Let Us Be Transformed
Updated: Jun 10, 2020
The Rev. Sara Cosca-Warfield
Scripture: Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Genesis is the first book of our Bible, but it actually wasn’t the first book written. It’s actually pretty hard to talk about when books of the Old Testament were written because many of its stories were passed down and altered from oral traditions, sometimes from other nearby civilizations. People didn’t start writing things down until centuries after these stories came into existence.
In fact, the creation story we have now wasn’t written down until after the Israelites fled Egypt, after they established themselves in their promised land, after David and Solomon, even after the Babylonians came and destroyed Jerusalem. The story we have now wasn’t written down until those who were exiled to Babylon had come back to Israel, bringing with them their stories of despair and longing.
This creation story is one of the songs the exiles sang to each other, to themselves, in one of the hardest moments of their lives, of their people’s history. You can hear the comfort in the verses’ repetition and rhythm.
Then God said, “Let there be light, and there was light”...And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters"...And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place"...And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
And on the seventh day God finished the work that God had done.
Just hearing it calms the soul.
But there’s also something else about this story, something about the immensity and capability of God. We have a God who gave us the sun. We have a God that created the gorgeous night sky. We have a God that gave us the unfathomable ocean. That is a God of joy, a God of beauty, a God of power. That is the God who sustains us even now, through all of this.
This creation story started as a Mesopotamian myth, and then the Israelites made it their own, overlaying it with their belief in a single creator God and changing details throughout the centuries as they evolved as a people, as their needs evolved.
I think it might be hard for some of us to hear that. A lot of us were taught that Moses wrote Genesis as dictated by God. But the text itself and all of its strange jumps and sudden changes in style and ideas show us otherwise. And honestly, I think the way the story evolved through the twists and turns of the Israelites’ history is part of what makes it powerful. We grow and change as a people. Why shouldn’t our stories grow and change with us?
Well, they have. Even in our own Christian faith. Today is Trinity Sunday in our Church. I don’t know if you know this, but there is not one single mention of the Trinity in the Bible. The Trinity came about because of theological arguments in the first few centuries of the Church. It boiled down to this: how can God just be one God when we have this Creator God and then we have Jesus who we claim is God’s son and so also must be at least part God, not to mention this Spirit that came down on the world.
The arguments early Church leaders had about this were contentious. Councils were held, leaders were deposed, and some were even executed as heretics for their beliefs around this. The eventual adoption of the Trinity at the Council of Nicaea was a victory for some and complete betrayal of their faith for others.
But from that hardship, that struggle, eventually came this very elegant and thoughtful concept of the Trinity that has been changing and evolving through the centuries. We still can’t quite pin it down. Is the Trinity God in motion? Is it how the very being of God shows us that all things are in relationship to one another?
I don’t know. I’m not sure if it’s important to know. What I do know is that it keeps changing, and as it does, it keeps giving us a new and fresh understanding of God that can give us newfound understanding and peace as we ourselves encounter hardship and struggle in the changes of our lives.
Just like the ever-changing creation story gave the exiled Israelites understanding and peace.
Right now, our community, our country is embroiled in struggle. At the heart of that struggle is the Black community asking that our country change its story. These are a people who are exiled in their own country, people who have had a very different experience of “freedom” than their white counterparts, who are demanding that we expand our understanding and scope of “freedom.”
We know how to do this. Our faith and its history has taught us. We know how to transform our stories so that we ourselves can be transformed. So let us be open. Let us hear the cries of those who are suffering. And let us be transformed. Amen.