Participation in God's Redemptive Work
The Bible’s opening chapter sets the table for the Bible’s story of God’s salvation. Its plotline makes clear that God’s purposeful actions in the world intend to move all things from a death- producing earth that is “formless and void” and “shrouded in darkness” (Genesis 1:1–2) to a new creation on which everything is “very good” (1:31).
In this creation, light replaces darkness and form and function replace chaos and disorder so that every creature may flourish. These are images of divine grace, and they provide the grammar for a “Scripture way of salvation.” Not surprisingly, the Gospel of John begins its narrative of Jesus’ life in the idiom of Genesis 1: “In the beginning was the Word ... through whom was life, and the life was the light of all people” (John 1:1–4). A loving Creator repairs a broken world through Jesus.
But perhaps the most stunning feature of Scripture’s story of creation is that God works in partnership with creatures to put the world to rights. For example, God commands earth to bring forth its own vegetation, and so it does (Genesis 1:11–12). And God makes humankind in God’s own image (1:26–7) as a power-sharing initiative so God can collaborate with humankind in cultivating and sustaining a very good earth (1:28). This is the manner of humankind’s participation in God’s redemptive work.
So important is this idea that Genesis adds an extended footnote (2:4–25) to elaborate it in marvelous and practical detail. In particular, God forms Adam and plants a garden as parts of an integral whole (2:7–8). The garden is carefully plotted, with rivers and trees marking it out; and Adam is given responsibility “to till and keep” that particular garden (2:15).
The garden is similar to the particular cities in which we now live and work. Our sacred vocation, like Adam’s, is to care for those urban places according to God’s redemptive purpose.