Patrick O’Boyle, the Archbishop of Washington, D.C. who delivered the benediction for President Truman’s inauguration and the invocation for the March on Washington in 1963 – remembers being in London in the late 1940’s at the “Speakers’ Corner” in Hyde Park. At the “Speakers’ Corner” anyone can set up shop and speak about anything they wish.
On the day O’Boyle was in Speakers Corner there was a gentleman describing the extraordinary order and design to be seen in the universe. A persistent challenger heckled him. Pointing to all the world’s ills the heckler shouted: “I could make a better universe than your God!”
To which the speaker replied: “I won’t ask you to make a universe, but could you just make a Rabbit – to establish confidence?”
We come to days six and seven of creation as described in the first of two creations stories in Genesis. God creates rabbits and every living creature and then creates humanity. After all of this creating, God rests.
As I said last week, we misread the scripture if we think this is a scientific description of reality or a historical description of how it all came to be; there is something more deep and wondrous in this text that calls us to lean into it and dig deep.
However, Marilynne Robinson in her book, Death of Adam, writes about Genesis:
“If ancient people had consciously set out to articulate a worldview congenial to science, it is hard to imagine how, in the terms available to them, they could have done better. And in fact, Judeo-Christian culture has been uniquely hospitable to science.”
I wish more Christians and scientists believed this.
There is something very contemporary and true about the story of the unfolding of creation. We search the horizons at the shore line in awe and wonder; we look up at the sky un-polluted by urban areas and the expanse is mind-blowing, we see a child born, we experience love and we realize how small we are and how vast creation is. The Hubble photographs show what we already believe and proclaim as Christians – “O Lord, My God! When I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds thy hands have made, I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, thy power throughout the universe displayed. Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, How great Thou art!”
And the words of verse 26: “Then God said: ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness….so God created humankind in the divine likeness and image, in the image of God, God created them; male and female God created them” are likewise contemporary and true.
It wasn’t until the early 20th century that women could vote. The glass ceiling is still in place for women. Patriarchy still reigns. Fifty years ago today at the 16th St. church in Birmingham, Alabama a bomb exploded in a black church killing little girls because some white folk didn’t believe that black folk were created equal, were in the divine likeness and image… and so the struggle continues. But here in Genesis – written thousands of years ago – God creates in equity and unity. There is no hint here of patriarchy or gender politics, just divine delight in creation of form and person: all are in the likeness and image of God; all have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air.
And of course, “dominion” – so misinterpreted over the centuries – means to be responsible for, to be in communion with, to take care and nurture. For just as God loves, we love. Just as God cares, we care. Just as God delights, we delight. Environmental stewardship and gender equality here at the beginning of it all!
Before the mystery of sin and rebellion, before – there is something more fundamental – you and I in the likeness and image – divine creatures – created to be in sync with our Creator, created to be in sync with the earth and all other creatures. This is who we really are!
As Eugene Peterson writes: “We who are made in the ‘image’ of God have as a consequence, imag-ination. Imagination is the capacity to make connections between the visible and the invisible, between heaven and earth, between present and past, between present and future. For Christians, whose largest investment is in the invisible, the imagination is indispensible, for it is only by means of the imagination that we can see reality whole, in context.”
And Albert Einstein once said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” It is what you can imagination that is a divine attribute.
In the midst of terror, we imagine a world where peace reigns – that is divine. In the midst of bombings – Dr. King and others imagined another way – the kingdom of God. In the midst of death, we imagine a life beyond – that is godlike. In the midst of scaring the earth and threatening our very existence with pollution and weapons of mass destruction – we have the ability to imagine – and we can move towards that which we hope for, as the sunflower moves with the sun – this is the creative imaginative power that God has given you and me. I pray that we would use it more!
I know that some Christians hold the “total depravity of humanity” to be the starting place. But underneath the rock is the moving lava of divine power – you and I are not depraved – we have the capacity to be divine, if we would but use it.
When you are loving – you reflect your divine nature.
When you are creating – you are showing your heritage as a beloved of God.
When you are forgiving – you are with the angels.
When you see the divine image in yourself and in others – this is God in action.
We waste so much time judging ourselves, sometimes even hating ourselves and judging others and separating people by how we look, and how much money we make, and where we went to school, and what is our zip code and area code, and who our mamma was.
But Genesis 1 teaches when we see the divine likeness in ourselves and others, then we are just a little lower than the gods. You can claim that divinity now!
I remember my mother telling me this story many years ago when she was an aide in a kindergarten class. There was a little brat of a kid. Mom didn’t like him. He was a pain. It took all my mother’s will power not to “let him have it!” So Mom goes to the teacher and says, “How do you do it? You always seem to be able to handle him.”
The teacher said my Mom, “Each day I salute the Christ in him.”
Saluting the Christ in others, saluting the Christ in yourself is how you and I proclaim and reclaim our divine likeness and image!
And then God rests…creates space within space and time, and stops, and just is. God contemplates. The word “contemplates” comes from the Latin “templum” meaning a space for observation. God observes and rejoices. And God creates a template for your life.
I know these words of Elton Trueblood to be true: “We cannot reasonably expect to erect a constantly expanding structure of social activism upon a constantly diminishing foundation of faith. Attention to the cultivation of the inner life is our first order of business, even in a period of rapid social change.”
Sabbath is so important to you and to me, and yet so often I give it up. I lose a sense of my own boundary. I define Sabbath broadly – but the pause that refreshes is another sign of our divine likeness and image. We become so engaged in achieving and accumulating that we forget the inner value, “the rapture,” as Joseph Campbell writes, “that is associated with being alive!”
These last verses in Genesis 1 should not be overlooked. They show us the way to be both more human and more divine; they encourage imagination and appreciation of self and others; they invite us to the balance of rest and Sabbath – to contemplate and create; they call us back to who we really are and whose we really are – and we need to reclaim and be reclaimed – because life awaits – and I need to know.