Sermon Notes

September 9th 2018

Thoughts on the Sunday School Lesson September 9th

he Creation / Genesis 1:1-13 (NRSV/MSG)

1 14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

20 And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” 21 So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

MSG
1 14-15 God spoke: “Lights! Come out! Shine in Heaven’s sky! Separate Day from Night. Mark seasons and days and years, Lights in Heaven’s sky to give light to Earth.” And there it was.

16-19 God made two big lights, the larger to take charge of Day, the smaller to be in charge of Night; and he made the stars. God placed them in the heavenly sky to light up Earth. And oversee Day and Night, to separate light and dark. God saw that it was good. It was evening, it was morning—Day Four.

20-23 God spoke: “Swarm, Ocean, with fish and all sea life! Birds, fly through the sky over Earth!” God created the huge whales, all the swarm of life in the waters,
And every kind and species of flying birds. God saw that it was good. God blessed them: “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Ocean! Birds, reproduce on Earth!” It was evening, it was morning—Day Five.

24-25 God spoke: “Earth, generate life! Every sort and kind: cattle and reptiles and wild animals—all kinds.” And there it was: wild animals of every kind, Cattle of all kinds, every sort of reptile and bug. God saw that it was good.

INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND ON THE LESSON
This week’s lesson continues an exploration of the initial days of the creation of the world and its inhabitants as expressed by the Priestly writer in Genesis 1:1-2:4. Theological concerns stand at the center of this creation story, because it boldly asserts that God alone is singularly responsible for bringing the world into being. In stark contrast to other Ancient Near Eastern creation stories that present creation as a communal activity accomplished by numerous gods from a pantheon of diverse deities, the God of Genesis creates (bara in Hebrew) as a singular entity. Further, creation as word of God takes center stage in Genesis 1, as the Priestly writer/redactor reflects theologically on how the God of Israel shaped the cosmos and the earth by Divine speech.
Given the exilic or post-exilic context of the final redaction of Genesis, Divine creation by word would have been a comforting and empowering theological concept for exiled Israel. If “in the beginning” God could create by simply speaking, couldn’t God do the same thing again, to re-create a new world for the exiles who are essentially having to start over in a “strange land?” Or, in the case of the returned exiles, shouldn’t God speak again to recreate a new world in a homeland that had devolved into chaos and disorder under imperial rule? As with last week’s lesson, this lesson continues to delve into the creative activity of God who was concerned about Israel and “the lives of individuals and peoples long before Israel came into being.” Days four, five and six of creation underscore God’s creative activity with the world and God’s all encompassing, creating and sustaining love for the entire world and it inhabitants.

INTO THE VERSES
14-15 God spoke: “Lights! Come out! Shine in Heaven’s sky! Separate Day from Night. Mark seasons and days and years, Lights in Heaven’s sky to give light to Earth.” And there it was. 16-19 God made two big lights, the larger to take charge of Day, the smaller to be in charge of Night; and he made the stars. God placed them in the heavenly sky to light up Earth and oversee Day and Night, to separate light and dark. God saw that it was good. It was evening, it was morning—Day Four.
In verses 14-19, God commands the astral lights to appear—literally come in in the Message translation—and shine in the heavens. As a heavenly pair, the two lights (one large and one smaller) will serve as chronological time markers for seasons, days and years. However, their function has theological meaning beyond merely time-keeping. The Hebrew word for season, mowed, indicates a particular fixed time or season, and a festival or assembly, thus giving religious significance to the heavenly lights as divinely appointed keepers of liturgical or sacred times. The larger light—the sun—is given charge over days, and the smaller light—the moon—will keep charge over nights. The sun and moon not only separate light and dark, but they are also responsible for ruling (memshalah in Hebrew) the light and dark.
Further, it is important to note that unlike other ancient Near Eastern cosmological stories, in the Genesis account of creation, non-human actors are given charge over marking light and dark, day and night. Thus, non-human creation is just as responsible for keeping the balance of world as the human actors which will be created in the later part of this pericope. All of creation works together to keep the world in perfect equilibrium. After morning and evening conclude, God’s reflects upon Divine creative activity, and says it is good, and creative activity ceases on Day Four.
20-23 God spoke: “Swarm, Ocean, with fish and all sea life! Birds, fly through the sky over Earth!” God created the huge whales, all the swarm of life in the waters, And every kind and species of flying birds. God saw that it was good. God blessed them: “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Ocean! Birds, reproduce on Earth!” It was evening, it was morning—Day Five.
In verses 20-23, God speaks marine and animal life into existence. At the sound of the Divine voice, the oceans swarm with fish, whales and even sea monsters (as translated in the NRSV). The NRSV’s specific allusion to sea monsters (tanninim in Hebrew) is likely be a direct reference to the seas monsters that are mentioned in other ancient Near Easter creation stories which depict gods defeating the chaotic sea monster in order to create the world. By invoking this reference, the writer of Genesis makes it clear that even the primordial so-called “chaotic” sea monster is created by God and therefore subject to God’s command. After creating marine life, at Divine verbal imperative, all species of birds emerge and begin to fly all over the earth. God reflects on the creation of marine and aviary life and concludes that it is good. Then the living animals receive a Divine blessing. God says to them: prosper, reproduce and fill both the ocean and the earth with living kind after their own kind. Like the humans which will be created, determined good and blessed in Genesis 1:28, in verse 23, all marine and avian creation is Divinely good and Divinely blessed. For contemporary Christians, the Priestly creation account should serve as a reminder that all of God’s creation—regardless of race, sex, religion, financial status or social class—is Divinely good and Divinely blessed. Then the evening and morning marks the fifth day of creation—Day five.

24-25 God spoke: “Earth, generate life! Every sort and kind: cattle and reptiles and wild animals—all kinds.” And there it was: wild animals of every kind, Cattle of all kinds, every sort of reptile and bug. God saw that it was good.
In verses 24-25, the writer narrates the first half of the sixth day of Creation with specific focus on the invention of creatures which inhabit dry land, in contrast to the creatures formed on day five of creation which inhabited the water and the air. God speaks and the Earth begins to bring forth new life. All types of animals—cattle, reptiles, wild animals, insects, bugs—begin to live and generate new life. Then, as on all the other days of creation, God again has a conversation with the Divine self. After creating animal life of every kind to walk the earth, God reflexively reviews this earthly masterpiece and says, “It is good!” The fact that this lesson ends in the same way that last week’s lesson ends—with a Divine declaration of goodness—reminds contemporary Christians and modern-day readers that the whole of creation is intended to harmoniously co-exist with its co-inhabitants. All that is good, should seamlessly relate in goodness to each other; for God created it all and sustains it all.

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