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Reflections on the Maker of Heaven and Earth

20 Jan

In the beginning God created the heavens and earth.

And so the biblical narrative begins. God’s story begins with a line packed with weighty truth that cannot be unpacked in one attempt (although I will try). It is a worthwhile trip to stroll through the past. I do know that I cannot adequately piece together the present without understanding the past.

The past gives meaning to the present.
The past frames together the present.
The past floods the present with meaning.
The past shapes the present with values and perspective.

The past gives meaning to the present. Many of the— Why are things like this? –questions can be answered by looking to history. We are either formed by our past or we act in deliberate response to our past. Our past has made us this way or we choose to act this way (be this way?) because of our past. I continue to do things in the tradition of my past either consciously or unconsciously or I may reject the traditions of my past and do things differently. Either way I am grounded in my past. This works on an individual level and on a societal level.

Racism in the deep South where I live, work, play, and pastor is deeply rooted in a past of racial strife and division. Sumter County, Georgia where I live has a virtually unknown chapter in the civil rights struggle of the 1960s in part through Koinonia Farms. Why is there an obvious cultural difference between the white community and the black community in Sumter County? A look into our past tells the story of the present.

The past gives meaning to the present.

This holds true as we look to the ultimate past, the past before written history, the past before the great empires, the past which began at creation, the past which was in the beginning.

In the beginning God…

The Scriptures begin with an introduction of the central figure of the story…God. The creation account of Genesis is the story of the Creator. The ancient creeds of the Christian faith all begin with the confession of God the maker of heaven and earth.

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. (Nicene Creed 381 AD)

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. (Apostle’s Creed)

The story of creation is the story of the Creator. Before the creation of the universe, the earth, plants, animals and people, there was GOD. He existed as a self-sufficient, eternal community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

What was God doing before creation?

A good question, but not one that will lead to any answers. In The Institutes, John Calvin wrote that a “shameless fellow mockingly asked a pious old man” what God was doing before creation and the pious old man whipped back and said, “building a hell for the curious.” (I.14.1) I didn’t know Calvin was one for the jokes!

We don’t know what happened before “in the beginning,” but we know that God’s creation began with the creation of the heavens and the earth…in other words…the creation of the universe. He created all that is seen and unseen out of nothing (creation ex nihilo). We call what we do “creativity,” but only God can really create. We can form, fashion, shape, take things a part and put them back together again. We can rework things, but only God can create something out of nothing.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Albert Barnes notes that this one verse does much to establish what we believe about God and distinguish it from other views.

Genesis 1 denies:

  • atheism – It declares the existence of God.
  • polytheism – It declares one God created.
  • materialism – It declares there is something more than stuff.
  • pantheism –It declares that God is separate from creation.
  • fatalism – It declares the freedom of God.

All of this in ten words….in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

These ten words not only establish right doctrine, but they establish right worship. [We use the word “orthodoxy” to describe right Christian doctrine, but the word literally means “right praise.”] The creation account in Genesis 1 is written in poetic prose. There is a liturgical rhythm to it that invites us into the text.

The Genesis account is poetic, but it is also true. Poetry is not necessarily fictitious. Very often poetry tells the truth better than strict prose. It not only tells the truth better, but it invites us to live in the truth. Eugene Peterson observes in Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places that we are called to live in the rhythm of the text. God set the rhythm as work, work, work—work, work, work—rest. As Peterson points out, we too often abuse the rhythm of time by procrastination or hurry. We are faced with the temptation to waste time or rush past time.

God calls us to work (x6) and rest. This was the rhythm he set in the beginning. We are called to walk to this rhythm, live to the rhythm, raise families within this rhythm. Wesley wrote in his commentary on Genesis 1, “And let our make and place, as men, mind us of our duty, as Christians, which is always to keep heaven in our eye, and the earth under our feet.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

When we clearly see God as creator, our hearts are moved to worship. (The fight is in removing the distractions in order to see him clearly!) When I see God as Maker of heaven and earth I am suddenly reminded that I am a guest here. This is his world not mine. Yes I am a son. Yes I am to be a steward (manager) of his creation. Yes I have rights (including all the deplorable terms—dominion, rulership, authority, etc.) But still this is my Father’s world. As an invited, and indeed created, guest, I observe all that was put here for me to enjoy. I must look past all the destruction of sin and see what God has put in his creation. He adorned his creation with beauty, food, sex, friendship, laughter, mysteries to explore—all for my good and enjoyment and ultimately for his glory. Why would I not praise him and delight in his ways?

In this acknowledgment of God as Creator, worship becomes the overflow of enjoyment and gratitude. It is like falling in love. N.T. Wright writes, “When you fall in love, when you’re ready to through yourself at the feat of your beloved, what you desire, above all, is union” (Simply Christian, pg 148). What you ought to do is overwhelmed by what you want to do when you fall in love. You ought to pursue relationships that lead to marriage, but when you fall in love you want to get married. Obligation is flooded with desire. This is getting me closer to worshipping the Maker of heaven and earth.

One final thought from Wright:

Worship makes you more truly human. When you gaze in love and gratitude at the God in whose image you were made, you do indeed grow. You discover more of what it means to be fully alive.

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Posted by on January 20, 2008 in Theology

 

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