We as a people, from the beginning of time, have always been curious about our origins. For thousands and thousands of years, we have asked the fundamental questions, “Where did we come from? How did our story as humans begin?”
And these aren’t just questions to satisfy our curiosity, they are also questions that help us understand our very identity as humans.
Because the story of how humanity came to be, it matters.
Because the story itself - shapes the way we view ourselves, our lives, and each other.
And so every culture has always had a story - about what happened, “In the Beginning”
At the time when Genesis 1 & 2 were written, they were two stories among many about how the world began.
In Atra-hasis – the story written by the Akkadians – in the same time frame as the Epic of Gilgamesh – tells a story of how creation exists to be slaves to the Gods.
And in the story of Enuma Elish, the Mesopotamian myth of creation – the drama is all centered on the god Marduk and his defeat of the sea monster so that he can create the world out of her corpse and then elevate himself to supreme status - the real point of the story.
These stories of creation that would have been well known at the time the Genesis narratives were written, emphasized the primary ideas of the time – that the world of humanity and the world of the gods were VASTLY separate.
And the power. All the power. Lay with the Gods. Humanity was without power, without dignity, and without great purpose outside of the changing whims of the Gods. Humanity’s purpose, if there was one, was to be a slave to the will of the Gods.
As we talked about last week, the view of the nature of life was a circle. History wasn’t really going anywhere. Things kept repeating themselves. What was had always been and always would be.
But the story of the first Jewish communities began to break that cycle. As we talked about last week, the story of Abraham began a series of stories – that built a new community of people who seemed to suggest that God was something else entirely.
That God was actually doing a NEW THING. Relating to the people. And taking them SOMEWHERE.
The Old Testament is a compilation of writings past down for centuries, that was later edited and compiled into its present day form.
After the Israelites were taken into exile and then later returned to their land, the editors and the scribes began to piece together the key stories of the people into an orderly account.
And they made the decision to start the story with not one – but 2 accounts of creation.
And as you heard the two stories read this morning – I hope you could hear the differences.
In Genesis 1 – how is it that God creates?
With a word.
God is portrayed as this cosmic creator, distant from creation and deeply powerful.
Creation happens in a very orderly fashion. It is intentional. It is progressive. Each day something new is revealed. God commands the chaos and creates the stars and the heavens and the Earth. And the culmination of God’s good work is the creation of what?
Us. Humanity. Made in God’s image.
It is as if God is conducting a great symphony and each movement proceeds along with great beauty and order until we reach the crescendo of the symphony – in the creation of humans. And then the conductor decides to rest
Genesis 2 gives us a very different story.
The story begins with God creating humans from what?
There is this image of God – not far away and distant, but present, actually present, getting dirty in the mud – putting his hands into the muck and creating – using the materials that are there.
And the human comes alive when God does what – breathes into us the breath of life.
Another word for breath is Spirit.
This God walks along in the garden and gives Adam, whose name simply means – man, work to do. Real, meaningful work to do –
To participate with God in blessing and naming the other animals.
And to live in community, with his partner, Eve.
The stories are very different, but the choice made by our editors to put them together – side by side - tells a VERY important story – about WHO GOD IS and about WHO WE ARE.
A God who is BOTH – powerful enough to bring order to the chaos, to speak a word and bring the stars into existence, and yet also present enough to get hands dirty in the mud. A God who is both watching over us, and a God who is walking in the garden with us.
In both stories – the heart of the story is the creation and purpose of humanity.
We are at the center.
And our creation wasn’t to become pawns or slaves.
This is a God who invites us to be PARTNERS.
We are created as a people with real, purposeful work to do.
Not just to keep things going as they’ve always been going, but for the ongoing work of creation.
The language used in Genesis 1 is that we would be stewards.
We are entrusted with the future of creation, which assumes that the
The story is headed somewhere – things won’t be static and remaining the same.
And that The future has infinite possibilities
We have a very special role to play for
This is a God who has breathed into us the breath of life and has made us “IN GOD’S IMAGE.”
The language about the “image of God” was language that would have been familiar to the people of the day. In the ancient near East, many different cultures claimed that their Kings and their rulers – the people of great authority and power – were made in the “image of God.”
But in this story – we are ALL made in the image of God.
When God saw all that God had made – God said –
It is GOOD. It is VERY GOOD.
In a world that held humanity in such low esteem, Genesis 1 & 2 proclaim instead that
We are BLESSED.
Ours wasn’t a haphazard existence.
We are BLESSED.
We are made in the image of God.
We are partners with God.
We have a purpose.
Our story begins with our BLESSEDNESS.
The story will continue in the chapters to come. And as we know – the story of humanity has its fair share of brokenness.
But the editors of the story made sure that the start of the story began with the clear message.
That we are fundamentally, in our core identity, we are BLESSED.
That is ALWAYS where our story begins.
This idea was so completely unlike any idea at the time.
It was an enormous shift.
It was – as we spoke about last week – an EPIPHANY.
A new insight, a new revelation, an “aha” moment in how they saw the world and themselves.
To see your life not as random = but as purposeful.
To see yourself not as powerless pawn caught in the drama of the Gods – but as a BLESSED creation, made in the image of God.
In this day and age, we like to think we have come a long way since the days of primitive culture.
But I find in my work today that we need the reminder of our blessedness just as much today as we ever have in the history of humanity.
I was watching a great advertisement that was done by a company that makes products for women. And in the first part of the add, they interviewed adults – women and men – and they asked them to “run like a girl” – and each of them had their own variety of how they responded – but they acted ridiculously, they ran with giggling, silliness, and slowly.
In the second part of the ad, they asked some 6-8 year old girls to run like a girl and every one of them got a serious look on their face and began running as fast as they possibly could.
When the producers asked the younger girls what it meant to “run like a girl” – they said – it meant to run as fast as they could – to do the best that they could possibly do.
I think about what happens in small and sometimes enormous ways from the time a young lady is 6 to the time she is my age at 37 – that begin to make her question her own blessedness. As a female and as a human being.
I think about our young African-American boys here at Summit, who do not yet have anything associated with the color of their skin. And I think about what will happen in small and big ways as they journey toward adulthood – that will begin to make them question their own blessedness, as an African-American, as a male, and as a human being.
I think about the nephew of one of our members here, who is beginning to discover his own identity as a gay teenager. And I think about what will happen in small and big ways as he journeys toward a full understanding of his sexual orientation – that will begin to make him question his own blessedness, as a gay man, and as a human being.
It is true for all of us.
Every day there are stories being told, systems set up in place, and people in our lives that will call into question our own blessedness.
And so we must return to our story. The story of how we came to be. Over and over again.
We remember the epiphanies of the past. We must remind each other that our story begins with BLESSEDNESS.
Part of our job as a community – is to remind each other of this story on the days when we forget it.
And to ask one another -
Do you know how very BLESSED you are?
Do you know that you are a person made with intention, care, purpose, and love?
The beginning of our story is a broad declaration of blessedness.
Which tells us that this is a story that is headed somewhere.
There might be some twists and turns – some places on the journey of brokenness, pain, and hurt.
But a story that begins with our God given status of BLESSED –
It is a story that is ultimately headed toward beauty and joy and wholeness.
May you be reminded in a deep and powerful way – the story of your own blessedness.
The story of OUR blessedness.
And may you carry that with you in the way you honor yourself and the way you honor your fellow brothers and sisters.
May it be so.