Genesis 1-3, Psalm 1, Matthew 1
Alright, folks, here we go.
The first thing I learned today is that my annotated Bible is VERY annotated. I'm not complaining, mind you. I'm a big old nerd, and I find it amazing that there's cross-references and alternate translations and historical backgrounds and even notes that basically say, "huh?". It's fascinating and time consuming! I started by reading the introduction to the Old Testament, then dutifully read the introduction to the Pentateuch, and, of course the introduction to Genesis. Then I had to read the introduction to the Psalms, and was far too tired to read the lengthy introduction to the New Testament, but when the introduction to Matthew referenced the section on Genre in the introduction to the Gospels, I had to backtrack. Whew! This is intense. Good news: I only have to read the introductions when I get to a new book.
Enough complaining. (Aw, who am I kidding? I loved the scholarly stuff.) Into the meat of the text:
I have to admit that I really love the first account of creation beginning in Genesis 1. I say first because the story of creation with the adam or man is clearly a different story altogether. If we read the book straight through, God creates everything, rests, then there's no vegetation. Hmmm. Must be two stories mushed together. Lesson one of the Bible challenge: the Bible isn't a literal history. Good. Got that out of the way.
I really love that the first creation story, besides conveying some beautiful poetic images, places everything in its right place. Order out of chaos. As someone who's working the equivalent of three jobs plus some extra activities, my life often sits in a state of chaos. How comforting to know that God has a place and plan for everything. The darkness fills with light, the seas are separated (again, we can't be literal. I know that the blue sky isn't water above a firmament), animals are placed in the waters, skies, and land. Everything in its place. The great news, though, comes from the gift God gives us of being autonomous. There's much debate and talk in religious classes about this pesky free will, but it's what makes life exciting. We aren't puppets of God. We can choose to stray and listen to the serpent and eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Even the animals and the earth have some life of their own outside of God. I had never noticed before the exact wording when God says, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind." (Gen. 1.24) As the footnote in my Oxford Annotated NRSV points out, "God's command for the earth to bring forth (a maternal verb...) suggests that the animals are immediately bound to the ground and only indirectly related to God, in contrast to human beings." This has two implications. One, God has created a special and intimate relationship between himself and man. Two, God allows creation to move and grow on its own accord. In other words, God has set things in motion. To go back to my Greek educational roots, God is the unmoved mover. The first mover. I'm not a deist, though. I see God continually acting in creation. There are consequences to our actions.
The adam and his wife learn this the hard way. Even though God punishes them rather severely for disobeying, God still shows them great love. Again, something I had never noticed before was God creating new clothes for Adam and Eve. In Genesis 3. 14-19 notice the text changes from prose to verse. I can't help but smile when I think that God doles out punishment in the form of poetry. Here we get all that awful stuff about snakes crawling, child-bearing hurting, and, in anticipation of this coming Wednesday, returning to dust. But immediately after God presents the awful news, he approaches the two sad, naked humans, "and the LORD God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife." That's an incredibly kind thing to do! Makes me think of my mother. She would give me a spanking, tell me I couldn't watch TV for a week, and then give me a big hug and tell me she loves me. Tough love. That's God's style.
So, there are my thoughts on part of the readings from today. What do you think? Did you see anything I didn't? Anyone want to comment on the Psalm or the genealogy of Jesus or on how Joseph is pretty amazing to agree to dismiss Mary privately only to change his mind because of a trippy dream? Go for it!