Meditation on Genesis One

My church asked me to write and record a short video giving some thoughts on Genesis One. Here is the text of my talk:

Genesis 1 for Glenkirk Church   August 2010

When I look at the first few chapters of Genesis, I like to pretend that I am Steven Spielberg, I like to think about how I would make a movie about something as great as the very beginning of ALL creation. It’s so epic, so dramatic, so huge in scope, and there’s so much spectacle. It’s like something George Lucas would do, or Peter Jackson. It’s all larger than life, like Cecil B. DeMille or something. I don’t know: maybe it’s a job for Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay and James Cameron all put together.

Think like a director:  the earth is formless and empty, and darkness is over the surface of the deep.  The Spirit of God is hovering. There is a swell of music, and the air trembles. You hear a voice say, “Let there be light!” And the light separates out from the darkness.

Planets emerge, big ones, small ones, and stars are kindled in the dark night sky. Sweep your camera in closer to one small round planet: And there’s that voice again, and it calls forth the land, and puts limits on the shores of the sea.

That voice. It’s the majesty of command, it’s a mighty warrior King who calls the shots, who calls creation into being and then orders it around. It’s a great big God a great big scene. You can almost hear the background music: you need something huge like that crazy sound track from the opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

So in the beginning, in Genesis, all creation gets called by name and sorted into its proper place. Then things really get moving. Plants. Fish. Animals. Living, breathing, squirming things all over the place. It’s all fruitful and it’s all multiplying, and God is loving it all and declaring it good.

So in my movie, in my movie in my head, right here in the story is where there comes this big dramatic pause. We’ve been watching all this creation bursting forth across the canvas of the universe, and then, without warning, the volume comes down, all the activity does a slow fade, the camera slowly swings up through the clouds into the sky, and there’s a little group of angels, white robes, big ol’ wings, looking around amazed and awed and sorta expectant: it’s as if they are all thinking, “Wow. Now THAT was really cool. What could possibly be next? “

There’s this pause. In my movie, it’s a really l-o-n-g pause. It’s almost a little awkward, that big old pause, and these angel guys are getting a little impatient, because all this has been so spectacular, so big so loud so extravagant. Things have just kept getting more interesting and more complicated and more and more beautiful, and now all of them are holding their breath because they know the finale is coming and they know that this is going to be something good.

In my movie, God smiles, and then he says something utterly astounding: LET US MAKE MAN IN OUR IMAGE.

What ?

The Hebrew word for make that is used here is a-sah. It is the most ordinary average everyday word there is for making things:  it’s like make a cup of coffee or make a sandwich or make a paper airplane or make a campfire or make a snowball.

A-sah a very ordinary word. But here—in Genesis One--it’s used to describe a really extraordinary project. God makes something that he says is really spectacular: he makes people, male and female, men and women, and God says that people are somehow a whole lot like him.

Created in the image of God. In the opening sentences of Genesis we’ve seen mountains and seas and planets and stars and whales and lady bugs and redwood trees all coming into being at the word of the Lord. They are all amazing, and God calls them good—but he doesn’t say anything about any of them being created in God’s image. God’s image isn’t like his reflection in a mirror or his shadow on the ground. It means “according the same pattern.” People are patterned or modeled after God in some way that is unique, unique among all created things.

This idea—that people, all people,  are created in the image of God—is so important that it is repeated four times in two verses.

In Gen 1: 26, you have the plan, “God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.”

Gen 1: 27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Bearing the image of God isn’t something based on my behavior, it’s not me on a good day: God’s image is woven right in to the fabric of my soul. It might get hidden, it might be obscured, but it’s there underneath all the time. It’s not some special status that I accumulate by good deeds or good behavior. And it’s not something I can lose if I happen to have a bad day. It’s there from the beginning, in the way I was made.

But I get stuck when I think too much about my own ability to be a living reflection of the image of God. C.S. Lewis helps me out a little here. In a famous sermon called “The Weight of Glory,” Lewis said that it is overwhelming for us to think too much about our own nature. So he encourages us to practice thinking constantly about the worth and value of each other. To practice it.  All day, every day, I come across people—in my neighborhood or grocery store, at the gas station and at work, in my living room and in my church. And every single one was made in God’s image and bears something of God’s likeness in a way that is different from any other big huge amazing things that God has made, different somehow, and more spectacular than the mountains and the seas and the stars in the sky.

I’m sure I don’t know all that is wrapped up in this big idea of being created in the image of God. But I do know that for God, it’s very personal. And God is very hands-on in the process. And when God looks at what He has made, he declares that the result is very, very, very, very good.

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