Monday, March 14, 2011

For the Love of Creation for the Love of God- Genesis 1

Westminster Presbyterian Church, Santa Fe
What better way to begin a story, than with the story of Creation; full of intrigue and majesty, Genesis Chapter one has not been without scrutiny and controversy.  By no choice of its own, it is been brought in to do battle against disciples of Charles Darwin?  It has caused many to wonder, “Did God’ create the world in a literal seven days, or can we explain it away by saying a day is like a thousand days to God.”
I once had an intelligent Christian pastor suggest that God put dinosaur bones in the earth at creation, that’s why we dig them up. Not because they actually existed billions of years ago.  We have vivid imaginations.
Let us use our imaginations, and rather than reduce this Creation story to popular spheres of debate, instead open our hearts to new ways of understanding it within its original context as well as our world today.  
Throughout time, every civilization that’s ever existed has had a story of how it all began. We’ve always wanted to know, where did we come from?  Why are we here? So, what does our Ancient Sacred story tell us about who we are and who God is?
Readers you may take your places. (Readers space themselves in 7 designated places in the sanctuary to represent the seven days as space in the temple.
Enter into God’s cosmic temple.  (The following is from William P. Brown’s, The Seven Pillars of Creation: The Bible, Science, and the Ecology of Wonder)
In seven days God created.  Structurally, these seven days take on a certain symmetry
Day 1 - light;   Day 4 - Lights
Day 2 - Sky and waters; Day 5 - birds and marine life
Day 3- Land vegetation; Day 6 - land animals, humans, food.
And Day seven, The day God declares creation holy.  the day God rests.  

As creation unfolds daily, it becomes constructed in the very model of the ancient Hebrew temple.  The first six days establish the architectural boundaries of sacred space. The last day inhabits, as it were the most holy space- God rests in the holy of holies in the temple.  a portico, a nave, and a the place of the holy of holies. “What took Solomn seven years to complete, God took only seven days, and on a cosmic scale!”  
Seven. God "saw" and pronounced creation "good" seven times;
"earth" or "land" the same word in Hebrew appears 21 times (7x3) "God" is repeated 35 times.
Verse 1 has seven words in Hebrew. Verse 2 - 14. The total number of words from genesis 1:1-2:3 is 469 in Hebrew. 7x67. How many times are we to forgive. 7x 70. times.  the perfectly odd integer. Seven connotes a ritual sense of completion or fulfillment.
The readers will alternate days in Spanish and then English.  You may follow along in your pew bibles on page 1.  
The Story of Creation according to Genesis chapter one beginning in verse 1:1 through chapter 2 verse 3. La historia de la creacion segun el libro de genesis, capitulo 1 hasta capitulo 2 versiculo 3.  Escuchamos la palabra santa de Dios. Let us listen for God’s holy Word.
Reader 1 - Liz
1 Dios, en el principio, creó los cielos y la tierra. 2 La tierra era un caos total, las tinieblas cubrían el abismo, y el Espíritu[a] de Dios iba y venía sobre la superficie de las aguas. 3 Y dijo Dios: «¡Que exista la luz!» Y la luz llegó a existir. 4 Dios consideró que la luz era buena y la separó de las tinieblas.  A la luz la llamó «día», y a las tinieblas, «noche». Y vino la noche, y llegó la mañana: ése fue el primer día.
Reader 2 - Dwight
6 And God said, "Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." 7 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. 8 God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
Reader 3 - Dick
9 Y dijo Dios: «¡Que las aguas debajo del cielo se reúnan en un solo lugar, y que aparezca lo seco!» Y así sucedió.10 A lo seco Dios lo llamó «tierra», y al conjunto de aguas lo llamó «mar». Y Dios consideró que esto era bueno. 11 Y dijo Dios: «¡Que haya vegetación sobre la tierra; que ésta produzca hierbas que den semilla, y árboles que den su fruto con semilla, todos según su especie!»  Y así sucedió.12  Comenzó a brotar la vegetación: hierbas que dan semilla, y árboles que dan su fruto con semilla, todos según su especie. Y Dios consideró que esto era bueno. 3 Y vino la noche, y llegó la mañana: ése fue el tercer día.
