Showing items filed under “The Rt. Rev. George Sumner”

Exodus 3

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An important plot line in Genesis is the mystery of human resistance to God’s grace and guidance.  By the time of the story of the Tower of Babel, the ‘human project’ seems virtually at a dead end. So in chapter 12, the divine call of Abraham is a new direction to the divine initiative - the calling of a chosen servant, and hence a people on behalf of humankind.  Exodus continues this initiative under straitened and threatening circumstances. Moses is in some ways an unlikely candidate, almost killed at birth, with his own ‘criminal background,’ a dubious speaker fleeing from his purpose.  The point is that His vocation is from God, as is His preservation.

On the mountain as he is herding, God calls out to him. Again, the Word of God is central.  He is active in the rough and tumble of human history.  He works in His creation yet is free in and over it: the bush burns but is not consumed. 

He is the very same God who created and called Abraham and the other patriarchs. One can look ‘backward’ and see His continuing hand. 

God is willing to give Moses His name. He is not some mere force or principle, but One whose people know Him.  But even the name is mysterious and free:  YHWH could be translated with something like ‘I will be whenever and wherever I will be. God reveals Himself, leads, delivers - but all in order that the story might continue with covenant, obedience, worship, as His chosen people. The story as a goal defined by God the deliverer Himself.

A question for conversation:  much of modern theology has centered around the idea of experience of the holy (you stand on  holy ground) and on liberation of the oppressed. Both themes are legitimately present here. Yet they are not the whole story, but must be understood in a wider context. How would you explain the latter?

Genesis 1

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We hear the Bible as God’s Word in individual passages, in books, and as a whole in concert.  The important thing is to listen to the Bible itself, though there is a place for underlining key themes and concepts that help us hear the Scriptures better.  In the following few entries we will focus on select passages from the Old Testament for this purpose, a myriad of other passages could equally have been selected. 

The first chapter of Genesis, and of the Bible as a whole, is a polestar for all that follows.  My peoples of the earth have ‘creation stories’ that proceed to tell where their tribe came from; such stories describe a timeless realm from which they come. But Genesis 1 is different.  God already exists when the story of all creation begins.  His act is free and sovereign; He speaks His word and all comes immediately and effortlessly into being!  There is no second principle in addition to God - there is only His Word that calls the world out of nothing. The world is distinct from Him, yet it shows the order and beauty bestowed by Him (‘and it is good’). 

The humans are part of His created order.  But they are special in several ways.  He makes us ‘in His image,’ that is, having community, language, responsibility, fecundity, but under Him.  And His creation has a goal, Sabbath, that rest in which the human and God enjoy one another.

The relationship between the human being and God described here will undergird all that follows, and in spite of sin, which is quickly on its way, is never erased fully, though it is obscured and impaired.

A useful exercise: what is Genesis 1 notsaying?

  • That God and the world, or good and evil, are comparable factors, or that God used a pre-existing world to create.
  • That, as a result, God is part of creation or of history (as opposed to their creators).
  • That the world has no structure, and can be molded as humans wish, or that there is not a given goal to it all.
  • That God ‘had’ to create in any way.
  • That the human as ‘in the image’ is part of God.
  • That the Word is anything other than God Himself speaking and acting.

Play the hymn: All People that on Earth do Dwell

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