The Myths of Genesis part 2
Myth has a bad rap. We think it means fake. I have a friend who told me of someone who calls fiction, lies. Often in fiction, truths that are difficult to write in non-fiction, can be understood more clearly. Fiction may be truer than non-fiction. Yet if my friend's friend, who thinks fiction is lies, doesn't read it, she is the loser, because she misses the truths available in fiction's "lies".
Myth is the same way. A fable, like the fox and the "sour" grapes, can show a simple truth. Jesus' parables, like one about a rich man and poor man (Luke 16:19-31), tell a deep story that illustrates truth in a more compact way than any philosophy text. Myth is like that. The important issue in Cain and Able, isn't their existence, it isn't if they lived, or who did Cain marry? It is the meaning of the story that is important. If you get stuck on how old Adam was when Cain was born, and focused on trying to prove every word is "true", then you miss the most important part. You lose the beautiful idea of relationship with God that is a focus of the story. These stories are rich in truth. The problem is that unless you focus on the two threads, myth and historic, you can miss the deeper meaning.
Another way we get stuck on these stories is trying to figure out who wrote them. Moses? J? P? Q? A redactor? As though if we can label the writer, we have proved anything. The truth in the words is independent of an author. If we are trying to decide if something is true, and we are looking at a written "fact", knowing something about the author may make sense. When CBS tried to throw the election to Kerry by publishing lies about Bush, (supposedly by his old commander), the "author" of the "documents" was critical, since if it was written by anyone else, they lost all credibility.
Myth isn't like that. The stories in the first eleven chapters are not dependent on who wrote them. Moses doesn't claim to have heard them direct from God. It doesn't even matter if Moses wrote them, or they are the result of a series of writers polishing them for thousands of years until the words gleamed. The myths in the stories speak for themselves.
Noah's story is rich with meaning. The writers took what had to be one of the best known stories of the past, and loaded it with ideas about men and our relationship with God. The first myth is that God cares about what we do. The story is full of the idea that people have gotten so bad that the only thing to do is to wipe them out. Just start over. This is a theme that recurs in the Bible, and is at the heart of Revelation, where God is going to finish the job. The day of the Lord, is not a day you should be looking forward to. It will be a day of terror. The readings at our Presbytery meeting today were about this subject. Amos 5:18-21 is scary.
The Day of the LORD
18 Woe to you who long
for the day of the LORD!
Why do you long for the day of the LORD ?
That day will be darkness, not light.
19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion
only to meet a bear,
as though he entered his house
and rested his hand on the wall
only to have a snake bite him.
20 Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light—
pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?
God is not just some disinterested watchmaker who kicked off the universe, and is letting it wind down, but a clearly interested participant. It is the difference between a parent, who just hands over his wallet, and the car keys without any questions, versus the watchful parent, who questions, and perhaps even snoops at the right time. A parent who cares. A God who cares. Perhaps this is a strange way to discover God cares, as He starts to destroy, starts to discipline. Perhaps the only way?
Do you know God cares for you enough to discipline you?.
The following poem is about how God disciplines us.
Go Into the Furnace
Go into the furnace.
Too hot to endure.
Like Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego.
I am with you.
Thru midst of trouble
on My way.
Sometimes the burning’
just what you need.
Trouble brings wisdom.
When death strikes near.
Illness strips strength.
Learn I’m in control.
I prepare you with suffering.
Don’t fear the furnace.
Your life part of My plan.
Step from boat’s safety
into the storm.
I mold you to My will.
Be not afraid.
Trust Me in life’s furnace.
Thanks to Michael W for the inspiration
© Presbypoet, December 30, 2001, & January 6, 2002
These few words don't even start to explore the truth hidden in this first myth packaged in Noah's story. Now you can go on your own journey, seeking truth and joy.