A Modern Take on the Creation Story

When I was in fourth or fifth grade I read every myth I could get my hands on. It didn’t matter what culture they came from, Native American, Celtic, Greek, Roman, Chinese, I read all that I could find. I loved these stories for the imaginative way they explained how some things came to be. Even though I didn’t understand it then, I was drawn to the Truth in them that often comes through great stories.

Of course, it was years later when I came to understand many scriptural stories in the same way. It’s the Truth that gets me every time. This week’s lectionary contains a section of the creation story. It’s a story that is beautiful and Truthful. However, it has been a source of pain for some. I don’t think it was meant to be since it is an ancient story and could only speak to what was known at the time it came to life. So I’ve take quite a bit of liberty and written a version of this story that includes more of what we know now. You may or may not find it helpful…


In the days before time began to flow, there existed the One-Who-is-Many. The One-Who-is-Many was surrounded by sacred silence and was content for it to be so. Until one day when the One-Who-is-Many imagined a world filled with life and breath and hope.

Days were not yet days, but a span of time stretched and shaped in many ways and directions, when out of sacred silence the One-Who-is-Many pulled a solid sphere of matter. This matter came together because the imagination of the One-Who-is-Many willed it to be. There were periods of light and dark at the end of this first eternal day. The One-Who-is-Many was pleased with creation for it was good. Yet, there was more to be done.

So on the second eternal day, the One-Who-is-Many, separated the sphere with all its gases and waters from the sky around it. On this sphere there was now above and below as well as light and dark. The One-Who-is-Many was pleased with creation for it was good. Yet, there was more to be done.

prairie-679014_1280On the third eternal day, which may have been longer than other eternal days, the One-Who-is-Many separated land from the seas. Seeing the barren places, the One-Who-is-Many, touched them with sacred silence and brought forth plants and vegetation of all kinds. All kinds of growing things that would change and lead to other kinds of green and growing things as the eternal days went on and on.  Now the sphere had plants, land, and seas as well as ground below and sky above and light and dark. The One-Who-is-Many was pleased with creation for it was good. Yet, there was more to be done.

On the fourth eternal day, which also stretched on and on, the One-Who-is-Many set great lights in the sky. The sun would rule the day and the moon and stars would rule the night. The One-Who-is-Many enjoyed shining lights into the nights and bringing warmth to the days. The sphere turned slowly and seasons came into being.  Now there were sun, moon, and stars, growing things, land and seas, ground and sky, and light and dark. The One-Who-is-Many was pleased with creation for it was good. Yet, there was more to be done.

On the fifth eternal day, the One-Who-is-Many rejoiced to set living beings free in the water and in the air. Some were placed so deep in the waters that they have yet to be seen and some have long been forgotten. But on the fifth eternal day, bird song filled the air and whale song filled the seas. These creatures brought forth others and others as the sphere turned slowly day after day. Creatures of the air and creatures of the sea filled the sphere and enjoyed the sun, moon, and stars, plants of all kinds, land and seas, ground and sky, and light and dark. The One-Who-is-Many was pleased with creation for it was good. Yet, there was more to be done.

On the sixth, and maybe the longest, eternal day, the One-Who-is-Many set about makingbaby-feet-402844_1920 all the creatures of the earth. Things with fur and things with scales. Large things and small things and all kinds of hidden things. Some have come to be named and known while others remain hidden and still others have been forgotten. The One-Who-is-Many took great delight in fashioning all the creatures of the earth, for they were all good.

Late in the day, the One-Who-is-Many realized a loneliness. All the wonders and beauty of creation, yet nothing was like the One-Who-is-Many. So the One-Who-is-Many mixed sacred silence with the mud and matter of creation to fashion a human one. And it was very good. The human one went about naming all that the One-Who-is-Many had made. It was a good day.

As evening came, the One-Who-is-Many saw that the human one was alone. Neither the One-Who-is-Many nor any of the animals were much like it. Realizing that none should be alone, the One-Who-is-Many imagined a companion for the human one. Soon the human one was wrapped in sacred silence so that the One-Who-is-Many could shape another from flesh and bone. This human one was meant to keep the other human one company. Together they were more like the One-Who-is-Many than they were apart. They came to be known as male and female, man and woman.

