Friday, 17 June 2011

And God said

Peter Lockhart

Whenever any of us are confronted by an issue or a question about our lives we are influenced in our decisions making and our direction by the voices around us.

There are many voices around us, friends and family, people on the radio and TV, blogs and websites, and books that we read. And there are the voices within us: the voice of our own memories and our conscience.

One of the voices that we have an option to seek to listen to is the voice of God as it comes to us through the scriptures but it is not an easy voice to hear or understand.

This morning we heard read the story of creation from the book of Genesis, the very first book of the Bible. This story is a somewhat controversial story for many reasons and has become a stumbling for many in their willingness to accept and listen to the voice of God as it speaks to us through the scriptures.

This morning I want to just pick up one phrase from the story to begin to explore the difficulties of reading the Bible.

In Genesis 3 we read, “And God said.”

These may seem fairly innocuous words but they are repeated 10 times in the chapter. Whoever wrote this story wanted us to know that God was speaking because he kept making the point, “And God said.”

Now for the moment I am not overly concerned with what God said simply the claim that God spoke at the moment of creation.

I remember years ago being troubled by this whole story of creation and the notion that the story is supposed to convey what God said at the moment of creation.

In terms of logic and reasonable thinking this claim borders on the nonsensical.

It’s a bit like that question “if a tree falls in the forest does anyone here it”

“If God spoke at the dawning of creation does anyone hear it”

Of course I can romanticise the answer and suggest something along the lines that the echoes of God’s voice continue to resound in every moment of our existence and the wonder of creation.

But this kind of romanticising of the voice of God does not deal with the claim that is being made by the storyteller, to know exactly what God says.

Based in the knowledge that there was no one there to hear what God said and neither can we present any scientific or historical proof of God’s words it would be easy to dismiss the voice of the scriptures as being important in shaping my life because the claims are not scientifically or historically true.

But, and this is a vital but, I don’t believe that the point of the story is to claim that this actually what happened but rather to say something about the nature of God and what the creation is in relationship to God.

So the truth of the story lays not in some historical claim but in the truth the reveal about God.

Each phrase, each word, recorded by the author carries weight as it unfolds before us who God is and what God is like and through the discovery of the meaning of the words so we may even hear God’s voice speaking to us.

If we approach the scripture in this way the question might then be not whether it is historically true but what does it tell us about God that God speaks? “And God said.”

Here are just a few quick observations.

First off, in affirming that God speaks the scriptures tell us that God chooses to communicate with humanity in a way in which human beings can relate to and understand. Moreover, it would seem to me that there is no logical necessity for God to speak, so in God speaking God make this choice for relationship: a choice to love what God is making.

Second, that when God speaks there is authority and power in his words. Without going too much into the content of God’s words what occurs in the story is that when God speaks there is a consistency between what God says and what occurs. “Let there be light”, and there was light!

Now I could say more on this but I wanted to make a fundamental point here about how we read the Bible and whether or not the voice of God is worth listening to in the course of our existence.

If we try to ask is the Bible “true” in a logical or forensic scientific sense then we come into having problems in the first few verses but if we listen for the theological truth of the scriptures what we encounter is that the God we believe in speaks and God speaks because of God’s choice to love and God speaks with authority.

This is good news for all of us and the whole creation.

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