Thursday, November 06, 2008

Creation: The Cosmos

I love the creation story. I love both creation stories actually. But for the purpose of tonight’s theme, Creation: The Cosmos, I want to focus on the first one, in Genesis One.

In fact, I love this text so much that it became the basis for this worship service almost three years ago, Beresheth. Bereshit is the first word of Genesis 1 and it means, “In the beginning.” And while the Genesis text goes on to explain how the world was created, it says very little about the science of it all. I appreciate this because, quite frankly, I don’t understand science. But I do understand stories. And Genesis is a storybook.

Our “Once Upon A Time” takes us all the way back to the beginning. And “In the beginning,” Genesis says, there was God.

God who imagined what could be. God who’s spirit roamed around the nothingness longing to create. God whose Word was waiting to be spoken.

And then it was.

Spoken, that is.

And the black nothingness begins to move, to draw in breathe, to stretch it’s wings and birth galaxies, solar systems, suns, planets, moons, black holes, stars, more galaxies and… Can you hear all that? All the explosions? All the swirling? The rush of objects not there two minutes before now hurtling through the atmosphere to far away places where maybe, just maybe, there will be just the right elements… sun… water… oxygen… and life will begin to grow? Maybe not. But can you hear creation?

Can you see it? The bursts of light, the colors stinging your eyes? No rainbows here, rather spectrums! with millions of colors bursting forth and fading away. Spectacular!

Can you feel it? The energy? The pushing of molecule upon molecule as they bond and break? Can you feel the movement as inertia compels us onward?

Can you smell it? The sulfer? The metals?

God speaks and creation comes into existence and our senses, would we have been there, would have been completely overwhelmed. And had we been born on that first “day” we would have fallen to our knees and worshipped with every part of our being. With and through all our senses we would have known God and witnessed God and praised God.

And that’s before God even got to the good stuff like magnolia trees and orchids and elephants and rain forests and blowfish and kittens.

And that is what I imagine worship is supposed to be like: something that involves light and sound and images and a spoken word, but a short one, because all God said was “Let there be…” and “It was good.” 

Of course, I took the Hebrew word for “In the Beginning” and transliterated it a bit. From B-E-R-E-S-H-I-T-H, I created beresheth since a transliteration is technically just a word scholars guess at how to spell anyway.

And now here we are. In worship. Sitting in chairs, in a chapel, in a church…

There’s a line from Our Town a play that I love. The young girl in the play is talking to her older brother and tells him about a letter a woman in town received…

Rebecca reports: “And on the envelope the address was like this, it said, Jane Crofut, the Crofut Farm, Grover’s Corners, Sutton County, New Hampshire, United States of America, Continent of North America, Western Hemisphere, The Earth, The Solar System, The Universe, The Mind of God. That’s what it said on the envelope. Yep, and the postman brought it just the same.”

I love that line because it reminds us how small we are and how big our world actually is. And of course we could go on even further with that couldn’t we? The Universe is huge. Within it are galaxies, lots of galaxies. And we’re just one. One of many. I’m reminded of that by the movie clip that’s playing, the ending of Men In Black where it pans out from the car they drive away in to the city and quickly to the world to a galaxy which is one of many in a ball that ends up being a marble some alien is playing with in another universe.

The universe is great. We are small.

My sister had a boyfriend in High School whose parents offered him a choice for his graduation gift. He could either receive a trip around Europe or he could have a telescope. Being the scientist that he was, he chose the telescope. I remember the night he took us out to a field on the edge of town. He set up the enormous instrument and spent a few minutes pointing and adjusting it toward the stars, ever so slightly. Finally he said, “Look.” My sisters, my mom and I each took turns oohing and ahhing over the burning balls we call stars in the vast darkness we call the sky. “That cluster in the middle,” he said. “That’s the Milky Way Galaxy. That’s us.”

I didn’t understand how I could be looking at myself through a telescope and I probably never will. Nor did I understand that night the physics of what had suddenly been brought quite near to my eye. But I knew that it made me feel small. Very small.

Sometimes it takes a great big universe, a great big event, a great big change to remind us of our place in this world, to give us a perspective on life. Sometimes gaining perspective can give us peace, relief. Other times it can make us feel inadequate or petty. When one hears stories about violence in Darfur, it makes the hunt for the two men with guns this morning on Berkman seem like child’s play. When one hears about the gang-raping of women, even children, in the Congo, it seems silly to complain about ex-boyfriends. When we think of the enormity of people dying from AIDS in the world today it seems too overwhelming. How do we help MILLIONS of people get well? One woman said once of prayer, “I find it very difficult to ask God for things in the way that I was taught as a child. Do I believe God is going to take away my illness when he turned an entirely deaf ear to the 6 million Jews who went into the gas chambers?”

The enormity of things overwhelm us here on earth. Wrapping our minds around the idea that we could be one little planet in one little solar system in one little galaxy, in potentially one universe is beyond our comprehension.

Thinking about it gives us perspective, but it may also rob us of our hope. Often people don’t vote because they don’t think out of all the people in America that their voice counts. People don’t recycle because it’s just one can, one bottle, one person’s trash. We feel miniscule in a world that is getting bigger and bigger. What can one person do anyway?

We must return to the text. And after we read about the sky and stars and land and water and trees and shrubbery and fish and animals we finally reach the climax of the story… humanity. In the same breath that God used to create the cosmos, God created us. But whereas the Cosmos was good. We were very good.

Very good.

If if God calls us very good, we should allot ourselves the same grace. Yes, we are just specks on the sand in God’s eye, but each sand is treasured and ooh’d and ahh’d over by God just the same.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And you and me.

Amidst the light and the dark and the stars and the planets came hands and feet and hearts and minds. And it was good.

Like creation that will cry out, so let us cry out with our lives, “God is good. God is good. Let us worship the God of the Universe and of us.”



Roger said...

it's Bereshith Ann...come on....I'm sure that got some laughs, but that's not the way you spell it...remember our conversation?

Ann said...

yes, you wished me well on getting the bear shit service started.

Roger said...

in private.....okay, in front of the staff.....

anyway, it's a fine sermon....