I think that many of us remember Red Letter Bibles from the past. These were the Bibles that put in red font all of the spoken words of Jesus. One could flip through the New Testament and see in full color the teachings and the prayers, the sermons and the conversations of Jesus Christ. It has been a long time since I have seen a Red Letter Bible, and I suspect that they don’t sell too many of those anymore.
In 2008 HarperOne published a new version of the NRSV in the tradition of the Red Letter Bible, but instead it is the Green Bible. Instead of the red words of Jesus, the text is highlighted in green at every instance when the creation and the created world is mentioned. Over 1,000 passages are marked in green so as to draw the reader’s attention to the diversity of language about and occurrence of references to the environment in scripture.
For most of us when we think about the language and the understanding that we have about the creation in scripture we default to the first two chapters of the Book of Genesis, where we read of one of the earliest articulations of the beginning of the world. Obviously we know that people of faith read and understand these stories differently when it comes to historical accuracy, what the meaning of human dominion is, and how God continues to be in relationship to the created world yet today.
But as the Green Bible illustrates, the Bible is actually packed full of creation and environmental imagery that should be shaping and informing our understanding of how we as humans relate both to the Creator and the creation.
This weekend we are delighted to be hosting one of the foremost Biblical scholars who is challenging readers and students of the Bible to expand and deepen our understanding of the wonder of creation that we find throughout scripture. Dr. William (Bill) Brown is a professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary. His book “The Seven Pillars of Creation: The Bible, Science, and the Ecology of Wonder” will guide our conversations both at our Saturday retreat and during Adult Education on Sunday morning. Click here to view the flyer on this event.
Just in case you aren’t familiar with the SEVEN creation stories in the Bible, here is a sample:
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep.
Genesis 2: 4b -6 In that day the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up – for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground.
Job 38:4-7 ‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstonewhen the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beingsshouted for joy?
Psalm 104: 5-9 You set the earth on its foundations, so that it shall never be shaken. You cover it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. At your rebuke they flee; at the sound of your thunder they take to flight. They rose up to the mountains, ran down to the valleys to the place that you appointed for them. You set a boundary that they may not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth.
Proverbs 8: 27-29 When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth…
Ecclesiastes 1:4-7 A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains for ever.
The sun rises and the sun goes down, and hurries to the place where it rises. The wind blows to the south, and goes round to the north, round and round goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they continue to flow.
Isaiah 42: 5-6 Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations.
During his time with us, Dr. Brown will help us explore just three of the traditions above – the creation story in Genesis 1, the poetry of Wisdom in Proverbs 8, and the answer to Job out of the whirlwind in Job 38-40.
You are encouraged to join us on Saturday morning/afternoon, for two lectures by Dr. Brown, a time of art and silk panting with Rev. Rachel Pedersen, a shared meal, and finally a closing time of prayer and reflection.
Dr. Brown will also speak at 11:15 on Sunday morning in Congregational Hall with a light lunch provided.
All of these events have been organized by our Environmental Justice Committee which wishes to offer our entire community a moment during this season of Lent to pause for reflection and renewal, to recommit ourselves as people of faith to be vibrant stewards of God’s creation and to share this time with one another in fellowship, study and prayer.
I look forward to sharing this time together.