Genesis 1:1-2:4a, Trinity A, June 15, 2014
Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
C. S. Lewis described the creation of Narnia using these words: (From The Magician’s Nephew, Harper Collins reprint, 1994):
In the darkness something was happening at last. A voice had begun to sing… Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth herself. There were no words. There was hardly even a tune. But it was, beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise [Digory] had ever heard. (p. 106)
Then two wonders happened at the same moment. One was that the voice was suddenly joined by other voices; more voices than you could possibly count… The second wonder was that the blackness overhead, all at once, was blazing with stars. They didn’t come out gently one by one, as they do on a summer evening. One moment there had been nothing but darkness; next moment, a thousand, thousand points of light leaped out. (107)
The voice rose and rose, till all the air was shaking with it. And just as it swelled to the mightiest and most glorious sound it had yet produced, the sun arose…You could imagine that it laughed for joy as it came up. And as its beams shot across the land the travelers could see for the first time what sort of place they were in. It was a valley through which a broad, swift river wound its way, flowing eastward toward the sun. (109)
Polly was finding the song more and more interesting because she thought she was beginning to see the connection between the music and the things that were happening. When a line of dark firs sprang up on a ridge about a hundred yards away she felt that they were connected with a series of deep, prolonged notes. (115)
Now the song had once more changed. It was more like what we should call a tune, but it was also far wilder. (121) Can you imagine a stretch of grassy land bubbling like water in a pot? For that is really the best description of what was happening. In all directions, it was swelling into humps…And the humps moved and swelled till they burst, and the crumbled earth poured out of them, and from each hump came out an animal. (122) And now you could hardly hear the song…there was so much cawing, cooing, crowing, braying, neighing, baying, barking, lowing, bleating, and trumpeting. (123)
C. S. Lewis’ description of the creation of Narnia is beautiful, but is it true? The obvious answer is “No, this story is not true.” How can a piece of fiction be true? Now here is where we differ. I fully believe that a piece of literature can speak a word of truth about our society, about human nature, about us without being historically accurate.
For, as Fred Buechner once wrote, “Truth is what words can’t tell but only tell about, what images can only point to.” (Telling the Truth, 17) Narnia, although a fictional tale, points to God like the Bible does. Narnia may be a made-up place, yet it holds more truth for some children than even the Bible. I learned about Christianity from the Chronicles of Narnia long before I could understand the complex stories in the Bible.
What truth does this creation narrative hold? C. S. Lewis describes the beauty, majesty, and wonder of the creation of the world in ways that we often miss in the Bible’s creation narratives. The song that Aslan sings mysteriously captures the awe of God speaking things into existence. This narrative shows how intimately God was involved in the creation of the natural world.
What about our own creation narrative that we heard this morning? Is that true? Many of us do believe the answer is, “Yes,” but we interpret that “Yes” in different ways. Some people in our country believe that the entirety of the Bible, including this passage, is 100% historically and scientifically true. They believe that our world was created in six 24 hour days and is only a few thousand years old.
I don’t believe that this is what the authors of Genesis intended. Although much of the Bible is centered in historical fact, it was not written to be a history book. Instead, the Bible was composed over centuries as faithful people told and retold their stories of faith to inspire the faith of others. The writers share honest, down-to-earth stories about how they experienced God in their lives. Like we do, the stories that the biblical writers record are interpretations of what actually happened.
The fact of the matter is that the Bible was written, edited, and handed down for centuries before the Enlightenment. These ancient people did not have modern understandings of science or history. They had no way of knowing that the Earth and the universe are billions of years old. They had no way of knowing that dinosaurs once roamed the earth. They didn’t even know that there was land on the other side of the world.
So, is the creation narrative in Genesis 1 historically accurate? NO!
Is Genesis 1 scientifically sound? NO!
Is Genesis 1 true? YES!
Genesis 1, although a myth, shows us the power and grandeur of God. In this story, we hear that God is able to create something out of nothing. Nobody but God can do that. In Genesis 1, we hear that God existed long before us, that God chose to create us. In the Bible, we learn that our God is powerful enough to create the world, yet intimately cares for each created being.
Our God carefully, deliberately created the world so that we and all creatures can live and flourish here. God created light and dark, sun and stars, plants and water, animals and humans. And with everything that God created, God saw that it was good. We are good to God. We were created in God’s image, set above all other animals. God has entrusted the world to us so that we might care for it.
Overall God has loved creation deeply. God forgives us when we falter. God takes our broken bodies and makes us whole again. God came to earth as Jesus Christ, dying so that we might live. God continues to intimately care for this world through the Holy Spirit.
We would never have been born if God the Father had not created us. We would never be able to experience heaven on earth without God the Son giving himself for us. We cannot flourish on this earth without God the Holy Spirit active in our lives. Thanks be to God! Amen.