The Birthing Waters of Creation

Genesis 1: The Beginning

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

I love the ocean. I have always been fascinated by the ocean. I can stand on the beach in Ocean City and wonder if I can sense Portugal. I have stood on the beach in Portugal with Ann and we have wondered if we can see Ocean City. The ocean is amazing. The ocean waters are soothing and relaxing and treacherous. The food we receive from the ocean we call “seafood” and we relish the abundance and varieties that are available to us.  In the summer I yearn to go to the ocean. It’s a summer thing!

So, on this summer morning in July, we will embark on a new sermon series called, Walking Wet[1].  As you can probably guess, these messages are all about water.  Perhaps you haven’t really stopped to think about it, but water plays a major role in the stories of scripture.  There are more than 800 references to water in the Bible, and we’re going to explore some of these because just as water nourishes our physical bodies, so the water in scripture nourishes our souls.

Water is a universal theme because every living thing needs water to survive.  Plants, animals, and humans cannot live without water.  Our bodies are 60% water, our brains 75% water.  Before our birth, we live in water, and once we are born, water remains essential to our daily lives.  Water also appeals to our senses, whether we gaze at a lake or river, listen to the roar of ocean tides or the trickling of a stream, smell rain just before a shower, taste a cold drink of water on a sultry summer day, or feel the buoyancy of swimming in the sea. It’s easy to take for granted the many ways we use water.  From sports and recreation to agriculture and industry, water is a mainstay of our daily activities.  Water is the subject of paintings and poetry, of art and literature, songs and hymns.  And then there’s the politics of water, as controversies over water rights escalate.  Water even becomes our mission when we work for people around the world to have daily access to clean drinking water.

In the Bible, water teaches us about the nature of God and how God has dealt with creation. The people whose stories are told in the Old Testament knew what it was to thirst for days with no water and then to have their thirst quenched with water provided by God.  They experienced God’s protection from raging waters.  The Red Sea and the Jordan River played key roles in the stories of deliverance of the Hebrew people.  Water wells were central to Hebrew communities; pivotal meetings occurred, and marriages were arranged there.  Water was used in ritual cleansings, and the Psalms fed the people with rich images of flowing water.  The destructive force of water is also on display in the account of the flood.

But first things first.  We need to start at the beginning and in the beginning, there was water, lots and lots of water.  Genesis tells us that along with the water there was God, God’s breath or Spirit, and darkness.  It is tempting to go straight to verse 3, to delve into the specifics of God’s creation before we fully appreciate the context of the creation story.  But when we do pay attention, we notice that love is present even in the chaotic waters.

We do not often connect God with chaos.  We tend to believe that God is a God of order, and so when we see chaos, we assume that God is absent.  When we experience chaos in our lives, times when things feel disorganized and the pieces do not fit together, when confusion surrounds and confounds us, we can feel cut off from God or from help of any kind.  But Genesis reminds us that the waters of chaos are the disorder that precedes God’s ordering of the whole creation, and God is right in the middle of it all.

Chaos reigns until God organizes the waters into rain and seas and separates them with the sky.  These chaotic waters are full to the brim with possibilities, just as they are full of the presence of God.  These are birthing waters.  The NIV translates this passage, “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” which tells us that God is not intimidated by the chaos.  God knows exactly what God is doing, and it is God who initiates the whole, loving activity of creation from this watery, chaotic deep.

So, in the beginning as the Spirit of God hovered over the chaos of the waters and order was brought to earth. This is a very revealing and helpful understanding of creation by the author of Genesis. Stability was brought out of the chaos of the waters and life began to take form. God’s hand was at work and God declared the order good – in fact, very good.

When God created everything, God did it by starting with a formless void and then shaping it with his Word. He did that to show that, in the same way, our livescan bea formless void filled with chaos until God’s Word comes in to bring life and peace, beauty and order.

I see this in the chaotic lives of the men at the Westminster Rescue Mission. Their lives are of darkness and disorder and usually out of control as they succumb to the ravages of addictions. But something is available for the men at the Mission—the Word of God – a new creation is available!

When we look at the opening verses of the Gospel of John, we read – where John opens up his story of Jesus’ life by connection him to the creation story: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”–John 1:1, 3-4. Jesus, the Word, would come to re-enter a dark, sin-filled, chaotic world. And that Word would bring life and light once more.

We see Jesus do this all throughout his ministry, undoing the chaos and darkness left by sin. He heals diseases. He opens the eyes of the blind. He makes the lame walk, the deaf hear, the dead come to life. He walks on water and tells hurricanes to “sit down and shut up” – and they listen. He forgives adulterers, murderers, and thieves, drawing them in for intimate fellowship—transforming the impure and the shameful into pillars of character and virtue. You see, wherever sin had left a dark void in the world, Jesus comes with a thundering word: let there be light. And there is!

And God’s Spirit is still hovering in our world of chaos. Be still and know that I am God!


[1] September 8, 2019 M. Michelle Fincher, Calvary Presbyterian Church