Some think the sixth eternal day ended here. But others have come to know the story differently. These know that many more human ones were made in the image of the One-Who-is-Many. There is beauty and diversity, even more so as the day stretched on. These others would come to be known as queer people – gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, asexual, and many more. Together with male and female they were more like the One-Who-is-Many than they were apart. All made of flesh and bone and sacred silence, given breath and life and bearing the image of the One-Who-is-Many.

At the end of the sixth eternal day, the One-Who-is-Many looked over all of creation and saw that it was good. The human ones were given the honor of watching over the whole of creation. They were to be caretakers for the earth creatures, creatures of the air and creatures of the sea, everything that grew under the sun, moon, and stars, plants of all kinds, land and seas, ground and sky, and light and dark. The human ones delighted the One-Who-is-Many who was pleased with the whole of creation for it was very, very good.

bank-894308_1280Finally, the seventh eternal day came. It was the shortest of all eternal days. On this day the One-Who-is-Many rested and rejoiced over the works of Creation. It was good to rest on this seventh eternal day. Soon, time would begin to flow as it does now and the human ones would keep the One-Who-is-Many very, very busy because they often forget that though they are many, not one of them is the One-Who-is-Many. But these are stories for another day.

RCL – Year B – Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost – October 4, 2015
Job 1:1; 2:1-10
Psalm 26
Genesis 2:18-24
Psalm 8
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
Mark 10:2-16

Photos from Pixabay. Used by permission.

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A Mixture of Things

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, then you know that I seldom post on anything not related to the lectionary. This week I am at the Widening the Welcome Conference which is sponsored by the Disabilities Ministry and the Mental Health Network of the United Church of Christ. The goal of this conference is to, well, widen the welcome of our churches through education, shared experience, and building relationships. On Saturday, I will present a workshop on Congregations and Suicide Prevention, Intervention, and Postvention. The poem below is what I plan to read as I begin. It’s from my book, A Circle in the Dark: Daily Meditations for Advent.

I did happen to write on the lectionary earlier this week. If you are putting a sermon together, you might want to look here.


A Prayer for Peace

Where is our refuge and our shelter?
We sit in darkness and the shadow of death.
War and violence fill our lives
year after year.

Is there no better way?

Lord, in Your mercy,
guide our feet in the way of peace.

We are awash in the bloodstains of judgment
and caught in the storms of hatred.
Ignorance and isolation separate us
day after day.

Is there no better way?

Lord, in Your mercy,
guide our feet in the way of peace.

We burn with shame and guilt
pleading with gods of our making
to offer us forgiveness and life
hour by hour.

Is there no better way?

Lord, in Your mercy,
guide our feet in the way of peace.

We are lost in the wilderness of fear
unable to recall the prophets of old.
We deceive ourselves
moment by moment.

Is there no better way?

Lord, in Your mercy,
guide our feet in the way of peace.

Photo from pixabay. Used by permission.

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Charged with Welcome

photo-album-584709_1280Some weeks come with their very own theme. I’m not sure exactly how it happens, but this week I’ve had many conversations about seeing the “other.” The conversations were with colleagues, parishioners, friends, and my wife. The specific topics included systemic racism, rights for undocumented immigrants, refugees, politics, and even self-hatred. Seeing, recognizing, acknowledging the other was the subtext in all these discussions. The news of the week raised this topic with the refugee/migrant/asylum seekers exiting Syria and unsettling many European countries. So too with Ahmed and his clock that got him arrested for being Muslim and showing a remarkable technical capacity.

Underscoring these news stories is the Gospel text for this week. Of course, the disciples in Mark are arguing over who is the greatest among them in their exclusive little group. The story may seem relatively innocuous–a bunch of men debating power and position. However, this incident is a segment of a much larger story. Jesus learned something from the Syrophoenician woman about the value of those outside of Israel who had always been considered unclean or, at least, less worthy than the people of Israel. He learned that lesson in one brief interaction and we have yet to learn it 2000 years later. I think we are still having the argument the disciples were having that day as they walked along rather than living by what Jesus had to say to them in response.

The disciples saw glimpses of Jesus’ divinity and wanted to get as close to that as they possibly could. They argued about who was greatest among them thinking that status would get them a seat closer to God in heaven. Jesus turns their argument upside. Children were not particularly valued in those days. Jesus really meant that part about being last and being servant of all. Welcome a lowly child and you welcome God. That’s pretty intense and not at all what the disciples thought the Messiah would say.

