First Parish Church
United Church of Christ, Yarmouth Maine

Sermon by
Rev. Kate Dalton

September 8, 2019

Scripture: Genesis 2:4b-25, Mark 10:6-8

Genesis 1:1-5:

In the beginning when God created[a] the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God[b] swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

The story of creation – something we are all familiar with. 

Wait, what – that’s not the story we read this morning?  I don’t understand – our reading today is the creation story.  The creation story goes like this: In the beginning…  What’s that – there are two creation stories.  Are you sure? I know the creation story – In the beginning when God created. 

This morning’s reading is Genesis 2 – that’s not the beginning, Genesis 1 is the beginning.  How can Genesis 2 have another creation story?  What’s that you say?  Not only is there another creation story – but the details don’t match?  How can that be?  What is going on here?  I think you are looking at the wrong Bible.  What’s that – check the pulpit Bible?  Ok.  Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning, that looks right.  Now what?  Check Genesis 2:4b?  It has a heading – it says, another creation story.  How can there be two creation stories?  Can’t you only create the world from nothing once?

As many of you know – there are in fact, two creation stories in Genesis.   This morning’s reading is actually considered to be the older of the two, dated to approximately 950 BCE, while the story from Genesis 1 is dated to approximately 530 BCE.[1]  The point is each story depicts an understanding of creation specific to a particular historical perspective.  As the world changes, how people understand (or want to understand) the world also changes.  We make choices about how we understand the world. 

I’m reading a book entitled, Change Your Questions, Change Your Life by Marilee Adams.  In the book, Marilee uses a parable of sorts to get her point across.  She tells the story of a man named Ben who is having trouble with his team at work and his life at home.  Ben’s boss asks him to see a coach named Joseph who introduces him to the Choice Map.  The choice map depicts two options – the learner and the judger.  The learner takes life experience and examines it.  The learner stays open and asks questions like – what happened, what can I learn, what’s possible, what are my choices?  The judger reacts to life experience and looks for people to blame. The judger casts circumstances as black and white. 

To help Ben get a sense of judger vs learner, Joseph gives him this exercise:

         Ask yourself these questions:

                  Whose fault is it?

                  What’s wrong with me?

                  Why am I such a failure?

                  Why can’t I ever do anything right?

                  Why is everybody so stupid and frustrating?

                  Haven’t we already been there, done that?

                  Why bother?

Consider those questions for a moment – how do they make your body feel.  Most likely you notice tension and some pretty downtrodden mental thoughts.

Joseph then invited Ben to ask himself these questions: 

                  What happened?

                  What do I want?

                  What’s useful about this?

                  What can I learn?

What’s the other person thinking, feeling, and wanting?  What are my choices?

                  What’s best to do now?

                  What’s possible?

Consider those questions – chances are you feel much more hopeful and optimistic than you did with the first set of questions.

This week’s resources from our worship planning guide, Spill the Beans, says this about the second creation story:

There is, in this creation account, more than a hint of a God who was prepared to experiment with creation and to patiently persevere until a human relationship was established and until human community was formed. God’s unique gift to humans is their ability to enjoy relationships with one another and with their creator God.

This comment made me realize that in this story of creation – God is a learner, not a judger.  Imagine how the story might have been different if God had said to the man – what’s wrong with you?  I made you these animals to be your companions.  Why can’t you find a suitable mate?  Why do you have to make things so hard for me?

But that’s not the relationship depicted in the second creation story.  Instead, as Spill the Beans notes, God perseveres and continues to experiment until the right solution is created.  God is in relationship with man and stays curious.  This story models an openness and curiosity.  An openness and curiosity that we can also have – but we have to make a conscious choice. 

As we begin our new program year here at First Parish, I encourage you to try out the learner mindset.  Claim your ability to serve God and to help co-create a world where creation in balance.  Be open to understanding better and discerning more.  Being a learner allows us to create new life rather than getting stuck in what has been. 

This week’s take home activity based from Spill the Beans:

Today we have read and heard of a hands-on God who is prepared to experiment; to take risks and to persevere.

Do we do the same?

Are there things that we should be at least trying?

Are there risks that we should take in our lives or in the life of our church?

Are there things that we are thinking of giving up on, which we should persevere with a bit longer?

May we relate to God and one another and discover the possibilities of the sacred creation.  Amen.


[1] https://www.deliriumsrealm.com/genesis-creation/

Sermon for September 8, 2019