Sermon: It was Good

June 4, 2023

Genesis 1:1-2:4a
2 Corinthians 13:11-13

At Working Preacher, Roger Nam describes the religious context that surrounded the people of Israel – literally surrounded. To the south was the great empire of Egypt; to the north and east were the various empires of Mesopotamia. The Egyptians changed ruling dynasties but kept the name. The Mesopotamians changed names: Assyria. Sumer. Akkad. Babylon.

Roger Nam writes, “There were many deities, and they each had changing roles and forms. Marduk was associated with water, vegetation, and eventually magic and the head of the pantheon. Assur was leader of a rival pantheon in northern Mesopotamia. Back of Egypt, a different set of gods quarreled over legitimacy beginning with Osiris and Seth and then Seth and Horus. Each of these major pantheons had hundreds of lesser deities, contending for prominence or even survival.

“And these deities were fickle. According to the Babylonian myth, Enuma Elish, they created humans, or at least some of them did. But at the same time, they later regretted the decisions and schemed to destroy the human race because we were too ‘noisy.’ These deities would battle, kill, enslave and retaliate against each other, and humans were often caught in the midst of these disputes.”

In contrast to those beliefs, the people of Israel recorded the six day creation you’ve just heard from Genesis. The Biblical writers had no illusions about the fragility, inconstancy, and obstinacy of human beings and other members of the created order. You’ll find much of the Old Testament concerned with the moral assessment of human action, and you’ll find much of the Old Testament concerned with changing human action so it better follows the will of God. But as Debie Thomas writes at, “Before there was evil, there was goodness. Before there was Original Sin, there was Original Blessing. Often in our rush to get our theologies properly balanced and our egos properly squashed, we forget that Genesis 1 is a chapter brimming with goodness and blessing. In fact, God pronounces blessing on the created order three times. He calls creation ‘good’ and ‘very good’ seven times.”

Despite all the frailty, despite all the infidelity, despite all the hardship of daily life in a country with scarce water and arable land, the ancient Hebrews persisted in a belief that God made the world as a blessing. “And indeed, it was very good.”

“Very good” is not the same thing as “easy living.” God’s instruction to the newly created human beings to “subdue” the earth wasn’t a casual instruction. Those who wrote these words knew how much labor farming required. Those who wrote these words knew how little difference there was between a fertile year of crops and a famine year. Those who wrote these words knew that natural resources had to be properly gathered and nurtured in order to support a human population.

The people of Hawai’i knew it, too. Hawaiians terraced the land to support taro. They constructed elaborate fish ponds. They moved sizable tree trunks from the mountainsides to the ocean for ocean-going canoes.

Some of the laws of Israel restricted behaviors that could overuse and imperil resources. The Hawaiians did the same.

Since the arrival of the modern era about 500 years ago, people have been… less cautious. More extravagant. John C. Holbert writes at, “For far too often and for far too long we human beings have played with the world we have been given as if it could always sustain whatever we decided to do. We are now learning that such activity is no longer sustainable… We have in fact ‘dominated’ the non-human creation; we have in fact ‘subdued’ the land and all its gifts. And the result has been disaster: over-fished seas, threatened bees and birds, withering drought, fouled air.

“It is time for us, past time, to end this foolish and incorrect notion that it is our world. It is, and always has been, God’s world.”

God’s world, created good, named good by God.

The ancient writer of Genesis probably couldn’t imagine our situation today. We literally have the power to wipe life from the planet, ready and waiting to be launched atop missiles. The ancient writers could imagine offending God to the point where God destroyed the world, but not that human beings themselves could do it.

We have so much power that we find ourselves changing the world unintentionally. We’ve managed to shift the climate patterns of the planet. If Hawai’i Island didn’t make itself bigger, its land area would have shrunk over the last few years because of the encroachment of the ocean. According to a 2016 Environmental Protection Agency summary, Florida’s sea level is likely to rise one to four feet in the next century. Some maps suggest that a third of the Florida peninsula could become a shallow sea.

We didn’t mean to do this. We wanted warm homes in the cold, and cool homes in the heat. We wanted to move things and ourselves easily from one place to another. I just can’t help thinking that we’re more careful with things we think are good.

In the United States, the argument is usually about restricting what people can do with what is “theirs.” I bought it. I own it. I can do what I like with it.

But when industrial processes change the chemistry of the air, that’s no longer about “mine.” That’s ours. When fracking or stored fuel contaminates groundwater, that’s no longer about “mine.” That’s ours. When sea level rise threatens the water supplies of entire island nations, that’s not “mine.” That’s ours.

Do we really, as individuals or as that fictional individual called a corporation, really have the “right” to harm the people, the creatures, the climate of the planet because we think we’re starting with what’s “ours?” Did we create it? Did we form it? Did we even imagine it?

It’s not mine. It’s God’s. And God said it was good, and for me to turn it into something else that’s not so good is… tragic.

God made us a world of extravagant resource and beauty. It’s a treasure of goodness, a fountain of greatness. At our best, we’ve found ways to focus and gather that goodness to sustain our communities. At our worst, we’ve broken that goodness for our convenience and our hubris.

God saw that it was good. May we see it so, and keep it so.


by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Sermon

During a sermon, Pastor Eric changes things. Sometimes he even intends to.

Photo of Earth taken during Apollo 8 flight, probably by Bill Anders. Photo credit: by U.S. govt. – (Higher resolution 411 kB), Public Domain,

Categories Sermons | Tags: , | Posted on June 4, 2023

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