Introducing the Summer Sermon Series: Rooted in Creation

 

Creation Care? Why are we talking about Creation Care?

Well, it wasn’t our idea. We are just trying to tune in to the Bible.

Genesis 1:1-2:1

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2the 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.

3Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

6And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7So 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. 8God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

9And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11Then 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. 12The 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.13And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

14And 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, 15and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

20And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” 21So 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. 22God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

24And 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. 25God 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.

26Then 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.”27So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28God 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.”

29God 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. 30And 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.

31God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

2Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude.

Welcome to summer! In 2019 we will take the summer to work through two sermon series. The first one starts this weekend and will carry us through July 14. We are calling it Rooted in Creation.

Why are we doing this? Well, the current (political) climate creates an interesting dilemma for people trying to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ. Consider the following facts:

FACT 1: Global climate change is a real and growing threat to us and to life on our planet (Note: I am not, on this blog or in this sermon series, going to debate the reality of climate change. If you need to be persuaded, I invite you to explore the work of our friend Jim Antal.

FACT 2: Global climate change, and the need to respond to it, has become a hotly contested political topic. Any attempt to have a conversation about the climate risks getting us caught in the partisan polarization that seems to dominate so much of our culture right now.

fact 3: The Bible portrays God as Creator and humans having a responsibility before God to care for the earth.

Karl Barth famously admonished the preacher to have “the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.” But doing so today, with this topic, is risky.

So I want to make a deal with you, Plymouth Church: For the first part of this summer, my colleagues and I want to take some time to explore with you what the Bible says about our relationship to creation. My hope is that all of us will set aside our partisan political biases and try to focus on what the Spirit is saying to the church.

Can we agree to do that?

OK.

It is hard to blog about Genesis 1 because it really speaks for itself. It should have always been obvious that this is NOT a scientific treatise. It does not present itself as a scientific treatise. This is a poem –more specifically, a liturgical poem, a worshipful celebration of  the order and beauty of the creation.

For our purpose, I think two assertions are key: God is Creator and We Are Created.

To say God is Creator is not to make a scientific claim. Rather, to say God is creator is to say that the world, and everything in it is good. God intends its flourishing. God delights in the well-being of the world.

To say We Are Created is to recognize our unique responsibility. As people who bear the divine image, we are charged with the mandate of making sure that the world flourishes as God intends.

Consider verse 28: 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.”

That word—“dominion”—has done a great deal of harm. People have taken it to mean that humanity has license to exploit the earth.

But this is Bad Theology 101. Perhaps the first principle of good theology is this: When God uses a word, we have to let God tell us what that word means. I call it The Humpty Dumpty Rule:

‘And only one for birthday presents, you know. There’s glory for you!’

‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory”,’ Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘

‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument”,’ Alice objected.

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

-Lewis Carrol Through the Looking Glass

If God wants us to exercise dominion, we have to let God spell out the nature of that dominion. That is why I think the companion passage to Genesis 1 ought to be Philippians 2:1-11:

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.9Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus Christ had ultimate dominion over everything –but gave it up. To be assigned dominion by this God is to be called into a life of humility and service. How do we live out our call to “dominate” the earth? By setting aside our own selfish interests and serving the greater good.

One chapter in, it seems the Bible has a whole lot to say about caring for the creation.

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