In the beginning, God created. That’s the headline. But it’s not the whole story. In the beginning God creates with a Word. The Word, the sound of God’s voice is strong enough to bring forth Light, to create something where there was nothing, and to bring order out of chaos. It is the Breath of God’s Word that does it.
In Genesis 1, day after day more and more is spoken into existence, and chaos is ordered and given a purpose. In the first three days the Word of God separates, like laundry, God separates light from dark. Then God separates sea from sky, and then land from sea. At the end of each day God says it is good.
But the next three days hold even more treasures. The light and dark turn out to be home for the sun, and the moon. The sky and sea turn out to be home for the birds of the air and fish of the sea. And the dry land turns out to be home to everything that creeps and crawls on the ground, including you and me.
In this way, God creates by first establishing the conditions for life, and then ordering life within it. Preparing a place, and filling it. Making something from nothing, and taking it from chaos to order.
When it comes time to create humanity God does so in a way that’s different from all other creatures. Humanity is created in God’s image and likeness, bearing, somehow, God’s own nature, God’s image, and filling the earth.
It was very good. So good that God was content to rest in the goodness.
It is hard to find a better known or more broadly referenced passage of scripture, It’s hard to find a more broadly referenced passage of scripture in the rest of scripture. This story of the source of all things is the source of so much other thought and imagery and beauty and theology, especially Christian theology.
When the early church was trying to interpret just what this whole Christ-event meant, it was not long until they started to see that if Christ really is who he says he is, that means he himself was in the beginning.
In fact, one of those early Christian writers, Origen (that’s O R I G E N, not I N), Origen went so far as to say that the right interpretation of Genesis 1 is not that Christ is the Word that was in the Beginning, but that the Word that is Christ is the beginning. It’s not that Jesus was there when it happened, he is the happening. He wasn’t just present at that time, he’s the source of time. Christ was and is the Beginning. That must be why in Revelation it is the Risen Christ who says, “I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.”
The references don’t stop there. Genesis 1 is employed not just to testify that Christ is fully one with God, but also that Christ is fully one with humanity. Fully and perfectly human.
I hope you heard, in Genesis 1:27 it says that when God created humanity God made them in the image and likeness of God. We mention that to remind one another of our sacred worth, but Colossians 1 says “He, Christ, He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. Hebrews 1 says “He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being.” And Ephesians 2 says Christ is the one in whose image we were made and destined to be re-made.
The light of Christ shined on Genesis doesn’t stop at the idea that Christ is the creating God. Christ is also the created human. Begotten, not made, light from light, true God from true God, and also truly human, for us and for our salvation.
When the apostles, those who had known Christ in the flesh, when they had seen his face, and touched his wounds, and witnessed his resurrection, the new life they found, they say it came from here, from the one who was in the beginning and has revealed to us the true image and likeness of God. All of that theology, all of that scripture, all of that doctrine comes from Genesis 1.
You can even see it reflected in Jesus’ baptism. Today is Baptism of Our Lord Sunday. Do you remember that story? Jesus comes to the Jordan where John the Baptist is baptizing people for their forgiveness and repentance. Jesus comes and at first John says “no way, you don’t need to be baptized,” and he’s right.
But Jesus insists. His baptism isn’t a baptism for repentance. He’s up to something different. John goes along with it. Jesus is baptized deep in the waters of the Jordan and as he comes out of the water, the heavens part and a light shines and a voice comes from heaven saying “this is my Son with whom I am well pleased.”
Do you see it? It has so much in common with Genesis 1. There are the parted heavens, and the waters over the earth. Then, there is a voice from heaven, the same creating voice that brought forth the beginning.
Really the most significant difference between these stories is this. In Genesis 1 the voice of God brought forth life by hovering and speaking over the waters of chaos. Here, at Jesus baptism, God doesn’t hover over the waters, Christ enters the chaos. Christ is submerged in the waters of chaos and emerges to the sound of God saying, this is my Son, this is what I am doing. This is how I am ordering chaos now. I am bringing order to chaos by entering chaos and ordering it from within.
This is the beginning of a New Creation as God again brings forth Light, to create something where there was nothing, and to bring order out of chaos.
We’ve had our fill of chaos this week, haven’t we? It was another chaotic week in a string of 10 months worth of chaos disordering and disrupting our lives. Honestly it wasn’t necessarily that much better 12 months ago. Much of the chaos we know today has been both prolonged and acute, hasn’t it.
Well let this Baptism of our Lord Sunday, and the story of Genesis 1 be a reminder to us all of what has been revealed to us about God’s relationship to chaos. Hear the good news, all the chaos that ever has been and ever will be has only one destiny: to be brought into order by the Love of God in Jesus Christ. All of the chaos that ever has been and ever will be, whether national, political, global, spiritual, physical, familial, or personal. All chaos has only one destiny: to be brought into order by the Love of God in Jesus Christ.
That’s the reason we baptize one another. We baptize one another in water, we bathe one another in chaos to testify to the Good News that that is precisely where the Love of God has come into the waters of chaos. That is where this Love has always been to meet us and bring Order to the cosmos and to our very lives. That’s why we baptize babies, because we believe this is true from the very beginning and ever shall be. All this is offered to us without price.
That’s the Good News; but please do not miss the radical nature of this news. Do not miss the audacity that early Christians had in saying that Jesus Christ is the Beginning of all things and their destined End. When they said that, when they preached it, when they wrote that down they were saying that the Lord God, creator of the universe is a carpenter from Nazareth. That Jesus of Nazareth, Mary’s boy, is the only begotten son of God. That the one who formed Orion and the Pleiades ate with prostitutes and tax collectors. Ultimately one who endured a humiliating death, even death on a cross, is the one in whom we live and move and have our being. Do not lose sight of the fact that we are baptized into the faith that the One on the cross is the one through whom all things hold together, in whom we are made a new creation.
All chaos will find order; but it will only be found through the Way of the cross. This is the Way. This is the Truth. This is our Beginning. This is our End. Thanks be to God.