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Central UMC Blog

The Pastor's Corner: Matters of Creed: Il

Posted by Dr. Steven K. Pulliam on

 

In this edition of the Matters of Creed series, I am returning to the first affirmation from the Apostles’ Creed: I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.  This affirmation corresponds with the very first sentence we read in scripture: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1, NIV). Why did God create? Theologians tell us that God’s creating actions are birthed out of the love that exists within the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). In other words, the overabundance of love which exists between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit compelled God to bring forth life.

Genesis 1 and 2 tell the story of creation in the form of two different parables. Genesis 1 tells the story in a more poetic fashion and Genesis 2, in the form of prose. We should not be surprised that these stories are told in parables. After all, this was Jesus’ favorite way of teaching about God’s kingdom.  Even though these creation stories from Genesis 1 and 2 differ, important similarities exist. Of primary importance is that it is God who creates. Getting hung up on how long creation took misses the most important point of “Who” it is that is doing the creating. The Biblical writers were not trying to make a scientific point, they were inspired by the Holy Spirit to make a theological point.

God’s power in creation should not be underestimated. The second verse of Genesis 1 tells us that “the earth was formless and empty.” In other words, God demonstrates the ability to bring something into existence against all odds. Another way of translating the formlessness and emptiness of the pre-creation earth is to say it was a “desert wasteland.” It was not a place capable of producing or sustaining life. God acted upon this wasteland bringing life to what was lifeless and bringing form, order, and fulfillment to what was formless, empty, and dark. God did so by creating time, space, boundaries, plant and animal life, and lastly human beings, both male and female, made in God’s very image as the pinnacle of God’s good creation.

Obviously, being created in the image of God is no small matter. Old Testament professor and scholar John Goldingay explains that when the Israelites heard this parable, they would be reminded of a practice carried out by Middle Eastern kings. Those kings would often place statues representing themselves throughout their kingdoms to remind their subjects of who their ruler was. From the telling of Genesis 1, the Hebrew people would naturally draw the conclusion that humanity is to be the visible representation of their Creator throughout the world.

[1]God blesses humans and then gives them a command and a vocation in order to rightly be a visible representation of God throughout the world. The command is to “be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28). God wants more image-bearers throughout the world. These image-bearers are to subdue or “hold sway over” creation.[2] What this means is that human beings, as bearers of the image of God, are to care for the Creator’s creation in the same manner, intention, and attention in which God brought forth his creation. This is the God-given vocation of human beings.

The second parable of creation in Genesis 2 makes this point as well. This account of creation presents God as a gardener. God planted a garden, or more literally an orchard, and called it Eden. God put the man in the garden to “work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:8-10, 15). God is the proper owner of the garden and humans are to “serve” the garden so that things grow, and bear fruit as intended. Again, human beings, as image-bearers, filled with the divine breath of God are to care for God’s creation in the same manner as God does in His original act of creation. Timothy Tennant observes, “for Christians, to be a steward of this glorious creation goes beyond mere environmentalism. We are called to creation care, which is living our entire lives in the presence of God and humbly making choices that remember that He is the Creator of the heavens and earth.”[3] This is our original, and tragically often overlooked vocation.

In a quick glance at the first two chapters of the Bible, Genesis 1 and 2, we see the importance of affirming God as the creator of heaven of earth. Not only does God powerfully bring light, life, and order to what was dark, lifeless, and chaotic, God gives us (humans) purpose as His image-bearers. So, friends, let us reaffirm our belief in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

Thanks be to God!

Steve

 

[1] John Goldingay. Genesis for Everyone, Part 1. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 19.

[2] Goldingay, 20.

[3] Timothy C. Tennant. This We Believe! Meditations on the Apostles’ Creed. Wilmore, Kentucky: Asbury Theological Seminary, 2011), 21.

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