God has place this wonderful creation in our hands. As U2 sings, "It's a beautiful day, don't let it slip away." We have this one life to live on this beautiful planet so enjoy these reflections on God, faith, life, and music. "After the flood all of the colors came out. It's a beautiful day."

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The bible and Science: Genesis 1 sermon

On December 24, 1968, in what was the most watched television broadcast at the time, the crew of Apollo 8 read in turn from the Book of Genesis as they orbited the moon. Bill Anders, Jim Lovell, and Frank Borman recited verses 1 through 10, as they watched the earth off in the distant a beautiful globe of blue, white, brown, and green.  They read:
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
              And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
             And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.  And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.  And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.  And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.  And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

On June 22, 1633,  Galileo was found guilty of heresy, and the sentence of the Inquisition, was in three essential parts:
  • Galileo’ s heresy for holding the opinions that the Sun lies motionless at the center of the universe, that the Earth is not at its center and moves.
  • He was commuted to house arrest, which he remained under for the rest of his life.
  • His offending Dialogue was banned.
Galileo viewed the stars through his telescope and believed in Copernican physics that the earth was not the center of the universe.  The tides taught him the truth about the movement of the earth.

 In 1925 in which high school science teacher, John Scopes, was accused of violating Tennessee's Butler Act, which made it unlawful to teach evolution in any state-funded school. This trial which pitted Clarence Darrow for the defense against Williams Jennings Bryan for the prosecution.  Charles Darwin had discovered through watching his peas grow that he could change their biology by making different peas combine. This lead him to posit that all life on earth evolved over time. The trial was about evolution and creation.  While evolution lost the defendant won on appeal.  Today we still battle this question we ask science teachers who haven’t studied the bible and learned Hebrew to teach Creation.  Would we want a pastor to teach science to our high school kid? 

So how do we do we deal with the creation story of Genesis 1 and the idea of science?  When I was in seminary I was able to take a class called the Epic of Creation where Scientist from the University of Chicago, Theologians, and Biblical Studies Professors, talked about creation.  I learned a lot in this class, but one of the things that my Professor Ted Heibert taught me was to think about Genesis in terms of the science of its day.   I was also taught from my Father a UCC pastor that the bible is full of stories of faith.  Within these stories we can find a grain of truth that allows us to glimpse God.  This is different than believing that the Bible is the Truth, written by God.  So in the church of my growing years and I hope in the church I am still a part of we provide our children with the tools to ask question of scripture. We teach them to learn tools to help understand the bible in terms of archeology and critical criticism.  So if we turn to this story from Genesis what can we learn?  Sometimes we tend to think of this creation story in the word of Stephen Cobert at Truthiness (a false hood that is true if we say it loudly and long enough.)

So what if we look at the biblical story from its internal scientific perspective.  The ancient Hebrew believed that the earth was flat.  The sky contained gated that held the waters above the earth back.  Below these water were where the sun and moon and stars moved.   Below the earth were pillar holding it up and there was Sheol, the place of the dead.  Surrounding this underneath was waters.  So their understanding of the earth looked very different from our earth.  When you compare the account of creation with the accounts of the surrounding near eastern cultures, you find the same lists of creatures being created.  So there must be something that the writer of Genesis wanted us to learn that set this story apart from the  surrounding stories. 

Now this contrast with our understanding of science, an understanding that has changed a bit in 3000 years.  In the Epic of Creation, from the physicists I learned about the big bang.  I learn how at the beginning there was nothing, but this nothing was really something.  As into this nothing a spark caused the nothing to create protons, electrons, and neutrons, that collided and formed elements, that collided and eventually formed stars and the dust and elements that became planets.  The evolutionary Biologist taught me about these amazing and weird creatures that have popped into and out of existence.  And he wasn’t even showing us dinosaurs.  These were simple creatures.  But he taught us about the branches that died off and how we animal creatures grow from a certain branch.  I understood some of what was being said, but what stuck with me was the idea that at the beginning there was nothing that was really something.

What can we learn from the creation story of Genesis.  The writer of this story is known as P or the priestly writer.  This writer is concerned with order and showing God’s place.  So in this first chapter of Genesis the formless void takes on form as God speaks.  God creates light, created land, puts boundaries on the waters.  God creates life:  plant life, ocean life, animal life, and human life.  And God pronounces each of these Good.  At the beginning in the formless void was God.  God spoke and ordered the world. 

Think about this in a time of exile when the world seems to be chaos.  The temple is gone, we have been carried into a strange land.  Everything is not as It was.  The world looks dark.  Into this chaos, the priestly writer tells us that God brings light and goodness.  That even when chaos reign there is order to be found.  God looks into the darkness and shows what is good.  This is a word that speaks today.  When we look around and see an economy struggling, political parties at war with each other, we can here this word of hope.  Darkness and chaos are not the final word.  There is light and there is good.  

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