In the beginning: it was good!
This message was offered at Wesley United Methodist Church (Culver, IN) on Sunday, May 4, 2014.
Reading: Genesis 1:1-2:3
Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear so that together, we might be inspired to not only speak but to also live your Word in the world starting today. It’s in your Word’s name, Jesus the Christ, we pray. Amen.
The beginning of a story is important.
A [story] is made up of many thousands of sentences, but none as deeply important as the opening line. The first line should tell the reader what to expect in terms of language, plot and character. It should be mysterious and compelling, either poetic or shockingly abrupt. If a bookstore browser flips to the first page and reads the opening line, he or she should want to immediately sit down in the middle of the aisle and keep reading.
Beginnings are important. Every great story has a beginning.
The Bible tells the story of God and the people of God. The Bible has in it the greatest stories ever told: stories of jealousy, intrigue, lust, betrayal, and forgiveness and reconciliation. It describes God’s relentless love for that which God created.
The first story, the story of origin, the beginning of the Bible is found in Genesis. It describes the very beginning when all was created and all was at peace. It is the story of how we came to know God. It describes our rebellious relationship toward God , and it lays the framework for how the relationship might be restored.
How we understand these first stories is important, because from them we build our entire understanding of God (including the work of Christ), humanity, sin (our broken relationship with God and others), and the whole created order.
Genesis is an important text because it is the foundational story of our faith. Over the next few weeks, through my final preaching Sunday on June 15th, we’re going to be exploring the book of Genesis together. It is an important text for us to consider as my time with you draws to an end.
Because, beginnings are important. If we start in the wrong place we’ll never come to the right conclusions. If we assume the wrong things from the start then it may be hard for us to understand where the story is headed. If we fail to understand the beginning we will surely miss the important parts at the end. Beginnings are important.
In the beginning…
The first chapter of Genesis tells us the beginning of everything except God. In the beginning, God was while yet the earth and everything in it was not. Before the first beam of light on the first day, God was. And it was God who broke the eternal silence, called forth light, and began to create.
When God began to create the heavens and the earth—the earth was without shape or form, it was dark over the deep sea, and God’s wind swept over the waters—God [spoke].
God effortlessly creates all that is without lifting a divine finger. It’s important to note—and we talked about this at length on Thursday night (at Bible Study–you should come!)—that this account in Genesis 1 is different from Genesis 2. In Genesis 1, God effortlessly speaks all that is into being. In Genesis 2, God gets his hands dirty (literally) to create man from the dirt (see Genesis 2:7) who in turn must till the land so that the plants will grow (see Genesis 2:5).
Nonetheless, in Genesis 1, God’s word calls all things to being. On the first day, God calls forth light, creating day and night. It’s a logical first place to start because with the coming of night we get the conclusion of the first day. On each successive “day” God’s word creates something new: sky (day two), dry land and sea and plant life (day three), stars and moon and sun (day four), sea creatures and birds (day five), and, finally, on day six, God made the creatures of the land: this includes humanity who is created (see Genesis 1:27, New Revised Standard Version)
in God’s own image,
in the divine image God created them,
male and female God created them.
And God looked upon all that God had spoken into being and God saw that it was good: “good’ because it is precisely what God had in mind, just what God intended.” On the seventh day, God completed all that God had begun, and God rested for all had been made and all was “supremely good.”
In the beginning, when God began to create, God made all things and they were good. This is where our story begins.
And, it was good.
A few weeks ago when my father was in the hospital, my sister and I were walking through the lobby of the hospital when I noticed a small tract on each of the tables. The cover caught my attention: “Believe These Truths and you will be saved from your sins and from the wrath of God to come!” It piqued my interest so I picked it up. The first truth this tract wants the reader to believe is that “1. YOU ARE A SINNER IN NEED OF A SAVIOUR ‘for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.’ (Romans 3:23)” Immediately, as I finished reading that first line out loud, my sister stopped, looked at me, and said, “It’s sad when we fail to start at the beginning: when we don’t get the first part of the story right.” It was a profound statement. And, she is right.
Friends, our faith doesn’t begin with our brokenness. It doesn’t begin with a fallen world. No! In the beginning, when God began to create, God made all things and they were good.
If we’re going to understand the rest of the story we must first understand that all things God called into being—including you and me—were created good. Yes, it’s true, we quickly forget who we are and what we were created to do and be. We’ll talk more about that next week, but in the beginning—the result of God’s creative work—was not evil. God’s creation was not broken. It was good.
The brokenness we experience, the darkness that clouds our sight, the evil we face on a daily basis is not what God intended. In the beginning, God created all things and they—all the world and all of us—were good.
Failure to remember or perhaps ignorance of this starting point is the source of a lot of hatred and evil in this world. It is easy to hate something when you think it unclean or unworthy. It’s easy to ridicule and belittle when we refuse to see the goodness of God in God’s creation.
We must remember that, in the beginning, God created the earth and all that is in it good. In order for us to be good stewards of God’s good creation, we must seek the good in all things including our neighbors.
We must seek to see the image of God in one another. Jesus—God-in-the-flesh—has a unique knack for doing this. He could see the inherent goodness in all things. He could look at an adulterer and see a child of God. He could look at a demon possessed child and see a promise. He could see past the brokenness and see himself in those the world despises and often forgets. And, Christ calls us to do the same. We’re called to seek out the image of God in one another: to love one another not for who we are or what we’ve done, but for who God created us to be. We’re called to be faithful stewards of Creation, to work alongside Christ reminding humanity of its sacred worth and goodness, restoring the whole created order to the way it was in the beginning. For in the beginning, when God began to create, it was all good. May we never forget that nor fail to seek it out in the world God created, in the world God so loves and has come to save.
The world in which we live is a broken and dark place. It is so hard to see anything good when hatred, violence, and division seem to be the norm. Give us the eyes to see your goodness in all things that we might celebrate the goodness in all that you have created.
Help us, O God, especially, to seek out your image in one another that we might be a people known for our love and acceptance rather than our discord and holier-than-thou attitudes. Give us the courage to see you in those with whom we disagree, in those we consider our enemies, and in those in whom the world despises and forgets. Give us the strength we need to be good stewards of all that you have created that your goodness and glory might be known in all the earth. Amen.
 Meredith Borders, “The Top 10 Best Opening Lines of Novels,” Litreactor.com <http://litreactor.com/columns/the-top-10-best-opening-lines-of-novels> Accessed May 2, 2014.
 Genesis 1:1-3a, Common English Bible.
 Footnote for Genesis 1:4 in The Wesley Study Bible Common English Bible (Nashville: Common English Bible, 2012), p2.
 See Genesis 1:31a (Common English Bible).
 “Believe These Truths and you will be saved from your sins and from the wrath to come!” by Rev. Romule S. Buchanan B.D. printed by Project Lifeline (Evansville, IN).