God Is In-Between

by | Jun 4, 2023

Genesis 1;1-2;4

PRAYER: God of creation, you created us and calls us ‘good’. Your image is imprinted within us, and so remind us of our calling to live as your people, seeking justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with you.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you O God, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.

Out of all fifty chapters of Genesis, this one is easily the most well-known. There are two things about this chapter that make it unique.

First of all, it was probably written after all the other chapters had been written. The narrative and structure of this chapter is different from all the others. While the other chapters tell the story of God’s people, this story is more poetic and is more of a song of praise. It is believed that this chapter was originally written with a sense of liturgy. It was used in worship to offer praise to God.

The second thing that makes this chapter unique is that fact that it has its origins in a time in which the Israelites were enslaved by the Babylonian empire. You see, the Babylonians had their own creation story, they had their own version of how the heavens and the earth came into being. It was not uncommon for nations or other religions to have their own version of a creation story. The Babylonians had theirs and the people enslaved, the people oppressed were not included in it. So the Israelites created their own story. No, they said. It was not Marduk or some other God who created the heavens and the earth, but Yahweh, the God of Israel. The Israelite’s creation story was not only a story to affirm their God, it was a direct challenge to the pretensions of their captors. It was a story to identify them as a people; it was about representation. The story that was to become our creation story is a story and an act of defiance. It was an act of protest.

That’s why It can be problematic if we look at this Genesis story strictly as an historical report detailing the steps that God took in order to create the world we live in. It can be problematic if we look at this Genesis story as a literal account of the steps God took to create the universe. Because you see, this story in Genesis is not intended to explain to us how creation was formed. It is intended to explain to us WHY creation was formed. It is intended to demonstrate for us God’s all-encompassing love. From a biblical standpoint, it ultimately doesn’t matter how God created the heavens and the earth; it simply matters THAT God created the heavens and the earth. The purpose of this account in Genesis is not to show us the unlimited power that God has; it is intended to show us the unlimited love that God has. So rather than use this chapter as a project plan for us to check off bullet points of the step by step process; it should inspire us to praise God for the sheer majesty of creation.

But still, many try to use this first chapter of Genesis as a way of demonstrating that God views the world in strictly binary terms. And that’s because throughout this story of creation, we see opposites. We see order being made of chaos. We see land and sea, heavens and earth, light and dark, fish and birds, male and female. We might read all of these opposites and automatically notice the distinct line between them – something that separates them. But ultimately, when

we read this story, we find that the existence of one does not negate or eliminate the other. Rather, all of these opposites co-exist in a reconciled balance that God repeatedly calls “Good” or even “Very Good”.

Because while it’s true that God created the night and the day, God also created the dawn and the dusk, the sunrise and the sunset. While it’s true that God created the water and the dry land, God also created the space that exists between the two, the marshes, the beaches, the glades, the places where so much beauty exists. Think about those sea turtles that come up onto the beach to lay their eggs. They lay up to 100 eggs, which incubate in the warm sand for about 60 days. The temperature of the sand actually determines the genders of baby sea turtles, with cooler sand producing more males and warmer sand producing more females. This miracle doesn’t exist strictly in the sea or strictly on the land, it exists in the space between.

God creates those spaces in the middle – those sunrises and sunsets. Try to imagine the number of people you’ve known in your life that – at some point – were resistant to change. Those people that have their minds set firmly on the way things used to be, the way they were comfortable. That could be in the church, it could be in your work, or in your school. But the God who brings order out of chaos is constantly pulling us toward that middle ground – those spaces in the middle between the way we’ve always been and the way we are headed… Ultimately, that’s where we live.

1 Corinthians has a very famous chapter about love. It’s often misquoted. It’s often taken out of context. If you’ve ever been to a Christian wedding, you’ve heard this chapter – even though – it’s not really about that kind of romantic love. It’s about a deeper more enduring love. It’s about God’s love. It says that God’s love is patient and kind. Love endures all things. Love rejoices in the truth.

