Creation Story #1 – Genesis 1 – continued.
It’s ALL good.
Religion goes off the rails so often. Not that religion is a bad thing. As I find myself saying too often, usually to those who got burned by religion and think it the opposite of spirituality, religion is what we do to make spirituality real to us. Religion is how we embody spirituality. But, to their point, sometimes religion buys into a false dichotomy too: don’t touch that, don’t eat that, don’t DO that, … don’t have any fun, because fun is of the flesh, and the flesh is opposed to the spirit.
The first thing we saw in the first Genesis creation story (in our last Midweek Meditation) is that God is like a hovering mother hen, fluttering over creation — over us — in a protective, loving embrace. God LOVES this created reality. And we see this over and over in the next few sentences, structured poetically to describe God forming the planet, the sun and moon, and calling forth all life on the planet, one kingdom and phylum at a time.
When God sparked that first blast of light, he saw it, and said, “this is good.” And when he formed the planet, separating land from ocean, he saw it, and said, “this is good.” Then he called for vegetation to grow on the land, plants and trees, and he saw it and said, “this is good.” And the sun and the moon to shine light on the earth during the day and night. And, surprise: “this is good.” And then fish and sea creatures to populate the oceans, and birds of every kind to fill the skies. And he saw it and said, “this is good.” Then creatures for the land, cattle and wild beasts, things that crawl on the ground. And he said, “this is good.” And finally, he creates humanity to rule over it all. And when God stepped back and looked at the whole thing, the whole scope of creation, he was very pleased. “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.”
See the trend there? (Ha!) Seven distinct times — and yes, seven is a poetic and symbolic number — seven times God calls this physical realm “good.” And the whole creation: “very good.”
What’s the big deal? Why emphasize that? Cuz so many of us have lived under an oppressive religious teaching that the things of nature, of this realm and reality, of the flesh, are BAD, corrupt, opposed to the “things of the spirit,” and should be shunned. We were taught to hate this world, to even look forward to its ultimate demolition, to not cherish this planet or created things. We are taught that everything is tainted with sin and death. But that is NOT how this creation story depicts it. That pessimistic view is directly opposite of what God thinks in this story.
There’s a ancient rabbinic teaching that declares “Everyone must render an account before God of all the good things he beheld in life and did not enjoy.” That is, God created good things, and we chose to ignore or reject them. The Apostle Paul says something similar when he refutes those holier-than-thou self-deniers, who made up arbitrary rules to deny themselves any worldly pleasure. Referring back to this Genesis story he says, “Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected when received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the invocation of God in prayer.” Later in that same letter, he instructs them to put their hope in God, “who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”
Maybe that’s the way to strike the right balance. Everything is to be enjoyed and is holy when taken with gratitude and awareness that it is a gift to us from the Creator. Can that enjoyment be abused? Sure. But why start there? Why not start out from the perspective that this life is GOOD? That this world is GOOD.
Maybe religion wouldn’t have quite so bad a reputation if it embraced the same attitude described of God when He made the universe and all its beauty and pleasures. It’s all good. So enjoy it!