Pastoral Post 9.27.2019 | Keith Turman "The Genesis of Creation Care"

The Genesis of Creation Care       

By Keith Turman

“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.” (Genesis 1:1-2) And after the sweeping wind, God begins to speak. God speaks into the darkness—a darkness that is without form or shape—and light happens. And God names the light. I find it interesting that God also names the darkness. God gives darkness a name, as if the darkness was worthy of a good name. And it was, because everything was good. God speaks and the sky happens. And dry land happens—its form separating the waters into seas and oceans. And God keeps speaking—so the tomato happens, with its seeds—that way the tomato can happen again, and again, and again. Then the apple happens. And it has seeds too—so the orchards grow and grow and keep growing. God speaks and the sky is filled with lights—sun and moon and stars. God keeps talking like this and the sea begins to swarm. And sea monsters happen. And Nemo. And the rainbow trout—in fresh places long before the water reaches the sea. And wings start flapping—and soaring. God just said something and the earth starts to shake because the Northern White Rhinoceros happens.  The dirt starts to move from underneath the surface because there’s a groundhog now.  And an earthworm.

Imagine just for a moment this kind of power. There is no other power like it. A Psalmist sings, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.” (24:1) Imagine just for a moment God’s delight with creation. I wonder if God laughed out loud at some of the stuff God came up with. As the story goes, God takes a step back, marvels at the beauty, and calls it good. We know about this sort of thing—we do it too. We step onto the beach in the morning and watch light paint the sky. We sit on an evening bench at Water Rock Knob as the sun salutes the coming darkness with a spectacular display. We wake up the kids at 2 o’clock in the morning, grab the sleeping bags, stretch out in the driveway and watch meteors shower the summer sky. Barefooted in the garden, “Wow! That’s some good looking okra.” At grandmother’s table, when the dishes are cleared away and the kitchen produces an apple aroma that makes you foam at the mouth—she calls them turnovers—we call it a good, good day.

On day six, God spoke again and something special happened. We happened. Of all the creatures God created, it is only to the human creature that God speaks directly. The new thing on day six is intimacy, responsibility and trust. God said, “Fill the earth and subdue it; 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.” Made in God’s likeness, the human was given power. God blessed the sixth day and called it good.

It’s hard to know how much time passed, but some time later, a darkness that God never intended appeared on the earth. It was a darkness that God knew was possible the moment God began to speak. Sin enters the world and things ‘not good’ begin to find a home. We are all too familiar with it, because the ‘not good’ wields it’s destructive power, and threatens all that is right and good in the world. The beautiful people created to love each other and care for creation have historically failed to do both. Engage someone in a conversation about the condition of our planet or the state of human relations and you risk deep depression. The problems we face are so big and daunting that it’s easy to feel small and completely powerless. But we’re not powerless. God has given us power. God has given us dominion.

Walter Brueggemann says “the image of God in the human person is a mandate of power and responsibility…The dominion here mandated is the dominance of a shepherd who cares for, tends, and feeds the animals. Or, if transferred to the political arena, the image is that of a shepherd king. Thus the task of dominion does not have to do with exploitation and abuse. It has to do with securing the well being of every other creature and bringing the promise of each to full fruition. A Christian understanding of dominion must be discerned in the way of Jesus of Nazareth. The one who rules is the one who serves.” And therein lies our hope. We are the living body of Christ. We can and should understand our responsibility to care for each other and to rule the earth well. FUMC Waynesville has always had a heart full of love for the humans around us, but we also have a growing passion to be faithful caretakers of the creation around us. We love our mountains and streams—the seas and dry land. And we love the swimmers, flyers, grazers and creeping things that inhabit the good places God spoke into being at the genesis of all things. This love and concern for our planet, and a deep desire to save it, has caused the transformation of our Green Team. Creation Care Ministries will launch in October. It’s a new beginning.  As the first story came to a close, at the end of the sixth day, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” Our dream is to keep it that way!

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