“What is man, that you are mindful of him? And the son of man that you visit him? For you have made him a little lower than the angels, and have clothed him with glory and honor.” Psalm 8:4-5 (Peshitta)
The story of creation in Genesis 1 has many of the hallmarks of a poem. There is repetition that gives form to the story, structure that leads us into meaning, and movement that swells into a high note like a song.
The repetition of phrases gives each day a A-B-C-D pattern:
A – And God said…
B – And it was so.
C – And God saw that it was good.
D – And there was evening, and there was morning, the x day.
Variation in this pattern prompts us to look for relationships between the days.
Day 1 and 4 have the A-B-C-D pattern.
Day 2 and 5 have a break in the pattern.
Day 3 and 6 repeat the A-B-C pattern twice and end with D.
This reveals a broader structure where Days 1-3 and Days 4-6 share the same pattern. Let’s stack the days and see what we find.
Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Light Sea/ Land/Sea
Day 4 Day 5 Day 6
Sun Fish Animals
Moon Birds Humans
Day 1 God makes the light, forming a place for Day 4’s creation of sun, moon, and stars.
Day 2 God makes sea and sky, forming a place for Day 5’s creation of fish and birds.
Day 3 God makes land and plants, forming a place for Day 6’s creation of animals and humans.
The creation story is always on the move, starting with God’s spirit hovering over the deep, followed by the forming of Days 1-3 and the filling of Days 4-6. Widen the scope and we see a larger movement – the forming and filling starts with what is on high (light, sun, moon, and stars) followed by what is below on earth.
When we arrive at the creation of human beings, God does something different. Rather than declaring “Let there be light…, Let there be a vault…, etc.” God announces to creation what will come next, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.” God brings what is on high to what is below, making human beings a combination of heaven and earth, the sublime and the physical. And with this, God ends creation on a high note, not just good, but very good. Tov meod!
Heaven and earth met again in Jesus, who has shown us what it means to be truly human. In his book Touched by the Moon, John Joseph Matthews gives this stunning image the Osage Indians have of Jesus:
“They adopted the Man on the Cross because they understand him. He is both Chaso [sky person] and Hunkah [earth person]. His footprints are on the peyote altars, and they are deep like the footprints of one who has jumped.”
In the song of praise at the end of his book Perelandra, C.S. Lewis gives, in soaring poetry, what happened when heaven met earth in Jesus and why Jesus’ footprints are so deep:
“Never did He make two things the same; never did He utter one word twice. After earths, not better earths but beasts; after beasts, not better beasts, but spirits. After a falling, not a recovery but a new creation. Out of the new creation, not a third but the mode of change itself is changed forever. Blessed be He!”
With Jesus, the mode of change itself was changed forever. Things haven’t been the same since he came to be with us. The first words out of Jesus’ mouth in Mark’s gospel declare the Kingdom of God is at hand, to repent and hear the Good News. But Jesus isn’t just a herald, he is the Kingdom Bringer.
The path to the kingdom is easy to find because Jesus’ footsteps are clear. Following the path is hard because it is deep. To walk his way of love, we need to follow his truth, that we must make an inner transformation, which requires a thoroughgoing change of heart and mind. It is a tall order to love our enemy, forgive each other, and refrain from judging each other.
Collective Soul’s song Shine has the refrain, “Heaven, let your light shine down.” That is God’s part. Since each of us is where heaven and earth meet, we could add, “Heaven, let your light shine through!”
Prayer: Eternal God, bring in your light. Give us eyes that see and hearts that are open. Help us be a blessing to everyone we meet.