This week’s review of Feasting on the Word material:
- Thinking theologically about chaos and order in Genesis 1
- Encouragement for using small group discussions
- An online resource for crashing waves
- Wifi password
How do we explain chaos we experience in our lives, see in others’ lives or see in our world, today? In the same way, how do we explain the amazing order we find in creation and in our world? Our bodies are amazing examples of order. Also, if the earth’s orbit or axis varied just slightly, the earth wouldn’t be able to sustain life. We see incredible examples of order and chaos around us. So, how do we explain it? This question is one of the chief theological questions that all religions deal with and one that God, as made known to us in the Bible, doesn’t shy away from. God answers these pressing questions right at the beginning with the opening line:
“In the beginning, God…”
Before we can attempt to explain order and chaos, we have to start with our belief that before all of this, there was God. God brought life and order out of chaos and God called it good. The account of this process of bringing order out of chaos in Genesis 1 gives some detail to how God did this. The author describes God working over a period of days and creating the world through God’s voice. God speaks and there is life. We aren’t given any more detail than this. So, the scientific mind in each of us will be left unsatisfied with such scant detail. The point of Genesis 1 is not for God to let us in on the specifics of God’s creative work but to simply yet confidently state that it is God who did the creating. And also to point out that God invites his creation – men and women – into the creative process. We too are given the ability to create.
In Genesis 1, God creates humankind in God’s image. In some way, we resemble God. The ability to order and create are a couple of these attributes that resemble God. God gave humans the authority to rule over the rest of creation and to use his creation to continue to create. The theological implications of this belief leads us to ask how we have used our creativity and ability to rule and order since. Are we creative in relationship with God and in obedient faith in God? Or do we strike out on our own, distrusting God and believing that we can truly be in charge, alone? This is the outcome of the fall. Believing the serpent’s lie, that God did not have our best interest in mind, humans bought into the notion that they could order their own lives outside of God. Ironically, this re-introduced chaos into the world. Thus, we live with the tension of beauty and order in creation alongside chaos that sin introduced.
The author of the lesson refers to the Genesis account of creation as having been written during the days of the Babylonian exile. Many scholars, based on textual and archeological research, believe that much of the Old Testament came to its form during and after the Babylonian Exile. This is the first time that this culture, with its oral tradition, had to face the reality that being carried into a different culture may necessitate a written account of its history and how God has moved among them. Not that everything was written down at the same time. There are also stories of Hilkiah finding the book of the law in the temple while it was undergoing renovations (2 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 34). This is just prior to exile. There is a sense that the King Josiah and the people were not familiar nor did they obey the law that they found in the temple. This may imply that the reason they were under siege from foreign nations was their disregard of the law.
No matter when the creation story was recorded, the Babylonian exile is a huge moment in Israel’s history. It was a time of national defeat and humiliation. It was a time when God’s order didn’t hold and was understood as punishment for Israel’s unfaithfulness, their desire to follow their own desires instead of God’s. Remembering the creation story – that God brought order out of chaos – must have given the people facing life in a foreign land hope. God could overcome chaos once more.
How does faith in God’s creative work then and now bring us hope in the present, when things feel out of order, uncertain, even scary?
What is significant about water in the Genesis story? As the lesson mentions, the gospel lesson for this week is found in Mark 1:4-11, the story of Jesus’ baptism. What role does water play in the gospel lesson? How does our baptism reflect a change in our lives – from chaos without God to order and purpose under God? Note that God affirms both creation and Jesus’ baptism as being good.
Our new material employs a lot of small group discussion. How often does your class work in small groups? Small group work may initially be uncomfortable for some. Instead of listening to others, small group discussion invites everyone to contribute. For introverts, this can be much easier than contributing in a large group setting. It also keeps one or two folks from always dominating the conversation. Some of the best insight can come from those who don’t normally contribute. Small group discussions allow everyone to be heard. After small group discussions, invite each group to report back to the larger group. You will multiply your insight and wisdom for the collective group by using this strategy! Even small classes can split into small groups of two or three per group. Just be sure to give specific instructions and have the discussion questions available for each group.
This week’s lesson suggests using ocean sounds to direct the class’ attention to God’s creative work. For those who have access to a laptop or smart phone, I’ve found a good YouTube channel that plays ocean waves crashing. Look it up and use it during your intro!
Also, be aware that you will need to sign on to our open wifi at church. The password is: John3:17. This simply keeps people off our wifi who don’t need to use it, thus slowing down the connection for those who do need it. Hope you find your connection speeding up!