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Reflections with Fellow Sojourners – After the First Day: Genesis, Paul, Resurrection, and the Journey of Life

by Rev. Dr. James D. Findlay

James Findlay      As we enter the season of Easter, the defining event of our faith, we bask in the beauty and power of our yearly celebration of new life.  Even as the memory of joyful hymns and springtime growth remains with us, we also sense that we are experiencing a new time.  Cross and Resurrection, deepest loss and overwhelming blessing, are now behind us, and we face a future in which faith must confront both possibility and uncertainty.  As the old song asks, “What are you doing the rest of your life?”  After Easter, after the first day of new creation, the Word and the Spirit offer us guidance.

If we consider Genesis 1 and the days of creation, we hear on the first day that God spoke, and there was light.  Similarly, if we see Easter as our first day, the resurrection of Christ is the light from which all else flows.  Without this primal and powerful event, there is no eternal hope, there is no light which even darkness cannot overcome.  As Paul writes after his Corinthian congregation asks about the Resurrection: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile.”  (1 Cor. 15:17).  But in faith, we know: the light which God spoke into existence at the beginning, before all things came to be, bursts forth in a new way at Easter, and now sheds sacred beams of spirit on our pathway.  Though difficulties and troubles may abound in the world, we gain strength and sustenance for the journey ahead, knowing that the light is shining around us, and in us – even if our physical eyes do not perceive it.  As we make our way, we can trust that we will be guided graciously: “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” (Gen. 1:3).

On the Second Day of Creation, God creates the “dome” (“firmament” in earlier translations), which separates waters from waters.  Though some modern readers have seen this part of the text as a “pre-modern” misunderstanding of what science has now “accurately discerned,” in theological and spiritual terms these words speak deep truth.  Surrounded and guided by divine light, nurtured by sacred uncreated darkness, living in the never-ending alternation of day and night as the markers of natural time, we also experience the comfort and assurance that there are boundaries, limits, and borders, even to heavenly space above us.  Waters below and waters beneath cannot engulf us.  God’s care is constant; the world is balanced and beautiful.  And heaven, too, is linked to the Resurrection.  Though earthly beings, we are blessed by a power which is ultimately and truly heavenly.  Again, our brother Paul writes to us of this: “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.” (1 Cor. 15:49).

Day Three brings the earth to further coherence and differentiation: waters are separated from dry land, earth and sea receive their names, green plants grow, trees bring forth fruit.  Vegetation is born of water and soil.  As in Genesis, so it is before our eyes: light and darkness, water and earth, all of it Good, is the primal manifestation of Life.  In this sacred season, as life again overcomes death, we sense our own lives unfolding and blossoming anew.  After the deaths and losses we have known, new life flowers again, fresh and wondrous.  The seed of our former ways, sown in the soil of the past, nurtured in darkness and dreams, takes on new forms, and we see further transformation ahead: “So it is with the resurrection of the dead.  What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.” (1 Cor. 15:42).

Even though darkness is never created, but, like water, was present before the creation begins (Gen. 1:2), on day four God places lights in the heavens to separate day from night, light from darkness.  The particular forms of Light which humans see in the heavens (sun, moon, stars) are made by God after “light itself” is created (Gen. 1:3).  In addition, besides separating (distinguishing) light from darkness, the lights in the heavens are crafted by God so humans can perceive, measure, and experience time.    It seems that God intends for us to “live in time” which is marked by the movement of sun, moon, and stars (“let them be as signs, for seasons and days and years,” Gen. 1:14).  The time marked by clocks, whether circular or digital, is NOT the divine desire.  Instead, the lights in the heavens are what God gives us to guide our time on earth.   The natural rhythms of earth and sky are how God nurtures our rising up and lying down, our going out and coming in.  Perhaps if we walked on earth with more attention to these God-given heavenly time-markers, and less by calculations based on humanly-concocted systems of measurement, we would experience less stress, and would sense more deeply God’s presence and care.

On Day Five, God creates “swarming” creatures – insects! frogs and amphibians! reptiles! – which swarm in the waters, birds which fly over the face of heaven, and the great sea creatures (in Hebrew, ha tanninim, most likely what we could call “whales”).  These sea creatures are enjoined by God to be fruitful, to multiply, and to fill the waters, while the birds are urged to multiply on the earth (though we see them coursing above us through the air).  Thus, after plants and natural markers of time, God fashions the creatures of water and sky.  In the wake of new life, attentive to the creatures around us, whether large or small, we see God’s hand at work.

On Day Six, land creatures are made.  All are considered “living creatures:”  cattle, creeping things, and wild animals.  Among the land creatures, as the final created thing, God speaks of making human beings.  This is described in two distinct verses.  In Gen. 1:26, God speaks in a divine plural: “Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness.”  One purpose of human existence is then described: “to have dominion” over fish, birds, cattle, wild animals, and creeping creatures on the earth.  We certainly DO have power over these creatures.  But might we also consider that, as perhaps the most powerful of the land creatures, humans can exercise a “caring dominion,” in concert and communion with other creatures of land and water?  As People of the Resurrection, blessed by unending life, surely we can use our God-given power in creation as creatures who love other creatures, and the creation itself.

In Gen. 1:27, after speaking of creating humans, God then does so, with the narrator of the text stating: “So God created humanity in his image, in the image of God he created humanity, male and female he created them.”  At creation, then, all humans, male and female, are “in the divine image.”  As we walk in the light of the resurrection in the days God gives us on the Earth, may we always cherish, celebrate, and remember: the image of God is BOTH male and female.  When God gazes into the mirror and reality is reflected into existence, God sees each of us, all of us.  This same powerful divine truth is experienced in the Resurrection Community, to which Paul witnesses:  “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28).

The Seventh Day is the Sabbath Day.  All creatures have been pronounced good.  And God rests.  God blesses this day, and declares it holy.  After creative work, the time and day of rest is sacred.  And we can certainly testify that, after hard work, whether in “worldly” business or amongst family, at home, or in shared community, resting in a space and time of love in which God is honored and recognized brings us great blessing.  Being quiet, still, and silent, and allowing ourselves simply to BE in the presence of the One who makes, nurtures, and guides all things, we sense more deeply the meaning and movement of our lives.  Knowing that the Easter Event gives us the promise of transformed life, of immortality which swallows up death, we can continue our journeys.  This is what Paul urges us to do at the close of his explanation of the resurrection: “Therefore my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:58).

Comments

One Response to “Reflections with Fellow Sojourners – After the First Day: Genesis, Paul, Resurrection, and the Journey of Life”
  1. Howard Fuller says:

    I like having sermons on the newsletter. HSF

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