and or possibly needing repair or adjustment! This proposition leaves this whole discussion of Creation wide open!
Let’s go back to that first day, where it all began! Here we find the ancients had a clear understanding for the need to have light, as credit is given to our Creator for creating light and separating it from the darkness. From our prospective, here in the Twenty-First Century, we can conclude that the light comes from the sun. And that the earth’s rotation around the sun, while the earth rotates on its own axis, is how night and day, and the season themselves developed. Throughout the ages, as time itself evolved, it has been spoken of: “the light overcomes the darkness.” These analogies always paint the light as goodness and the darkness as evil, or at lease void of Godliness, goodness, kindness and love. Already, in the imagery of life verses darkness… we have the shadows of evil and the awakening of goodness. Modern science tells us that without light, which comes from the sun, there could be no life! In Christian theology, we say that without God, through Christ, there is no love, no forgiveness, and no hope. “Light is a source of life and growth. You can’t have life without light.” /Pastor Edward F. Markquart/
very day, as daylight comes, our little poodle, before she became ill, would wake up and lick me on the face, as if to say, “Time to get up, let’s go, come on!” And conversely, when the sun went down and darkness came, she would start making it clear it was time to go to bed. Simple basic communications. Light meant the day had begun, darkness meant it is over. The symbolism of light and life go hand in hand! Darkness likewise symbolize the end, of the day, the end of time, and death itself. Our little poodle, Jamie, seems to sense that her span of life is nearing its end as she sleeps more and ignores the morning light, more and more. She is very much like you and me, we long for the light to last, yet, as evening-tide comes, we relinquish and allow our eyes to grow heavy and give in to the darkness. As time moves ever forward, by any measurement or standard, me and you, we know the fullness of our span of life, shall also, one day, come to its end. As a result, we begin to take more seriously the writings of scripture, especially those which are more detailed and give more guidance than the simple accountings of creation, written so long ago.
As we look to the larger realm of religious beliefs, we see how other religions also point to the necessity of the ‘Great One,’ an ‘architect,’ ‘designer’ or at least a ‘prime mover’ or ‘creator’, who oversees all of humankind in some way. Does not matter what religion you practice, we all agree that without light, without a Divine being, there is no life, no hope. If we are pushed back to the beginning, we would be plunged smack into the center of the ‘void,’ with ‘darkness’ overshadowing everything. At such a time, we all would be looking for signs of the wind, the very ‘Spirit’ of God, sweeping over the face of the waters. Thankfully, there is every reason to believe that this is not the way it is meant to be. There is every reason to believe God has been with us all the way!
The Spirt has been seen numerous times throughout the ages. There is even a reference to the interaction of the Spirit with Jesus as he begins his earthly ministry, in the gospel according to Mark in chapter one. “The Spirit… rests upon Jesus in the waters of the Jordan and names him ‘Beloved.’ That same Spirit then drives Jesus out into the wilderness.” (Mark 1:12) We again hear about the Spirit’s interaction through the writers of the forth gospel, the gospel according to John. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. What has come into being in ‘Christ’ was life, and the life was the ‘Light’ of all people. The ‘Light’ ‘The Spirit of Christ’ shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” /John 1:1-9/ Once again the author pushes us to acknowledge that God, Jesus, and the Spirit, came before humankind, before Creation. In this writing, the Light takes on the persona of Jesus, God incarnate, whom has come to bring us the Word, the very voice of God.
“From the very beginning, God has been fully present to everyone and everything in this world. And God is still with us because the Spirit of God still “hovers” and “resonates” over and around and in us all.” /Alan Brehm/ The words of the theologian who said this, his words reflect my experience along my journey of life, and the experience of a great many others, and with many of you as well. The Light of God, truly, illuminates the fullness of God’s love!