July 1, 2018 – Pastor Teressa Sivers
Genesis 1-2:4 (The Message)
‘Good’ is such a little word, just four letters. It is a word we use all the time, in our everyday conversation without much thought. Yesterday was a good day. Dinner last night was a good meal. I am reading a good book. There are several movies in the theaters right now that look good. My little dog, Toby, is such a good dog. ‘Good’—it is a positive word. It is good to be good. But it’s not great. It isn’t excellent. It isn’t wondrous. It isn’t stupendous…a great word, fun to say…stupendous. If we use one of those scales that surveys are so fond of, those scales from 1 to 10, where 1 is the best something can be and 10 is the worst, 1 isn’t ‘good.’ Good is somewhere midway on the positive side. And yet, God uses the word ‘good’ to speak of creation not just once, but seven times! God looks at what God has created, and God saw that it was good.
I’m not sure that is the word I would use. A few mornings ago as I came out to walk our little dog, the sun was just beginning to peek above the trees, the sky was a soft blue and the air was so clean and fresh. The first word that came to my mind wasn’t ‘good,’ it was ‘beautiful!’ What a beautiful morning! The first time I entered the gorge just here next to the church, Cascadilla Gorge, I marveled at the waterfalls, the sculpture of the rocks, the way the sunlight whispered through the green of the leaves. The first word that came to mind wasn’t ‘good,’ it was gorgeous (pun intended). When we stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon, when we feel the mists of Niagara Falls cling to us, when we stand on the beach and watch the ocean waves roll in, the first word that comes to our mind isn’t ‘good.’ So…what’s up, God? It is good, so very good?
The problem isn’t with God’s word choice in speaking of creation. The problem comes from how our language morphs and changes, and, let’s face it, the flippancy with which we use our words at times. Look what we have done to the word ‘love.’ We can love our family and also love pizza—same word. ‘Good’ has such a rich meaning and depth, if we take the time to reclaim it from our casual everyday use. Good conveys a sense of right-ness, to be as it should be, as it was intended to be. To be good is to have the qualities that you should have, to be of integrity, to be well, to be whole…to be as God intended. That is much closer to the intentions of the translators when they chose the word ‘good’ to translate the Hebrew word, ‘tov.’ TOV—to be tov is to have a rightness that is exquisite, breath-taking, beyond words. When God speaks ‘tov’ over creation it is almost breathed or whispered. “Look, it is so tov!” And scripture reminds us again and again, from Genesis to Revelation, that God is good…all the time! God is Tov. God is supremely Tov, ultimate Tov, the definition of Tov. God looks at what God has created and sees God’s own essence within it. God sees part of God’s divinity, God’s holiness. God looks at creation and whispers, “It is so TOV, so right as to be beyond words, so very Tov!”
That breathed, powerful word is used of all creation…and of us. We are tov! That is our original nature. We are created to be Tov—whole, right, exquisite, well, beloved. And, as those created in God’s own image, we are created to see the world as God sees it, as good, as Tov. As we claim our inherent goodness, we put on a new set of lenses with which to see all the world around us, our Tov glasses. We begin to see the goodness inherent in every part of God’s creation…and all the places where that goodness has been crushed, suppressed, and beaten down.
With our tov glasses, we see what happens in Genesis three in a different way. When those first humans stopped for a fruit snack, what we begin to perceive is a loss of their own sense of goodness, their own sense of godliness, of holiness. They lost sight of who they are and thought the fruit of the tree could make them like God…but they were already like God, created in God’s holy image. It happens to everyone. We lose sight of our own inherent goodness, our tov-ness. Sometimes it happens when pain and hardship enter our lives. Sometimes is comes from stress and obligations and an incredible sense of busy-ness. Sometimes our embrace of our own goodness is crushed by words and actions thrust upon us from the world and others who have lost their own sense of goodness. But God returns to us again and again, as God has this morning, to remind us of who we are. “You… oh, you are so tov!” You are so very, very Tov! So Good!”
And look! The person next to you, on your right and your left, the person in front of you and the one behind you…they are so tov, so good, such a wondrous creation of God. Do you see?! The person across the sanctuary from you, these down front, those in the back…so tov! Can you see it? There are people walking by our church right now, people eating in the awesome restaurants on The Commons, people shopping at Ithaca Mall or out on route 13…they are tov, so very tov! However, they might not know it. They may have forgotten. They may have never known. How will we tell them? How will we share with them how good and sacred they are?
You see, this is the hard work of living into our own goodness and holiness. First, you must convince yourself that you are good, you are God’s image walking upon this earth. Second, as you reclaim your inherent goodness and live into it, not only do you see the goodness in all things around you, you see the harsh reality of people and places where goodness has been crushed and beaten down. You come face-to-face with the horrible reality that too many people, too many parts of creation, have had their goodness stomped down until it is so hard to see. So many people living in poverty and homelessness and treated as ‘less than’ those with more resources. So many people shoved into overcrowded prisons and sentences as not good, not worthy. So many individuals wanting to love the person they love, wanting the live the gender identity that they know is the goodness of who they are, and told they are they are the opposite of good, told they are bad. So many families and children, running from violence and hardship, seeking a sanctuary where they can live into their own goodness, and ripped from one another, treated as ‘not good.’
Living into our own goodness and holiness opens us to not only see the goodness around us, but to see the glaring examples of the crushing of goodness, and to have the Spirit of Compassion rise up within us and call us to action! Embracing the wonder of Creation and the tov-ness of it all opens us to the call of justice-to restore the goodness of the other and of creation. As we move through these first Sundays together, we will move further and further into the goodness of our identity and into the call of justice. We will move further into the Spirit of Compassion that lives within goodness. We will embrace our call to act.
You are TOV! We are TOV! We are so good! We can do this! Amen!