By Rev. Dr. Brian Gigee
One of my childhood prayers has been around a long time. I learned it at the dinner table. I taught it to my children. I recite it now with their children, too… “God is great, and God is good and so we thank God for our food. By holy hands we all are fed… give us, Lord, our daily bread. Amen.” Easy. Sufficient! And if God is good, then God must also understand what is not good.
Have you ever carefully read the opening verses of the Book of Genesis? I’ve been surprised over the years when even some of my clergy colleagues are caught off guard by a particular detail in the author’s account of how the world came to be. Six days God worked and on the seventh day God rested. That’s how the story goes. For five days God did a “good” thing. On the sixth day when God created the man and the woman, we are told God said it was “very good.” Uh-oh. Wait. Go back to those first 5 days and look at day two a bit more carefully…
OK… you looked? Good. What did you notice?
The prudent reader will have noticed that at the end of the second day it was just that… the second day. No comment. No qualifier. God did not even suggest or say that it was good. And when one realizes this is the case… then the question must be asked, why are the other 4 days good, but not this one? The answer lies in what God did. Here’s the verse… for those who didn’t look it up… “And God said, ‘Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water. So, God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.” (Genesis 1:6-8 NIV). The key to understanding here is found in the word, “separated.” It seems God’s not a big fan of things being torn apart. Yet it happens.
When something is torn from itself, pain shows up. Sometimes it’s intentional and sometimes not. Sometimes it’s necessary even though the pain comes. For God and us, I suppose, it’s a matter of faith and despite God’s advocacy for having things remain intact, there are occasions where the tearing apart leads to something good. Like earth and sky. Or to stop the bleeding of a serious wound when a torn towel is fashioned into a tourniquet. Or to tear off a turkey wing from a big brown Thanksgiving bird… those kinds of good tearing apart!
But, again, God likes it best when things stay together. It’s the more difficult move but still preferred. Families are torn apart by divorce, the exact opposite of God’s desire; a putting together of what no one would tear apart. An individual’s life is torn apart a result of excessing drinking or taking unprescribed drugs and desiring no help from anyone. Even nations can fall into this category like when the Israelites were torn from their promised land and taken prisoner into Babylon or that time when native, indigenous American peoples were marched from their home sites across the south to Oklahoma where no one else wanted to live. Being torn apart is painful and sometimes the pain lingers. Faith matters. It does.
In ancient days, leaders would tear apart their garments… ‘rending’ they called it… a sign of guilt and a strong desire for forgiveness. Jesus said, “let your light shine before others so they will see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Good works build up. God is great and God is good, indeed and with a lit candle in each hand, we can’t go about tearing things apart.
Brian Gigee is a long-time resident of Pearland and the lead pastor at New Life Lutheran Church at 3521 E. Orange St. in Olde Pearland. You can follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Friend2theRabbi. Comments and questions can be sent to [email protected].