Bereshit bara Elohim (1.13.2009)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw the light was good; and God divided the light from the darkness . . . . In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it . . . . Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more . . . . And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.’ (Gen 1:1-4; John 1:1-5, Rev.21:1, 5-6a)
This morning we are looking at the Creation narrative set forth in the first few verses of Genesis. It is upon these verses that all of Scripture and the fullness of the Gospel hang. God’s creative power is the reference point that the Old Testament as the foundation of scripture is laid out; it is the reference by which the Cornerstone is placed. Without the fullness of the Trinity bringing about Creation, then our faith is in vain. Today I want to look at three major lessons of the Creation narrative, and how it relates to our life in Christ.
I. CREATION EX NIHILO
Most of us simply take the story of the Creation for granted, and fail to see the uniqueness of the claims made by Scripture concerning Creation. In all other religions, whether Greek, or German, or Babylonian, the gods arise from a chaotic primordial soup, and through battle with chaos, sea monsters, or each other establish their authority. For example, in Greek mythology, Zeus, the chief god, comes from the Titans, who come from Gaia, who come from Chaos which is simply the nothingness of which everything arises. In Genesis, Scripture makes the unique statement that God creates the material word, that he pre-exists chaos and creation, and therefore does not arise from it.
An understanding of the basis of our existence and the natural order is essential for our understanding of our salvation. If the natural order is Chaos or nothingness, then our existence and salvation depends upon our struggle to bring order out of the chaos. It is only through our struggle to give meaning that we can have hope. This is a battle, however, that will inevitably lose at death. However, if God is the basis of our existence and salvation, then there is no need to struggle. The only fight we have is against increasing and contributing to the chaos and nothingness in our lives. We understand that because God is the basis of existence we understand that we cannot bring about our existence and salvation though our own works. God is the natural state of our existence because it is though God that we arise. He gives ‘form and actuality’ to our existence. (Athengoras’ Plea, Ch.10). God created heaven and earth, the invisible and visible, by his Grace and thus we are saved by that Grace.
II. GOD IS TIMELESS –
God’s creation is not only of space but also of time. God creates “in the beginning.” In last three books of his Confessions, St. Augustine mediates and explores what it means that God created in the beginning. Augustine will come to the conclusion that time itself is merely a property of the created order. In other words, time did not exist prior to Creation. Since God creates time, God is likewise outside of and not bound by time. We believe that God is presently with us at Trinity Church, and is at St. John the Baptist, and is (probably) at First Presbyterian. God is not limited by time or space, but instead is in every time and place. (Anselm’s Monologion, Ch. 22). Therefore, God is with now, and is with us yesterday, and is with us tomorrow. God is both here and is now with David upon his throne.
Interestingly, Steven Hawking in a Brief History of Time, states that from the standpoint of theoretical physics, time is merely part of creation, and that scientifically, there is nothing prior to the Big Bang because time didn’t exist. Hawking with actually cite Augustine approvingly as one of the first recorded thinkers to reach this conclusion.
The two primary implications of God being outside of time are found in the nature of prophecy and the Eucharist. The OT prophet was not a forecaster, rather he was more in the nature of messenger who simply announced the decision God had already made. Because God is timeless, God does not give his prophets a future prediction, rather God tells his prophets was has already occurred in the future. God’s predictions are not like those predicting the winner of the Super Bowl based upon the teams past performance where odds are given as to the team that has the best chance of prevailing. These predictions are not true, only suppositions. Rather Biblical prophecy is in the nature predicting the NFC Division Game and “predicting” that the Eagles will prevail against the Giants due to a strong defense and opportune turnovers. This prediction is true because it the results predicted align perfectly with our observations of the occurrence. God knows what will occur in the future, because from the divine perspective, it already has occurred. The prophets merely convey that which God knows will actually occur. This also means that the words of the prophets are not necessarily for the prophet’s immediate audience. God knows of the coming of the Christ and the new heaven and the new earth. Therefore, prophecy also speaks to these occurrences as well. God is timeless, and so is the message of his prophets.
