October 29, 2010
Have you ever had a conversation that’s not really a conversation? You know the kind; when you get the sense that the other person is not so much listening to you as waiting to continue with their speech. I get the impression that this is happening in Job 5-6. Job is on a role. He’s having a good old moan and there’s nothing Eliphaz can do about it.
I don’t blame the guy. He’s having a tough time to say the least, what with the whole my-whole-family-has-died-and-I’ve lost-all -i-owned situation. And we all know that there’s nothing as Carthartic as a good old rant. Indeed, you all know I’m particularly partial to ranting… But it’s a shame, because Job is so wrapped up in his own grief that he misses something beautiful.
Eliphaz has reminded Job of who he is (as I wrote about last week). Now he reminds him of who God is. Within this he says “He does great things and unsearchable marvelous things without number.” (5:9) And what is Eliphaz’s first example of this?
“He gives rain on the earth and sends waters on the fields.”
He makes the rain.
Now, I like in Manchester, we have a slightly different perspective on the desirability of rain than our brothers and sisters closer to the equator. The rain is not something we have to wait for, nor do we need to wonder if it will come. Still, this gives even more beauty to the example. The rain always comes; we don’t usually will and we certainly don’t appreciate it, but it comes all the same.
When we question suffering, and even more when we are caught up in our own suffering, we are seeing a very human experience-centred picture. We forget the seasons that change and the rains that come. The trees that grow and the currents that flow. The millions of new lives that comes even as others go. We forget the rain, we forget the sun. We see such a narrow vision of all that creation is, or all that God gives.
So when I am caught up in the woes of the world. When my heart is broken. When I worry. When I am struggling to understand God’s plan or purpose. When I feel, as Job, that life has lost its flavour (6:6). I am going to try to remember the rain. Remember the rain.
October 12, 2010
And what a way to begin. Genesis 1-2:3 is wonderful isn’t it? True poetry; “the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the water.”
And from that came sky and light and tree and birds. Even “great sea monsters monsters” get a mention. And finally, but never finally, us. “Let us make humankind in our own image…male and female he created them”. These first 34 verses are so profound, so potent with meaning and significance that I have few words. I’m sure I’m seeing them as is a dark mirror dimly. They effect me very much like John 1 does. There a rhythm to these words that seeps truth into your pores. Read it, read it now! It tells us of a God who brings light from darkness, fertility from barreness and who gives us the gift and responsibility of his creation.
I didn’t know until recently that many scholars agree that this and Genesis 2:4-3:24 are two different accounts of creation, but it makes sense to me. It’s feels awkward to fit these two together. Creation has a different order and the depictions of God really contrast . In the first story God is he but seems more mysterious and formless than God in the Garden of Eden, who talks with Adam and strolls through his creation. I’m not saying these are different Gods, not at all, but different aspects definitely. And it’s nice to have them side by side, as if one of the first messages of the Hebrew scriptures is a pluralilty of experience and understanding; something I feel the Church could do with embracing more and more.
The story of Eden is one we all know, or we think we know. There is no apple, Eve is no whily minx (she isn’t even called Eve yet, just woman). It is certainly one we recognise. Wanting the one thing we can’t have; knowledge not always being a blessing; shame that drives us away from God.
But I suppose what I want to say today is don’t forget the first chapter of Genesis, or see it as a prologue to Eden. Genesis 1 tells us we were made in the image of God. That’s really important. I don’t think it matters if you don’t take the six days literally, I don’t think that’s the point. The point is that we are part of God’s creation, which he called good “indeed, it was very good”.
There is prevelant theology that we are inherently wicked, which some verses of scripture, especially from the psalms, seem to back up. That idea that our innate nature being displeasing to God always troubled me. Indeed, the week before I was baptised I broke down into floods of tears at my house group because that very thing was being discussed and I was worried that I shouldn’t get baptised in a church that held this idea as true. Needless to say everyone was very loving about it and I took the plunge that Sunday. It is nice for me, then, that here in Genesis 1 I find an ally. God created us in his image and called us good; could we really be capable of changing the very nature of God’s creation? We can forget it, corrupt it, we can live in a state of sin that separates us from it, absolutely – that’s what I think the Eden story is about to a large extent – but change it? Change God’s creation inherently? There’s nothing about that in chapter 3. Toil and conflict? Sure? A state of irrevocable wickedness? Not so much.
So I am thankful for this first, deep mystery, that of creation, into which our Bible gives an insight. God created light out of darkness. I look out of my window now and see sun on autumn leaves and blue sky. And I am thankful to the creative God in whom I believe and whose work I could never reverse, however badly I screw up. And who will not turn away from me even though I hide in shame. Before God sends Adam and Eve out of the garden, he makes them clothes…