At first, there wasn’t anything at all. Nothing! So God set to work. But he didn’t use his hands, or a special machine. He spoke, that’s all. He said, ‘I’d like some light.’ And there was light. Brighter than a summer morning or a thousand Christmas candles.
God spoke again. He said, ‘Sky. I’d like some sky. And some water underneath.’ And, sure enough, there it was. The bright blue sky. With the dark blue heavens above it. And the blue-green sea below.
‘Earth.’ That’s what God said next, hard and firm, as if he really meant it. And the blue-green waters parted, and there was dry land underneath. Great patches of it, dirt black and brown. Here and there, all over the world.
‘We need some colour,’ God whispered, as if he were thinking out loud. And, quivering with excitement, green growing things crept right up out of the dark earth, then burst into blossom-red, orange and blue! Pine trees and palm trees. Rose bushes and blackberry bushes. Tulips and chrysanthemums.
God shouted next.
‘Day – shining sun!’
‘Night – shining moon!’
Bright shining stars!’
And there they were, for morning and evening, summer and winter – time and heat and light!
After that, God called to the sky, as if he were expecting some kind of answer. ‘Come forth, flying things!’ he called. And through the clouds they came. Flying high and flying low. Flying large and flying small. Eagles and insects. Hummingbirds and hawks.
Then called to the sea. ‘Come forth, splashing things!’ And they came to him too, leaping right up through the waves. Sailfish and swordfish. Dolphins and trout, great grinning hump-backed whales.
Finally, God called to the earth. ‘Come forth, walking things, running, hopping, climbing things!’ And sure enough, they came up. Up from burrows. Down from trees. Out of the high grass and across the open plains.
Now everything was ready. Good and ready. So God spoke again. ‘Man and woman,’ is what he said, as if he were calling the names of his very best friends.
And out of the dust came Adam and Eve. To enjoy all that God had made. To take care of it for him. And to talk with him.
‘This is the way things ought to be,’ God said at last. ‘This is good!’
Belief in God as creator is not merely a belief about how everything began; it is the
perspective from which we are to view all life including our own.
It means that we place the highest value on this earth and see life as God’s gift.
Pre-technological societies lived in close dependence on the earth. The daily struggle for food and shelter, at the mercy of natural forces and the changing seasons, led to a profound respect for the environment.
With technological mastery has come a different attitude: one that sees the earth as there to be plundered and exploited. Now we are reaping the whirlwind: with climate change, crises over access to water and food, destruction of habitat and the rapid extinction of species. It is not clear whether the earth can still renew itself or whether the damage has gone too far. It is also not clear that there is the will to stop, to restore this ‘blue planet’, our only fragile home.
In Genesis, God gives humans certain rights over his creation. With these rights, come responsibilities. We are stewards. A steward manages an estate on the owner’s behalf. We have been given the earth to look after by God and to hold it in trust for future generations. If the earth is to sustain our children and succeeding generations, this clearly places limits on how we treat the earth. There have always been elements in the Christian tradition to remind us of our responsibilities and priorities. The Law of Moses made provision for a year’s ‘Sabbath rest’ for the land every seven years and Francis of Assisi addressed the sun, moon, earth, wind and water as his mother, sisters and brothers.
Harvest and Rogation remind us of our dependence on the earth for our survival, and lead us to thank God as the ultimate source of all the earth’s riches.
Although Genesis chapters 1 and 2 contain the most well-known accounts of Creation, it should be remembered that there are extended presentations of the wisdom and majesty of God the Creator in Job 38-41 and in Isaiah 40-45. Also, in the New Testament, Paul explains how Christ was central to creation (Colossians 1:15-16) and that not only humankind but all creation shares in the redemption and renewal that Christ achieved (Romans 8:19-22). The New Testament comes to a close with a vision of a new heaven and a new earth where, in imagery that recalls the Garden of Eden, all are nourished by the spring of the water of life and all have access to the tree of life (Revelation 21).