In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
God is transcendent and eternal. Above all things, beyond all things, before all things. Before the beginning there is God; after the ending, there is God. He is alpha and omega. He is the Source and the Cause. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
Though God is enthroned in heaven beyond the heavens, His footstool is upon the earth. The earth is His temple in the cosmos. Of all the countless planets orbiting innumerable stars in billions of galaxies, God chose earth to be the place where He plants His foot.
The earth’s beginning is emptiness, chaos, and disorder, a swirling Deep covering its face and the Spirit-breath of God blowing across the surface. Water and Spirit. The earth stands in readiness to receive the Word. God is the God who speaks. His speaking is His action, His Word is the event. By His Word through water and Spirit, He brings light and order and life.
These are the days of God’s speaking, the liturgy of creation.
The First Day– Light and Time
And 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.
God speaks and the day begins. “Be light,” God said, and light there is. God speaks and so it is. God sees the light. It is good, for God is good. The darkness cannot overcome the light. They are distinct as Day and Night, separated from each other by evening and morning. The day is for work before night comes when no one can work. The night is for silent sleep. Evening and morning are for prayer. Light and time are knit together in a circadian dance. Time is sacred; it belongs to God. His is the day, and His the night, the evening and the morning, time and eternity. The evening comes and then the night. The first day is ended.
For created light, for the mysterious duality of particle and wave, for the energy that warms and illumines, for the daily rhythm of work and sleep and praise, for Your creative Word which is light and life, we give You thanks, O Lord our God.
The Second Day – Sky
And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
God speaks and the day begins anew. “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, separating waters from waters.” And so it is. We call it “sky” or “atmosphere” – troposphere, mesosphere, thermosphere, exosphere. Our ancient ancestors called it “firmament.” God calls it “heavens.” The roof over our heads, sheltering us from the cosmic storms. The domed ceiling of God’s temple in the cosmos, the earth, His footstool. A place to hang the clouds from which fall refreshing rains. A playground for sun, moon, and stars to run their course. The sky is wondrous canvass of color – blue by day and black at night, with purplish hues in the morning and fiery reds in the evening. We look up in awe and wonder, beyond ourselves. The evening comes and then the night. The second day is ended.
Let us pray:
For the heavens above, the firmament dome of the earth; for its protection and splendor, for the clouds that bring us rain, for the blueness of day and the blackness of night, for purple-hued mornings and fiery evenings, we lift your eyes to give You thanks and praise, O Lord our God.
The Third Day – Sea, Land, and Food
And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
God speaks and the day begins anew. “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And so it is. Ocean and lake. Continent and island. Seas and earth. Dry land and wetlands. A boundary for the Sea’s proud waves – thus far you may go and no further. Soil ready to recieve seed and provide food. Though we are born of water, our home is the land. All is good.
A second Word for this day. “Let the earth bring forth vegetation, plants and trees bearing seed and fruit, each according to its kind in a cornucopia of diversity. The Word comes before seed or plant, speaking to the earth, creatively working hiddenly, imperceptibly, like the kingdom of God itself. The earth brings forth a harvest of daily bread by the creative Word working in, with, and under soil and seed. “The eyes of all look to You, O Lord, and you give them their food in due season. You open Your hand, and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” It is good. The evening comes and then the night. The third day is ended.
Let us pray:
For sea and land, for dirt and mud, for plants and trees bearing seed and fruit in prodigal splendor, for stilled storms and wilderness bread multiplied in lavish abundance, we give thanks to You, O Lord, our God.
The Fourth Day – Sun, Moon, and Stars
And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
God speaks and the day begins. “Let there be lights in the firmament.” And so there is. Sun and moon, the greater and lesser. And a multitude of stars – the Pleiades and Orion, Pisces and Andromeda, Antares, Betelgeuse, and Canopus – servants of God, stewards of times and seasons, signs for wise men seeking kings. Dancing in the heavens to a cosmic choreography, they declare the glory of God.
Our ancestors saw the hosts of heaven dancing on the dome of the earth. Ours is a somewhat different point of view, thanks to Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Hubble, and Voyager. We’ve peered into the depths of distant galaxies, explored the rings of Saturn, and taken mankind’s giant leap to walk the moon. We know much about how the heavens go, and yet, the mystery only deepens and our awe is amplified, for the persistent question is not how but why. And the age-old answer remains the same, unchanged and unchanging: the Word.
Evening comes, then night. The sun hands off its watch to the moon, and the hosts of heaven dance their liturgy of praise across the starry night. Praise Him, sun and moon. Praise Him, all you shining stars! It is good.
Let us pray:
For the lights of heaven in all their splendor, for sun and moon, and all the stars, for distant galaxies and supernovae, for the rhythms of day and night, month and year, and for the cycle of the seasons, for blazing sunsets and autumn moons and starry nights, we give You thanks, O Lord our God.
