It may come as a shock to some of you, but when the first Creation story (Genesis 1:1-2:4a) came up on June 15th (Trinity Sunday) my initial thought was this is a text I do not wish to preach on.
Another reason is that in the age of the internet and widespread interest is non-canonical texts (like Gnostic texts found at Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945), I find it important to acknowledge the relationship between the first creation story in Genesis and other creation stories from the Middle East. This article at the ReligiousTolerance.org does a good job of concisely showing the parallels between Genesis and the Babylonian text, "Enuma Elish." When some of my fellow students at seminary were exposed to this for the first time I know it was disorientating to them. They either found a new way of understanding the Bible as the inspired Word of God or found their faith shaken. The other extreme is to summarily dismiss the Genesis creation story as myth and having no relevance to the faith of a modern Christian who sees no conflict between science and faith.
So I found myself praying about this all week and ending up preaching on the text anyway. I don't write a manuscript, but this post is giving you a feeling for the sermon. First I talked about taking the text literally and applying an historical-critical criticism to the text. I talked about the benefits and challenges to both of these methods. I then pointed to the fact that scripture was meant to be read in worship and that it is in this context that it has its primary meaning. That frees us from say "Big Bang/Young Earth" and "comparative religions/uniqueness of the Bible" dichotomies. The focusing question becomes "What is the importance of hearing the first Creation story on Trinity Sunday?" instead of which side of these dichotomies do you place yourself.
The answer to that focusing question is in the opening words of Genesis. There we find an essential aspect of who God is. We find God being a Creative Community yet still one God. Here is Genesis 1:1-3 in a couple of different translations:
"When God began to create the heavens and the earth— the earth was without shape or form, it was dark over the deep sea, and God’s wind swept over the waters— God said, “Let there be light.” And so light appeared." (Common English Bible)
"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. " (New Revised Standard Version)
"First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.
God spoke: “Light!”
And light appeared." (The Message)
We see this creative community in all its glory--God's Wind/Spirit sweeping over the waters and God's Word speaking light into existence. We see God's Spirit and God's Word not being spoken of as as separate beings but as part of the one God who created the Heavens and the Earth. Over a thousand years later, the followers of Christ would experience this creative community again. After the resurrection, they experienced the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and when Jesus breathed the Spirit upon them. They began to understand Jesus through the Greek philosophical idea Logos, or Word, stated so eloquently in the opening chapter of the Gospel of John.
As God's people created in God's image we find ourselves called into creative communities as well. Communities that embody the Spirit of the renewal of all creation that begins at the Empty Tomb of Easter yet will not be fully realized until the vision of a New Heaven and a New Earth found in Revelation is fulfilled.
So there you have it...a little peak under the hood of my way of approaching preaching.