Reader 4 - Cindy
14 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, 15 and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth." And it was so. 16 God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars.17 God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18 to 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.
Reader 5- Consuelo
20 Y dijo Dios: «¡Que rebosen de seres vivientes las aguas, y que vuelen las aves sobre la tierra a lo largo del firmamento!» 21 Y creó Dios los grandes animales marinos, y todos los seres vivientes que se mueven y pululan en las aguas y todas las aves, según su especie. Y Dios consideró que esto era bueno, 22 y los bendijo con estas palabras: «Sean fructíferos y multiplíquense; llenen las aguas de los mares. ¡Que las aves se multipliquen sobre la tierra!» 23 Y vino la noche, y llegó la mañana: ése fue el quinto día.
Reader 6 - Louise
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. 25 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. 26 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." 27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 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." 29 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. 30 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. 31God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Reader 7 - Milee
1 Así quedaron terminados los cielos y la tierra, y todo lo que hay en ellos.  Al llegar el séptimo día, Dios descansó porque había terminado la obra que había emprendido.  Dios bendijo el séptimo día, y lo *santificó, porque en ese día descansó de toda su obra creadora.
La palabra de Dios.  Te Escuchamos O Dios.
After I’d only been here at WPC for a few months, I went back to my seminary for a less than one year class reunion, wrapped together with a conference on Faith and Global Warming.  There I heard a fascinating sermon by Barbara Brown Taylor on Genesis 1, [1]
Use your imaginations as Taylor presents this scenario:
What if bird could write books, and tell their own story of Creation.  How different would it be from our human version?  They would probably make a much bigger deal about the wind of God that swept over the waters.  When we humans read "wind," we feel it on our faces, messing up our hair, kicking up dust and pollen, and making it difficult to ride our bicycles; but what is it like not to feel the wind because you are in it—moving at the same speed, in the same direction.  "The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8). Birds love that verse.
For The Bird creation story, it’s easy to imagine sea creatures arriving on day five—pelicans and sea gulls would insist on that. From a birds eye view, it makes sense to create by working your way up from the depths of the sea to the vaults of the heavens, filling creation with creatures as you draw nearer and nearer to God. First sea creatures, then land creatures would come next—mice, elk, humans, horses—earthbound creatures that can’t get off the ground for more than a few seconds before coming right back down—hard—on their feet! Flying squirrels - pretty advanced, mountain goats so-so, but people—well. It’s kind of pitiful watching them try to get off the ground: flapping their arms while standing on rocks. Jumping on basketball courts.  The birds graciously give Jordon his propers. Birds wonder if when humans sleep, and arms and legs are twitching, are we dreaming about flying?  None of this was the fault of the land creatures. Mother Birds teach their children never to make fun of land bound creatures. "God made them that way," the mothers said, "and God made you this way. Now go outside and fly."
But day six—when the story of creation was read in Bird Church, day six, was the day every bird got excited—the day God created birds in the divine image—in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them—sparrows, ravens, geese, and toehees—Chicadees, Martins, Flycatchers, and Warblers—all of them different and yet all of them alike: two eyes, one beak, and two marvelous wings—their daily assurance that they were made in the image of their Creator.  
How many times is it suggested in the Bible that God is that Great Big Bird with wings?  
“hide me in the shadow of your wings," (Psalm 17:8).
“in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, until the destroying storms pass by" (Psalm 57:1).
"How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings" (Psalm 36.7).
Being created in God’s image was not just God's gift to the birds. It is also God's call—”look after the sea creatures and the land animals as God would look after them” was the lesson in Sunday School—”especially look after the people, who seem to really need help.” The birds are glad to do what they can-- waking people up in the morning with sweet songs or loud cookadoododdledoos,
Performing thrilling aerobatics for anyone who would see; regally hovering in the sky as a reminder to look up.
