Can You Please Tell Me the Time?

stars at sunrise in the desert
Photo credit: <a href="">Dennis Stauffer</a>

Genesis 1:14-19

Then God said, “Stars!” And stars appeared lighting up night sky, in constellations that rise and set with the seasons of the year.

God made the sun to mark time during the day, and the moon to mark time in the night, and put them into orbit where they give light to the earth, day and night, light and dark, and God saw how good it was. And so continued evening and morning. Day 4.

We ordinarily think of sun, moon, and stars as being related to light, but light has already been taken care of on Day 1. (Never mind that light comes from stars.) Genesis thinks of these in terms of time. The constellations “rise and set to mark the seasons and the years.” The sun is to “Mark time during the day.” The moon is to “mark time in the night.” How else are you going to tell time without clocks and calendars? Day 4 is about telling time.

Even though clocks and calendars have replaced sun, moon, and stars as our method of time-telling, we still live in time. The trouble with modern clocks and calendars, though, is that they give us the illusion that all time is the same, and each day is essentially the same as the next. It’s not. Time, as we live it, is much more fluid. Some time goes quickly. “Where did the time go?” we sometimes wonder. Other time goes by seeming not to move at all. Even a 15 minute wait in the doctor’s office can seem like hours. (Remember David Lee Roth, waiting for school to get out, saying “I think the clock is slow,” and getting to school late, saying, “I don’t feel tardy.” Wait a minute, I’m dating myself.)

Jesus would later impress upon the disciples the importance of being able to know what time it is. Not in the sense of the hour of the day, but what moment we’re in, and what is called for in that moment. Fast or slow, the ability to tell time is essential. Doing what the time calls for makes the difference between living well and not really living at all.

This day, Day 4, bids us recon, what time is it.

[Bonus: Sorry, creationists, but if Genesis were a science text, the sun would have had to come before the plants. Just saying.]


What Will You Do Today?

fern leaf
Photo credit: <a href="">Louise Docker</a>

Genesis 1:9-13

Then God said: “Land!” And the there was land, dry and earthy, distinct from the sea.

This was getting good. So God said, “Plants! Seeds! Trees! Fruit! All kinds of them!” And from the earth sprang up all kinds of plants and trees, bearing fruits of every description, and seeds. God saw how good it was. And so continued evening and morning. Day 3.

Day 1 brought order out of the formless void. Day 2 brought atmosphere.

Now, on Day 3, the pace accelerates. Instead of just one thing, all kinds of things start springing up. “This was getting good!” The variety of creation is nearly infinite.

But even more amazing than that is the capacity for renewal. The seeds. Resurrection built into the universe. Things die, but they leave behind the beginnings of something new. And the new thing is the same, but different, from what came before.

And, if resurrection is built into the universe, it’s built into you, too. Every day, you have another opportunity to be something wonderful. Every day, you have a new chance to do something great. Every day, you awake to more of the same, but different.

Some folks have a lot of trouble with the idea of resurrection. But if you have eyes to see, it happens every day. Everywhere.

Happy 3rd day! You’re awake! You’re up! You’re alive! Now, what wonderful thing will you do?

Atmosphere: More than Just the Weather.

polar mesospheric clouds
Photo credit: <a href="">Image Science and Analysis Laboratory, NASA</a>

Genesis 1:6-8

Then God said, “Atmosphere!”

And a thin shell separated the vast reaches of the sea from the vast reaches of space. It was the sky. And so continued evening and morning. Day 2.

Any earth scientist will tell you that the atmosphere is amazingly thin. If the earth were scaled down to the size of an egg, its atmosphere would be thinner than an eggshell. Way thinner.

And yet, from our vantage beneath it, the sky seems immeasurably huge. The ancients (of many cultures) called it a great dome. And it’s within a very small border on the inside of this sheer membrane that separates us from the vast reaches of space that all human activity takes place. It is simultaneously immense and miniscule. It is, in a word: liminal.

liminal adjective.
1. of or relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process.
2. occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.

Boundaries and thresholds are where creation comes alive. It’s at the thresholds where life is lived most richly, and where potential is at its greatest. The ancient Celts called attention to the “thin places,” by which they meant both spatial and spiritual places where one’s eyes could be opened.

As we begin the second week of the new year, perhaps we will be helped and our eyes opened to new possibilities if will pause now and then to pay attention to the atmosphere.


four muons emerge from a proton-proton collision in ATLAS
Image via <a href="">CERN</a>

Genesis 1:1-5

It all began when God created the universe. Everything was shapeless, empty, and dark.

Then, as God swept across the void, God said, “Light!” And the universe lit up. God saw that the light was good, and to distinguish it from the dark called it day, and the dark remained night. And so began evening and morning. Day 1.

Scientists are on the verge, they say, of finding the “God particle” also known as the Higgs boson. It’s the particle that would provide particle physics theory with the missing link to explain why stuff is able to be stuff and not just formless energy. The popular press has been all over how if they can find this particle, it would replace God as the reason for why stuff exists. (“God didn’t do it, the boson does it.”) Scientists hate that.

Good scientists know that good science isn’t about proving or disproving the existence of God. Particles, yes. God, no. Good scientists, like good theologians, know that the existence of a particle, even an essential particle, doesn’t mean anything about whether God did or didn’t create it, or anything else. The particle’s existence doesn’t do anything to settle things with the fundamentalists, who aren’t listening anyway. Not the Christian fundamentalists. Not the atheist fundamentalists.

What Genesis 1 is about, for people of faith and people of no-faith, is the creative work we all must begin to bring shape and meaning and light to an otherwise shapeless, empty and dark universe. Even God is not exempt from this work. Genesis suggests that as God must do, so must we. There is no creatio ex nihilo in the Bible. It’s just that stuff needs to be made sense of.

We stand on the cusp of a new year, a time yet to be formed, a time to be filled with meaning, a time in which so much remains obscured. Not just today, of course, but every day. Go ahead and start. Do something creative in 2012. Do something to shape things for the good. Do something to light up our world. Say something meaningful.

Go ahead. Begin. Today is Day 1. Every day is Day 1.