“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1, NIV). This simple statement provides an amazing foundation for the Bible. Just break it down and you’ll see what I mean. First, it addresses the notion of time by saying, “In the beginning”. It doesn’t try to quantify time or define it in a linear sense. It doesn’t apply assumptions to a geological aging process and come up with a number. It doesn’t say that God began with time or even that time has any particular relevance to God. It merely states that our heaven and earth had a beginning, and that God preceded them in existence. I’m sure early man would lay outside at night gazing up at the stars, or think while walking the world around him, “what started this? Where did all this come from?” Genesis 1 addresses those questions with profound simplicity. Second, it says, “In the beginning, God”. It makes a logical assumption about God, His place in the universe, and the nature of eternity. It presupposes God. Some scientists object to this because it was not observable, but I would submit to you that those same scientists are also basing many of their conclusions about origin on assumptions as well. To me, “In the beginning, matter”; or “In the beginning, gases were floating in the cosmos” is no more scientific than “In the beginning, GOD.” The notion of God existing in the beginning is every bit as logical and rational as any of those other things. Also, read that verse again and think about its perspective; it is talking about OUR beginning, not God’s. He was already in existence. There is no assumptive logic or attempt to try to explain where He came from. In our quest for logical, scientific answers to everything, God makes every bit as much (and perhaps more) intellectual sense as Random Elements affected by Random Chance. Third, Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” The writer of Genesis (Moses) knew that man did not create heaven and earth. Scientists today have confirmed this is true. Man can build some pretty nifty stuff out of created elements; he has yet to accomplish ‘creatio ex nihilo’ (creation out of nothing). But God designed, and God created. Walk out tonight and look up at the stars. Hold a baby. Look at a flower. Reflect upon the fact that you alone, of all the animals, have spiritual inclinations and moral obligations. All of those things make sense when you put them in context right after the sentence, “In the beginning, God created”. Placing the world of physical things into a spiritual context changes everything. It means that there is a God of order and intelligence, and that we are made in His image, with the ability for spiritual as well as physical sight. As you appreciate the heavens and as you walk the earth, remember who you came from.
I am awakened at 5:53 am by construction, but what is being built nearby is not something visible or even tangible. It is construction on the most ambitious and yet most intricate scale, rivaling the wonders of ancient Roma, which we toured yesterday… Even though there is no irritating, shrill back-up warning from bull dozers, no literal clanking of machines or hammering, the bustling construction is just as real to me as if there were hundreds or even thousands of weary slaves working under the relentless direction of their Roman taskmasters. There is a vast mosaic of Rome being built in my mind, still in its early stages of formation, but teeming with multitudes of scenes and vistas bursting with colors of culture, nature and personality. The mosaic is complex and beautiful, an ever-changing kaleidoscope of images, monuments and people. There are many scenes and impressions, each being inlaid into the landscape of my mind with chaotic precision all at once. It is filled with contradictions and incongruity, monuments to the past amidst relentless change, like the young Catholic clergyman waiting next to me to cross the street, wearing the timeless, cream-colored robes of his order but carrying a briefcase; it is young Italian boy, gawking and pointing out to his father the tall, over-endowed blonde in the red top at the Coliseum, whose shape is a testament to artificial construction of a different sort. The mental mural is alive and ever-changing, bustling with commerce and change, smudged with dirt from excavation and construction. It began with Alessandro B, my seat-mate from Heathrow to Rome. He is a nice-looking man with a leonine salt and pepper mane, a Roman businessman returning home from a productive trip.
He owns his own company, and is experiencing success navigating the currents of trade with emerging African nations. He has been doing business there for years, and is now close to the President of Ghana, having gotten to know him in the past when he was an up-and-coming young politician.
He is articulate and thoughtful, this man descended from empire-builders… He is smart and a bit cynical about the politics of Italy but still he is optimistic. He even allows that although the current prime minister is a Comedian, he is doing a pretty good job! This of course is natural for Italy.
Our driver Guiseppe not only drives but owns the tour company, and works hard building a life for his family. The Romans we meet are interesting, polite, a little fatalistic, but still optimistic that any people with such a glorious past can one day build a solid future. In the meantime, the Roman mosaic has scenes of past and present intertwined, churches inside of temples, nuns with their dark habits, Carbinieri with their dashing uniforms, people eating (and loving!) gelato, sidewalk cafes, pictures of the pope for sale on street carts, Christianity placed alongside mythology, beautiful fountains, monuments and an ancient history that still casts its shadow over modern Rome. As we scan the rich, vibrant scenes of the eternal city, we see hope and bustle and a unique vibe that will continue to be the heartbeat of people like Alessandro, and the inspiration to millions of visitors like me who cannot merely view the vista unfolding in Rome, but– having visited– have also become part of the mosaic itself, carrying the lessons of the past into the future.