What is first?
In the beginning when…
I’m part of a writers’ group. We meet weekly, supporting each other and critiquing our work. Occasionally new people join. At some point Ms. or Mr. Newbie shares for the first time and I usually ask—no surprise, I’m one of the loud-mouthed members—if they’re reading from the opening of their work-in-progress.
The 1st Sunday of Ordinary Time – for June 19, 2011
“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth…” (Genesis 1:1)
Openings matter. The first sentence and paragraph and page are where a reader’s hooked, especially if the book is by an “unknown.”
Genesis is the Bible’s hook. Was it the first written of the 39 books of the Old Testament? Most scholars would say a loud, thoughtful “NO.” Others were composed before Genesis. Along with Genesis, all were written by many scribes over a period of years. Multiple minds, hands and agendas influenced every first, middle and last sentence in the Bible. But at some point (and please read others smarter and more interesting than me to find out about that “point”) Genesis became the Bible’s official hook.
With Genesis, readers plunge abruptly and magnificently into the Creator creating. The universe. The stars. Water and earth, sunrise and sunset. Plants and animals and humans. In the opening verses, goodness and blessings abound. In the opening verses the reader was and is overwhelmed with God’s extravagance, and intimately aware of the bold stroke of being created in God’s image. In part the continuing hook of this story of goodness and abundance is declaring the reader/believer as a reflection of the divine. Whoa!
I have spent some of the best parts of my ministry honoring and being indebted to Genesis’ brash first verses.
As I write these words, I’m approaching the 34th anniversary of my ordination as a United Methodist clergy. I have become what I once observed with distant amusement: an old geezer pastor who attended seminary when the faculty talked about Martin Luther in the present tense. My personal genesis as a clergy seems a long time ago! And yet it will surprise no one who knows me where and how I began ordained ministry. My debut clerical act wasn’t preaching, worship leadership, baptism, communion (though Eucharist came second), a hospital visit, celebrating a wedding, or conducting a funeral. Nope, I didn’t even plop onto an unbalanced folding chair for a “first” committee meeting.
In a June ordination service, the bishop laid his hands on my head and blessed me, a reminder of God’s blessing of Genesis’ first humans. A few days later, I arrived at the parish where I’d do a yearlong student internship. Soon after my arrival, I led a backpack, tramping into the wilderness, into ongoing genesis, with the church’s youth. Continue reading →