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Creation’s First Light

Second Sunday after Epiphany

Genesis 1:1-5

©2020 Rev. Dr. Elisabeth R. Jones

Intro to Scripture

Now, maybe some of you are racing ahead,
trying to remember the details of this
wondrous tale of creation..
what did God say and do on
Day 2 and 3 and 4…?

If you did,
you may have reached the conundrum
of the Biblical ages;
the one that makes us stop in our tracks,
look back and say “Whoah, hold it?”
because on Day 4,
God creates the sun, the moon, the stars.
So… if our little gas ball Sun
and tiny night light moon
aren’t made until Day 4,
what then is this light that’s created
with God’s first breath?
“Creation’s First Light?”

Now, I’m itching to share some of the
wondrous mystical tales
that have offered possible answers to this conundrum,
and I will in a moment,
but we’re not ancient Israelites.
We are thoroughly steeped in
Enlightenment and scientific thinking,
and contrary to the assumption of some
that one cannot be a person of faith and of science,
let me begin with this.

We know that there have been scientific discoveries
since at least Galileo, that may, at first,
seem to have taken the shine off this particular mystery.
We know that the universe–ours at least–
is only about 13.8 billion years old,
and that we’re still seeing the light fall-out
from Creation’s First light,
and that we call, rather clunkily,
the Big Bang.
That’s it, gap plugged.

But get this (and thanks to Vincent for sending it to me)
back in the Fall, astrophysicists reported
a remarkably biblical question;
a super-duper very clever telescope aboard
the New Horizons deep spacecraft,
has sent images back to Earth
of…. you guessed it…
light whose source cannot be explained.
“The universe is not completely dark,
but we don’t know what this dim light is,
nor where it comes from.”

Oh, I just love this!!
Scientists are all agog, coming up with
all sorts of narratives, possibilities,
some simple, some graphically adventurous,
to identify, quantify Creation’s First Light(!),
sounding to my ear at least
remarkably midrashic–imaginative
suppositions that delve into inexplicable mysteries.

Takes this one:
“It could be clouds of exotic, subatomic particles
that decay radioactively or collide and annihilate themselves in flashes of energy that add to the universal glow.”

To my ear, this is one more way
for us humans to push our minds
and souls into the realm of deep mystery,
to lift ourselves for an instant above the
mundanity and dark lassitude of our
current days,
into a soul’s adventure,
where the epiphanies are enough
to make us laugh, and cry,
and even hope again
in God’s Dream for our world!

So, alongside today’s scientists,
let me share some of my discoveries
from the wonderful, spiritual,
mystical, hopeful tales
that ancient and modern
darshanim have offered
to mind this Biblical gap.
What and whence Creation’s First Light.

One ancient midrash suggests that
Creation’s First Light danced in Eden,
making the night as colourful as the day.
Unlike the sun’s light,
it was bright but it did no harm.
One longer midrash is spun by successive story tellers,
to fill this gap, suggesting that when
Adam and Eve doubted God’s providence
and questioned God’s wisdom,
She hid the light from them,
vowing to show it only to those who were
“righteous” and open to wisdom.

God’s longing to share the light however
meant that as Adam and Eve left the Garden,
God hid this light in a tiny jewel
sown into the garments of Adam and Eve.
In each generation which followed them,
someone would catch a glimpse
of this First Light, and pass it on.
It found its way onto the Ark,
in creation’s darkest hour,
keeping hope and life alight and afloat
until it danced to the sky as a rainbow
signalling rebirth for the earth.

Another midrash tells of Abraham seeing
Creation’s First Light
dancing between the stars of the night sky
when God blessed him and Sarah with their
vocation to parent a people of blessing for the world.

It was Creation’s First light
which lit the way for Hagar,
keeping her and her son Esau safe as she escaped
oppression, into the desert.

Creation’s First Light
carved a dry path through the Reed Sea
for Moses and God’s people.

Creation’s first light was what drew Samuel
from his bed to listen for Holy Wisdom.

Creation’s first light kept vigil
with Jonah in the belly of his whale,
until he was ready to share God’s promise
of forgiveness with Nineveh.

Creation’s first light kept the lights burning
for eight days in the Maccabeean revolt.

John’s opening verses
“In the Beginning was the Word
and that Word was the light.
And light has come into the world,
and nothing can put it out”
are our quintessential
Christian midrash on Genesis 1:1-3.

It hasn’t ended there.
Thanks to these minders of the
biblical Gap,
ancient and modern,
scientific and mystical,
we’ve been given the template
to go searching ourselves
for glimpses of God’s First Light;
wherever wisdom is found;
wherever hope is restored;
whenever we see courage
love in the face of hatred;
and holders of light in
times of darkness.

Sandy Sasso, a contemporary rabbi
and Darshan, tells it this way,

“On the first day of Creation
God said “Let there be light!”
And with this light God created whole new worlds.
There are places where you will find this light!
in a hug, peeking from a smile
in a room filled with questions,
in a meadow filled with memories.
You’ll see it glinting in a mother’s eyes
before her child is even born.
You’ll see Creation’s First light
in the first glance of that newborn baby,
where it shines as brightly as it did
on Creation’s first day.”

On that note, let me end with my midrash
on this text, these tales of Creation’s First Light,
as an encouragement for you to tell your own tale too.

The day my daughter was taken into
hospital to deliver three preemie babies,
I was called in to be Gan to their older sibling, Noah
to hold the fort for whatever was about to happen.
I was anxious, fearful even;
it was too soon.. they’d be so tiny.
What was about to happen to my girl,
her family, my family? Would we manage?
I drove along the lakeshore,
and saw this view in my rear-view mirror. * (image below)
I stopped, parked, walked out,
stood, and prayed.

“There was evening and there was morning,
the first Day.”
I know this is a sunset.
But for me now and always it will
be a mirror of
Creation’s First Light.
The light before the birth.
God’s sign that no matter what,
God’s sigh and breath hovers
over all chaos and darkness,
all fear and all ugliness,
calling forth a new world.

All will be well.
Look for the light.

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