Back to the Beginning – August 11, 2013
Genesis 1:1-5,26-30, John 1:1-14
August 11, 2013
A wise man once said, “You can’t know where you are if you don’t know where you started.” Actually, I’m not sure that’s true any more in the age of GPS. These days you can know where you are anywhere in the world to an accuracy of a few dozen feet! But I understand the sentiment. In any journey, or in the journey of life, it’s always good to look back and to know “from whence you’ve come.”
Well, a lot of people are doing that these days. For a number of years now, there has been a great interest in “beginnings.” I’m not sure how long ago that interest started, but I suspect it corresponded with the explosion in the use of home computers. Because nowadays there are many programs and databases out there which have made it easier for anyone to research and organize personal genealogies. So there’s been a considerable rise in the interest of beginnings, roots, and family histories. It has indeed become important to people to find out “who begat who.” (or whom.)
So let me take those words I started with and tweak them a little. I would say “You can’t know who you are, if you don’t know where you came from.”
Well, beginnings have also become important in the scientific world. Just in the last century, Edwin Hubble proved that the universe is expanding. Before that, scientists – including “good ol Al Einstein” – believed the universe to be “static.” That is, stationary. All matter – all the stars and planets and galaxies – “all that stuff,” was spread evenly through space. And it had always been that way! Then Hubble proved it was all flying apart by observing the light from stars. He saw in that light the same kind of shift we hear in the sound of a passing train. The sound drops as the train goes by, right?
Well, the upshot of Hubble’s discovery is that scientists now believe that the universe has not “always been that way.” At some point, it started! It had a beginning! And you see, that put the idea of a creation – even a creator – back on the table!
If you don’t know it already, I’m a very scientific minded guy. And this stuff fascinates me. But also, as a theologian, I have had to give it a lot of thought. Because we people of faith (you people of faith!) have been challenged in the age of science. haven’t we? Before that, before the Enlightenment, before Copernicus, and Galileo and all “those guys,” people simply looked to Genesis to know about beginnings. They looked to the words we read this morning. But in the modern era, we have been challenged to choose between Genesis and science. And too often it was believed that “never the twain shall meet.”
I’ve never been able to accept that, though. And I think a lot of people of faith feel the same way! And either they’ve simply ignored the controversy, or they’ve refused to make a choice. But for me, I have to wrestle with the issue. I have to put science and Genesis together. I have to hear all sides of it. And I feel pretty good about the whole thing.
So, let me start with what I think is the most important statement ever made about beginnings. And I believe this is what it all comes down to. The very first words of the Bible say, “In the beginning, God created.” That’s a great place to start, isn’t it! “But therein,” as Billy Shakespeare once said, “lies the rub.” Because, in the modern age, the greatest disagreement about beginnings has not been about the details of how things came to be, but about whether or not there is a God. That’s the heart of the controversy! Is there a creator, or has it all come about by pure chance?
Ever since our boy “Eddie Hubble” convinced the scientific world that there was a beginning, the scientific world has had to come to grips with that. And it’s been an interesting ride! Some scientists have held steadfastly – almost religiously, we might say – to the no God, pure chance way of thinking. Yet others, even some of the greatest scientific minds of our age – including “Al Einstein!” – have come to the conclusion that there has to have been a designer. On a number of occasions, Einstein spoke of his own “deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe.”
There’s the key! And many scientists have come around to this. The incomprehensible universe, the world with all its complexity, points to a designer. I believe you have to have more faith not to see God in creation! In fact, I think it takes an incredible amount of faith to think everything came about purely by chance. No! “In the beginning, God created!” And he’s been creating ever since!
Friends, that’s an important foundation for our understanding of the universe. And I know it’s not always easy to follow. There are a lot of people in the world who work under the assumption that everything has come about by chance. They even act and speak as though that’s a given, as though everyone accepts that. But we don’t have to! We can believe! We can say “God created!” Even Einstein held his ground on that. As one historian said, he held “unswervingly, against enormous peer pressure, to belief in a creator.”
God created! After that, it’s simply about the details. And if you think about it, sometimes the bigger struggle on this lies within the faith community. Among believers, you have the “young earthers” and the “old earthers.” Young earthers count up the numbers of years and the lists of generations they find in the Bible, and they come to the conclusion that the earth is less than ten thousand years old. I know some young earthers. And they’re wonderful people. But ‘Im more of an old earther. I still believe God created, but it’s more likely that the earth is closer to the age science has dated it. It’s somewhere on the order of 4.5 billion years old.
Which ever way you choose to believe, I hope the common ground is found in the first words of the Bible. “In the beginning, God created.” Whether we’re talking about six, twenty-four hour days of creation, or six ages, it’s still the powerful hand of God which did the work!
The other part of this is that the universe is indeed “incomprehensible!” (And there aren’t enough exclamation points to put there!) We read today only about two or three days of creation. I hope you’ll take some time and read the whole chapter, as well as the next – when God began to interact with his people. I hope you’ll also notice the refrain in the writers description of each days work. God “saw that it was good!”
That, my friends, is the greatest understatement in the Bible. God’s creating power is amazing! And that’s not an adequate word. If fact, I don’t think there are any words that can fully describe it! Though I think Einsteins word “incomprehensible” is pretty good. At any rate, I hope you’ll look around you in the coming week with that understanding. God’s creating power truly is incomprehensible! One writer said that, in creating the earth and the universe, “God was almost wasteful with beauty!!” And I think that’s true!
We often take that for granted, though, don’t we? God’s creation is staring us right in the face and we don’t notice. And then we have those moments when we do. We see some great sight, or we just come to a moment of realization. And we say, “How can anyone not believe?” Well, let’s keep that thought! Let’s know that we believe. Let’s make it our business to know, and to notice God’s powerful hand in our world, and in our lives. “In the beginning God created.” And he still does!
And to God be the glory, honor, and praise, now and forever.
God, you truly are eternal and your power is beyond our comprehension. Help us to see your hand in our world and in our lives, every day! Help us to know that we are yours, that you have made us, and that you have redeemed us. For these things we pray in Jesus name, Amen.