It was Good

To return to the very beginning of scripture and the first moment of time is a jolt in the midst of so much civil unrest and a global pandemic. Perhaps that is the best reason to do it today. When everything around you seems to be crashing in, it helps to remember that God’s plan was that all the things he created would be good, and when we return to the Eden of his making, it will be good again. It’s just this stuff in the meantime that can be so challenging and exhausting.

So let us remember how we started.

Genesis 1 (Contemporary English Version)

 In the beginning God
created the heavens
    and the earth.
The earth was barren,
    with no form of life;
it was under a roaring ocean
    covered with darkness.
But the Spirit of God
    was moving over the water.

Imagine the earth in its barren state. That is a hard image to conjure up. I live in a community that was developed in the ‘60’s by dredging out canals and then slowly building houses on the fingers of land that remained. When we spot old photos of Colington Island, it is amazing to see how pristine it all was, and then experience it now in its fully built-out state. While it is still quite beautiful, Colington has certainly changed since it was chartered in the late 1600’s.

In the beginning, it was good.

God said, “I command light to shine!” And light started shining. God looked at the light and saw that it was good. He separated light from darkness and named the light “Day” and the darkness “Night.” Evening came and then morning—that was the first day.

The creation narrative continues through each day with plants, animals, and eventually humans being added. Each time, God stops and declares the day’s work to be “good.”

When was the last time you completed a day’s work and declared it to be good? I can’t ever remember going to bed with a feeling that I had actually finished something, much less declared it to be good. That is the nature of life. That is the nature of ministry. It is messy. It can be unforgiving. And it is always filled with unfinished business. Things get moved from today’s to-do list to tomorrow’s to-do list and so forth and so on. If we were honest, we would write out a to-don’t list and call it a day.

I don’t think God wants us to feel this way. I think Genesis is written to teach us about the work-sabbath relationship, and to set an example of working hard, realizing the value of your day’s effort, marking it good, and then ending the week with an appropriate sabbath rest.

Genesis 2

 1 So the heavens and the earth and everything else were created.

By the seventh day God had finished his work, and so he rested. God blessed the seventh day and made it special because on that day he rested from his work.

Maybe there is a connection here. When was the last time you had a bonafide, honest to GOODness rest? When have you fully and completely allowed yourself a day of sabbath, with no work, no chores, no projects, no running errands….have you ever?

God’s work ended with a full day of rest. This was after six days of creating the entire known world.

Take a break, people. If the creator of the universe can carve out a day of downtime, so can you.

And THAT will be good.

It’s All Good by Michelle Robertson

Something from Nothing

Two of my favorite shows are Project Runway and Top Chef. Everyone who knows me is probably surprised by this, as I can’t sew, I can’t cook, and I am certainly no fashion maven. My style sense runs to “does this solid look OK with this solid?” I am pretty much a jeans-and-top girl except on Sunday, when I show up in the same old thing every week. Thank God for clergy robes.

But my fascination with these shows is that fact that every week, they all make something from nothing. On Top Chef, they are given a challenge and a pantry of ingredients and VOILA, gourmet food is produced. “Here is a can of SPAM and a bunch of fresh fennel. Your challenge is to create an amuse bouche for a team of Alaskan dog sledders. Don’t forget to make it packable, and GO!” Project Runway is even more amazing. “Create a red carpet look with unconventional materials found in a candy store. You have one day for this challenge.”

These programs are an homage to the creative spirit in all of us. Well, at least in all of them. I would have just sent the can of SPAM with a can opener to the dog sledders and called it a day. And eaten the candy. But I am FASCINATED by people who can make something from nothing. This ability is a true reflection of God’s creative power.

Genesis 1 (The Message)

 1-2 First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.

3-5 God spoke: “Light!”
        And light appeared.
    God saw that light was good
        and separated light from dark.
    God named the light Day,
        he named the dark Night.
    It was evening, it was morning—
    Day One.

