Resuming our look at the Primeval Stories of the early part of Genesis, (Chapters 1-11), we conclude today by turning to the beginning of it all – the Creation Poem – not to be confused with the older story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
It was penned in the midst of crisis – probably by some priests of Israel, who found themselves and their people in exile, determined, along with others, to “get down on papyrus” all those stories they’d been passing on from generation to generation.
So they wrote a poem about the beginnings of it all, eventually placed ahead of the more ancient tale of our origins.
“In the beginning,” it began, and then came seven stanzas, each describing a part of creation, with God simply declaring stuff into existence, naming it, calling it all “good,” and concluding with the same refrain: “And there was evening and there was morning, the first day,” (second day, third day, etc.).
And then, on day seven, we’re told, “God rested,” and hallowed it – made it a special day, separate from the rest, leading, much later, to a commandment for us also to rest and make holy the Sabbath, or “seventh” day.
No wonder the priests were invested in telling their story of God’s creation that way!
But – we’re not very good, to our own detriment, at sabbath-keeping.
Years ago, when I was a child, the sabbath, (moved to Sunday back then by Christians who worshipped on the first day of the week, celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection), was for many a legalistically interpreted day of no activity except religious ones.
No going out to play, no shopping – most stores were closed, (except essential ones!!), no working, (except essential work).
My Dad was a milkman – daily milk delivery, back then, was essential! My grandfather loved baseball and took me most Saturdays to Shibe Park (later named Connie Mack Stadium), to see the Phillies play.
But never on Sunday. That was thoughtlessly causing others to “work,” and besides, it would have meant having fun!
Little by little, though, he’d sneak a peak at that 10-inch black-and-white screen in the corner of our living room when the Phils were on, on the Sabbath! I even had a girlfriend whose father would only let her go swimming on Sunday if there were no lifeguards on duty, (again, not supporting “frivolous work” [?] on the Sabbath)!
We no longer keep such sabbaths, except, remember (?), not that long ago. when we were doing it every day, calling it, “sheltering in place.”
Maybe there’s a connection here. Whether you hear, “Rest!” as a commandment from God, or just a good common-sense suggestion, it’s something many of us could benefit from.
While being eternally grateful for the sacrifice many frontline workers have made, with scarce opportunity to rest, and never forgetting the pain and loss many are still suffering in these pandemic days, for many of us, it’s almost as if we were being told by a Higher Authority, “Rest, or I’ll give it to you, anyway!”
Can we see what we’ve been going through as a needed rest? Can we call that time off a “Sabbath,” and rather than being bored, receive it as a gift? Can we enable such a gift for our tired essential workforce and for all who suffer and grieve?
Can it be received as a sacred time, a holy rest, a brief period to pause from our routines and reflect on what we still have?
God called what we’ve been given “good.” When all creation was “said” and done, God rested – satisfied.
Can we see the forced rest we’ve been through that way and learn from it to regularly, deliberately, for our own good, choose to take time to rest, satisfied? … . and then, go back to doing God’s work for health and justice and peace.
Jim Graham is a retired Presbyterian minister.
Weekly columns are provided to the News Journal by members of the Wilmington Area Ministerial Association.