A new image came to mind as I was listening to the reading of the first chapter of Genesis on Trinity Sunday, which was read so beautifully and meaningfully by Ken Patterson. There are many ways to imagine scripture, but the image that came to mind was of a primitive tribal elder centuries ago explaining to a group of children how the earth, the seas and the sky, and all the creatures came to be. I was reminded of the TV series of years ago, Kung Fu, in which an old monk, “the master” is always explaining something to a young member of the order, whom he calls “Grasshopper,” using some allegory to convey a truth. I can just see in my mind’s eye the scene of someone telling a group of children a creation story using the explanations in Genesis, complete with sweeping hand motions to point out the vastness of the heavens and other dramatizations. Try reading it again yourself with that scene in mind.
It’s a wonderful story, simple but comprehensive, and comprehensible by anyone of any age or level of intelligence. And for thousands of years it satisfied the hunger of humankind for an explanation of where all this came from.
But it is a bafflement to me that anyone – anyone, anywhere – living at any time in the past 150 years, with all we know now about the cosmos, anyone except toddlers or primitive peoples shut off from all learning, would take this story literally. Why wouldn’t anyone to whom it was suggested that it is literally true just scoff and dismiss that notion as some sort of joke – something that couldn’t possibly be true.
But at the story’s root remain two important points: God made it, and it is good. That remains relevant even today, because, even though we know thousands of times more than humankind has ever known about the universe, we still don’t know where it came from or why. At the end of our speculation all we can say is God made it and “not we ourselves.” “We are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.” And it is good.
Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 17-June-2014.