Loving God’s Creation: Humanity Sunday 9/9/12

Genesis 1:26-2:3  Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, to be like us.  Let them be stewards of the fish in the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle, the wild animals, and everything that crawls on the ground.” Humankind was created as God’s reflection:  in the divine image God created them; female and male, God made them. God blessed them and said, “Bear fruit, increase your numbers, and fill the earth – and be responsible for it!  Watch over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things on the earth!” God then told them, “Look!  I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the earth, and every tree whose fruit carries its seed inside itself:  they will be your food; and to all the animals of the earth and the birds of the air and things that crawl on the ground –-everything that has a living soul in it—I give all the green plants for food.”  So it was.  God looked at all of this creation, and proclaimed that this was good –very good.  Evening came, and morning followed—the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed.  On the seventh day God had finished all the work of creation, and so, on that seventh day, God rested.  God blessed the seventh day and called it sacred, because on it God rested from all the work of creation.

 

Last Sunday, we began a new sermon series in a new season, a season of the church calendar we are calling the Season of Creation.  As I explained last Sunday, the church celebrates Jesus every Sunday, with specific seasons like Advent, Lent, and Easter to celebrate particular aspects and parts of his life. We also have the day of Pentecost and the season after Pentecost to celebrate the Holy Spirit, the active and constant presence of the Living God. Until now, however, there has been no explicit season to celebrate God the Creator, and we are proposing that season to be in September when we are in a particularly creative mood.

For our second reading, please listen to this poem, and it’s totally imaginative and creative portrayal of God weaving at the loom of Creation. Notice that both images of God presented in this poem by Levertov are less engaged and involved in creation than the one in Genesis.

The Task     Denise Levertov

As if God were an old man always upstairs, sitting about in sleeveless undershirt, asleep,

arms folded, stomach rumbling, his breath from open mouth strident, presaging death

No, God’s in the wilderness next door –that huge tundra room, no walls and a sky roof—

busy at the loom.  Among the berry bushes, rain or shine, that loud clacking and whirring,

irregular but continuous, God is absorbed in work, and hears

the spacious hum of bees, not the din, and hears far-off

our screams.  Perhaps listens for prayers in that wild solitude.

And hurries on with the weaving till it’s done, the great garment woven,

our voices, clear under the familiar

blocked-out clamor of the task,

can’t stop their

terrible beseeching.  God

imagines it sifting through, at last, to music

in the astounded quietness, the loom idle, the weaver at rest

 

Loving God’s Creation: Humanity Sunday                        

Sept. 9, 2012

God’s creation is so unbelievably gorgeous, so awesomely beautiful, we can hardly take it in. We notice the beauty of creation when something wakes us up – a particularly colorful moonrise, or the thrilling song of the wood thrush. We fill our own worlds with such contention and discontent, that we fail to notice that that awesome beauty is there every second of our lives – as close as the life-giving work of our own bodies, the delicious taste of pure water, the soothing sound of a baby’s chuckle.

Our reading from Genesis this morning is the first creation story in the Bible – among at least 4 or 5 different creation stories.  The passage Marilyn read this morning is from the first chapter of Genesis, while the 2nd chapter, containing the second creation story about Adam and Eve may be more familiar to you. We tend to read them together and conflate them as though they are one story of creation, but they have some striking differences, if you read them side by side.

So today, we take the first account of the beginning of creation on it’s own terms. We’re already up to the sixth day – near the very end, when God creates humankind, by saying “Let us create humankind if our image, to be like us.” As we said last week, this passage is not a scientific description, but it is a theological affirmation, a proclamation of who God is in relation to God’s creation.

Specifically, we now know that this passage was written in the context of a Jewish people in exile in Babylon.  The Jewish people were distressed at their situation and the seeming powerlessness of their God, Yahweh, in the face of their predicament, far away from their temple in Jerusalem. Genesis 1 was written for these people to let them know that their God was the only God, the God who created everything that is and who cares especially for them.

Moreover, this God is not known through any statue or graven image, but God is known only through God’s creation – and particularly through the culminating creation of God – God’s own image in humanness!  What an outrageous claim those early theologians made! Female and male God created them, in God’s own image. What would it mean if we could look at our brothers and sisters and see each other as the very image of God, to know ourselves as the very image of God?

And then the passage goes on to say that God talks directly to these creatures, gives them a kind of respect not given to any other part of creation, not the sun or the moon, or the koala bears or the chimpanzees. God talks to the human creatures and says, “I want you to be stewards over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle, the wild things, and the horned toads.”

Most of the translations we are used to say ‘God gave the human ones “dominion” over the birds, fish, and toads,’ but that translation has been abused and misused, hasn’t it? Dominion implies that the earth belongs to us and that everything is here to be taken, used, controlled and thrown away by people, for any use we feel like. This alternate wording “Let them be stewards” of all of creation, better implies the care God expects for the creation, the purpose for which God creates.

Earth does not belong to us; we belong to the earth. We were created by love, made from love, and made for love. God means for humanity to be stewards of creation, to relate to the earth, and care for all parts of it.  How do you think we’re doing at that?  No, not so great. Christians are crystal clear that the one who rules is the one who serves, and yet we act as though the earth is ours to be disposed of any way we wish.

Our scripture proclaims this at the very beginning: “the role of the human person is to see to it that the creation becomes fully the creation willed by God.” [Brueggemann, Genesis, p. 33] Earth does not belong to us; we belong to the earth. Look how strange and amazing this understanding of God and humanity is: the text portrays God not as a ruler from afar, not as a distant, uncaring weaver (as in the poem I read this morning), but as a caring creator who rules by self-giving. The woman and man, on the other hand, are not slaves or servants of God, but agents of God to whom much is given and from whom much is expected. [Bruggemann, p. 33]

I believe that God speaks through Scripture today, not just through what was intended by the person who wrote it in the first place. Don’t you hear God talking through this scripture today, telling us what our relationship with God’s creation is meant to be? Our response to that expectation today has to be two parts confession and one part celebration that our past does not determine God’s future, that God in Christ is constantly reclaiming us as part of God’s purpose, even when we don’t seem to deserve it.

God put us here to care for every part of God’s creation; to be stewards of this beautiful earth. We belong to that creation; we are part of that whole, created for God’s purpose and reclaimed for the reclaiming of the earth for that purpose. And God will delight, when we are creators with God of justice and joy. May love be your being and your doing.

Responsive hymn: 3149 A Place at the Table