The opening of Genesis gives us two passages about creation. Some think it was two different authors, one giving a poem and another a story. Both proclaim how God speaks and creates - before there was nothing, but now God speaks and the universe comes into being.
The poem is not attempting to give a scientific account, nor does it need to. Science and Genesis need not be understood as being opposed to each other. I could describe the features of one of our young people, but presumably their maths teacher would give you a report on their ability to do algebra or similar. We wouldn't be disagreeing - just giving an account from completely different angles.
The poem says 'God speaks' no less than 14 times, and when God speaks things happen! Stars and planets come into being, order with laws of physics, planetary orbits set in place. God speaks and things happen because nothing is impossible with God. Yet more than this: there is purpose to it.
God is active in creation. It is not set running and then left to decay. He has desire for it, it is created by Him, it is created for Him. Last time we heard how it was created through the word, that is Jesus. Humans are special in creation - animals are addressed generally, but humans are spoken to directly. There are other snippets - the 'us' hints at God being one yet plural, the Spirit is declared at the beginning to be at work over creation. It all moves towards the final period, the Sabbath rest. Not only is their purpose but there is direction - God taking creation to its completion.
Chapter 2 has the story form (chapter 3 continues this same story). This first part can be characterised by three words: vocation, permission and prohibition. As with the poem there is purpose, useful work for the humans to do. God delegates, commissions and gives authority to them to look after creation, tend it and make it work. And God gives! Eat across the garden, with abundance and plenty to explore. Yet with freedom comes risk, to stray beyond that which is healthy, to go against how things work. So out of the whole garden with all its trees, God says there is but one tree that is off limits, not healthy to try.
This is grace from the outset: giving purpose and freedom there is the possibility to go wrong, to mess up. Without grace this possibility wouldn't exist!
The story sets the scene of all our lives - why we are here, the purpose God has for us. None of us is an accident, we are supposed to be here!
The story continues with the subtlety that the human on their own is somehow incomplete - needing a partner, a co-equal alongside. So God somehow forms the woman to complement the man. They are now free to come together, and become one - naked and unashamed.
This reflects God who in Himself is community. Humans are made to be in community, loving covenant relationships. This is expressed deeply in male & female marriage, but also more generally in family and a variety of everyday relationships, e.g. our church prayer triplets, in the wider local community, and so on.
So the questions is: in this place of God's blessing, His provision, His covenant in which people have useful work and wonderful freedom to be who God has created them to be, in this place of covenant grace ... will people live within it, or will they exercise their freedom and take themselves off?
To explore the answer, return next week for part 2!