He turns a desert into pools of water,
a parched land into springs of water.
The opening verses of the Bible introduce us to the God who always improves. From void to vegetated, the Invaluable One took an interest in an obscure spiral galaxy where a small solar system had just emerged. Three planets away from this unusually sized star was a recently cooled planet covered mostly by water. He then began to improve - added value to - and these improvements culminated in the divinely gardened area He named Eden. But Eden was supposed to be the place from which man was to leave. Instead, rather than leaving it, man was removed from it. And even though hundreds of thousands of generations have since been, the memory of Eden, though feint, is etched intuitively into each of our memories. The lessons from Eden had not been fully drawn down by our First Parents, yet the elementary principles they gained about what improving looks like - and have been genetically passed down to us. As feint as this memory of Eden is in each of us, it has still been sufficient for us, the descendents of Adam, to literally change the world...
FROM NOTHING TO SOMETHING
Land emerged. Seas formed. Oceans originated. The process of building the right conditions for life on this earth, due to its vast and necessarily varied deposits of water, enabled the creation of the smallest microbial life forms. These tiniest creatures would make possible the vast nutrient reserves in earth's soil and sea - so that vegetation could begin to flourish. Herbivores, carnivores, then mankind. An improving and necessary order. All created at the appropriate time. Each dependent upon each. A progression from inhospitable to inhabited.
¶ You visit the earth and water it;
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide their grain,
for so you have prepared it.
I said earlier that God 'began to improve', but more accurately it should be said that 'it appeared that God began to improve'- for even in the first creation event from which our planet eventually coalesced, He was improving. But we are forgiven for thinking that it was at this time that He began to improve, because the greatest addition of value took place after everything was created. God didn't create new atoms to form man. He took pre-existing material and formed it, shaped it, fashioned it, and breathed into it. He added nothing to the universe in order to create man - except value.
He then took an interest in an undeveloped patch of ground a few dozen square miles in size and formed a well planned, magnificently beautiful garden called Eden. Even before an animal had been permitted to enter this sanctuary, God took Adam and led him into this garden. The Great Gardener then charged His representative with care for this great Garden. "Dress, till, and keep it." Improve it! Maintain it! And by maintaining it, you will be adding value to it. Everything you do to earh should be inspired by what I have modelled for you in Eden. Now, go, subdue the earth! There is a faint memory of Eden etched into the soul of every person. Many don't know it's there. But their propensity to Edenise everything they possess is instincive. Some supress this divinely implanted instinct. A rare few seem to let it flow freely, graciously, and gracefully.These are His people who add value to not only what they posses, but to their world- whether it be things, people, organisations, their field of interest or profession, and systems they use. They are value-adders. They leave a place better than they found it. They make a business more profitable. They train those who benefit from it. They leave a motel room tidy. They walk down the road and pick up rubbish. They leave the store having smiled at and thanked the sales assistants and cashier. These value-adding people are therefore valuable people.
What do you see in your world? Barreness, void, waste, distraction? In one of the greatest movies of all time, The Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne, the wrongly convicted prisoner, doesn't see what everyone sees. Instead, because of what he can see, he helps establish a library, acquire new recreational equipment, gain special privileges for his fellow inmates, and eventually true justice and the opportunity to redeem himself.
God has embedded onto our world almost invaluable potential. When the right value-adder realises and aspect of this potential-
# The Sahara Desert (currently growing a few kilometers a year), could be turned into lush forest.
# Famine (one of the defining features of a 'Third World' country) could be permanently eradicated.
# Cities beset with crime, violence, graffiti, and vandalism could become centres of innovation, creative arts, higher learning, and exquisite gardens.
# The mega-cities of the world nearly all have rampant air, water and soil pollution, could enjoy: clean-air, fresh-water, lush and fertile garden cities, minimal crime, thriving economies, and social cohesion.
# Schools that are trahed and truant, with the poorest educational outcomes, the least qualified teachers and the most disinterested students and parents could become hubs for their commnties, where the peer pressure from students would prevent graffiti, vandalism or littering; where parents enjoy volunteering, only the best teachers can work there, and educational outcomes are second to none.
People who reflect Eden are not always grand visionaries. They don't always change the world, or even history. But they make the world a better place- and leave it all the better for having been in it.Yet I fear I may have just undersold the value of even the least value-adder. The mother who teaches her children to be polite and courteous, the sister who plays with her younger sibling and helps her to comprehend some of the enormous dangers of the vast world - such as the impact of asphalt on knees or how a second wipe can stop embarrassing itches - may well be (and indeed probably are) changing the world and making history!
Adam was created to leave Eden and subdue (add value) to the entire world. Instead, rather than leave Eden, he was removed from Eden. Rather than subdue the earth, the today's sons of Adam have largely been hoodwinked into not subduing because somehow 'Mother Nature' knows best. But the earth is not our 'Mother' and it has been designed to bring forth immearsurable value which can only happen if it is apprpriately subdued.
Adam's time in Eden was meant to be a launching place where he imbibed the heart of his Improving Creator. God has an unstoppable passion to improve! Surely you've noticed that when you spend time in prayer, Bible study, or Theological contemplation, that it is not too long afterwards that you get your best ideas and highest levels of motivation to improve yourself and your world.
¶ But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere.
Second Corinthians 2:14
It was said of the squire that you could always tell when he had spent a deal of time in his rose garden. When he walked into a room, the fragrance of his roses filled the room and lingereg long after he left. The New Testament describes believers who have soaked themselves in Christ as bearing His fragrance wherever they go.
Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
I wonder if our church can be a source for adding value to our world? Can we make our world richer - because we recall Eden and it's original purpose. It's one of the reasons why I would love to see our grounds (and yet-to-be created gardens) become a cause of wonder and enjoyment for many. Because how we present our communal space is a sacramental display of how we respond to the God of Improvement to a world that desperately needs the right kind of improving.
He turns a desert into pools of water,
a parched land into springs of water.
Yet more importantly, I wonder if we can each pool our value-adding abilities and enrich the lives of one aother so significantly that quite literally we change the world and the course of human historyand become a cause for many to realise how magnificent, how glorious, how wonderful and how beautiful our Jesus is? Consider how you can add value to your world - those you interact with, the space you utilise (even if you don't own it). Together we can remember Eden's message. And won't that be a gift of improvement to our Lord!
¶ Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.