Chapter One: The Story, “Two Big Bangs”
September 11, 2016
Pastor Kim Blocher, Zion UCC
In the beginning, God. God, always an overachiever, trendsetter, and first on the scene—came to a place that was formless, void of life, dark, and empty. Scripture says that the spirit of God was “brooding” or “hovering” over this place. The Message puts it like this: “God’s Spirit brooded like a bird over the watery abyss.” I guess God was coming up with a plan for a universe. At this point, God isn’t just the main character, God is the only character. Or, we should say, God as part of the Trinity. Maybe God just wanted company, or maybe the mind of God is even more vast and unfathomable than the universe God created. We don’t know why it happened we just know it happened.
So God spoke the world into existence. And God, let there be light. And God spoke in a very loud voice. God did not use his inside voice. It was a big booming bang that still reverberates through the universe. This is the Upper Story of God creating the world and casting a vision that will eventually encompass all of life. This is the Big Bang.
Of course, that is just a scientific theory, but it’s the one that I happen to think best encompasses what we read in Genesis. The basics of the Big Bang theory are fairly simple. In short, the Big Bang hypothesis states that all of the current and past matter in the Universe came into existence at the same time, roughly 13.8 billion years ago. At this time, all matter was compacted into a very small ball with infinite density and intense heat called a Singularity. Suddenly, the Singularity began expanding, and the universe as we know it began.
After the initial expansion, the theory maintains that the Universe cooled sufficiently to allow the formation of subatomic particles, and later simple atoms. Giant clouds of these primordial elements later coalesced through gravity to form stars and galaxies. The best guess is that there one hundred billion galaxies. I did say that God was an over-achiever!
Many people believe in a literal interpretation of the Creation story and the subsequent chapters of Genesis. And that would, depending on how you read it, point to a very young earth…maybe 10,000 years old. There is a museum dedicated to creationism in Kentucky that has dinosaurs roaming the earth with Adam and Eve. That is not my belief –and we are not here to defend or debate creationism vs evolution. You are free to believe as you choose. And I do happen to believe that one can read Genesis with religious integrity and believe either way.
(A recent report in the NY Times said that Geologists have discovered in Greenland evidence for ancient life in rocks that are 3.7 billion years old. The find, if confirmed, would make these fossils the oldest on Earth and may change scientific understanding of the origins of life. They are thought to be stromatolites, layers of sediment packed together by microbial communities living in shallow water. That means that life formed pretty soon after the origin of the earth.)
To me, the relevance of Genesis is not as a scientific guide to how life formed on earth. Nor should it be a barrier to our faith if we have more of a scientific, evolution-based understanding of creation. Genesis is there to point to our magnificent Earth and the vast love of its Creator. To just look at the beauty of this world is, for me, evidence of Divine life. It’s just so mysterious, complex, and it just all works so well. For me, there has to be a divine blueprint in its design.
For instance, I’ve read that green plants evolved around 500 million years ago. Flowering plants appeared around 250 million years ago, which is about the same time as the insects appeared that pollinate those plants. Which came first? I don’t know, but I do know that it’s a dandy arrangement. The whole photosynthesis thing is nothing short of amazing. 6 molecules of carbon dioxide, 6 molecules of water and some energy from the sun and presto! You have sugar and oxygen. The plants make their own food, and in the process make some for us as well. To say nothing of the fact that green plants are the lungs of our world.
Let’s face it, we have a good thing going here in Creation. But going back to God and God’s initial motivation for such an ambitious project. As Pastor Randy Frazee puts it, Creation is really the mother of all science fair projects. Maybe God desired some companionship. Maybe the Trinity wanted some new partners in the perichoretic dance.
Here is scripture’s second account of Creation: Genesis 2:5
In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’
Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.’ So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
‘This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman,
for out of Man this one was taken.’
Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.
The upper story meets the lower story! The lower story is our story, as it begins with Adam and Eve. And what a wonderful life it was in that garden. It was a life of joy and innocence. There was no shame because there was no disobedience. And there was no disobedience because Adam and Eve never thought of themselves as separate from God or the created order of the world.
But God is nothing if not wise about the ways of the world, and the ways of people. God does not force relationship. God does not want us to be slaves, God wants companions. God gave us freedom to be in relationship with him or to opt out, and go it alone. To provide a way for Adam and Eve to accept or reject his divine vision, God set two trees in the garden. One was the tree of life and which bore fruit that when eaten would sustain life forever. The other was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
In this account of creation, our story is intimately connected to these two trees.
The tree of life is here in the beginning of the Story and it is there at the end of the story in Revelation. “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of Life…flowing from the throne of God…on either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruits and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”
But guess which tree pulled those first people towards it? I bet Adam and Eve couldn’t stop from giving that forbidden tree and its fruit side-wise glances. We are told that the serpent appeared before Eve and told her that she and Adam could eat from the forbidden tree, and then they would be like God. This made good sense, so they ate the fruit and the tree lived up to its name. They now knew good and evil
The First Sin and Its Punishment: Genesis 3
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.” ’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent tricked me, and I ate.
And that choice, the choice to disobey God, still echoes through our lives today. Some would say it’s in our very DNA. The way I’ve heard it put is that good looks out for others, whereas evil looks out only for its self. And that selfishness, self-centeredness, is the root of all evil that we see unleashed in the world: anger, lust, jealousy, greed, violence. We see in this chapter of The Story that this place of joy and innocence is now one of fear and hiding.
This is the second big bang….the Fall. And the echoes of that Fall from grace still reverberate through our world.
And God has to make a decision. According to Randy Frazee, God, being God, makes the most merciful decision possible. Adam and Eve had to leave the garden because there was no place for sin in a perfect community. If God let the couple stay in the Garden, they would live forever in a fallen, sinful state. That would be too cruel. So God adjusted the plan. We can still walk with God. But we now live a normal lifetime, and then we die. But God’s plan was still unfolding, even way back then. And eventually a way would be found for us, imperfect as we are, to still enjoy eternal life in the company of God.
But that part of the Story has not yet unfolded, and there is a lot that happens between now and then. Stay tuned to Chapter Two, when God lays the groundwork for a whole new covenant with God’s People.
 This idea is developed by Randy Frazee in his commentary on The Story, The Heart of the Story.