Act 1 of the Bible – Genesis 1 v1 – 2 v3

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It won’t be the first time we read Genesis 1 together, but this might be a different interpretation than most of us are used to. These perspectives don’t need to conflict, however. Rather, I would say these thoughts complement each other. In 2009, John Walton published a book, ‘The Lost World of Genesis One’, and here, I want to share the main idea with you as a starting point for a small series of ‘Thoughts for the Day’.

John Walton proposes that what’s going on in Genesis 1, is that God organises an enormous temple, the entire cosmos, as a place for God to be enthroned. In our Western world of today we are very used to thinking about matter and material things. For us, the story of Genesis is often a story of ‘matter’. What did God create? What did He create it from? When kids get to school, they have already absorbed this ‘what is real is what I can touch’ way of thinking as the only option. Our culture often questions whether things exist if they are not tangible; a lot of people nowadays struggle with the idea of an invisible God who acts.

For the ancient people to whom this text was first written, this sort of doubt would have been alien. It was obvious to them that without the sustaining power of God, nothing could exist. If you unplug God at the mains, so to speak, poooff, everything else would be gone too. The thought of splitting things up into ‘the real tangible stuff’ and the ‘fluffy God stuff’ was inconceivable. Their worldview was not ‘material’ but rather ‘functional’: Something exists when it is carrying out a purpose. For people in this world, creation happened when God spoke order and purpose over the unproductive and chaotic waters and decreed what was to be the new order: A period of light (day), followed by darkness (night) to begin time. A weather system around the edges, expressed in ways that would make sense to the readers. A place for food to grow on the earth. Then after these fundamental functions had been put in place, God told the lights in the sky to function as indicators of time. Then the birds and fish given the purpose of multiplying. And animals on the earth. It was ordered this way to be a perfect home for human beings who were given additional purposes apart from multiplying – namely to steward and to carry God’s image. All this had been put in place, it worked according to plan, it functioned so it was, and it was very good. Once all the ‘doing’ and ‘making’ was done, on the 7th day, God rested but not in the sense we’re used to thinking.

God rests by effortlessly exercising His reign over creation. God’s activity without opposition is ‘rest’. There was no trouble, so God reigned in shalom/peace. Authority and power would go out from Him to smoothly keep things going as they were meant, to benefit the people He had entrusted to co-rule with Him. If we think of every day of the 7-day week being a day of creation of purpose, function, role, meaning, order, the 7th day suddenly becomes the most glorious day of them, as this is where God is enthroned. Only as the Creator God sits down in His enormous temple, does creation find its true purpose. Creation is not fully created until that moment when God makes this huge cosmos His temple, His home, His dwelling-place. It is a blessed day of going from the work of ordering and creating to the work of exercising His rule in peace.

God wants to be understood. He is eager to reveal Himself, and so He speaks in images we can at least begin to fathom although sometimes the mind still boggles. In a culture where temples were universally seen as dwelling places of the divine, places where heaven came to rule over earth and needy deities were served by humans, of course God would speak in familiar language. But what God says in that language is shocking! 3 points: 1. That unlike what other cultures believed at the time, people are not there to meet God’s needs. The whole creation is optimised for human beings and God’s care for us is built into the very order of creation.  2. Other temples have picture of God at the centre. God’s massive temple has us as His image-bearers and co-rulers. 3. That God fills this entire cosmic temple of creation with His glory. On day 8, 9, 10, 11…, God is still resting with us, actively and peacefully going about the business of being God, ruling, decreeing, giving life, keeping things working. So far, so very good. Will it stay that way?                      -Misha

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I do

I do, she said,
never fully understanding the question.
I do, she did,
as best she knew how in a wayward stumble.
I do, she leapt,
but never too high for fear of heights.
I do, she wept,
but never for a moment reconsidering.
…because Love.

And He said:
The price is this,
that you will never
be able to share
what you see
although your heart
will burn to do so.

And she said:
…because Love.

Then silence.

…because.

Love.

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Prayer

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I want to pray but how do you articulate flowers
and what’s the melody of cuddles and clouds and care?
I’ve not given up on words, it is just that the hours
swell with the sort of love that won’t fit anywhere.

