The Liturgy of Creation (Introduction)

Chicago Botanical Gardens 1 (2018)

The Liturgy of Creation (Introduction)

As I said the other day, I am working through Michael Lefebvre’s revelatory book, The Liturgy of Creation: Understanding Calendars in Old Testament Context. RJS has also been blogging on this at Musings on Science and Theology.

Michael Lefebvre is the teaching elder/pastor at Christ Church Reformed Presbyterian in Brownsburg, Indiana. He grew up outside of Cleveland, Ohio, and moved to the Indianapolis area in the mid-1990s. Michael received his MDiv from the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, and his PhD from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. One thing that I surmise about his study from knowing Lefebvre’s faith tradition is a strong respect for a sabbatarian perspective.

Today I will simply introduce the main thesis of the book with excerpts from the text itself.

I want to propose in this book that the Genesis 1:1–2:3 creation week is most fruitfully read as a “calendar narrative.” It is a special kind of historical narrative in which historical events are given the dates of a festival observance (sabbath observance in the case of the creation week), without regard for the timing of the original occurrence.

…I argue that the creation week narrative is, transparently, not a chronological account of the original creation event. Instead, it is a structured retelling of the creation around the pattern of a Model Farmer tending his fields and livestock each day of the week until the sabbath. This form was to serve as a practical guide for the lay Israelite in his or her weekly labors and sabbath worship, and it does not even attempt to answer the curiosities of modern science regarding the processes or timing of the original creation event.

…My desire is to promote the creation week as a rich and practical guide for the weekly labors and worship of God’s people, and I hope to urge Christians to “pull back” from its frequent misuse in scientific, anti-scientific, and pseudo-scientific polemics. I want to show in this book that the creation week was designed as a guide for faithful work and sabbath worship, and that we rob the text of its intended force when we instead deploy it in disputes about physics, cosmology, and natural history. This, I believe, is how the fourth commandment teaches us to uphold the creation week calendar.

The Liturgy of Creation (Kindle Locations 328-351)

13 thoughts on “The Liturgy of Creation (Introduction)

  1. That’s a blast alright…loaded with the shrapnel of, “I don’t remember asking your opinion.”

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  2. you can get a pretty good blast of Creation in the Book of Job also:

    “38 Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:

    2 “Who is this that obscures my plans
    with words without knowledge?
    3 Brace yourself like a man;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.

    4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
    5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
    6 On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone—
    7 while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels shouted for joy?

    8 “Who shut up the sea behind doors
    when it burst forth from the womb,
    9 when I made the clouds its garment
    and wrapped it in thick darkness,
    10 when I fixed limits for it
    and set its doors and bars in place,
    11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
    here is where your proud waves halt’?

    12 “Have you ever given orders to the morning,
    or shown the dawn its place,
    13 that it might take the earth by the edges
    and shake the wicked out of it?
    14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
    its features stand out like those of a garment.
    15 The wicked are denied their light,
    and their upraised arm is broken.

    16 “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
    or walked in the recesses of the deep?
    17 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
    Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
    18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
    Tell me, if you know all this.

    19 “What is the way to the abode of light?
    And where does darkness reside?
    20 Can you take them to their places?
    Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
    21 Surely you know, for you were already born!
    You have lived so many years!

    22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
    or seen the storehouses of the hail,
    23 which I reserve for times of trouble,
    for days of war and battle?
    24 What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed,
    or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?
    25 Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
    and a path for the thunderstorm,
    26 to water a land where no one lives,
    an uninhabited desert,
    27 to satisfy a desolate wasteland
    and make it sprout with grass?
    28 Does the rain have a father?
    Who fathers the drops of dew?
    29 From whose womb comes the ice?
    Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens
    30 when the waters become hard as stone,
    when the surface of the deep is frozen?

    31 “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades?
    Can you loosen Orion’s belt?
    32 Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons
    or lead out the Bear with its cubs?
    33 Do you know the laws of the heavens?
    Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?

    34 “Can you raise your voice to the clouds
    and cover yourself with a flood of water?
    35 Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?
    Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?
    36 Who gives the ibis wisdom or gives the rooster understanding?
    37 Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?
    Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens
    38 when the dust becomes hard
    and the clods of earth stick together?

    39 “Do you hunt the prey for the lioness
    and satisfy the hunger of the lions
    40 when they crouch in their dens
    or lie in wait in a thicket?
    41 Who provides food for the raven
    when its young cry out to God
    and wander about for lack of food?”

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  3. So as long as he stayed clear of calling into question the historicity of Adam, the denominational censors would leave him alone. So I have a second question: Did he stay clear of questioning the historicity of Adam in his book?

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  4. It seems to me an odd controversy on par with how many angels can dance on a pinhead. So I checked the link which says: “The fact that the Orthodox Church has released Her Faithful from an obligation to know the astronomical technicalities of the Paschalion is not a flaw; on the contrary, it is a strength.” In other words “it is a feature, not a bug.” 🙂

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  5. Reformed tend generally not to be YECs, although they will often hold to a historical Adam.

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  6. Interpretations of Genesis vary but all highlight the fact that the unknown composer(s?) of this magnificent text was a literary artist of the first water. Let all interpreters of the text be worthy of the text!

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  7. Does anybody have any idea how this book is being received in Lefebvre’s home denomination? It sounds like a fundamentalist denomination, and I wonder if he’s taking flak for a non-fundamentalist interpretation of Genesis.

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  8. if you examine some of the liturgical prayers of Jewish tradition, you find a very deep connection to this idea:
    ” a structured retelling of the creation around the pattern of a Model Farmer tending his fields”

    for example, the blessing said over bread:
    “Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam hamotzi lehem min ha’aretz.
    Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.”

    for some rabbis, this refers to a time in Eden before mankind had to labor so intensively to plow and plant and harvest and winnow the grain and grind it and prepare ‘the bread’;
    but for a large majority of rabbis, this also refers to the coming ‘messianic’ time when all on Earth will have enough food to eat in abundance and there will no longer be any hunger or starvation:
    a time when the Kingdom of God comes, and the Creator once again, as in Eden, ‘gives us our daily bread’. . . .

    The ‘liturgy’ . . . prayed long before it was ever ‘written’ as ‘the Word’ in our own Christian world;
    but for the ancient Hebrew people, the prayers spoke of a once and future ‘Garden’ where there was no hunger or want or suffering or death;
    so that IF the ‘blessing’ in the liturgy was inclusive of all food types, the acknowledgement before God would be
    “Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam shehakol niyah bidvaro.”
    which translates:

    BLESSED ARE YOU, LORD OUR GOD, RULER OF THE UNIVERSE
    AT WHOSE WORD, ALL CAME TO BE

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  9. One thing I read somewhere was that the day sequence of Genesis 1 is the same as some Babylonian equivalents, only eith all the same God rather than as with the Babylonian version a god per day. I also read that these kind of “creation liturgies” were literal liturgical, and were often used as prayers to read over the sick to invoke divine creative / healing power.

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