It seems that we still don’t want Jesus to be saying these kinds of things. Why is it okay that a presidential candidate slams immigrants and promises to build a wall around Mexico? Why is it okay that people respond to Black Lives Matter with threats of horrific violence? Why is it okay that Muslims are assumed to be terrorists? Why is it okay that there is a debate over whether refugees are really refugees when their country is wracked by war? Why is it okay to walk down the street and willfully overlook homeless people? Why is it okay to fear the “other” and dehumanize them without even thinking about who they are or where they come from?


It’s been more than two millennia since Jesus talked about being his follower by taking up one’s cross, being last, and being a servant of all. Seriously, when will we learn? We truly have resources enough to care for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the refugee, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. What are we going to do in the name of Christ to ensure that all find the welcome Jesus charged us with so long ago?

RCL – Year B – Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proverbs 31:10-31
Psalm 1
Wisdom of Solomon 1:16-2:1, 12-22 or Jeremiah 11:18-20
Psalm 54
James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a
Mark 9:30-37

Photos from Pixabay. Used with permission.

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Significant Questions


After a short though very intense week, I find myself asking if it isn’t too late to go back to the weeks of “bread?”  I know clergy often find those weeks to be repetitive and, therefore, challenging. However, these tense encounters with Jesus in Mark’s gospel might cause discomfort more than challenge. Last week was the Syrophoenician woman who revealed Jesus’ humanity in an uncomfortable manor. This week is a revelation of Jesus’ divinity that I find no more comfortable.

Scholars have written plenty about this passage. The fact that Caesarea Philippi was a Roman stronghold made this whole public conversation between Jesus and his disciples rather risky. As one of my colleagues put it early this week, the disciples probably said something like, “Jesus, please don’t mention crosses here! We all know what Romans use them for!” The anxiety Jesus provoked in the disciples when he asked, “Who do you say that I am?” is no mystery.

This question has haunted me through the week. Who is Jesus? What does my answer say about who I am? As the stories of Kim Davis filled the headlines, I wasn’t particularly drawn to the rigid, unforgiving Jesus she claims. After the images of the dead boy on the beach, some said that these things are “God’s will.” Surely Jesus is not one who wills the death of a child, the death of any innocent. On the anniversary of 9/11 and remembering the fear and hatred that both caused the events and consumed so many in the early days, I am not drawn to a Jesus who condones hatred and rejection of those who call God by another name.

It is easy enough to say who Jesus is not. My answer to who Jesus is at this moment is that Jesus is divine love incarnate, the Christ. The Christ who makes forgiveness, grace, healing, and, ultimately, love, the final word. This poses no problem. However, when I think about what this says about who I am in response…

If Jesus is Love Incarnate, then I am to be the embodiment of that same love. Then I am also to “take up my cross.” I don’t think this is a reference of how I bear my own suffering as has often been preached. Instead, I think this is a reference to what I choose to bear on behalf of another in order to alleviate, or at least lighten, the suffering of that person or persons.

Who do you say that Jesus is? And what does your answer say about who you are called to be?

RCL – Year B – Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost – September 13, 2015
Proverbs 1:20-33
Psalm 19 or Wisdom 7:26-8:1
Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 116:1-9
James 3:1-12
Mark 8:27-38

Photo from Pixabay. Used with permission.

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Personal Reflections on Grief and Racism

I’m on vacation and, therefore, not preaching this week. Consequently, this will be a little more personal than usual. At the same time, I’m trying to avoid the “what I did on my summer vacation” theme that is obvious. Vacation brings a lot of time to relax and reflect on life. This has been a busy, intense year for me so far, so there’s a lot to think about.

2015-08-27 12.19.59As you may know, my mother died in April. I think about her often. I wanted to tell her what the north shore of Lake Superior was like and how it would have reminded her of Lake Ontario where she grew up. And then we would talk about the ocean and how much we both miss it. These were the kinds of things we would talk about – simple and safe. However, when it comes to the texts for this week I read them and I realize how much my mother would disapprove of my recent activities and how sad that makes me.

Like most people, my mother was a complicated individual. She was smart and talented in many ways. She also lived her life on a very narrow road that was more limited and shorter than it needed to be as far as I can tell. But she made her choices and lived her life and was rather disappointed I don’t live mine in a similar way.

