May the words of my mouth and the thoughts and meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you Lord, our strength and salvation.
In the beginning, the Spirit of God moved across the formless void and God said, “Let there be light”, and POW!
Space and time unfold, spiralling, spinning, expanding, created and creating. Time itself begins, there was nothing before because there was no such thing as before. There was God, and there was, “in the beginning”… at first nothing exists and then it does. Matter begins to become something we’d recognise: plasma, neutrons, electrons, hydrogen forms and gravity begins to shape the rapidly expanding gas into clouds that may eventually form stars. Heat, light – the heavens are created. Stars form, grow old and die, the explosions give rise to heavier elements, but only as far as iron. Dead stars, neutrino stars collide and explode giving even heavier elements: the earth forms… the waters of above are separated from the waters of below.
Humans are amazing! We are able to learn to share to teach and to grow. We even manage to pass our understanding on: the things we learn are saved and passed on to help those who come after us. The way we share information has changed over time. At first, around the campfire we tell each other stories, later we paint pictures and later still we learn to write them down. Only recently in human history have we become capable of making picture and words come alive in the movies. Today we’re on the edge of virtual reality headsets, holograms and immersive storytelling: that which gives us a first person perspective rather than merely listening.
The way the story of God is shared has changed too. Did you know that there are over 7000 living languages spoken in the world today, and the Bible has been translated into over 3000 of them? The Bible Gateway website has 60 different English translations, from contemporary to traditional, from revised to amplified, from common to classic…
- In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
- In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
- In the beginning Elohim created by forming from nothing the heavens and the earth.
- In the beginning, when God created the universe, the earth was formless and desolate.
- First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.
Some mistakenly think that the Bible is wrong about the creation of the Universe because it recounts the story from the perspective and understanding of thousands of years ago… when wise people sat under night skies that were not polluted by street lights. When the vastness of space was visible and used to navigate. But these people didn’t have kilometre long lasers with which we measure the vibrations in the fabric of space from colliding black holes.
Somehow, because we can “see” the fabric of space wobble, the voices of those who came before us get belittled. And yet isn’t all our knowledge simple built on the knowledge of those who thought about this before us? As the saying goes, “We stand on the shoulders of giants” as we learn about the universe.
“We stand on the shoulders of giants” as we learn about God too. We may call it the ‘Old Testament’, but it is the living Holy Scripture of the Jewish people. It is the story of God far off and God close, the God who acts and the God who cares. The God who holds people responsible for their actions. The God who is angered by injustice and corruption. The God who loves faithfulness, honesty, and generosity to the poor. God who protects the weak in a world of injustice, selfishness and corruption. God who throws down those who set themselves above others – like the Pharaohs and Kings. God who works with the least and the humblest.
Learning about God from the New Testament gives us a different perspective. We learn from the witness statements of those who knew Jesus, about the reality shattering truth of God’s action in the world.
Don’t come to the Bible thinking that powerful men have artificially constructed a God-based justification for controlling people and subduing them… read the New Testament and discover the voices of women and powerless men. Discover the voices of people who society doesn’t care about. Who was told first that God was going to physically become human? A woman, a young unmarried woman. Shepherds. Foreigners: those who had to travel a long way to see if it was true. Who witnesses the death of Jesus? Women and convicted criminals. Who first met the resurrected Jesus? Women and people in fear of their lives.
The gift of 3000 languages, and 60 English translations, is that no powerful person can abuse their knowledge by holding the Bible in one hand and tear-gassing people with the other… and then blame God. No one believes that God tear-gasses the crowds… the scepticism of the people of earth is not in the love of Jesus – it is in the abuse of power.
Today is Bible Sunday, and there is a translation for everyone, even those who can’t read… take the Brick Bible: a lego version. It tells Bible stories in unedited goriness!
The gatekeepers of Jesus’ message of love have been undermined by the distribution of the Bible, and you have the freedom to access the Bible for yourself. You can find yourself within its pages. The poor, the sick and those in need will find God caring, healing, holding. The rich, the powerful, those who control others, will find Jesus inviting them to let go of their fear and meet the God who forgives all who truly repent. If you want to know more, listen to the Psalmist who says:
How shall young people cleanse their way
to keep themselves according to your word?
With my whole heart have I sought you;
O let me not go astray from your commandments.
Your words have I hidden within my heart,
that I should not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O Lord;
O teach me your statutes.
With my lips have I been telling
of all the judgements of your mouth.
I have taken greater delight in the way of your testimonies
than in all manner of riches.
I will meditate on your commandments
and contemplate your ways.
My delight shall be in your statutes
and I will not forget your word.
Why is this important? Listen to the words of Jesus, long written down: Learn the lesson of the fig tree. You know when summer is coming. Heaven and earth will pass away, but this people will not, and neither will my words.
This universe is expanding faster and faster and will eventually (in billions of years) will tear itself apart. But you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, your life in Christ, which has already begun, your life in Christ will stretch beyond even the end of time and space itself. Good news! Truly you will live with God forever and the things of this life – which are nothing but star dust – will pass away