Genesis 1:1-2:4 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth . . .This past Sunday, we in the Episcopal Church celebrated a special day of Trinity Sunday. One of the …
Genesis 1:1-2:4 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth . . .
This past Sunday, we in the Episcopal Church celebrated a special day of Trinity Sunday. One of the traditional readings for this day is the Creation Story of Genesis. And so as a preacher, I am given the task of explaining two great mysteries—the origin of creation and the Trinity, God in 3 persons, in hopefully under 10 minutes.
And so let us start at the beginning, or should I say before the beginning, when God was hovering over the waters. I love this passage at the beginning of Genesis describes the breath of God. The Hebrew Word is Ruah—the spirit of God hovering over the waters. This is not the breath that God always uses. It is the breath of creation and it is the same breath that parted the Red Sea at the Exodus. And so when God breathes the breath of ruah, spectacular things happen like creation and miracles. And so through his ruah, God starts the wheels of creation, starting with creating light in the darkness, and that creative action of God continues down through the ages, through today, right down to the creation of each one of us.
Which brings me to another part of this passage that I love. This part actually does not show up in the English translation of the creation story, but is very much there if you were to read this passage in Hebrew. That is because the English translation actually skips a word which is repeated throughout the passage as God creates all of the animals and creatures of the land and sea. It is a word that is also present in the creation of humankind, and that word is Nephesh. Nephesh is the spirit that God gives to each individual human and most animals, and it is this spirit that gives each creature its unique individuality. It’s easy to see in humans (we clearly are a quirky bunch), but it also shows up in animals as well. Anyone who has ever had multiple cats or dogs knows what I am talking about here. We have two little dogs, Joy and Joshua, and they each have their own personality. We call Joy the snail, because she just pokes along at her own pace, whereas Joshua is our wildman. And so it is with all of us creatures; we each have an individual spirit that God has placed into us.
I have been traveling a lot over the last couple of weeks and I have seen and talked to people from all over the world. It is amazing to me the sheer number of people and the wide variety of differences. Not just physical, but cultural, political, economic, our families, our interests, our jobs, the type of music we listen to, how we like to dress, how we raise our kids, the books we like to read, our individual joys and our trials. The variety is infinite, the diversity is incredible. The world is filled with characters. And some of us are more quirky than others.
Which brings me to the second great mystery of the day, Trinity Sunday, where we think about the work of God from before creation, through the time of Jesus, to the coming of the Holy Spirit. We went from God the Father out there, to a solitary man here on earth, to a spirit that touches all the souls throughout time. And it is within this progression of God that we all have been created. God made each one of us to be the unique creation that we are, and we all are a work in progress.
I believe we are called to celebrate the uniqueness of one another. Look at the saints throughout time: they include kings, hermits, men, women, children . . . We are called to help each other as we grow into who we are called to be, and we do this within the very presence of God’s Holy Spirit. God’s spirit within us is intertwined with our own. Ruah touches nephesh. God’s creative breath is within each one of us, and hopefully, most days, he is whistling while he works, as he writes the music within our soul. Encouraging each of us to beat to our own different drum. Or in the word’s of Elijah, He is the still small voice that is no longer outside the caves of our lives, but instead resides within our hearts—guiding us, convicting us, teaching us, comforting us—hopefully whistling a happy tune along with us as we do His work in the world.
Some people get all caught up in the theological arguments, was the world created in 6 days? How can God be 3 persons in one? How is God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit? My short answer is we really don’t know. It’s a mystery. The mystery of God and his ways—God will never be an exact science. Our knowledge, our reason is like a grain of sand compared to the vast ocean of mystery that is our God. Science is in the business of prediction. If A happens then B results. But when we try to predict what God will do, often we get it wrong. Look what happened to Jesus—he did not meet the predictions or rather the expectations of the religious leaders looking for the Messiah. In fact God’s ways are much better—His mysterious ways are the stuff that leads to dreams and creativity, and prayers and hope. Yes, God works in mysterious ways, and if you think about it, he works in the same context as our own lives. By that I mean our lives are more mystery than a set predictable track. And when we live into that mystery, rather than prediction, that gives us the freedom to explore who we are and what we do and what we were meant to be or what we want to be. And most especially, it gives us the ability to switch gears, and go a different way. In the words of Robert Frost, to choose the Road Less Travelled.
What I do know is that God the Father’s creative act, made each one of us a unique work. God the Son’s redemptive act, made each one of us a holy and perfect work. And God the Holy Spirit is the way that God touches each one of us all day every day. God created each one of us to fill a unique specific spot in his creation, so that He can shine brightly through us. My prayer as we walk through our faith together, is that we help one another to find our light, and encourage one another to shine brighter, as we live into our particular place in His creation.
The Rev. Robin Hinkle is the rector of St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Jasper.