In both the Proverbs and James texts, there is a stated duty to care for the poor. People of faith are not to make value judgements based on a person’s income level (or anything else, really). We are to feed and clothe people because we are all made by the same Creator. Words are insufficient; actions must follow. I believe this without qualifications. I’ve spent my life advocating for people who live on the margins. My mother wanted me to “get a real job” and stop ministry with youth, people with developmental disabilities, LGBT people, or people with mental illness. As much as she didn’t understand why I do what I do, she would really hate the fact that I whole-heartedly support Black Lives Matter.

2015-08-29 11.58.10

I’ve come to understand that my mother lived with a whole lot of fear. I started off that way, too. I had a lot of anxiety about not being good enough or not being worthy of anyone’s time or attention. Until more recent years, I harbored a secret fear of being broken beyond repair, of being unlovable. However, I was not willing to let fear have the final say in my life. I did not want to become the fearful, hateful person my mother had become. I was not willing to believe that some people were better than others or that some deserved grace and mercy while others did not. If I wanted to believe that my life has value, I had to believe that everyone’s life has value.

It took me a long time to recognize that I have privilege that others simply do not have by a fact of birth. I’ve also realized that my mother’s racist views are more normative than my much more open view of the world. My increased awareness of the prevalence of racism and the protection of white privilege is heartbreaking and strangely complicates my grieving. It also strengthens my desire to move beyond fear, judgement, and hate and encourage others to do the same. Real Christian values are those built on love, grace, and mercy. They do not exclude any people for any reason.

I’m appalled by the nastiness that is flung at Black Lives Matter organizers and supporters. Such violent and hateful words directed at people who challenge systemic racism and call for justice for People of Color don’t make sense. I try to think what would stir such fear and rage within me that I would spew such hateful, murderous words. There is nothing. I’ve met people who have committed atrocious crimes and even they do not bring out any bloodthirstiness in me. I wish people would take a breath and question their own responses. What makes a person respond like that?

We are back where I started. With my mother it was fear. The first time she saw a black person she was in her twenties and she’d already made her road pretty narrow. There was no room for other in her world. Not people of color, not religious people, not people from other countries, not people who didn’t like animals… She had a long list and like many people, I was on it. As her daughter she loved me as best she could. But she could not understand or accept who I am or what I do. Fear governed her life. And where there is fear, there is very little room for mercy, for love, for change, for justice.

Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity,
and the rod of anger will fail.
Those who are generous are blessed,
for they share their bread with the poor.

RCL – Year B – Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost – September 6, 2015
Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23 with
Psalm 125
Isaiah 35:4-7a with
Psalm 146
James 2:1-10 [11-13] 14-17
Mark 7:24-37

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A Bit of Poetry

I’m on vacation this week so I am sharing a poem based on the Song of Solomon reading from my book, Barefoot Theology.


we held hands, my beloved and I47932_426554064163_542639163_4923622_1271989_n
made promises to care for one another
to share laughter and tears
forgiveness and grace
strengths and weaknesses
to bring all of ourselves to this
sacred moment
standing before friends and family
asking God to bless and bind our relationship
then we stepped into our wedded life

we hold hands now, my beloved and I
whispering, “Come away with me”
in moments of quiet celebration
offering comfort in grief
encouragement when hope slides away
never forgetting the blessing we received
the day God joined us together
for a lifetime of never letting go

one day the beauty of springsnow-259974_1920
will be a shadowy memory
after adventures through seasons
stormy and gentle
all with my beloved saying,
“Arise my love, my fair one,
come away with me”
always hand and hand
blessed with Grace

RCL – Year B – Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 30, 2015

Song of Solomon 2:8-13 with Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9  or
Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9 with Psalm 15
James 1:17-27
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

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Do You Know That I Have a Vlog?

Just to let you all know that I have started a Video Blog (Vlog). It won’t often have anything to do with the RCL, but you might want to check it out anyway. Here’s the link to the promo for the series and here’s the link for Monday’s Muse Playlist.

I wanted to invite my blog readers to check it out!

Feel free to comment on any of the videos with your thoughts or ideas for future episodes.

Thank you!

P.S. Write Out of Left Field will continue as usual.

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