Creation, by Donald Jackson with contributions from Chris Tomlin, from The Saint John’s Bible
In the beginning… these are the words that open the story of God’s cosmic activity in the life of creation – big!…bang! – and God’s intimate activity in our lives, and the lives of all people – form…breathe. Dr. Terence Fretheim notes in his commentary on Genesis (New Interpreter’s Bible, pg. 354) that it is significant that the biblical story starts, not with the narrative of Abraham and Sarah or the calling of Israel, but with the story of the creation of…everything. God’s story starts universally, with everyone and everything involved and incorporated into God’s creative activity.
That’s really significant. The story does NOT start with our clique, our tribe, our party, our race, our language, our church, our anything. It starts with a rich diversity of plant and animal, and all of it made good. God is descriptive and celebratory in speaking of each aspect of creation as good, and the collective work as very good. The marvel of Genesis 1-2:4 is that it was written in contrast to the culturally dominant, violent and bloody creation story of the Babylonians, a story which was a catalyst for violence and sacrifice in their religious practices.
Hmmm…a story of life in stark contrast to a prevailing culture of violence. A story of the beauty of diversity in a culture that continually categorizes people in a spirit of fear. A story that names all God has created as good and very good in a culture that will readily sacrifice “the other.” Too bad the Bible is an outdated book without any current cultural reference or life application.
Julie Andrews famously sang, Let’s start at the very beginning. And then she answered the question, Why? Her answer was simple. Because it is a very good place to start. Very good indeed, but for us, very necessary as well. When our re-formation of our high school Youth Night started on September 21st, we began at the very beginning – not of the musical scale, but of the story of God. A story that begins with life, with celebration, and with an invitation for us to join in the creative process. Why? Because the next week, many of our youth served at the Benedict House. And while it was only one night for a couple of hours, how they – and how we – approach those kinds of opportunities matters. It begs the question of why we serve. Is it to feel good? Is it to bless those less fortunate with our abundance? Is it to help those people? I would hope the beginning of God’s story might lead us to think a bit differently. Does it feel good? Yes. Why? Because there is something built deep in my soul that longs to engage with stories different from my own – face to face. Does it bless? Yes. It is a blessing to know and be known, to see and be seen, to understand and be understood. Does it help? Yes. It helps to keep our hearts from hardening toward one other, for it is nearly impossible to categorize someone when we know their name and their story.
Don’t think looking at the world through God’s eyes is easy. Ultimately, it is easier to stay in our lane – to enjoy the bliss of ignorance and a myopic view of the world – if we are so privileged. But do know that such ease has a cost as well – the loss of stories and lives that matter, for one.
We are called to more. Maybe that means you serve (I prefer the word accompany) at a place like Benedict House. Maybe you mentor a youth because you have questions about your faith too. Maybe you minister with the elderly because you value their perspective of history. Maybe your career choice or change is based on living out your faith story. Whatever it might be, may it be good and very good; because you are good and very good; and this world is good and very good. After all, it comes from a God who is good…all the time!