Just like prophecy, the Eucharistic Feast is also timeless. The Gospel of John confirms that the Word of God was with God at the beginning. On Mt. Sinai, Moses asks the voice from the burning bush, whom am I to say has sent me? The voice replies, “I AM WHO I AM, say this to the people of Israel, I AM has sent you.” Before the Sanhedrin, when ask whether he is the Son of the Living God, Jesus replies, “I AM.” Finally, in Revelation, the voice from the throne says that I AM the Alpha, I AM the Omega, I AM the Beginning, and I AM the End. It did not say I was the Alpha, I will be the Omega, and right now I am a Sigma. The Son is eternal. From a human perspective, bound within the strictures of space and time, the Cross took place at a specific date and time at a specific place. From the Divine perspective, however, because the Son IS, so also the Son’s reconciliation takes place for all time. In the Eucharist, we are allowed to participate in Christ’s Great Sacrifice. When Rob+ celebrates the Eucharist he is not reenacting the Last Supper or Calvary in the same way as those who put on gray uniforms and shoot Yankee soldiers do on the weekends. Rather, because the Divine nature of Christ participates in the sacrifice on the Cross and the Resurrection, those Acts are timeless. In the Eucharist, we are allowed to participate in those Acts. The Eucharist is not a new or renewed sacrifice, rather it is the continuation of that once and final Sacrifice of which we are allowed to catch a glimpse. More specifically to Creation, because Christ makes all things new in his passion, so he can make all things new within the Eucharist.
III. THE SON IS THE AGENT OF CREATION –
In Genesis, God creates through his spoken word. Throughout the Old Testament, it is God’s wisdom or word which brings about creation. In Psalm 33, the Psalmist says “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made. . . . Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” Jeremiah (Ch.10) states that “He made the earth by his power. He founded the world by his wisdom. He stretched out the heavens by his understanding.” In the New Testament, the Gospel of John states, all things were made through the Word. The hymn in Paul letter to the Colossians says hat all things were created through him and for him. The importance of the Son’s role in creation is that because he brought about the original creation, so also he brings about the new creation. We are not saved because Paul suffered and died for the Faith, nor because Lazarus was raised from the dead, nor by Elijah being assumed into heaven. Only the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ can bring about our restoration. Only Christ, the Son and Word of God, can bring about our re-creation, because it was the Son who brought about the original Creation.
Anselm of Canterbury conceives of God’s Word is like the wisdom or imagination of an artist. (Anselm’s Monologion, Chs. 10, 31) The artist conceives in his mind that which he wants to create, and from this conception bring about his work. In the same manner, the Father conceives of the created universe though his Wisdom or Word and this conception brings about and is a reflection of his eternal Word. So for example, the painting on the Sistine Chapel is the result of Michelangelo’s wisdom or thought. Michelangelo will conceive in his mind that which he wants to paint, and then through this perfect mental image cast the painted image upon the ceiling. Although, Michelangelo’s initial painting may have been a perfect reflection of his thoughts, the painting of the Sistine Chapel centuries after his creation, however, lacks that perfection. It is covered by soot, dirt, and dust. Pollution has deteriorated and destroyed the paint and the plaster, and prior restorations have only served to hide the original brilliance. Any restorer of the Sistine Chapel has a difficult time understanding exactly what the original work looked like even to the extent that the exact colors used are impossible to determine. The only way to fully and accurately restore the Chapel would be to bring back Michelangelo back with his original palette, to wipe away five hundred years of deterioration, and to allow him to begin anew. In the same way, we are created in the image of the Word. This image, however, hidden by soot, dirt, and dust of sin, and parts of the original image have been destroyed. We have become mere shadows of our creation. However, in Christ, the Word made flesh, who came and dwelt among us and who took upon himself our image so that we may see the divine image, we are restored and made new. As St. John the Divine relates, because the Understanding of the original artist wipes away the soot and destruction, and thereby make us new. The story of Creation provides us with the story of Restoration.
Finally, the Creation narrative provides us with template of how our new Creation in Christ is achieved. As Scripture relates, in the beginning, the world was formless, void, and dark. The Holy Spirit hovers over the Waters. And then the God speaks, and Light enters the world, and the darkness is separated from the Light. This is the template for our Baptism. For by Original Sin in our Fallen State (or as Rob+ says in our postlapsarian humanity) we are formless, void, and dark. Through the Baptismal waters over which the Holy Spirit presides, we receive the Light of Christ. At baptism, we are separated from the darkness, and through God’s grace the darkness will not overcome us. As Paul says in his second letter to the Church at Corinth: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”