Daily Devotion 20 May 2021
Genesis 1:1-5 ‘A Spirit from the Beginning’
1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
Given how confusing the Bible can be at times, I find it maddeningly appropriate that even the first two verses of the Bible seem to contradict each other! Was there just a formless void before God, with God basically creating all things out of nothing at all? Or was there already a darkness, deep, and waters – a kind of chaotic something – from which God brought forth all things? If you read and re-read these couple of verses and are feeling perplexed, you’re in good company, many theologians and scholars have wrestled deeply with such things. (It’s been pointed out before that we need not choose between these two possibilities, even as the text itself does not!)
A deeper thinker than most, Rowan Williams comes down on the side of God creating from nothing – rather than shaping existing chaos. He writes “creation is not an exercise of divine power” and suggests that “the Creator who, as the one who calls forth being from nothing, gives without dominating” 1. I rather like this slant on these things – it suggests that in this act of creation, God freely reveals God’s love and nature not self-aggrandisement, not for glory of self, it’s not a violent act or coercion. Instead, at the beginning, the Spirit of God is at work immediately revealing love and creativity. Something exists where it had not done before – and all by the grace of God.
The Hebrew word ruach means both spirit and wind – a rather beautiful way of describing something pretty indescribable. God at work, creating, bringing forth, and loving. What God sets in motion on Day 1 is a pattern of creativity, care, and love which continues onto the other days and continues in the life of humanity so beautifully made. It’s also seen in the life of Jesus Christ who on the cross faces the depths of death – in all its chaos and nothingness – that we might live. The Church continues to celebrate God’s Spirit at work today, because God’s Spirit continues to be at work today. Since the very earliest days Christians have often ended prayers and psalms with the affirmation:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
selected verses from Psalm 19
1 The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; 4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. 14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.
Reflection and Prayer © 2021 Paul Tabraham.
1. – p. 68 and 76, Williams, R. (2000) On Christian Theology. Oxford: Blackwell.
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