James Weldon Johnson, “The Creation” [Poetry for Ordinary Time]

I’ve enjoyed posting poetry series themed around the Christian year in the past couple of years (see “Poetry for Lent” and “Poetry for Easter“). I will continue that with a series called “Poetry for Ordinary Time.” Ordinary time includes two sections of the church year between Christmastide and Lent and Easter and Advent. The word “ordinary” here derives from the word ordinal by which the weeks are counted. Still, ordinary time does serve an opportunity to embrace the ordinary spaces and places of our lives, and the themes of the poems will express this.

Here is James Weldon Johnson’s poem “The Creation” from God’s Trombones. Johnson was a twentieth century American  poet and civil rights activist, perhaps best known for co-authoring (with his brother) the well-known song, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often referred to as the black national anthem.


And God stepped out on space,
And he looked around and said:
I’m lonely—
I’ll make me a world.

And far as the eye of God could see
Darkness covered everything,
Blacker than a hundred midnights
Down in a cypress swamp.

Then God smiled,
And the light broke,
And the darkness rolled up on one side,
And the light stood shining on the other,
And God said: That’s good!

Then God reached out and took the light in his hands,
And God rolled the light around in his hands
Until he made the sun;
And he set that sun a-blazing in the heavens.
And the light that was left from making the sun
God gathered it up in a shining ball
And flung it against the darkness,
Spangling the night with the moon and stars.
Then down between
The darkness and the light
He hurled the world;
And God said: That’s good!

Then God himself stepped down—
And the sun was on his right hand,
And the moon was on his left;
The stars were clustered about his head,
And the earth was under his feet.
And God walked, and where he trod
His footsteps hollowed the valleys out
And bulged the mountains up.

Then he stopped and looked and saw
That the earth was hot and barren.
So God stepped over to the edge of the world
And he spat out the seven seas—
He batted his eyes, and the lightnings flashed—
He clapped his hands, and the thunders rolled—
And the waters above the earth came down,
The cooling waters came down.

Then the green grass sprouted,
And the little red flowers blossomed,
The pine tree pointed his finger to the sky,
And the oak spread out his arms,
The lakes cuddled down in the hollows of the ground,
And the rivers ran down to the sea;
And God smiled again,
And the rainbow appeared,
And curled itself around his shoulder.

Then God raised his arm and he waved his hand
Over the sea and over the land,
And he said: Bring forth! Bring forth!
And quicker than God could drop his hand,
Fishes and fowls
And beasts and birds
Swam the rivers and the seas,
Roamed the forests and the woods,
And split the air with their wings.
And God said: That’s good!

Then God walked around,
And God looked around
On all that he had made.
He looked at his sun,
And he looked at his moon,
And he looked at his little stars;
He looked on his world
With all its living things,
And God said: I’m lonely still.

Then God sat down—
On the side of a hill where he could think;
By a deep, wide river he sat down;
With his head in his hands,
God thought and thought,
Till he thought: I’ll make me a man!

Up from the bed of the river
God scooped the clay;
And by the bank of the river
He kneeled him down;
And there the great God Almighty
Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,
Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,
Who rounded the earth in the middle of his hand;
This great God,
Like a mammy bending over her baby,
Kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay
Till he shaped it in is his own image;

Then into it he blew the breath of life,
And man became a living soul.
Amen.      Amen.


Previous poems in this series:

Every Life Made in God’s Image

Makoto Fujimura - Splendor

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

Each and every life is made in God’s image. Because of this great truth, no life is either less valuable or more valuable than another. To speak of the value of each life reminds us that in God’s eyes each of us is treasured and loved beyond measure. God gave Himself for us in Jesus Christ and that shows us just how far He will go to display His selfless love for us.

Let us not lose sight of the precious wonder in each other person made by God and treasured by God. Let us not fail to honor the wondrous work of God in each other human being we encounter. Let us look for God’s handiwork and do our best to preserve and honor the treasure that God has given us in one another. Let us stand against anything that hinders such preservation and treasuring while simultaneously working for the upbuilding of each life into God’s greatest potential for them.

When voices of hate rise up, let us counter them with words of love.
When misunderstanding and misrepresentation blaze, let us be willing to slow down to hear and understand the other.
When pain surges in lives around us, let us not rush past but dwell with the other in their pain and salve their wounds with the compassionate love of God.
When fear grips human life with wild uncertainty, let us instead walk by faith and not by sight.
When acts of violence fuel the flames, let us work steadily for peace through self-sacrifice.
When human efforts fail, may we seek to redirect all eyes to the Living God revealed in Jesus Christ.

May we do this because our God came in and brought salvation in His very flesh that all might experience the abundant life through Him.  May we do this so that God’s glory—His goodness and greatness—might be made manifest upon this earth. May we do this until the day when a new heaven and a new earth are brought forth in fullness and we see Him face to face.

N. T. Wright on the Importance of Binaries in Genesis

N T Wright 2.jpg

In my message this past weekend, “Creation and Embodied Sexuality,” I referenced an extended quotation from New Testament scholar N. T. Wright on the importance of the binaries in Genesis. As I mentioned, there is a structural symmetry throughout Genesis 1 that links pairs of differents one to another.  This symmetrical crescendo of creation reaches its high point in God’s creation of humanity and the pairing of sexual difference characterized by male and female. This biological sex difference is a creational goodness of God intended to reflect God’s greater good story in all of creation. Here is the quotation from N. T. Wright, found in a 2014 article in First Things, which is drawn from an interview with Wright:

The binaries in Genesis are so important—…heaven and earth…sea and dry land…male and female. It’s all about God making complementary pairs which are meant to work together. The last scene in the Bible is the new heaven and the new earth, and the symbol for that is the marriage of Christ and his church. It’s not just one or two verses here and there which say this or that. It’s an entire narrative which works with this complementarity … [as] a signpost or a signal about the goodness of the original creation and God’s intention for the eventual new heavens and new earth.

The differences within creation, including the sexual differences of human beings, all point to God’s Good Story, and the ultimate coming together of all things in the Restoration. Human sexuality is not only good, but is theologically significant.

Creation and Embodied Sexuality

Love Sex Body Series GFX-05I continued our series, “Love-Sex-Body: Toward a Biblical Theology of Embodied Sexuality,” this past weekend at at Eastbrook Church

This weekend, I turned our attention to the first chapter of God’s Good Story: Creation. The message draws upon many Scripture passages, but finds its footing in Genesis 1 and 2. My main point was basically that our bodies our good, our sexuality is good, and love is the good that holds that all together. In the midst of the message, I spent some time discussing the image of God in humanity, the nature of biological sex and gender, as well as some reflections on singleness and marriage.

You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities to connect.

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