This story is based on the first of two versions of the creation story found in Hebrew scripture in the Book of Genesis, Chapters 1 and 2. It comes from Stories in Faith: Exploring Our Unitarian Universalist Principles and Sources Through Wisdom Tales by Gail Forsyth-Vail (Boston: Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, 2007).
Designate volunteers to take the roles of "Appreciating Voice" and "Bible Voice." Have adult co-leaders read aloud the respective roles, or invite participant volunteers who are strong readers to do it. Allow volunteers an opportunity to read the text ahead of time, so they will be comfortable reading it aloud.
Before beginning the story, you may like to paraphrase or read aloud for the group the introductory matter that precedes the first piece spoken by the "Appreciating Voice."
To make this story more interactive, and to give the children an experience of speaking biblical words, you might instruct the listeners to repeat back the last sentence, each time "Bible Voice" speaks.
In this version, man and woman are created together, both in the image of God. The seven-day creation story, while not scientifically accurate, contains ancient wisdom. It is a hymn of praise to all of creation, poetry that names and lingers over all the wonders of the world. It is presented here as a reading in two voices: a "Bible voice" that is the text itself, and an "Appreciating Voice" that lingers in gratitude and praise over the wonders enumerated in the text.
In this well-known passage of scripture, God "talks the world into being." His or her actions bring order out of chaos. He or she divides, differentiates, and categorizes, bringing about the order of night and day, sea and sky, plants and animals. By naming things God identifies each as separate and different from one another. In turn each is given meaning. The God of Genesis blesses each creature. This gesture acknowledges, rather than confers, the sacredness of all living things. It invites us also to name and bless all of the wonders of our world.
Sometimes, when I look up at the stars, or feel the rain on my face, or hear the buzzing of a bee, I wonder where it all comes from. How did we begin? I know the wisdom that comes from science, which says that microscopic one-celled creatures evolved over millions of years into countless complicated forms of life. But sometimes, when I behold the wonder of it all, I love to hear the words spoken long ago by the ancient Hebrews about how the earth and the sky and all things living were called into being and blessed by the Spirit of Life we sometimes call God.
In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness. A wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God called the light Day, and the darkness Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
From the beginning, light and darkness, activity and rest, day and night.
And God said, "Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
From the mountaintop, the treetop, the airplane, or our own backyards, we see the daytime clouds and nighttime stars that reach further than we can even imagine. From the canoe, the rocky bluff, or the sandy shore, we see the vastness of the sea, deeper and wider than we can fully understand. In the presence of sky or of sea, we feel connected to the mystery of life.
And God said, "Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place and let the dry land appear." And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were called together Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, "Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it." And it was so. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
Chestnuts, acorns, dandelions, and beans—each carries the beginning of a brand-new plant. We plant apple seeds and peach pits, wheat, peas, and corn. We watch day by day for the avocado seed in a glass to sprout or the bean to split and put down roots. We are grateful for the plants and the trees that bring us beauty, joy, and good food—and for those plants that protect themselves with thorns, poison leaves, and tall, winding branches.
And God said, "Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years." God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And there was evening, and there was morning, the fourth day.
We give thanks for the orbit of our earth around its sun. It brings the seasons: times for planting and for harvest, time to enjoy the warmth of the sun, and time to pull closer to the fire for warmth. We give thanks also for our earth's moon, which causes the tidal coming and going of the oceans.
And God said, "Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky." So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth." And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
Blessing all the creatures of the earth, the sea, and the sky, God acknowledged that each is sacred.
And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals, and everything that creeps upon the ground." And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image."
So God created humankind in his image,
In the image of God he created them
Male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth."
And there was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day.
We, too, can bless the animals of every kind on the face of the earth. We can recognize the divine, the Creative Spirit, the Spirit of Life in each of them and in each of us. We rejoice in the blessing of being alive and sharing the gift of life with the creatures of this, our planet home.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work. And on that day God rested. So God blessed the seventh day.