And when I think about God’s creation, when I think about all that God did, and when I think about the fact that for God, creating all of this was an act of love, an act of truth, I’m mindful of that passage in 1 Corinthians and the patience and kindness – the artistry and the love that went into creation. Excuse me… that goes into creation, because God is still creating. We are still moving through that middle ground, God bringing order out of chaos.

God created something beautiful based in love. With patience, with kindness. God’s patience endured the time it took to lovingly and masterfully create each rose petal, each blade of grass, each corpuscle, each bumblebee, each hair on our heads. Love is patient. God is patient. The idea that God created the earth in six literal days then was done with it doesn’t speak of love or patience. That only speaks of a to-do list that had to have every item checked off. But God is patient; God is meticulous. God is love. And God is still creating – still designing, still bringing order out of chaos, still demonstrating love.

God’s love creates life. In all its intricacies, in all it’s messiness, in all the in-between dusks and dawns, marshes and swamps, God’s love creates life. God’s invitation to us is an inclusive invitation to celebrate that life as one community, with no exclusion, in the presence of both order and chaos, come together as complete.

For ultimately, we find that in the fullest extent of the life that God offers, it includes those in between spaces; they’re what make us whole.

Rev. M. Barclay, a pastor raised in the United Methodist tradition, writes, “My understanding of (this) scripture has become filtered through this question: Does this behavior, or identity, or way of being in the world create life? Within a person or within a community?”

As we read about God’s creation, and specifically about God’s act of creating therefore, let us not get caught up in the binary mindset of dark and light, night and day as if those are our only two options. When we read the beginning of the Bible, we can be – at the same time – mindful of the very end of the Bible in the book of Revelation in which God is called the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. And God is all things in between, from first to last, from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, the God of life is present through it all, the God of life is present in all.

Each year in our lectionary, we have this Sunday which we call Peace with Justice Sunday. United Methodists relate to this special Sunday by seeking peaceful solutions, creating and supporting peace-related ministries in their respective conference and learning about peaceful, just efforts around the world. Our Social Principles call us to love our enemies, seek justice, and serve as reconcilers of conflict.

We have seen a marked increase in vitriol being thrown about in what typically should be a quiet, kind community. You don’t have to drive very far in either direction to see houses with signs in the property with profanities directed towards people with whom they disagree. This is not the life that God offers us; this is not the life that God calls us to.

We cannot continue to live in such black and white, my way or no way terms. The God of creation calls us to be one people joined in love of God and one another. The God of Creation calls us to live with justice and hope, and kindness… supporting one another, standing in solidarity with one another, building bridges and offering a hand of friendship. That is the God of Creation, that is the God of life.

Larry Rasmussen, in his book Earth Honoring Faith writes of the communion of the earth. He says, “Dynamic relationships are the substance of existence; ‘nothing is itself without everything else.’” In other words, creation does not exist without everything else. It is designed interdependently to reflect the image of the Creator. We exist as a reflection, as the image of the creator. If creation is a reflection of the creator, then how are we reflecting the Creator in our lives? How is our culture reflecting the Creator today in our polarization and vitriol toward one another? For if we are part of the dynamic relationships that are the substance of existence, then we, as part of God’s creation, must do everything that we can to reflect the image of God that has been imprinted on us.

Like it or not, our world is full of injustice. In our own way, in our corner of the world, we have the opportunity to stand up with those caught in racial injustice. We have the chance to be a voice in the wilderness for climate justice, to protect God’s creation. As people of the Christ, we have the chance – some might say the obligation – to stand in the middle between those in the LGBTQ+ community and those who constantly spew hatred toward them, who try to dehumanize them and call them abominations against the very God who created them. Wherever there is injustice, wherever there is hatred, wherever there is hopelessness, Christ stands in the middle as a barrier against it. We are invited to join him there.

God created the heavens and the earth and called them good. This is not a moral determination of good or evil; this is an intrinsic goodness, a goodness that describes the very nature of creation. It is a goodness that calls us to seek justice, to be new creations. That is why God calls us Good.

To God be the glory.