In the Beginning…God….

Jun 04, 2023

Sermon 6-4-23
Holy Trinity Sunday
Text: Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Pastor Jean M. Hansen
     In the beginning…God….
     That may be all we need to know, really.
     In the beginning…God….
     We just shared a beautiful piece of ancient literature, or poetry, about the creation of all that exists. One of the most important points to remember as we read Genesis 1 is that this is not a scientific statement; it’s a theological statement. It’s not about empirical facts, but beliefs about ultimate reality. The story is not about how, but who. In the beginning…God.
     Genesis 1 was written to counter other religious explanation of the world – the religion of the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Greeks. Some taught that gods fought or procreated in order for the world to come into being. There were beliefs in two equal forces in the universe from whom all things came, or that the universe as we know it has always been. But for the Israelites this was the truth, revealed to them by God: in the beginning…God. God created the world not by struggling or fighting or procreating, but simply by speaking. God spoke, and it was so.
     This is not a scientific statement. It is a deeply religious statement about who. But, it also is about why. Commentator Stan Mast points out that there are two different ways to talk about why. “For example,” he writes, “there are two different ways to explain the boiling of water. You can say it happens because of the rapid vibration of water molecules due to the application of heat. That’s why water boils. Or, you could say that it boils because someone wants a cup of tea. That’s why it boils. The first speaks of a physical process, the second a personal purpose. Genesis and the rest of the Bible tells us why the world was created in that second sense – not so much the physical process as the personal purpose.” (1)
     And, God’s purpose is hinted at in verses 26-27 where God created the human race in God’s own image. “Then God said, let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness…. So God created humankind in God’s image, in the image of God they were created; male and female, God created them.”
     Commentator Mast announces, “The very pinnacle of God’s creation was a creature who would be like God, someone to whom God could relate…. For the love of God, for the sheer love of it – to express Divine love and to be loved back. That’s why God created (us).” (2)
     That should shape our understand of what it means that God gave humankind “dominion” over the created world in verses 26 and 28, which unfortunately has been used to justify exploitation of the earth and its creatures. In order to get a better understanding, I looked up the Hebrew word “radah” that is most often translated dominion or rule. The commentator noted that it is linked with the idea of “imaging God” or “representing God”, as in showing God’s characteristics. Therefore, it is the kind of authority rooted in love that enables the ruled things to develop, to thrive, rather than being used (and used up) for the “ruler’s” benefit.
     Quoting the word study, “As we exercise dominion over the created world, we do it knowing that we mirror God. We are not the originals but the images, and our duty is to use the original—God—as our pattern, not ourselves. Our work is meant to serve God’s purposes more than our own, which prevents us from domineering all that God has put under our control.” (3)
     We often use the word stewardship for this concept, which is the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care; in this case, the world God created. As we all know, there is a great deal of concern about how that has not happened, and the consequences of mismanagement.
     I sometimes watch the PBS program NOVA which airs on Wednesday night, and in April there was an episode titled “Weathering the Future” about the search for creative solutions to the extreme, unpredictable weather patterns that have developed in the past decades due to global warming that are taking a toll on the earth and its people. The focus of the program was on the United States, and on how visionary people are taking their roles as stewards seriously. Two of the responses particularly caught my attention.
     One is occurring in Iowa where soil erosion is becoming an issue due to an increase in heavy rainfall. Five tons of soil per acre per year is being lost in Iowa farm country. To preserve the soil, 30 percent of farmers in Iowa have returned to no till farming, which was given up with the invention of the steel plow in the 1800’s. When a field is tilled, crop material from the previous harvest, and weeds, are buried which makes planting easier and more productive. However, it also leads to wind erosion and run off of the soil in heavy rain.
      So, more and more farmers are leaving the fields unplowed. They use high tech planters to put seeds in the ground and cover crops after the harvest to save the soil. Making this switch is not easy and cannot be done quickly, but studies show that soil builds structure when left undisturbed and less fuel is used in the process. You may or may not find that as interesting as I think it is, but if you like buying bread or eating corn, you might at least pay attention.
      The other example was set in Louisiana where the sea is swallowing costal land and communities due to rising sea levels. Every 100 minutes the water claims a football field sized piece of land. This is due to severe hurricanes which are super charged by warmer water, but also is a consequence of building levies and dams to benefit residential and business expansion. This has resulted in less sediment reaching the wetlands.
     While the state of Louisiana has mega projects planned to address the problem, these take years to approve and complete. So, people have taken matters into their own hands and are creating oyster reefs, using tons of shells collected from restaurant kitchens that then become breeding grounds for new oyster colonies. Where these reefs have been built, erosion has been reduced at a rate of 60 percent.
     The reason I want to share these two examples is that they represent the concept of stewardship, ordinary people caring enough to find solutions that benefit both God’s earth and God’s people. Whether they realize it or not, they are representing God in their care of the universe whose creation we reflect on today.
     This is about theology – not just about science, or politics, or ecology, but about God … because in the beginning…God. AMEN
  1. “Sermon Commentary on Genesis 1:1-2:4a” by Stan Mast, June 7, 2020,
  2. Same as #1
  3. “Dominion (Genesis 1:26; 2:5) by TOW Project,