Genesis: Everything Is Gift — Center for Action and Contemplation
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See the schedule and event session details for the final CONSPIRE conference (Sep. 24 – 26)

Genesis: Everything Is Gift

Great Themes of Scripture: Hebrew Bible

Genesis: Everything Is Gift
Monday, June 28, 2021

The first recordings of “The Great Themes of Scripture” began in October, 1973. There were about 1,200 young people attending Friday night services through the newly formed New Jerusalem Community in Cincinnati. Richard would often preach for an hour, mostly on the Bible. Soon, Sister Pat Brockman, an Ursuline nun, suggested recording Richard’s series of lectures on Scripture and selling the cassettes. Richard didn’t think anyone would buy them. Audiocassette tapes were just becoming popular and widespread—and they were for music, he thought.

Richard recalls: Sister Pat asked me to pray about it for a day and then we’d ask God what to do. So we met the next day and I very hopefully opened the Bible as a good Pentecostal would do. And I put my finger on this verse: “The sower went out to sow the seed” (Mark 4:3). Really! That sounded sort of like making tapes. So we did. For years I was introduced as the “tape priest.” Now my friends say I don’t have a single untaped thought! It is sort of embarrassing. I guess Sister Pat was right; people really wanted to learn the Scriptures. Those first twelve tapes were called “The Great Themes of Scripture.” Here is a brief segment of how I introduced the book of Genesis:

Perhaps the most important thing to bear in mind when reading the first chapters of Genesis is that it is written not about the past but about the present. It is about the perennial present, the present that is always with us. It is not a book of history or a scientific account of creation. It is not an eyewitness report of how the world and the human race began. Rather, it is a mythological portrayal of the relationship between the Creator and the creation.

The first chapters of Genesis contain not one but two creation stories. The ancient writers were not worried by the obvious differences between the two accounts. For them, both revealed the same inspired truth: that God alone is the Creator, that everything else is God’s creation, and that everything which God creates is good.

We see this most clearly in the first creation story: On each day of creation, God looks at what has been done and calls it good. On the sixth day, God looks back over everything completed and says, “Yes, it’s all very good indeed!” And on the seventh day, God rests.

Poet Wendell Berry captures God’s delight in creation:

Time when the Maker’s radiant sight
Made radiant every thing He saw,
And every thing He saw was filled
With perfect joy and life and light. [1]

Put in theological terms, the story is saying that everything is grace, everything is gift, everything comes from God. God is the One who makes something out of nothing and gives it to us, not way back when, but here and now. God makes us what we are, and gives us to ourselves as a free gift.

References:
[1] Wendell Berry, “To sit and look at light-filled leaves,” in A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems, 1979–1997 (Counterpoint: 1998), 8.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Essential Teachings on Love, ed. Joelle Chase and Judy Traeger (Orbis Books: 2018), 98–99;

Richard Rohr and Joseph Martos, The Great Themes of Scripture: Old Testament (St. Anthony Messenger Press: 1987), 83–85; and

“The Call: Introduction to the Word,” The Great Themes of Scripture, tape 1 (St. Anthony Messenger Tapes: 1973).

Story from Our Community:
God is good…all the time! All the time…God is good! Fr. Richard’s meditations draw me into this gift of God’s goodness. In sacred Scripture, the Mass, in the beauty of nature, and the love of friends and family, I experience Presence. I see God in the faces of those suffering from illness, racial injustice, and poverty. Fr. Richard helps me to embrace all of it and to trust in God’s divine mercy, wisdom, and great love. —Rita L.

Image credit: Jenna Keiper, Reflections II (detail), 2020, photograph, Albuquerque.
Image inspiration: These intertwined branches speak of the braided nature of biblical themes: mystery, hope, possibility, resilience, vulnerability and strength. Although these leaves have seen better days, clouds carry hope for rain.
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