From time to time I go foraging for simple antiques. I like pieces that aren’t too pretentious, things of basic value which also, perhaps, need some care and attention. I don’t own many of them, but I have a few, and I cherish each one.
I was on an antique hunt with my wife and daughter a few years ago. We had wandered down to Nanton, AB, poking through the several antique shops in that little prairie town. Most of the time these hunting expeditions result in nothing more than a few consumed coffees, but on this trip there was a piece I had noticed, and mused about. It was an old maple wash-stand in the classic style but it was broken, scarred, overly painted, and rather decrepit. I had already written it off when my daughter encouraged me to go back for a second look. I am happy to tell you that I was able to bring that little maple wash-stand back to life. Actually, its quite special. I am very fond of it.
The first thing we should notice about the world we live in is not what is wrong about it, but what is right about it. We should notice life’s inherent value, inherent possibility, and all of the beauty that requires loving attention. Only when we put original goodness ahead of original sin are we able to see what it is we are to do and be, and what it is we are to work and hope for. Sin is certainly ugly and damaging. But redemption -- the idea that God restores, puts back, reclaims, and renews his world -- assumes that what God originally designed has intrinsic value.
In the opening scene of our Scriptures, the creation story of Genesis 1, we hear the repeated phrase “it was good” (vs. 4, 10, 12, 18, 21,25) capped only by the final statement, “it was very good” (v. 31). Musing this week on the many implications of the Biblical creation story, I became captivated by several defining themes, all deeply good:
patient process is good: Do you notice how God brings his creation into being through process? First he makes the raw material of course, but then he proceeds to shape that raw material into amazingly diverse expressions of life: plants, fish, birds, and animals. In other words, creation is more than an event. Creation is an on-going relationship with the creator. Creation is what God makes, not what he made. I suddenly become very aware that the God who made me is very attentive to the whole process of my becoming. This is good.
careful distinction is good: One of the basic things God does in Genesis 1 is to separate and make distinctions. He separates the light from the darkness (v. 3), the “up” from the “below” (v. 6-8), and the waters from the dry land (vs. 9-10). In other words, for creation to have meaning distinctions need to be made. Not everything has the same purpose, function and value. Meaning must be seen, truth understood, goodness celebrated. But we are given minds and hearts and the counsel of God. This too is good.
potentiality is good: There is a real seed-like quality inherent in creation. Potential is built in. You know how the story of creation quickly turns into the story of our human struggle: by Genesis 3 we see how deeply God’s original good intentions are challenged. And therefore, the fullest potential of creation is actually something God must reintroduce.
Which brings me to the concept of resurrection (one of my favorite Biblical thoughts). Resurrection is creation’s greatest potentiality, its fullest purpose. Resurrection is new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). For me, resurrection is hinted at in the counting of the creation days, the first through seventh days of Genesis 1:1 to 2:3. With the completion of the creation week, God rests, giving us a window into the hope of the whole human story, that everything finally leads to peace, to an accomplished and fully realized shalom where human flourishing finds its fulfillment.
But resurrection is an eighth-day reality. In the telling of our gospels, the resurrection of Jesus took place on the first day of a new week, an eighth day, the beginning of something completely new. It is as if God’s first creation gives way to his new creation, not as a rejection of the first, but as its intended destiny.
Resurrection is the promise that our present life will be taken up, fulfilled, made complete and whole, in the new creation. Everything we are and do now matters; but everything we are and do is given weight by the fact of our future. Though at present we are flawed and weak, we live and work and help and hope with complete confidence in what God is bringing about. We tend the garden of God’s creation with joy, knowing the meaning of things.
Resurrection is the true potentiality of present life, though hardly anyone would be able to tell by looking at us. Sort of like my maple wash-stand story.
And all of this is very good.