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Tuesday, 14 February 2017

And God Said.....

It's the early 6th century BC. You're hundreds of miles from home. You and your family have been dragged from your home country by the invading army who have destroyed Jerusalem, tortured and/or murdered your royal family and desecrated your places of worship - both the temple where you should have been worshipping, and the other, local places where you maybe shouldn't. Children have been slaughtered. A people has been ravaged and exported.

And you're in a country whose gods are everywhere. Their boast is that their gods are bigger than everyone else's. After all, they won. They get to choose the gods - just as their gods chose them. You thought your god was so mighty? Well, go back down to Jerusalem, if they'll let you - and see what's happened to the temple. And the gods of these people are a crazy bunch. In their creation story the mother of the gods got killed by her children, cut up and turned into the earth and the heavens. Mind you, let's face it - the only story you've got about how the world began involves a man, a woman and a talking snake with legs.

And you sit down and write. And the first thing you write is "In the beginning, God created the earth..." but the word you use for God literally means "Gods". And yet the sense of the passage is clearly in the singular. Maybe you're saying something about the power and majesty of your God - even with all the evidence of his weakness around you.

And you go on - "And God said let there be light. And there was light." And not just the light - the world, the atmosphere, the seas, the animals, and human beings - all on their chosen day, all in their carefully selected order. And the two refrains repeat...
"And God said..." "...and it was good". 
This is a parody of their creation myth. And it's a challenge to it. This God is not to be compared to the scruffy random gods who create a universe through family squabbles. This is a God who, when he says it - it happens. Who really is in control. This is a God who creates a world that can be trusted to be coherent, consistent, understandable - and above all - good.

This is not a scientific treatise. This is an act of defiance. It's a piece of intellectual, religious and philosophical rebellion. These are words of liberation. It's an act of trust in God who created everything, has power over everything, and holds everything in its place. So surely he's going to pull you through this as well. Who can "sing a song in a strange land", as it says it Psalm 137? You can. And you can share it with your friends as you wait out your days in exile. And you can pass it on to your children's children, as age after age they sing the song "How Long, O Lord"?

Around 700 years later, a man called John is looking for the words to express the amazing things that the Church has seen. And he looks at this passage and he sees the creative power of God's word, and he realises. And he writes - "In the beginning... was the Word." And he says - we saw the God who created the heavens and earth. He was here among us.

And 2000 years after that, some people who can't cope with logic and science decide it's God's manual for how to make a world.

But for the rest of us, it's not that.  It's the story of a God who makes a world that's ordered; that's functional; that's consistent; that's good; that's the story of a faith and a life worth living.

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