Genesis 1:1 - 2:4 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,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.Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light .And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.”So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day. And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day. And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.”So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
John 1:1-5 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 came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. ****************************************************************************************************
In the movie, "The Never Ending Story" the magical land of Fantasia has been destroyed by a great power called "the nothing." The Nothing is a power that preys on people's lack of dreams- without dreams, people lose hope, without hope, they have no imagination- so their world built on hope, dreams and imagination get's sucked into the darkness until the nothing has all the control- and all the power.
The hero of the story is a young boy who has journey to save the magical land only to find himself near the end of the movie face to face with the princess of fantasia in total darkness, He asks the princess- why is it so dark? She replies- In the beginning, it is always dark. in her hand she holds one grain of sand- all that remains of her vast empire. He is so disappointed-"then all my work has been in vain" "No, it hasn't- she says" Fantasia can rise again, in you- hold out your hand... take it." And she entrusts the light to the boy- It will be his job to rebuild the empire by using his imagination- his hopes, his wishes, his dreams. "How many wished do I get?" he asks. "As many as you want"- she replies "and the more wishes you make, the more beautiful Fantasia will become" He has all the power within him to create- but at this moment he is anxious- all he can see is one grain of sand- one beam of light in the darkness... in the beginning , it's always dark.
Today we read the story of creation- a beautiful poem written by an anxious people staring into the darkness."Genesis one was written as a statement of faith in the midst of horrific times.... (it) was either the exilic or the immediate post-exilic period. Jerusalem, the temple, and major cities in Israel had been attacked by Babylon, and its leaders had been taken off into exile. Even the fall of the Babylonians did not spell freedom, just domination by another group, the Persians."[i]
In our modern world, we generally agree with other faiths when we talk about "God" being THE God, no matter what religion you are- it's the same God- However, in ancient times, every tribe, country or people group had their own God- people worshiped the heavens, the earth, celestial beings, mountains, water- and the bottom line was, "the country that won the war and conquered the area was seen as the one with the strongest and most powerful god."[ii]
Now that God's people were in trouble and had been captured by another stronger people, "The nothing" had the power- and besides taking their land and leaders, taken with it, their hopes and dreams and imagination...
For the Israelites, "Questions hung in the air. Is our God strong enough to protect? Did God go away or [does God] just not care anymore? Should we abandon the God of our ancestors for other gods that are seemingly in control of the world? Is YHWH a lesser god who cannot protect or control world events?" [iii]
Genesis one answers the question, "Do you still believe that our God is strong enough to protect us and bless us?"
And it answers it in the first verse- In the beginning- God created the heavens and the earth. So all of the celestial beings that have become Gods to some people- the earth that was worshiped by other people- all water and wind and planets and stars-everything that others call Gods, we created by our God- Genesis one is an affirmation of strength and power; that as dark as things may look right now, and as confusing as they may seem, and as uncertain as the future may be- God is still all powerful and is in control.
And, as uncertain and black as it might seem- God brings order out of chaos- light out of darkness... the Israelites are reassured, it has been like this before- in the beginning when God created, the earth was formless and void- nothing looked firmed up-nothing looked sure- but God had a plan- that although darkness covered the face of the deep- the Spirit of God swept- the breath of God hovered...
And then piece by piece, God started making sense of things. And it's explained to us in a way that makes sense to us. And it began with a plan- light! We use the same metaphor when we claim to have an idea "light bulb moment"- God saw what God wanted to do- and then set out to do it. From the watery void (the Hebrew word for that one means empty and desolate like a desert) from the watery shapeless void God began to make sense of things by separating and differentiating- Day one- separating light from dark- the differentiating- light called day, dark called night!
And this pattern continues- God separates sky from water, fills the sky and then differentiates into planets and stars and sun- and then water from land, and then fills the land with vegetation- then God differentiates the kinds of vegetation- some for fruit, some plants for vegetables- the same thing happens with creatures- some swim, some crawl, some walk- and the very last walking creature- humans- and then differentiates one last time-there will be two kinds of humans- male and female... and we were created in God's image-
That's loaded! That humans were created in the image of God- well- that's been used to justify all sorts of things- from abuse of the earth and its creatures, to heirarchy between people and people groups! It's like we make ourselves out to be God- in many ways...
But the Hebrew word image- tselem- means to chisel or cut out- to make an likeness... a resemblance. "Any image, insofar as it is an image, has a most peculiar manner of being- it both is and is not what it resembles. The image of my granddaughter that smiles at me out of the picture frame on my desk is my granddautghter-not yours. But it is not really she-just a mere image. Although being merely a likeness, an image not only resembles, but points to, and is dependent for its very being on, that of which it is an image."[iv] So while humans are an image- we also resemble the divine. What does this mean?
Leon Kass says "To see how man might be godlike, we look at the text to see what God is like. ...in short, God exercises speech and reason, freedom in doing and making, and the powers of contemplation, judgment and care... and it's plain, even to those who do not believe in God, that humans carry these attributes as well."
The point for the Israelites was, the God who was there in the darkness, in the beginning- was powerful enough to see them through, and although they were oppressed and overtaken- God was present with them in their darkness- and had a plan to destroy" the nothing..." That if God had journeyed from darkness to light before, God would do it again... and God's people would be restored...
But they also needed to be reminded of something more- the one grain of sand- the one beam of light that they still held- they were created in the image of God. Without being divine, they carried the ways of the divine- but the only way to recognize that was to return to and be dependent on the one from whose image they came.
And truly this is for us today church. To recognize who we are designed to be- we need to look to the one from who's image we came. To live as and in "God's image" we need to take a good the attributes that have been given to us in creation. But in order to do that- well- that's the tough part. To see ourselves in any other light than the one we have come to believe about ourselves- is a lot of work. Because for many of us, we have allowed the nothing to tell us who we are- that we are not Godly, and not holy, and not created with the ability to bring order from chaos, and use our speech to be be creative and bless and nurture- we've looked around and seen the decline of the church, and the decline of activism, and the decline of people willing to stand up and be peacemakers- and we've witnessed the oppression and violence around us and we, like the ancient Israelites- question... and most of us shake our heads in disgust or despair- We've allowed the nothing to take our hopes and our dreams of what could be and replaced them with darkness and chaos.
So we could use a reminder today- In the beginning, its always dark... but here's the thing- although it looks as if all hope is lost-and it may look like total darkness in the world- that it's all be in vain-there is a grain of sand in God's palm that God yearns to put in yours- one beam of light that God offers us again and again... the light shines through the darkness- and praise God the darkness cannot overcome it. That grain of sand is Jesus Christ- the word- the word who was there in the beginning with God, as God- the one who's breath hovered over the deep and turned chaos to creation- And and the more we return to him, the brighter and more beautiful his Kingdom and our world can becomes.