The Fifth Day – Fish and Birds
And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
God speaks and the day begins. “Let the waters swarm with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse.” And so it is. A kaleidoscope of fin and feather in colorful array and prodigal excess. Whimsical creatures that fly through the seas and across the skies. The goby and the grouper. Seahorses, jellyfish, sharks, and the sea monsters, the mythical denizens of the Deep. The hummingbird and the eagle, the egret and the sparrow. Water and sky filled with motion and color. Schools and flocks of sparkling jewels in kinetic motion like a great suspended mobile. Sea and sky are God’s canvass; fish and birds His art. The Artist is at play. It is good.
The creative Word blesses. “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the sea and sky.” The swallow nests, her eggs hatch, the peacock struts, the salmon spawn. The proud eagle mounts up and makes his nest on high, driven by the fruitful Word. The elaborate dance of courtship moves to the rhythm of blessing that speaks fecundity.
Evening comes, and then the night. The cormorant finds a sheltered perch. And the fish of the sea lie suspended in open-eyed slumber. The fifth day is ended.
Let us pray:
For the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, for the cacophonous cockatiel and the grotesque octopus, for flocks of geese and schools of minnows and the endless teeming dance in water and air, for luminescent fin and feather, for Your playful artistry and Your benevolent blessing by which the vastness of sea and sky are filled; we give You thanks, O Lord our God.
The Sixth Day – Animals and Man
And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
God speaks and the day begins. The sixth day. “Let the earth bring forth living creatures.” And so it is. Fur and tooth and claw. Mammal, reptile, and bug. The Word doesn’t speak to the emptiness but to the earth. “Let the earth bring forth.” As on the third day, so the sixth. The Word works through means – hiddenly, mysteriously, in, with and under.
Our fathers and mothers saw wild things and domestic things and creeping things. Untamed beasts and cattle and lizards. In Linnaean categories, we speak of domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. But they are still lions and lambs and bugs. Creatures full of life, filling the land with living things as the fish fill the sea and the birds fill the sky.
And there is one more thing, one more Word. “Let us make Man in our image.” One who bears the Maker’s mark. We share a common biology and breath with our fellow sixth-day creatures, yet there is something unique about our place and purpose. Male and female, coequal bearers of God’s image, the likeness of the God who speaks, capable of language, mathematics, science, poetry, art, music, with imaginations that soar beyond ourselves and our basic needs of survival. We seek meaning and purpose and pattern. We wonder and ask “why.”
We are priests to God in HIs cosmic temple, reflecting the Creator to the creation. We are stewards of His handiwork, capable of moving mountains and changing the course of rivers, and building giant cities. We are lords of the living things, a privileged place granted by the Word who makes and orders all things.
The heavens are full of stars; the sky is full of birds; the seas are full of fish’ the land is full of living things. And Man presides as priest. There is food for Man and beast. It is very good.
Evening falls. Man lifts up his hands to offer the evening sacrifice of praise on behalf of all creation. “Let my prayer rise before you as incense.” The lions roar, the cattle low, the crickets chirp. The night comes. And lion and lamb and little child lie down in peaceful slumber.
Let us pray:
For living creatures great and small, for aardvark and zebra, for the bear, the cow, and the spider, for Man who bears Your Maker’s mark, for our being male and female in your image, priests and stewards and lords of Your good handiwork, for our imagination and curiosity, our creativity and the power to subdue the natural forces, for the priestly privilege of serving You with sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise, we give you thanks, O Lord our God.
The Seventh Day – Rest
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
The day begins but God is silent. He has spoken all that need be said of the heavens and the earth. It is finished. God rests.
The seventh day is unlike the other days – holy, consecrated, set apart for quiet contemplation. bringing God’s week of days to its fulfillment. Day, month, and year can be known by observing sun, moon, and stars. But not so the week. A week of days must be made known, revealed. The seventh day is also the final day, the telos, the end, a reminder that what begins in God also ends in God. God’s week patterns all our weeks, reminding us that work ends in rest as surely as darkness ends in light.
Evening does not fall upon this day, nor is there night. This is endless day in timeless time, when even sun, moon, and stars rest in the eternal moment of God.
To rest is to worship, to be still and know that God is God. Work and play are for the other days, and each day has cares sufficient unto it, but our value is not measured by our productivity or prowess. We are more than “human resources.” Work and play fatigue and drive us into sleep, but in rest we rise renewed to life. To rest is not to speak but to hear, not to give but to receive, not to act but to be acted upon. In God’s rest we find our humanity.
Rest is freedom from the tyranny of quota and clock. In work we are servants, and sometimes slaves, but in rest we are lords and kings. “We are restless until we find our rest in Thee,” Augustine once said. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest,” said Jesus. “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Blessed indeed, says the Spirit, that they rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them.”
Let us pray:
For working days and sabbath days, for restful moments in the Word, foretastes of our rest to come, and for Christ the Word, who is Life and Light and sabbath rest, we give you thanks, O Lord our God.