October 3, 2012

Permissive God

God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and separated the light from the darkness.  And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.  - Genesis 1

I always imagined God physically engrossed in the hard work of creation, putting in long hours on the job, overalls covered in sticky chaos … the way my father looked at the end of every day, the summer he decided to take off a week from work to repaint the chipping exterior of our two-story home.  Work is, well … work.  No wonder God needed a break and a beer on Day Seven.  Or so I imagined.

In returning as a preacher to the first chapter of the Bible, paying attention to what few precious descriptors we are really given on the whole matter of producing a planet, I realized that, in fact, God sweats very little throughout the first work week.  (Some say “week,” others say “a million years.” I say tomāto, tomato.”)  In truth, in the text, God doesn’t really make all that much in making the world.

What God does do is speak.  It is apparently enough for God to say, surely with a tinge of delight, “Let there be _____.”  God has only to give permission for the world to exist and the summoned sphere cannot help but be.   Me, I can’t even get this chick “Siri” who supposedly lives in my smartphone to call my brother at work.  “I’m sorry Ralph, I don’t understand ‘Haul your mother a smirk.’” Geez.

Genesis 1 is less a proof text for an all-powerful god as it is a hymn of praise to One (in Three) whose very speech contains the seed for a million stars in the southwestern sky, gives permission for a thousand-and-one sunsets over Evangola beach.  God’s words do that sort of thing.  Should we be surprised when a little later, our older brother Jesus subdues a storm, sends some nefarious spirits into a pack of pigs, and invites a little dead girl to get up and get back to the business of living---all through the uttering of a few potent, permissive words.  (Luke 8)

Let there be Ralph.  Let there be Wayne.  Let there be Dan and Jan and Stan.  Let there be Debbie and Bob and Judah.  Let there be Walter, and Will, and Elaine.  Let there be you.  It would appear that the triune God has gladly given you permission to be here just about now.  In the words of the poet Mary Oliver,

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?