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Environmental Stewardship Commission

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Resolution on Creation Season

 

 

A New Creation Story
compiled by The Rev Canon Dr Paul S Nancarrow
(© Paul S. Nancarrow, 2001)

In the beginning — about 15 billion years ago — there was nothing. Nothing. No grass, no trees, no rivers, no lakes; no earth, no sun, no stars, no galaxies; no matter, no energy, no space, no time. Nothing.

Then God said, “Let there be.” And there was.

The Universe came into being all at once, in an instant, in a big bang. At first, the Universe was hot and dense and so tiny that you couldn’t have seen it even if you could have been there to watch. In fact, the Universe was so hot and so dense and so tiny that there was no room for differences, and everything was all the same.

And then God said, “I am going to do something remarkable. I am going to create a Universe that is able to participate in creating itself. I will make the Universe so that it is able to bring forth differences, and the differences will enter into relationships, and the relationships will make new things. I will create in the Universe by empowering the Universe to co-create with me.” And it was so.

And God empowered the Universe, and the energy from the big bang brought forth differences. Some of the energy became gravity, and some of the energy became electromagnetism, and some of the energy became the strong nuclear force, and some of the energy became the weak nuclear force. And the energies flew apart, expanding and billowing out in all directions. And as the energy expanded it began to cool, and as it cooled the four forces entered into interactions with each other. And as electromagnetism pushed out, gravity pulled back, so that the universe would not fly all apart and become cold and thin and dead, but neither it would not fall back on itself and be crushed into nothingness. And the Universe grew. And there was difference, and there was relationship, and God saw that it was good.

And God empowered the Universe, and in less than a second, the four fundamental forces interacted to produce particles: quarks, and gluons, and electrons, and photons. And the particles danced around each other, coming into being and ceasing to be, as they exchanged their energies. But as the Universe expanded and the energies cooled, the particles could sustain relationships: three quarks made a proton, three other sorts of quarks made a neutron, protons and neutrons made nuclei, nuclei and electrons made atoms. The particles and atoms were something new. And there was difference, and there was relationship, and God saw that it was good.

And God empowered the Universe, and after a billion years, the expansion of the Universe had slowed enough that the atoms could start forming new relationships of their own. Gravity pulled on the atoms and pulled them together. Mostly hydrogen, with a little bit of helium, the atoms formed into huge clouds, held together by their own gravity. The clouds grew denser and denser, which increased their gravity, which increased the speed of their collapse. As the clouds collapsed inward, temperature and pressure increased in their centers, until they had concentrated so much energy that atoms of hydrogen could fuse together to make atoms of helium. This fusion released heat and light and energy, and the stars were born. The clouds of atoms became clouds of stars, and they made the first galaxies. The stars and the galaxies were something new. And there was difference, and there was relationship, and God saw that it was good.

And God empowered the Universe, and deep within the stars the atoms were making new relationships. Two hydrogens make a helium; a helium and a hydrogen make a carbon; four heliums make an oxygen. In different combinations, the atoms came together to make new elements: sodium, lithium, beryllium, phosphorus, nitrogen, and more. But as the atoms became heavier, it was harder and harder to fuse them into new combinations. Iron is the heaviest atom that can be made in the core of a star: it takes so much energy to fuse iron atoms into anything new that stars aren’t powerful enough to do it. After ten million years, some of the very hottest, biggest stars had burned all their hydrogen into iron, and there was nothing left for them to burn. Their gravity made them collapse in on themselves until the neutrinos deep inside them rebounded, and made the outer layers of the star explode as a supernova. A supernova explosion is so hot it can fuse even iron into new kinds of atoms. A supernova shoots gas and dust out into space, leaving carbon and oxygen and iron and silicon and gold and uranium and everything else floating in between the stars. The elements were something new. And there was difference, and there was relationship, and God saw that it was good.

