By J. Barrett Owen
In college, I took an Old Testament course that challenged me to think of Genesis 1 not as a sweet fairy-tale or myth, but rather a very intentional, very nuanced and structured environment that took fully into account the use of the six day metaphor.
My professor wasn't arguing for a six, twenty-four hour day Creation story, but he was expressing his belief that the shape of Genesis 1 (and the intent of the writer) provides six literal days to help author a rhythm to life. We work six days and rest one.
It's the cycle, the pattern of God, that's important. And this got me thinking: What if the structure of Genesis 1 has something to offer how we daily live? Allow me to explain:
First, God dreams. God sees in the mind's eye a world pregnant with possibilities. Then the ruakh, the breath of God, hovers. God peers out over the deep imagining the potential, calculating the odds and setting in motion the impossible. Finally, God moves to risk-taking. God takes known material and combines it with the unknown. New and unusual opportunities arise from this risk. Sea monsters and birds, plants and vegetation, animals and even humans are born.
And none of this would have happened if God had not dreamed, hovered and then risked.
Artist and theologian Troy Bronsink expands on this model of Genesis 1 in his book Drawn In arguing that this pattern, the rhythm of “Dreaming,” “Hovering” and “Risking,” is actually the same rhythm churches and individuals use when making decisions. And I agree with him.
Last month we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s “I have a Dream Speech.” Thousands marched Washington DC remembering the speech, remembering the hope, when those unforgettable words were uttered: “I have a dream today.”
MLK proved, if the dream is powerful enough, culture, life, and even history can be changed for the better.
We are Christ followers because (like MLK) we carry within us a dream. A dream where life offers wholeness, food and care to those who are without. A dream where the disenfranchised and downtrodden are noticed and heard. A dream where the Kingdom of God is at hand. As Christ followers, we must never stop dreaming God-size dreams.
But MLK didn't write this speech on the first day of the Civil Rights Movement; it took going to prison, hosting meetings, reflecting and praying to birth it out. In short, he spent time hovering.
Like MLK (and God), we must spend quality time thinking and reflecting. We must wait,
and discern what God's dream can be and how it can unfold.
But the next step is the most crucial, and the one God's expecting us to take. Who cares if you have eyes to see God's dreams if you aren't telling others or doing anything about it. We have to go out into the world and take known material and mix it with unknown material. We have to risk.
The story of Creation shows us that God's love is concrete. We are public people standing to profess and to offer the beauty and majesty of God. So we must risk by attacking injustices. We must risk our money, our time and our energy to help re-author a world in need. We
must physically help,
and shepherd those who still need to see God's dream.
We must strive, give, aid and listen to those who don't have eyes to see it. So keep dreaming, keep hovering, but don't forget to risk.
Isn't this what the church is called to do anyway?
This is an adaptation of a sermon delivered at McAfee chapel service.
J. Barrett Owen is the Pastor of National Heights Baptist Church and Associate of Admissions at McAfee School of Theology.