From nothingness, God brought forth the universe. From the bottomless emptiness, light was born. In the inky blackness, animals and humans were created. It was a labor of love.

The reformer Martin Luther, once said, “God made the world out of nothing. It is only when we become nothing that God can make something out of us.” Something to ponder as we bask in the glory of God’s creation today.

What would God make of you, if you emptied yourself of ego, need, agendas, preoccupations, doubt….? How can you become nothing, so that you can become his everything? What do you need to lose so that you can be made into something useful for the Kingdom?

You are also a labor of his love. Let him make something from your nothingness.

Beauty from Nothingness by Wende Pritchard

Blessing of the Animals

Pets are a wonderful blessing…well, for the most part. I have had dogs most of my life, and except for the times when my favorite shoes get chewed up or potty training was going badly, I have loved every minute of being with my dogs.

Well, there was the time Georgia ate half a pork roast, an entire bag of bagels (including the plastic bag,) a left-over baked potato, and then polished it all off with a scented candle. A scented candle! Palate cleanser, perhaps? Oh, yes, and the time she broke through the decorative fence at my daughter’s house, ran helter-skelter across the golf course disrupting everyone’s game, and then jumped in the lake, right on top of a duck. The whole time I was chasing her and yelling for her to stop. Her temporary and utterly complete hearing loss in that moment has always amazed me.

But our pets are part our family, and we cherish them. We may even like them better than members of our family….let’s face it, sometimes they are better behaved than particular family members.

There is a wonderful celebration of animals of all kinds in many Anglican-based churches called the “Blessing of the Animals.” It is usually held around October 4th, which is the traditional feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, known for his great love of all creatures great and small. Animals are brought to the church grounds or inside the sanctuary (with towels provided for “spills”) and the priest/pastor/vicar offers an individual blessing for each one. Water used to be used, but the cat union got on that one pretty quickly, so now it’s just a laying on of hands that goes along with the spoken blessing. In my denomination, we say this:

Bless, O Lord, this creature,

and fill our hearts with thanksgiving for its being.

I have officiated Blessings of the Animals a few times in my ministry, and the most exotic animal I have blessed was a very large lizard named George. Another pastor was with me that day, so I indicated to the boy with the snake that he should get in that pastor’s line. I was amazed at the number of church members who brought their animals, and it was a joy to watch their faces light up when their turn came to step forward. (The people, not the pets. If the snake’s face lit up, I will never know. Thanks be to God.)

In the book of Genesis, God gives humanity the care and protection of all of the animals he created:

Genesis 1 (The Message)

God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them

        reflecting our nature

    So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,

        the birds in the air, the cattle,

    And, yes, Earth itself,

        and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”

    God created human beings;

        he created them godlike,

    Reflecting God’s nature.

        He created them male and female.

    God blessed them:

        “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!

    Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,

        for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”

This is why churches for centuries have done blessings of the animals. We have been given a great gift, and with it comes a greater responsibility. God asks us to be responsible for EVERY living thing that moves on the face of the Earth.

If we take this seriously, we would all run to our local animal shelter right now and adopt a pet, as we are able.

If we take this seriously, we would all run to our local animal shelter right now and donate money or supplies, as we are able.

If we take this seriously, we would become animal rights advocates, denounce sport hunting, and become vegan, as we are able.

If we take this seriously, we would take good care of the pets with which we have been entrusted and look after our neighbor’s pets, as we are able.

If we take this seriously, we would safely pull over and move a turtle off the road, as we are able. (If you do this, place the turtle on the grass in the direction he was going, not back the way he was coming from. Otherwise, he will just go out in the road again. Just a little OBX wisdom.)

Our pets are a blessing to us. If you have one, love them tenderly today. If you don’t, reach out with some form of support to your local shelter or to a neighbor who might appreciate it if you offered to walk their dog. God is counting on us to care for his creation. We fill our hearts with thanksgiving for them being here with us.

Blessing of the Animals at Colington UMC. Photo by Patrice White Taylor-Welch.