Friday, June 09, 2017
June 11, Holy Trinity: Grace, Love, and Communion
Genesis 1:1-2:4a, Psalm 8, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, Matthew 28:16-20
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Bereshit barah Elohim ha-shamaim va ha-arets. About this beginning I made a little song. I wrote it sixteen years ago. I can’t make it public because the tune for it is under copyright. So if you don’t mind I’m going to have a little fun and sing it for you.
Let’s start at the very beginning,
a very good place to start.
When you read you begin with ABC.
For the world God began with, “Let there be.”
Let there be! Let there be!
The first three words just happen to be:
Let there be.
Let there be!
Let there be and so it came to be!
Let there be the light and dark,
Let there be the sea and sky,
Let the dry land now appear,
let the green things multiply.
Let there be sun, moon, and stars,
Let them be that swim and fly,
Let them be that walk on land,
let the critters multiply.
Last of all, let there be Humankind serving me.
God said, “Yes! This is the best!
Now let’s take a day for rest.”
There! Not bad! A fun song, not a great song, not great like the original song. That is what Genesis 1 is—a song, a chant, a poem, more serious, but still for delight. It was written to be sung. Even today, in synagogues, it is never just read but always sung. We are to assume that when God said it, God sang it, God chanted it. “Let there be light! / And there was light.” Genesis 1 is a magnificent hymn, a poem, full of wonder, wisdom, and delight.
It’s too bad we have wasted so much energy debating whether it’s literal or not. Do we debate whether Psalm 23 is literal or not? I’m quite sure the ancient Hebrews did not take it literally.
Actually most of them didn’t even believe it—the proof of which is that they kept sliding back into idolatry to serve the pagan gods and goddesses with their more popular mythologies about the origins of the world, in which the primal and formless void of the deep generated gods and goddesses, who generated the lesser divinities and demons and all the rest of the creatures whether by cosmic sex or cosmic violence or both, and legitimized the same in humankind.
But this hymn of creation has no sex, no violence, no hierarchy of greater gods and lesser gods or human dynasties descended from the gods, no mythology at all in the proper sense, but a chant, a song, a call and response, God singing “let there be” and every creature answering implicitly, “Here we are, Here I am, hineini, I present myself, at your service.”
How polite the whole thing is, God is such a gentleman, how civil, how gracious of God not to force it but to let things be. The grace of God, not violence. Nor cosmic sex, but the love of Jesus Christ. No force, no hierarchy, but rather call and response, communication, community, the communion of the Holy Spirit.
And underneath it all, behind it all, is the theme of hospitality, of room, of space for us, safe space, good space, room for us and for our lives, for us to live our lives in freedom and security before God’s face. No intermediate gods and goddesses to worry about and mollify. No demigods or demons to watch out for. No royalty, no nobility, no upper class.
It’s actually a very modern worldview, almost secular except for this one single God. Indeed, the power of this hymn over the centuries has been to generate our modern worldview, giving room for human freedom and equality, for freedom and initiative, and culture and learning and science itself.
The sequence of the six days is structural, not literally temporal. The days are a pair of threes. The first three days are the spaces, the rooms, the habitations, and the second three days are the dwellers in those spaces, the inhabitants, the guests, for whom God is providing hospitality.
Day 1 is light and dark, so day 4 is the inhabitants of light and dark.
Day 2 is sea and sky, so day 5 is fish and birds.
Day 3 is dry land with its lush green carpet of plants, so day 6 is animals that walk upon the land and feed upon the plants.
Hospitality, room, spaces, for creatures to live their lives before God’s face and just by existing give their praise to God. Creation is envisioned as God’s temple, God’s great palace in which we all are given room and space. The Lord Jesus echoed this on the night before he died: “In my Father’s house are many rooms, and I go to prepare a place for you.” He was talking about communion, and love, and grace for the church, given to the church for the mission to all the world of the love of God, and the grace of Jesus, and the communion of the Holy Spirit.
Now every palace has a majordomo, every hotel a maître-d’, and every temple priests. God entrusted one species of the animals to have this mission of governance, stewardship, and service to our other creatures. That’s our mission among the animals and vegetables and minerals.
For this mission God made us in God’s image and likeness, whatever all that means. It does mean this, that we are able to commune with God, so that God has full communion with the world through us. God loves the world through us, and God is gracious with the world through us.
And on the 7th day God rested. In other words, God turned the labor over to us, the labor of creation. For us to do this God gave us creativity, and we are creative because we’re in the image of our Creator. So that’s our place in the world. Genesis 1 still speaks today.
It tells us we are meant to be at home in the world, God made it good for us, and we are made for it, among the fellowship of plants and animals, but not to be confined by it, but rather to keep it in full communion with its creator outside the world in whom we live and move and have our being.
It tells us why our species of Homo sapiens is distinct among the animals and why we have power over them, and why we are able to modify the world, for better or worse, or even to destroy it.
It tells us that the world belongs to God, and not to us, and we are responsible to God for it. Every decision we make about the world, about planting a field or slaughtering a cow or extracting coal or fracking natural gas, we are not independent to decide according to our bottom line, but we owe to God our every last justification for what we take and what we do, and we owe it to all the rest of the creatures as well, whose stewardship we bear.
The hymn tells us about our place in the world but it also tells us about this God. What kind of God would create a world like this?
A God who offers room and space because God has room and space within God’s self.
A God who offers gracious hospitality because God has gracious hospitality within God’s self.
A God who offers communion and fellowship because God has communion and fellowship within God’s self.
God loves the world with the same love that is moving around inside God’s self, not self-love, but other-love, what Jesus revealed to us as the love of the Father to the Son and back and both of them to the Spirit and back. God made a world to share God’s love with.
That’s the reason God made a world, so that there could be something and not nothing. Not that God was lonely, for God was already the joyful fellowship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but that there might be something else than God for God to have communion with, something not God, other than God, but capable of communion with God, something for God’s Holy Spirit to enter in and bring to life.
And also some place for the Son of God to come into in grace, as a real gentleman, taking on upon himself its creatureliness, its limitations and frailty, its not-godness, and graciously honoring it but also winning it into full communion with God.
Also some universe for God the Father to love with the same love God has for the Son and the Spirit, unending love, unfathomable love, for creatures such as you—love above you and beneath you, beside you, before you and behind you. You were created for love, especially the love of God.
Copyright © 2017 by Daniel Meeter, all rights reserved.