Telescope or Kaleidoscope?


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 104; 150, Genesis 1:1-2:3, Ephesians 1:3-14, John 1:29-34

The first Biblical account of creation tells the story of God creating for six days and resting on the seventh. That story is immediately followed by a second one that differs in detail but still ends with the first human beings in a garden paradise. When we recall the stories, we often blur the lines between them, taking a six-day schedule from one, a borrowed rib from another. The Biblical creation accounts don’t stop with Genesis. Proverbs, Job, John, multiple Psalms – these and other passages provide widely varied accounts of how God went about creating the world. How is it they can be so different, yet part of a unified whole?

The Gospels are similar. Each tells the story of Jesus from a different viewpoint, so they are similar but not the same. Studies show that eyewitness accounts are notoriously unreliable, yet sometimes our legal system still depends on them. The more witnesses who can corroborate key details, the better. A telescope is accurate but limited by its singular field of vision; a kaleidoscope gives us many angles of the same view.

Let’s consider our own histories. When we and our siblings or friends reminisce about childhood, we don’t all recall it the same way. Ever listen to a married couple tell a story jointly? There is quite a bit of give and take, argument and correction as they navigate their way through the tale. Witnesses, friends, or partners, they are all working toward finding truths that can only be reconstructed by layering multiple perspectives and insights.

When we dive into the big questions – Who am I? Why am I here? What’s it all about? – no single story tells us all we need to know. The compilers of the Bible were not concerned that the creation stories “agree” because that’s not the point. Even the “conflict” between Genesis and science disappears when we consider facts and truth are not revealed in a single snapshot, but in multiple exposures over a long period of time. If we insist that only one story is factual, we’ll never know which ones are true.

Comfort: We don’t have to have all the answers.

Challenge: We have to keep asking the questions.

Prayer: God of Creation, help me to value your truth more than my own certainty. Amen.

Discussion: Every family has its own mythology. What’s one of your family’s most meaningful stories? If you don’t have a family, what makes a story meaningful to you?

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