The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at:

s113o15  Baptism of Jesus  11/1/2015

‘In the beginning.’   Genesis 1:1

It doesn’t come into our reading for today but we all probably know the creation story well enough to give the answer to most questions, so here is mine: ‘Which was created first, Adam or dogs?’   It sounds easy enough.

Recently I had cause to check out a particular local church - debating whether I would attend a funeral.   In the section ‘What we Believe’ it stated: ‘We believe in the literal Genesis account of creation.  That the universe and man were created in six literal twenty-four hour days .. by direct creative act of God, apart from any process of evolution ..’   Another was: ‘There shall be no co-operation with any groups that permit the presence of apostates or apostasy’. (1)   The pastor studied under pastors of the same denomination and by correspondence a qualification from the same denomination.   I decided that if I attended I would have to do so incognito :-)

I have often reflected that much of my spiritual journey has been to unlearn the things I was taught in theological college last century - ‘across the ditch’.   Again I have often lamented that college wasn’t a happy place because catholics, evangelicals and charismatics were vying for supremacy.   But perhaps I need to re-evaluate that.   At least there was a diversity of thought and practice, which meant we had to think.   In later times the mainstream colleges affiliated with one of the local universities so degrees were conferred.   This meant that theology students interacted with other students from other academic disciplines, hopefully for the mutual benefit of each.

If our spirituality begins and ends with ‘no one comes to the Father but by’ my particular version of who Jesus was, I have to say again that this leads to one-way communication - which is the antithesis of real and holy communion.   Christianity is reduced to parroting one or two proof texts.

So I have to say that I begin to appreciate my upbringing and I am glad that I have been able (or enabled) to move beyond the verities of yesterday.

To get back to my original question, the bible gives us two conflicting answers.   In Genesis 1:20-22, on the fifth day God created the birds and the fish.   Then on the sixth day God created the land based animals Genesis 1.23-25 and finally humanity, male and female, simultaneously. Genesis 1:26-27    Here man is created after the dogs.  However in Genesis 2, man is created first 2:7, then the garden 2:8,9, then God creates the animals, looking for a suitable partner for the man 2:18-21, ultimately unsuccessfully.   It is only then that God created the woman from the man’s rib.   So here man was created before the dogs.

Now if the message of the bible is about the sequential history of the creation, it seems odd that it is unable to answer what is a pretty fundamental question.

As an aside, I realised a while back that the second account sanctifies paternalism and misogyny by asserting Adam was born of God not of a woman.

But it is important to not be only negative.   If Genesis 1 and 2 are not about the sequential history of creation - what are they about?   For me the first is about humanity - male and female equally -being the pinnacle of creation and having a stewardship over the rest.   The world is our oyster, we are creatures of the heavens.   The second is about our earthly nature.   Here humanity has their feet firmly on the ground and creation is about providing companionship.   Each of these are beautiful in their own right.   Both have relevant messages to us all and they are put side by side showing us that neither is the full answer - that each complements the other.  

They also imply that no one story, and therefore no one author, has the whole truth - that we can all learn from another, even when talking about God and truth and history.   So also in the new testament we have four gospel stories because neither one is a complete picture.

The other thing I realised is that I no longer want to say I’m a redeemed sinner.   This sort of language reduces everyone to a manageable homogenous robot.   No - each and everyone of us is unique - and we are meant to be.   A religion which lumps me as identical to each and every other person is not worth having!   A religion which reduces me to an anonymous clone of a mythical ideal denies everything which makes me me - and you you.   As I’m sure many of us sang only very recently: ‘Christian children all must be / Mild, obedient, good as He.’ (2)  I am reminded of those words of condemnation of the religious of Jesus’ day: ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!   For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.’  (3)

The message of the incarnation is that we are loved as we are, unconditionally, not loved because we are capable of being manipulated, cajoled and threatened into becoming someone else.

1.   I won’t bother to give the URL for this reference :-)
3.  Matthew 23:15