Beginning from Good, June 7

Beginning from Good

Genesis 1:1-2:4; Psalm 8; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20

The Rev. Catherine E. Schuyler

Catskill, Palenville, and Quarryville United Methodist Churches; June 7, 2020

 

And there was morning and there was evening, the first day

Morning and evening, the second day

Morning and evening, the third day

 

God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light

God said, “Let the waters … be gathered together into one place and let the dry land appear.” And it was so.

God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so.

 

The poetry of this chapter is beautiful, the repetition builds on itself as the creation continues. And over and over again, as the world unfolds in response to divine creation by the simple declaration of God’s word, God names the creation good.  In verse 4 and in verse 10, “God saw that it was good.” In verse 12 and 18 and 21 and 25, God recognizes that that which is created is good.  In verse 31 of chapter 1, 31God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

 

I won’t argue with you about precisely how this happened.  I don’t believe this is given to us as a descriptive history, but as poetry, a song about the world in which we live and about the God who made it.  The important parts are the assertions that God exists before all else, that creation comes from a deliberate and careful decision of God’s will, not as a result of a conflict of divine entities or a throw-away mistake of a giant or monster.  Many of the stories that were part of Israel’s neighbors’ understanding of themselves involved capricious deities fighting amongst themselves or casually constructing humanity out of extra stuff left over from a great battle of earth and sky beings.  Genesis begins instead with the God of all things creating all things as a deliberate choice.  God names that which is made as good, very good.  God is pleased with the work accomplished.

 

I brought with me a vase of periwinkle blue irises; they were in our front garden yesterday before the wind blew them over.  Did you see Friday’s beautiful full moon?  Maybe you heard coyotes or owls singing at 1 am last night.  I think Steve and Rose may still be in Hawaii, experiencing the wonders of volcanoes and exquisite beaches with tremendous ocean waves.  Rhododendron and creeks and the trees and mountains of this area in late spring speak boldly to us of the truth of the order and beauty and goodness of creation as told in this song at the beginning of scripture. 

 

At the culmination of this good project, deliberately and lovingly created by God, is us.  Humankind.  Created carefully and thoughtfully, in the image of God.  If we can appreciate the moon still the same as it was created, and the goodness of the plants and the birds as described here in Genesis, then we also can know that we are created good, a valuable part of the intricacy of a very good creation.  We are precious, each one of us, made in the image of God.  When people in the streets declare that Black Lives Matter, they are referencing, at least implicitly, the declaration at the heart of this story.  Human lives matter. Black lives, too often forgotten or ignored or degraded or named as unworthy of care, matter.  If we are all made in God’s image, then God’s image encompasses people who don’t look like me.  And God names them as good, valuable, and cherished.   

 

On Trinity Sunday, when we celebrate that God is one in three and three in one, remembering that we are made in God’s image means that at our very essence we are made to be together, with one another, constantly in relationship to others.  It’s ironic to name this truth in these days when we are unable to gather together.  But this time apart has made clear to me, and I trust to you also, that we do need each other.  We are interconnected in ways I forgot about long ago – truckers on the highways bring us food picked by workers in orange groves in Florida and lettuce farms in California.  We need people who work in slaughterhouses in Iowa to be healthy so we have access to beef that will nourish us and not make us sick.  We need the people who regularly clean our hospitals and offices to be able to stay at home when they’re sick so that our public spaces are safe to work in.  We are connected to one another and related to one another in so many ways, just as the persons of the Trinity are separate and connected both, at the same time.  All part of the goodness of the creation of human beings.

 

“Pastor,” I hear you saying, “Genesis may say that creation is good, but it doesn’t feel or seem very good right now.  There is a virus killing people by the thousands; we are lonely and afraid, unable to greet our neighbors with a handshake or our grandchildren with a hug; and our society is ravaged not only by the virus that kills, but by anger and hateful words and daily news of unrest and uncertainty.  Where is this goodness of which you speak, of which this poetry speaks?”

 

The truth of the presence of evil co-existing with the goodness of God’s creation is not ignored by scripture.  The second chapter of Genesis immediately recognizes that this good creation, and the human creature at the heart of this good creation of the world, has a part in the good and the evil that we live with to this day.  The world is not one or the other. The whole story of scripture, and the whole history of our humanity, witnesses to the truth that the goodness of creation is marred by evil and hatred and selfishness and deliberate nastiness.  Part of what it is to choose to align our ways with the love and grace of God is insisting on seeing the reality of evil and injustice in the world – and then deciding to do something about it.  In our baptismal vows we promised to renounce the evil of the world, to step away from it, and then to accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.  Those vows acknowledge clearly that evil and injustice exist.  And that God asks us to explicitly choose to place our lives, our choices, our behaviors, and plans for the future away from the evil and on the side of the good at the heart of creation.   The church celebrates this Sunday, Trinity Sunday, each year as Peace with Justice Sunday; special offerings given today benefit the work of the Board of Church and Society, locally and church-wide, which gives voice to the justice concerns of the United Methodist Church reminding us of the centrality of justice concerns in our own call to ministry.  Because God made the world good and continues to call us to reclaim and reconstitute that goodness for all people in our lives of discipleship.

 

New every morning is creation. New every day is our life in God’s love, recreated through grace and forgiveness and newness in Christ.  Open your eyes this week to the glory God has made in the creation of the world around us – the flowers, the trees, the deer and the raccoon, pictures of desert canyons and lizards that live there, or of zebras and giraffes, underwater photographs of wonders of deep sea creatures.  Our earliest ancestors recognized that God’s goodness is reflected in the goodness of creation, and it still is.  The pristine clarity of our air without car exhaust will slowly dissipate as we emerge out of our sheltering at home, but we can remember that goodness.  God gives us responsibility to care for this good creation, and for each other.  Let us choose to find ways to remember, to respect, and to reflect the goodness in creation in our lives and in our hearts as we search for a new normal, a new way to build civilization, a new way to live out our lives as followers of God’s ways, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  Amen.

Genesis 1:1-2:4

1In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.

3Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

6And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

9And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11Then 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. 12The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. 13And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

14And 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, 15and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

20And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” 21So 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. 22God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

24And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. 25God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

26Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” 27So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

29God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

31God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

2Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

4These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

Psalm 8  (UMH 743)

O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.

Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,

   to silence the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

   the moon and the stars that you have established;

what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?

Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.

You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;

   you have put all things under their feet,

  all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,

  the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

 

 

 

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

11Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. 13The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

 

Matthew 28:16-20

16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

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