My heart doesn’t quite know how to contain it,
whether ‘it’ is the dull ache of grief or the sweetness of awe,
and whether the matter in mind is loss or gain, it
leaves a trace of His beauty, unspoken and raw.

And so, when my words run out and my syllables stutter
and that which the Spirit prays is a Name, not a phrase,
I gather whatever remains of my self in a flutter
and land like a butterfly on a flower of praise.

And if you believe that is prayer, you are right to say so
and join me in ways that are only revealed by grace.
And if there is such a thing as a God-given tan,-go
and dance on the hillside in the sunlight of His face.

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Breeze

Curtains breathing deeply
The sea wind carries songs
The hillside rises steeply
and my memory longs
to hear you whistle cheerfully
from ash and oak and elm.

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After-thought

Those were the dreams
those were the battles
hard-won and peace-less
like stolen joy.

Those were the benefits
those were the triumphs
savoured in endless hours
of speechless praise.

And here I am.
And there you are.
Journeys later
no sea parted
mountain still stands
and oceans vast
still filled with love
not ink.

Those were the plans
those were the twists and turns.
And whatever the plot was,
I have lost it.

But in the middle of the unkempt
garden stands a cross:
The tree of the knowledge
of good and evil.

I wish I knew.
I know nothing
but you here
with me.

And that, perhaps,
is all I need to know.

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Dancing Rock

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You, Dancing Rock, on which we stand,
unchanging, ever new,
in all our trembling unafraid,
as changing seasons bloom and fade
we enter clouds inside to ask of You
the gift of trust half-hidden in Your hand.

You dance along the pathway of a child,
our single Source of song,
as holy as alone the Whole can be.
And seeking wholeness, gingerly,
we enter the unknown and fall headlong
as injured we are healed. Ah, Grace is wild.

You, Dancing Rock, on which we fall,
and crushed are taught to stand,
in all our changing, constantly
relating, bonding, caring, free,
Your invitation is an open hand
and powder-fine the whisper of your call.

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The Grand Weaver

Dear God, you allowed Psalm 88
to make it onto the pages of the book they say you wrote,
and the 39th estranged cry from the king who spoke
when he said that crushing silence was his ghostly fate.

Would you mind a lot, Most High,
if I tell You that from down here the pattern isn’t clear
and that for all Your intricate weaving I fear
that either this is madness or just infinite pi in the sky.

It’s not that I don’t want to. I do.
It’s hiraeth upon saudade upon sehnsucht, You see.
The problem is not You. It obvious, it’s me,
and my lack of ability to forget myself and love You.

So where do we go from here?

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MOTHER TONGUE

I want to keep a conversation going
but my words sound
like recordings
of past conversations,
like the centuries
stored up
in the royal pronunciation,
the stifled reruns
of jokes that used to be funny,
the shared frame of reference
which is now antiquated
and the moving image
inside it
slows to a painful pause
as I search the walnut
that is my brain
for words.

Words I know I know
but they are not there.

Words I know I need
but they don’t come.

Never have I been so
quietly defeated.

I try to remember the word
for every day objects.

I try to point out the car window,
ask about things,
direct someone’s attention
but a poet’s eloquence
is reduced to a stuttering,
frustrated,
silent,
‘that thing that does….’

…and no one fills in the blank.

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Memory

I was here when that chestnut was grown from a conker
and the Paul’s Scarlet was a smaller thorny red spleen,
before a time lapse could record every sunset
and replay them in salmon and rose and golden and green.

I was here when poetry wrote itself in another language
in notebooks behind the graveyard where dead flowers go.
I was here when the sea covered all the fields, and I cycled
through the ocean on a pushbike where thrift and marram grass grow.

I was here and my heart recorded the windswept dreams
of a westward gaze over waves, and foam, and fears.
I was here speaking words I now barely recall
but I still carry all the years.

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Once upon a time

There is an absence etched in this place
of the jasmine that used to grow here
and the bark of a dog that went mad
and the innocence I insist was here, once.

There is an absence imprinted on my heart,
thick with descriptions written longhand
with a tool called an ethnograph:
blunt one end, and unplesantly sharp at the other.

There is an absence. Listening for a note
in the far recesses of a roofless cathedral
deep as a floor bass humming towards its target
humble and suddenly high-pitched, a Lancaster clearing the dunes.

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