I know that not everyone who reads the parish magazine regularly attends St. Anne’s Church, and so some of you may not have heard our news. I have been appointed the vicar of St. Andrew’s and St. Mary’s Church Wakefield and St. Catherine’s Church Sandal. We will be sad to leave St. Anne’s, but we’re excited about this new step and eager to see all that God has in store for us. I will not write my farewells today, as I have a few more months with you. I will save my words and good byes for a future magazine.
Instead, I want to talk about Genesis 1. Back in the March Magazine I wrote about how Genesis 1 teaches that we are made of both dust and spirit. That we are both physical and spiritual beings. That we are made of atoms, atoms that replace themselves, the same atoms and molecules that also make up everything else. We are made of dust.
But we also reflect and love and despair and dream. We experience transcendence. We suffer loss and heartache and brokenness. We are made of dust, but we are also made of spirit.
I find this discussion so much more interesting than whether or not the world was made in a literal period of 6 days!
Now I got a lot of feedback about this parish magazine article, including the statement ‘That’s just one verse in Genesis 1, what about the rest of it!’ Now I could write a whole bunch of articles on Genesis 1, it is a brilliant, wonderful, subversive, revolutionary chapter. (Maybe I’ll write another one next month? We’ll see!) So I thought today I’d write something about the whole chapter.
In Genesis 1 God creates the world, with a repeated refrain ‘And God saw that it was good.’ (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25), culminating in verse 31 ‘God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.’
So God sees this world, the plants and animals, the sea and sky, the man and woman, and he declares the whole lot ‘very good’. God sees men and women, together, multiplying and calls it very good. God makes plants that can make more of themselves (Gen 1:12). He makes animals that can make more of themselves (Gen 1:25). He creates human kind in his image, and instructs them to work in the world and create in the world (Gen 1:26-30) and then he declares the whole lot ‘very good’.
Only in Genesis 3 does this go wrong. In Genesis 3 sin enters the picture. The relationship between people and God is damaged, the relationship between people and the creation is damaged and the relationship between people and other people is damaged.
Now to state the obvious, the Bible does not beginning in Genesis 3, the Bible begins in Genesis 1! This is so vital. It affects everything about how you see the world and how you see the Christian faith.
The story starts in Genesis 1!
If you start the story in Genesis 3, then the world is a dark, sinful place and we need to get out of here. The main story is about removing sin. If you begin in Genesis 3 then the important thing is that Jesus forgives you your sin and rescues you from this evil world.
But, if you begin in Genesis 1, then the world is fundamentally good, and the story is about redeeming and restoring this world that God has declared ‘very good’. This obviously includes forgiveness and the removal of sin, but it goes way beyond it to the very ends of the cosmos!
If you begin in Genesis 3 then the fundamental posture towards people is telling them what they aren’t. Telling them that they aren’t good enough, they aren’t holy enough, they don’t read their Bible enough, they don’t attend church enough.
If you begin in Genesis 1 then the fundamental posture towards people is telling them what they are! Telling them that they are made in the image of God. They are daughters and sons of a loving heavenly Father who spoke over them at creation that they are, at their original core, ‘very good.’
From the beginning this heavenly Father has had an unconditional, all-embracing love for all of creation. This creator God is endlessly diverse and creative, making all things and declaring it good. You are made in His image, and, no matter what you’ve done, or how bad you think you’ve messed up, you contain that divine spark.
As a human being you were created to be a co-creative partner with the creator God. The world that He made wanting it to move forward. Making the animals to make more animals, the plants to make more plants and the humans to multiply and subdue (read create in and take care of) the world.
Now we all know that we’ve sometimes gone against this movement. Sometimes my actions have increased the evil in this world, and not increased the goodness. We all now that Genesis 3 is true, that this world is not always good. But the story starts in Genesis 1 – with a loud declaration that the world is ‘very good’ and that we are in His image.
We often talk about ‘original sin’, which I find a bizarre term, because sin wasn’t original! Sin didn’t enter the story until Genesis 3 (now I get that that is not what original sin means, that instead it’s saying all of us are born with the capacity to be part of the problem.) But if we start in Genesis 1 the emphasis should actually be on original goodness, because that really was original!
When we start the story in Genesis 1 the story is about how this world and we humans are fundamentally good and God is determined to put it right again.
Now I find that far more interesting than whether or not the world was made in a literal period of 6 days!