Lesson 2 –
Genesis 1:1-5 NRSV
1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 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. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
The word “genesis” means beginning. The book of Genesis is a story about the beginning of the world. There are many stories about the Creation in other traditions; not everyone believes in the Christian story as the story. And that’s okay! In your devotional/research period, explore other Creation narratives. What do people all over the world believe about the beginning of the Universe? How much of this story we’ll read today do you believe, and how much of it makes you scratch your head?
Today’s lesson will focus on marveling at divine imagination.
Read the scripture out loud together. Discuss with someone in your home. When was the last time you played a childhood game?
What’s happening during this passage?
This is one account (of many) of the “beginning.” The earth was a “formless void.” All that existed lacked form and darkness covered everything. God, in the wind, swept over everything. God speaks and says, “let there be light” and it was so. God observes the goodness of the landscape. God categorizes these elements as “light” and “darkness.” The light became Day, and the Darkness (which already existed) was named Night. These first five verses describe the first day.
What can we take from this passage in the first month of this year?
We later find out that this is just one of many things that God designs in the Creation story. In this chapter, God creates the sky and atmosphere, vegetation and green things, celestial bodies, animals of the sea and sky, land animals and humanity. God did not do everything in one day. Even in the passage we read today, God just does one thing. And still, even that is a massive undertaking.
As the story goes, God simply observes the task ahead and makes a decision about how things should be. In seeing what should be, God names things. No one had named these elements before. But they had to be named so that God could move forward and advance with creation.
We do not know how this year will go. We can only set our intentions and be accountable to them. In this divine modeling, we see that God takes God’s time. Yes, we say that God created the Universe in 7 days. But each day depended on the day before. Each addition to the cosmos required an evaluation of what came before.
Where is the imagination here?
The text describes a “formless void.” Other ways to describe this reality is, “place of chaos,” “wasteland,” “wilderness,” “confusion.” One way to imagine the universe before creation is to believe there was nothing, or to say that there may have been emptiness. But what if Before Creation wasn’t empty? What if Before Creation was messy? Have you ever moved from one home to another? Chaos and emptiness sometimes go together. It takes time to imagine where the bed should go, how the clothes should be organized, where the shoes should go, what to do with the keys.
God uses God’s imagination and curiosity to find ways to put things in a sustainable place.
Divine imagination isn’t about things being in the “right” place. There is more than one right way for things to be. It’s about sustainability. Imagine if, in this story, God did everything in one day? Or if God put the humans on Earth before God put the vegetation down? What would they eat? How would they clothe and shelter themselves? Imagination is the mental space that lets us see what does not yet exist.
What questions do you still have of this scripture? How will you commit to journeying with this text this week?
CONNECTION TO TODAY’S WORLD
Lovecraft Country is a TV adaptation of a novel. It features otherworldly trips, gruesome monsters, Black families and White supremacists. In its most compelling episode, the story follows a character named Hippolyta on a quest across multiple dimensions. In one dimension, she’s on stage with Josephine Baker, and in another, she’s a Dahomey Warrior on the mother Continent. She even gets bounced to a dimension where her (late) husband lives, and she ends up in space with a God-creature. The God creature, named “I AM,” invites Hippolyta to “Name herself.” It’s a confusing invitation. “What do you mean?” She asks. And eventually, in outer space and among all the celestial bodies, Hippolyta screams, “I AM HIPPOLYTA.” The scene sent waves throughout viewers, because such a sight was rare. Never do we see Black women, let alone Black people, define their own story. Even within the series, colorist and fatphobic tropes dominated the plot. For Hippolyta, played by a brown, 50-something year old woman with curves, to have such a positive and imaginative story, so many other norms had to be disrupted. Her story compelled many viewers to wonder, “why don’t we get this kind of story more frequently? Why don’t we see actors like Aunjanue Ellis in more of these elastic roles?”
We can imagine plots, stories, movements, communities where we can lose the limitations placed on us.
Journal: Where is there chaos in your life? What do you need to set things in a sustainable order?
Closing: Listen to “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness, ” Lord, unto me!
Dear God, You have ordered the sun, moon, and stars in their courses above. You have created order where there was none and shuffled the things that needed to be shaken. We take our cue from you.
We are in need of imagination. We need the kind of imagination that can look into chaos and make sense of it. We are desperate, as individuals, as families, as a church, as a community, as a nation, as a world for the kind of imagination that can make a beautiful life where there was chaos. If we are to endure the chaos of this world, God, help us to dream our ways out of it.
The coming days are delicate. Encourage us to be creative and seek life where the world has counted it out. We know when we do this, we are co-creating with You.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.