And God empowered the Universe, and the gas and dust made by the supernovas began to enter into new relationships. Atoms came together into molecules: water and ammonia and methane and hydrocarbons formed simple combinations. The gas and dust and new elements drifted in giant molecular clouds — and the clouds were attracted by their own gravity, and some of them began to collapse in on themselves to form new stars. And as a cloud collapsed, it started to spin. And as it spun it formed clumps of material: one big clump in the center, and littler clumps in the spinning disk, and at the very edge a leftover ring of loose material. And as the disk continued to collapse on itself, the clump at the center ignited as a star, and its light and energy pushed the rest of the gas and dust away, leaving the smaller clumps behind as planets. New stars and solar systems formed this way all through the galaxies. About ten billion years ago a giant molecular cloud began to collapse in our part of our galaxy. About four billion years ago that cloud became a sun with nine planets — and one of those planets was Earth. Earth was something new. And there was difference, and there was relationship, and God saw that it was good.

And God empowered the Universe, and the Earth became a place of new relationships. Earth is just the right distance from the Sun for water to exist easily in three states: solid, liquid, and gas. Water is just the right medium for holding simple molecules in solution, where they can combine and become more complex molecules. Energy came from the Sun, and perhaps from lightning storms in the young Earth’s violent atmosphere, and this energy drove chemical reactions that gave rise to complex relationships: complex molecules coming together in long chains; molecules that could catalyze the production of new molecules, and those catalyze new molecules, and those catalyze new molecules; molecules that could copy themselves and reproduce throughout the environment. After half a billion years of complexifying, about 3½ billion years ago, the complex molecules began a self-sustaining biochemical interaction that we call “life.” Living cells formed in Earth’s oceans, and they were fruitful and multiplied, and they filled the Earth. Life was something new. And there was difference, and there was relationship, and God saw that it was good.

And God empowered the Universe, and life on Earth diversified and evolved, and new living creatures were brought forth. The living cells made oxygen as a byproduct of their biochemical process, and Earth’s atmosphere was transformed. New cells learned how to use the oxygen in the atmosphere and grew quickly. Cells began to come together in colonies, where different cells would do different jobs, so the whole colony would be safer and more stable and more alive. Colonies became multicellular organisms: plants and animals, plankton and seaweed and jellyfish, worms and clams and swimming fish. Ocean waves washed up plants and animals on the dry land, and soon they learned how to survive and grow there, and new plants and new animals colonized the continents. Over six hundred million years of growing and changing, they became insects, and amphibians, and cycads, and conifers, and reptiles, and flowers, and dinosaurs, and mammals, and birds. And everywhere the plants and animals joined together in communities and ecosystems, where each creature had a niche, and every creature depended on the others. And there was difference, and there was relationship, and God saw that it was good.

And God empowered the Universe, and four million years ago in Africa, the ancestors of human beings stood up on two legs. And they began to use their hands to pick things up and examine them, to gather food, to hold a tool, to reach out and groom each other. The complex relations of brain and body, social structure and environment, gave these creatures new qualities of feeling and emotion, intelligence and thought, questioning and wonder. Two million years ago they made tools; one and a half million years ago they harnessed fire; thirty-five thousand years ago they made clothing, and cave paintings, and storytelling, and funeral rites; twenty thousand years ago they domesticated grain crops and started farming; ten thousand years ago they flourished in language, mythology, art, and culture; five thousand years ago they invented cities and ways of bringing large numbers of people into complex social relations. Human beings were able to look at the Universe that brought them forth, and ask how it works, and why it’s here, and what it means. Human beings were able to look at the Universe and see in it the signs of God, and be in it co-creators with God. That is human beings’ greatest gift, and that is human beings’ greatest risk. And there is difference, and there is relationship, and God sees that it is good.

And that’s just the beginning of the Story…

 
 

Shanti † Shalom † Peace

 

Copyright Notice for this article:
Copyright © 2001, The Rev Canon Dr Paul S. Nancarrow, all rights reserved.  The information on this webpage may be retransmitted for information purposes, but may not be used in any non-MEESC publication (other than that of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota) without the written permission of The Rev Canon Dr Paul S. Nancarrow.  All retransmissions, postings, and publications or this webpage must include this notice.

 

The Rev Canon Dr Paul S. Nancarrow was the Rector of St. George's Episcopal Church, St. Louis Park, MN, when he originally presented this story in 2001 as part of the Deacon Formation Classes.  Subsequently he has served as the Canon for Theology of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota. He and we welcome your comments.   Please address your comments or additional reflections to The Rev Canon Dr Paul Nancarrow or any MEESC member or write to:


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