My husband Jeff is spending part of his summer working with incoming freshman at Ball State as an academic advisor. In other words, he helps them put together their schedules. This time of year always makes me think back to my college years and the class selection process. Freshman are excited to get started on their majors. Then they are introduced to this little thing called “general education requirements.” Math, English, Personal Finance, and Science. Though a little jarring, these general eds help create well rounded individuals who see the value of understanding different dimensions of the world, regardless of their major. Jeff’s stories of freshman take me back to my freshman year, which included science. I chose astronomy for reasons I can’t remember. I didn’t know as a freshman that this 4 credit science course would shape my view of God in profound ways. Throughout my college years, I kept taking astronomy and other Earth Science courses, enough to acquire a minor. Through these classes I found that by looking through the small lenses of a telescope, I could see God’s work in Genesis 1 in action. Star clusters, billions of lightyears away. The rings of Saturn, galaxies containing mind boggling planets. My freshman mind thought “God made it. And it was good.”
God said “let there be light. And it was so. And God saw it was good. God saw that creation was good. The image behind me on this screen is a picture of the goodness that is creation. The closest we can come to capturing on film God’s call “let there be light.” It is a nebula, the birthplace of galaxies, planets, stars, and future heavenly bodies. Nebulas are unimaginably large collections of gases and particles, millions of light years across. Over the course of billions of years, these gases and particles come together, fuse and create…creation.
Genesis 1 is one of the most familiar passages of scripture. If people know any passage beside the resurrection, it is likely the creation story. We learn it in Sunday School. We create paper cutouts of Adam and Eve. We take a felt sun and place it on a red felt board, above a blue cut out of the earth. We know this story. We see creation alive around us in the animals, plants, sunrise, and sunsets. Creation is good. Few people would argue this. What God has done is good.
Hold your thumb out, and close one eye while looking at your thumb. In the space that covers your thumb, there are hundreds of galaxies. That’s how vast God’s creation is that is described in this one chapter of Genesis. Whenever I have experienced personal questions, fears, or doubts, today’s first reading, paired with the beauty of creation that I have seen through the lens of a telescope have assured me that there is more to this world that what is before our eyes. God’s awesome power to create the heavens and the earth, to create the sun and the moon, to create the oceans, teeming with life, it. Is. good. We are a product of this awesome, often incomprehensible creation, and seeing the big picture, a nebula, God’s voice calling forth “let there be light” can uplift our faith. When we understand the vastness of creation, we know we’re not alone. And we are assured it. is. good.
But, how do we take this story of creation, and our belief that creation is good, and live lives that are sometimes frankly, don’t feel so good? How do we continue to hold onto the faith that what God creates is good, when our lives are in turmoil? When the diagnosis is terrifying. When surgeries don’t work. When a community loses a firefighter, a father of 3, days before Father’s Day. When Father’s Day brings us grief as we mourn the fathers we lost, or remember those who were less than we hoped. How do we continue to profess the faith of Genesis 1, that creation is good, on the days that are not so good? These are real questions that don’t mean you have a lack of faith. They don’t mean you don’t recognize the beauty or power of creation. They mean you are alive, human, and living in a world that is far from perfect.
Friends in faith, I want to remind you that this is Genesis 1. It’s not the end of the story. We soon hear the story of the fall, when sin and brokenness entered the world. We then travel into the New Testament, where creation continues. God made the world and declared it to be good, and after the fall, he gave us Christ, who declared that all will be redeemed and returned to good. I want to you to return with me to our nebula. Nebulas are never complete, and God’s voice in creation isn’t complete. Once a nebula forms to create a new galaxy, it doesn’t become stagnant. The explosions that destroy stars and solar systems are the beginning of new creations in God’s universe. Rest assured, Genesis 1 is not complete. God isn’t done creating the universe, and He certainly isn’t done creating a new thing in you and me.
So on the days that creation is good, but life is not so good, we hold onto our faith in Christ. And we seek out others to hold onto,-to steady us, to provide us when balance when we need someone to hold us. Creation never ends, even when it seems life has come to a halt. We read these familiar words, knowing God continues to breathe life into our dusty bodies, even when we are gasping for air. God uses the broken creation that is already around us to create a new thing, even when we fear we may be barely hanging on to life.
This isn’t to say “life is good” when it’s broken. It’s to profess a faith that God isn’t done restoring this good, broken, creation. I don't believe tragic events like these are "part of God's plan." The forces of evil and the powers of darkness are real and present in our broken creation. But, death and evil do not have the last word. We are an Easter people. There is more to creation than death, and Christ has the final, victorious word. God was there, God is there, and God always be there for all of us, in the ashes of our own lives to breathe new life in what seems like a world filled with death.