Sunday, June 19
This Is Good
God, whose fingers sculpt sun and moon and curl the baby's ear; Spirit, brooding over chaos before the naming of day; Savior, sending us to earth's ends with water and words; startle us with the grace, love, and communion of your unity in diversity, that we may live to the praise of your majestic name. Amen.
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
And God said, "Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
And God said, "Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear." And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, "Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it." And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
And God said, "Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth." And it was so. God made the two great lights - the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night - and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
And God said, "Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky." So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth." And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind." And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth."
So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." God said, "See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
All readings for the Week
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
1. What are your thoughts about the story of creation and the views of science?
2. Do you think of yourself as a "consumer"? What difference does it make, one way or the other?
3. What difference does it make that God pronounced creation "good"? Or do you believe creation is "neutral"?
4. Would God look upon our use of the earth today and pronounce it "very good"?
5. How does this story influence our sense of gratitude and of generosity?
by Kate Huey
It's only human to tell the stories of who we are and where we came from, of what came before us that shapes who we are today and who we are becoming. These stories, handed down from generation to generation, in every culture, are voices in themselves, voices of protest and consolation, voices of clarity and courage. They are influenced, at least in part, by the situation in which the storytellers find themselves. In The Luminous Web, Barbara Brown Taylor describes the shaping of the creation narrative of Genesis as a counter-cultural protest of the people of Israel against the creation story of their Babylonian captors. While their oppressors saw the origins of the universe as violent and bloody, the Israelites told their children a different story rooted in goodness and blessing. Light came from the deepest night, and order from chaos. The sun and the moon and the stars were set as signs of beauty and the changing of the seasons, providing light and direction and the keeping of time. God filled the earth with vegetation that was fruitful and nourishing, moved the waters back from the land and provided a home for the creatures that crawled across it, walked upon it, and flew over it. In the midst of this loveliness, humankind was tenderly placed, and blessed, and called to be caretakers and stewards of an abundance of gifts. And God looked upon all this, and found it good.
Today our culture teems with a multitude of voices, coming at us from every side. Some voices tell very different stories of our origins, of who we are and who we are becoming. Voices of science and religion carry on a lively (and not always amicable) conversation about our origins, and the debate over evolution turns political for those whose anxiety misses the main point: we were created, by whatever process and whatever length it took, in love and goodness, by a loving Creator, and we are called to care for this earth, this good creation, not to dominate or abuse it (perhaps, as long as we distract ourselves with arguing about "how" we were created, we can ignore "how" we are treating that creation!). Again, Barbara Brown Taylor clarifies the most important thing to remember as we reflect on the theories of science: "Meanwhile, science cannot explain how human consciousness works or where it comes from. It is as much a mystery as the moment before the universe began. I spoke earlier of how much time is required for an eyeball to look back at a light sensitive cell. How much more time does it take for quantum particles to mature to the point where they may compose hymns of praise? Whether your answer is seven days or fifteen billion years, it remains a miracle that we are here at all, and able to praise our maker. God may well prefer the sound of spring peepers, but I have to believe there was joy in heaven when the first human being looked at the sky and said, 'Thank you for this'" (The Luminous Web: Essays on Science and Religion).
Yes, gratitude and praise for the beauty of this creation: at the center of our story of who we are and where we come from, there is only praise in gratitude for all we have been given. But this gift is a trust, and the story of who we are includes our call to be stewards and caretakers of God's good creation. Our culture today tells us, its children, a very different story, of course: we are to see ourselves, think of ourselves, as "consumers." (I remember when I first heard that new identity articulated several decades ago. Who made the decision, I wonder, to give us that new name?)
Who do you say that you are?
Who do the people of your church say they are? It's a great challenge to be human persons in the midst of a world that pounds us with cultural values of consumption, materialism, and consumerism. The difference between caretaking and consuming is now dramatically--and ominously--evident in the consequences of that move, several decades ago, to think of ourselves as "consumers." We have even come to believe that "it is good" that we consume: good for the economy, that is, and we feel trapped by a system larger than ourselves. And then there is the sense of entitlement that comes with such a mindset, and makes it easy to forget that generation upon generation after us will not only need what we will have consumed, but will also reap the terrible harvest we have sown, ecologically. In recent years, especially before the collapse of the housing market and the foreclosure crisis, there was an emphasis on "an ownership society," which also says something about our role as stewards and our call to share with all of God's children. Who, after all, really "owns" the earth? An over-emphasis on consuming and even ownership can set us against one another, and this story of origin calls us to reflect on those particular cultural values, as if we have forgotten where we came from. Is it possible that a humble gratitude for God's gifts would enhance our sense of shared, communal values and "property"? Perhaps we would be more willing to strengthen and invest in the public good, in great institutions, and in a wonderful legacy to our heirs, just as our ancestors did before us.
Abundance, or excess?
From the very beginning, God lavished creation with an abundance of good things, far more than was needed by those who inhabited the earth. Our culture, it seems, fails to understand the difference between "abundance" and "excess." This ancient story, however, the one we in turn tell our own children, draws us to reflection and transformation in our relationship with material goods, and with our sense of ourselves as owners of "possessions." Do we indeed possess our possessions, or do they possess us?
For further reflection
Karl Barth, 20th century
The miracle is not that there is a God. The miracle is that there is a world.
William Brown, 21st century, Journal for Preachers, Pentecost 2011
We should be "lost in wonder," as the hymn says, not losing wonder.
Rachel Carson, 20th century
If I had the influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world would be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.
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