Starting New Things – It begins in the Garden (Gen 1:26-28)
The purposes of God begin at the beginning. The beginning for people is the Garden of Eden. At the outset of God’s interaction with humanity, there are three things which God creates humans to be; Image Bearing Justice Bringers who Multiply. Humans in partnership with God, and with each other, are sent out by God into creation. This sending out is contained in the Missio Dei, the Mission of God.
The first verses of Genesis 1, are in the form of a poem and as they describe the creation, their order also echoes the creation of a temple. This connection is also made in the description of creating the tabernacle and the Temple in the Old Testament and at the start of John’s gospel where Jesus dwells with us. The last thing placed in the temple is the image of the god. In Creation the image of God is the humans – Gen 1:27, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
In addition to Image Bearing, God gives humans two tasks, the first is dominion over animals and plants. Dominion is rulership, or as it develops through the OT, it is represented by monarchy. The dominion delegated by God is not meant to be oppressive, God is not oppressive. This dominion or rulership is there to insist on fairness and justice and provide protection so that all can flourish. This insistence is found in the OT prophets and in Jesus’ manifesto in Luke 4 and in the beatitudes. Humans are therefore to be Justice Bringers.
Finally, human beings are to be fruitful and multiply. Adam and Eve are two people and creation is big. To represent the image of God and to be justice bringers in all creation they will need to multiply. We see this in God’s promise to Abraham, in the growth of the people in Egypt, in the declaration of Jesus as the seed that dies and his parables and in the spread of the early church in Acts. Multiplication is the duty of human beings, Matt 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Encouragement: God’s mission is very wide, image bearing, justice bringing and multiplication. There’s a place in this for us to join in, whatever our skills and experience are.
To think about: Which of these three things is our church good at? Where do we need to take up the challenge of God’s mission more actively?
 I’m not implying either a literal Garden or a metaphorical one, but in either case, I am considering the Garden as a theological idea.