Finishing the World
“The question for the text is not so much “How did the world begin?” but rather “What sort of world do we have?” -Walter Brueggemann, An Introduction to the Old Testament
I read these words last week while preparing for Resurrection Ministry Formation (RMF), programming through Church of the Resurrection that is very similar to EfM (Education for Ministry). The quote is in reference to the creation story, and implies that if we try to use the early stories in Genesis to tell us about the physics, chemistry, and biology of our world, we are missing out. If we instead view the stories in their traditional and cultural context we are opened to a world of wonder, where questions of deep meaning can be asked, such as “What sort of world do we have?”
Well, whatever sort of world we live in we know it’s a good one. We know this not based on poverty statistics, or crime rates. We don’t turn towards reports of abuse or the inequalities of our time, whether they be based on race, gender, or sexual orientation as a way to reassure ourselves of the fairness of our world. We know that our world is good because of one sentence, repeated over and over in the creation story, “And God saw that it was good.”
“It is Good.”
This is not to say that God is not in the chaos, because he is. In Godly Play the words are, “In the beginning there was nothing, except maybe an enormous smile, but nobody was there to see it.” God is in the chaos. He is with us when we listen to the serpent, and with us when the good is so hard to see. So in this world of Good, that is full of good and bad things, how do we cope? What is our role in creation?
There is another creation story that I like. It’s a Jewish midrash, and it asks a very important question. Essentially the angels come to God and tell him that this swirling glob of rock and water is quite a mess, and they suggest he clean it up a little. So after a while God begins creating, and after each piece is made the angels come to God and ask, “God, is the world finished now?” Each time God answers, “Nope!” and continues creating. After he has created man and woman He tells them, “I’m tired, will you finish the world for me? It’s almost done.” The man and woman react with frustration, “We are too small!” God makes them a deal that if they promise to keep trying to finish the world, that He will be their partner. They end up all agreeing to this deal, and some time passes. The angels come back to God and ask, “Is the world finished now?” And God answers, “I don’t know, go ask my partners.”
As interns, we at Resurrection House see loving, kind people everyday trying their best to finish the world. At our non-profits there are individuals seeking to build relationships with children, while creating a safe, nurturing environment for them at an after school program. There are individuals seeking to ensure that all children, youth and their families, regardless of socioeconomic status are able to receive health care. There are individuals working to provide homes to the homeless, and a place where those who have abundance, can donate to those who are in need. At our parish placements we interact with individuals trying to finish the world by praying and serving together. Serving one another, those in the local community, and those around the world. It is inspirational, and perhaps finishing the world can be related to fulfilling our baptismal covenant: to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves, and striving for justice and peace among all people, while respecting the dignity of every human being.
I wonder what you would do to finish the world?”