Sunday’s sermon: It Was Supremely Good

Text used – Genesis 1:1-2:4

  • One of the things that Ian and Luke and I have gotten into during this time of COVID has been puzzles.
    • All sorts of puzzles
      • Big and small
      • Easy and hard
      • Regular shaped and oddly shaped
        • One shaped like a pizza
        • One shaped like a rocket
        • Next up: the one shaped like a dinosaur
      • Puppies and doughnuts, dragons and cabin scenes, kitties and Star Wars
      • Even a couple glow in the dark puzzles!
    • One of the best things about puzzles = watching the picture take shape → You start with that box of little pieces – hundreds, sometimes even thousands of little, tiny, individual pieces. Some of them are so easy to place. It’s so easy to see what part of the picture they belong to. But others are so much trickier. It’s not until more of the picture is complete that you can really see where that piece fits in. But no matter what kind of piece you’re currently holding in your hand, the whole puzzle isn’t complete without it.
      • Pizza puzzle actually got sent back → missing not ONE but TWO pieces when we had finished it → And that experience of finishing the whole puzzle but missing pieces was so … ugh.
  • Today, we begin our journey through another year of the Narrative Lectionary – a set of Scripture readings designed to help us take in the whole scope of God’s Grand Story of Faith in a 9-month period. And we begin, of course, at the beginning with God and creation. Creation … God’s crazy-amazing, beautiful, intricate puzzle of a world. → today’s reading makes it clear both how beautiful that puzzle truly is and how important it is that all the pieces come together – no missing pieces
      • Pieces of the puzzle = different days, different things created
        • Day 1: God created light and separated light from darkness, separated day from night
        • Day 2: God separated the waters above the earth from the waters upon the earth, creating sky
        • Day 3: God gathered the waters on the earth into lakes and rivers and seas and brought up the dry land → created plant life
        • Day 4: God created the sun, moon, and stars to light the day and mark the passage of time and seasons
        • Day 5: God created birds and seal life
        • Day 6: God created everything that walks on land → reptiles and mammals, bugs and marsupials, even humans
        • Day 7: God rested!
        • And after each of the descriptions of those days of creation, Scripture says what? “God saw how good it was.” Each piece of the puzzle that God created was good.
          • Heb. = suitable, pleasing, desirable, friendly, in order, lovely → All those warm and fuzzy words that reassure us of the integrity and excellence of something or someone.
            • Important point: it was only after creating each of those things that God declared them “good” → Did God know beforehand that each element of creation would be amazing? Who knows. Clearly, we cannot know what was in the mind of God. But only after seeing each new phase of creation and how it fit together with what came before it did God deem them all “good.”
        • Also important to note that each and every single one of those creations was deemed good by God → God deemed all land and all water good. Equally good. God deemed all plants equally good. God deemed all creatures great and small equally good.
          • Sure, that can be something that we question from time to time → rhyme that Mom used to say: “God, in his wisdom, created the fly, and then forgot to tell us why.”
            • Always felt like it applied more to mosquitos than flies … but that doesn’t rhyme nearly as nicely (“God, in his wisdom, created the mosquito, and then forgot to tell us why.” Nah.)
          • Most important: God deemed all people good. Equally – Scripture: Then God said, “Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us so that they may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and all the crawling things on earth.” God created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image God created them, male and female God created them.[1]
            • Heb. is abundantly, clearly broad in its terminology: “humanity” = the most general, inclusive word ancient Hebrews could have used for “people”
                • Genderless
                • Non-specific in every way
                  • Not particularly God’s chosen people
                  • Not particularly “the other” (Gentiles, “the nations” in much of the First Testament)
                • This is literally just people. All people. Every people. People of all kinds – all nations, races, and ethnicity. People of all shapes. People of all ability levels and education levels and income levels. People of all classes and groups and even religions. People of all genders and orientations. People of all dreams and hopes and aspirations. People of all mistakes and misunderstandings and doubts. People of all righteousness and brokenness, all humor and hopelessness, and delight and despair. ALL PEOPLE. No caveats. Just God … and people … and goodness.
    • Each and every single one of those elements that God created – each piece of the grand puzzle of life in the universe – was deemed good in its own right. Each and every piece, beautiful. Each and every piece, worthy. Each and every piece, blessed.
      • Hear that blessedness ringing in the way that James Weldon Johnson[2]
        • Early African American writer, poet, lawyer, civil rights activist
          • Lived around the turn of the 20th
        • Spent time as leader of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People)
        • U.S. consul to Venezuela and Nicaragua under Pres. Theodore Roosevelt
        • First Black professor to be hired by New York University in 1934
        • Wrote the lyrics to “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing”
        • One of his most well-known poems: “The Creation”[3] – a loving and evocative retelling of creation that lets the goodness that God felt shine through [READ “The Creation”]
  • Again, we see that God declares all those pieces of the puzzle of creation good. But that’s not where God’s creation story ends. – text: God saw everything [God] had made: it was supremely good.[4] → “God saw everything God had made, and it was supremely good.” Supremely good.
    • Heb. = same word for “good” used throughout the rest of the chapter (suitable, pleasing, desirable, friendly, in order, lovely) plus the word for “abundant, to the highest degree”
    • You see, only when God saw all of creation together – everything, every plant, every creature, every person – all in the same picture did God call everything supremely good. Only when God was able to see the entire puzzle – complete and whole and beautiful – did God call everything supremely good. And I think that’s what we tend to forget when it comes to this passage.
      • Especially important message in this time when climate change is such a real and present threat
        • Deforestation + rampant and unchecked burning of fossil fuels = dramatic and dangerous rise of average global temperatures[5]
          • Causing the melting of the polar ice caps → causing rising sea levels
          • Causing more extreme weather conditions
            • Hurricanes
            • Tornados
            • Wildfires
            • Derecho winds that swept through IA last year (2020) and did so much damage
            • Droughts just like the one so much of the U.S. is suffering right now
        • Number of species that have gone extinct in the last 100 yrs.: nearly 500 species[6]
        • Huge swaths of forest and whole habitats that have been destroyed
        • Coral reefs that have been extensively damaged or even destroyed by human activity
        • Not to mention the physical, spiritual, and emotional damage we continue to do to each other – one human being to another. Friends, we seem to have fallen a long way from recognizing the supreme goodness of God’s creation. We have forgotten how to look at the overall picture. But our text this morning is our reminder – our reminder that every single element of God’s creation is needed to make it supremely good.
          • The parts that we love
            • The people
            • The places
            • The plants
            • The creatures
          • The parts that we find it hard to love
            • The people
            • The places
            • The plants
            • The creatures (even the mosquitos!)
    • God saw everything that God had created, and it was supremely good. Alleluia. Amen.

[1] Gen 1:26-27.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Weldon_Johnson.

[3] https://poets.org/poem/creation.

[4] Gen 1:31a.

[5] https://www.edf.org/climate/why-fighting-climate-change-so-urgent?utm_source=google&utm_campaign=edf_none_upd_dmt&utm_medium=cpc&utm_id=1561743801&gclid=CjwKCAjwyvaJBhBpEiwA8d38vNB8OyrA84IwCJJt8RkPSLlC9MyCWreCbg9-xsOCb4V8lCDze0gM3BoCA7IQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds.

[6] https://www.rd.com/list/animals-extinct-last-100-years/.