I’ve been reading all evening in Walter Brueggemann’s commentary on Genesis in preparation for teaching “creation” at IKON tomorrow night. The man’s brilliant but, like most theologians by trade, boring – to me anyway. Something gets lost in a bookcase of theology books that poetry’s snapshots, in spite of all their simplicity and limitations, capture in vivid detail. For me. I guess that’s why I write songs and not commentaries.
But Brueggemann has – between my naps – inspired me tonight. God’s creating of the world is different from the carpenter’s whittling and hammering, it turns out. God, he says, is not a manufacturer. “He does not ‘make’ so that an object is simply ‘there’.” Instead He creates so that an object is simply His for His purpose. And His purpose is “good.”
Speech is vital to this “good” happening. God speaks 14 times in the creation story of Genesis 1:1-31 (vv. 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11. 14, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 29). God speaks the world into existence, no coercion or strong-arming of particles or nothingness. He speaks “Let it be” – no command, just permission to conform to his want, an invitation to be what God desires. Then reality responds, leaping into perfection’s mold, forming whatever God wills. God speaks, creation listens. And this God calls “good.”
In Genesis 11:1-9 the Hebrew phrase “lo shema” – “they did not listen” – is used to describe the crowds laboriously scurrying to erect the Tower of Babel against God’s will. And now, after reading tonight, those words “did not listen” conjure up a new image of God, His face buried in His hands or His fist pounding the air. Ignored. Infuriated. Broken-hearted. His invitation and permission shoved aside.
My busyness and plans, my willing and working, amount so much of the time to nothing more than a child’s La-la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you’s with index fingers jammed in tightly. My shoulder to the wheel, my nose to the grindstone, I’m busy these days doing “good” work. But that’s no good at all if I’m not listening to Divine speech, to the invitation to be what He wants, what He made me for.
I think I’ll turn in now. My brain is full and my eye lids are thick. But first I think I’ll sit out on the porch, take in the obedience of midnight creation, and listen.
(IKON is a community primarily for post-high school young adults (twenty-somethings) meeting on Tuesday nights at 8(ish) at The People’s Church in Franklin, TN to learn, go, give and pray together. IKON is pastored by me and Brian Seay. We’ll meet outside tomorrow in God’s creation for the start of our Summer-long study of Genesis.)