June 11, 2017
Genesis 1:1-2:4a, Psalm 8
“In the Beginning Was the Gift”
One of the easiest places to find God is in creation. How many of you have experienced God in nature? There are so many ways to do that – by seeing the sunrise or the multitude of stars at night, by hearing the birds singing in the morning, by tasting the first tomato from the garden, by feeling the breeze on your skin, by smelling the flowers in bloom. God is everywhere and shows up for us in so many ways. I spend as much time outside as I can because it keeps me grounded in God. I love seeing God in the hawk that lives in our neighborhood or hearing the hummingbird buzz as it makes it way to the trumpet vine for nectar. I love watching the sky change colors as the sun prepares to set. I love the smell of rain during monsoon season. I love the sweet taste of fresh watermelon. I love the warmth of the sun on my skin.
What would you add to the list of things you love about creation?
The readings today focus on God, creation, and our place in it. The opening chapters of Genesis have been called a Confession of Faith. They are a call to see the story not as a scientific description, but a theological affirmation. In other words, Genesis doesn’t exist to help us understand the science behind creation. The question for us today wouldn’t be did it happen this way, but what does it mean? What does the story of creation teach us about God?
One of my favorite creation poems was written by James Weldon Johnson in 1927. When I was a sophomore in high school, I memorized this poem and acted it out for my English class. It begins like this:
“And God stepped out on space,
And [he] looked around and said:
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!”
The story begins in blessing. It is full of goodness and every part of creation is celebrated. It is also very clear that God entrusted us to care for creation. We are told that we are created in God’s image and we are called to care for the earth. The implication is clear that we will care for it as God does. What do we do with the many threats to our earth? We step up like never before. We do not wait for someone else to step up and care for creation. We do it. The Paris Agreement continues and we each have a responsibility to take care of our planet. We do that because we are God’s people in the world. We treat the earth like the precious gift that it is. We take no more than we need. When we recognize the goodness in creation, we cannot help but treat it with dignity.
How often do you see litter? I see it in our parking lot every day. I was visiting my mother last month and there is a bird refuge in the complex where she lives. There are many beautiful species of birds and there was so much trash in the water. I have watched people roll down their windows and throw their trash and their cigarette butts out and I am sad when the earth is treated as a dumping ground.
Later this summer, we will do a worship series on Celtic blessings. You will have the opportunity to participate in a book group and forums to learn more about the Celtic way of living faith. The Celts were ancient Christians who believed there are two sacred texts: scripture and nature. Creation was at the heart of the Celtic way of life.
One important Celtic tradition was blessing. Notice the way blessing is woven into creation in our texts today. God blesses everything as it is created. God has given us life and blessed it. How can we do any less?
Thich Nhat Hanh says, “The miracle is not to walk on water but on the earth.” What a beautiful spiritual practice! I have to admit that walking on water would be really cool, but to really walk on the earth – to see, to hear, to taste, to smell, to feel God’s goodness in our steps – would ground us in the goodness of creation and help us claim our place in it.
Meister Eckhart is a 14th century German mystic who said:
“Apprehend God in all things,
for God is in all things.
Every single creature is full of God
and is a book about God.
Every creature is a word of God.
If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature–
even a caterpillar–
I would never have to prepare a sermon. So full of God
is every creature.”
We are God’s stewards of creation. It is a rather enormous task. But God has placed the earth in our care and calls us to step up and love it as if we are God. We are mirrors of God in the world. Pay attention. Before walking out to your car today, walk over to the butterfly garden and savor the goodness blooming there. As you drive home, don’t focus on the music in your sound system, notice the vast sky above our heads. When you see litter, pick it up and throw it away. Stop and breathe in this goodness every day. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables and know that you are tasting the bounty of creation. Listen for the sounds of the birds and the frogs. You are a part of this planet. Give it all the love you’ve got!