The Bible in One Year
Today begins our church challenge of reading the Bible in one year. I am very excited about this commitment to dig into the word of God together as a congregation. As part of my spiritual discipline I will be writing a blog each day that comments on the readings and asks questions that we can all ponder together. The links to the NRSV translation of each scripture can be opened by clicking the scripture lessons for each day.
Day 1: Genesis 1-3; Matthew 1
“In the beginning” what a great way to start! Today’s passages from Genesis cover the creation of the earth. The first chapter gives us an account of creation beginning ex nihlio- or from nothing. This account is referred to as the priestly account. It confirms the goodness of all of creation including humanity. This first chapter offers us a glimpse of the complete power, majesty and creativity of our God. There is an emphasis on God’s active work each day of creation and a declaration of its “goodness.”
Why do you think God calling creation good is mentioned in Genesis?
There is something poetic and artistic about this first chapter. It is a scene of the cosmos, the whole of the universe, yes, but as you continue you find you zoom in on more and more detail, until finally you are focused on the human beings that dwell on this earth. God is big enough to create an infinite universe, yet small enough to have crafted humankind in God’s own image.
What does it mean to be created in God’s own image? How does this idea affect you and the way you see yourself and others?
This chapter wraps up the Priestly creation story with an account of Sabbath. God rested on the seventh day, the priestly writer tells us. This gives great importance to the idea of Sabbath. It is natural that the priestly source would have included this as Sabbath and Sabbath keeping would have been one of the biggest concerns for the priests.
Sabbath keeping is still an important part of our faith. Taking a day to rest, to reflect on the goodness of God and to worship God is central to Christian worship.
How do you keep Sabbath? What ways do you need to improve your Sabbath keeping?
As chapter 2 continues, we are lead into the Yahwist account of creation. Breathe, yes, there are two creation stories, and that is okay. At the time of the collection of these stories, which would later become known as the Torah, first 5 books of the Bible, there was a need to share truth with one another. However, the ideas of science and verification as we know them did not exist. What we have here are traditions from two different sources that the editors of Genesis found enough truth within to include in the story of the faith.
Do not let your heart be troubled by two creation accounts. One is an account that explains the big picture. The second explains how humanity came into relationship with God and lost its sinless “goodness.”
In this second account of creation, the order of creation is presented in a completely different way. The heavens and earth have been created, but man is created before the animals, or even the garden. I think this places a focus on God’s relationship to humanity. God care so much about this creature created in God’s own image, that God orders all of creation around him.
In this account we hear of man naming the creatures all in search of a helpmate. Finally God decides to create a new helpmate for man, one that is more suitable than the beasts and birds. Man calls her woman because she came from him. God sends them out into the garden.
With which version of the creation story are you most familiar? Which one speaks to you about God’s actions?
That is where the trouble begins, in the garden. The woman meets a serpent who is cunning and can talk. This serpent asks the woman if they can eat at all from the trees of the garden. What follows is an exchange that leads to the woman eating the forbidden fruit and giving it to her husband, who was with her. (I feel the need to point this out because to me it brings a case against her “tricking” him into eating it and leads more to a case of him using her as a Guinea Pig, but I digress)
What have you been taught about the fall of man? How has it informed your faith?
What follows is almost comedic, as they hide from God and then, once discovered, how they play the blame game. “I blame the woman, I blame the serpent, which you God created” God is having none of it. Strict sanctions are imposed and all suffer the consequences.
But then, in an act of grace, God sends them out of the garden. Why do I call it grace? God does not desire them to live an eternal life in their sinfulness. Therefore God banishes them and keeps that fate worse than death away from them. It is at this point that the woman and man are named Adam and Eve.
Have you ever thought of the banishment from the garden as graceful? How does that inform your ideas about the “God of the Old Testament”?
Genealogies are so hard! Why would Matthew start of his Gospel with so many begets? The first 17 verses are enough to make you put the book back down, but don’t! These are important words. These generations link Jesus back to David, back to Abraham. They place Jesus just in the spot he needs to be in order to fulfil the ideals of the promised Messiah.
Why do you think it important to talk about Jesus’ genealogy? What is interesting about Jesus’ genealogy?
Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth is not the same as the beloved passages from Luke 2. Here there are no shepherds, no heavenly chorus. Here we have Joseph told in a dream about Mary’s pregnancy and he remains faithful to her. Jesus is born.
What stands out to you in this birth narrative? What can you learn about Jesus and his family from these verses?
That’s all for our first readings.
I promise not to be so wordy in my other reflections! Tell me what you think or ask questions in the comments section below.
Grace and Peace my friends!