Sometimes, under special orders from God, the birds delivered bread to humans wandering in the wilderness. A few birds--the courageous quail--even volunteered to become food themselves, when a whole crowd of people wandering in the desert said they were dying of hunger. What else are you going to do when you are the only creatures in all of creation made in the image of God? You love as God loves, right? You love what God loves, because that is what your life is for.
How many times have you heard or read the story of creation from Genesis Chapter one?  Did you notice that we humans do not have day six--the dramatic ending of the story—all to ourselves.
We read about day six:
(Drum roll: clear throat,)
and God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness;"—yes— "and let them have dominion"—yes!—"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." We run the whole ranch; As far as the eye can see!
But this isn’t where day six begins. Day six starts two verses earlier, with the creation of …cattle...and other unspecified creeping things and wild animals. We share day six with cows--and their blank stares, and their drooling cud chewing mouths. Where are the antelopes and bobcats? If it’s any consolation: Cows are sacred in India. And in Cuba I was told you murder a human you get five years in jail, but if you murder a cow you get 25 years—
one single animal that provides milk, meat, hide and even dung for the fire. God gave us dominion, it is true, but God did not pronounce us better than anything else that God had made:
"God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day."
In 1967, before I was born, an historian named Lynn White wrote an article for Science magazine in which he charged that the roots of the ecological crisis are essentially religious. Ecological crisis even in 1967?   Religious people are the root cause?
Particularly, religions which have taught people to view themselves as "superior to nature, contemptuous of it, willing to use it for our slightest whim."
As a result of this type of religious attitude we find "despotism"—where an interpretation of “dominion over” creation means you do not have to ask a tree before you bulldoze it to create a ski slope.... You just knock it down, push it into a pile with the corpses of other trees, and set it on fire.[2]  If a Ponderosa pine blocks your view of the evening sky, just cut it down. Mine right next to the river.[3] If mercury gets into the stream and you can’t eat the fish you catch, no worries, you can still buy some at the grocery store—cleaned and boned even, just a few dollars a pound, USDA certified.  We humans have dominion over this playground, after all— God said so. It is all for us.
Much has happened since 1967.  Lois Morton was telling me that she and her husband were experimenting with passive solar houses in the 70s, and just a few years after that was when the Garcia’s built their place in Pecos that requires no heat from the grid and it is warm.  Jimmy Carter (yes I was alive during Carter’s term) was installing solar panels on the white house, delivering addresses in cardigans by the fire, and encouraging us all to turn down our thermostats and conserve energy.  But, it was bad for the economy, so Reaganomics bulldozed all the treehuggers to the side, and put them to sleep in comfortable suburban homes.  
Sprawl, growth, unimpeded international commerce, tourism boom, foods available anytime no matter the season, intricate highway systems, all fueled by cheap petrolium...
resulting in wars in the middle east and oil spills in the gulf coast; more frequently occurring hurricane Katrinas and melting glaciers, Japanese earthquakes and Australian draughts.  
Here in the southwest, as snowpacks melt earlier-- forests are drying out, meaning stressed trees due to heat and lack of water.  By 2008, Colorado and Wyoming had three million acres of dead trees, and Colorado expects to lose another 5 million acres; meaning in the next five years virtually every lodgepole pine larger than five inches in diameter will be dead.
A major culprit is the mountain pine beetle.
We’re reminded of that “tree killer” every time we see a dead piñon.  Once the beetle drills into the bark, the tree gives off a white, waxy resin in an attempt to seal the insect in its hole.  
But the attacker can give off a pheromone that draws swarms of other beetles. Eventually the tree is overwhelmed.  Why is this happening? Because raised temperatures allow the beetle to overwinter more easily.  Milder winters since 1994 have reduced to winter death rate of the beetle larvae. Dried out dead forests means fires, mudslides, and erosion.[4]
Not to mention animal habitats destroyed. That, along with other factors, has resulted in,
according to the Colonel Sander van Doorn, animal species going extinct at the fastest rate since the dinosaurs.[5]
As glaciers melt and weather patterns change, we discover, the earth we live on is not the same earth you and I were born on.
But, old habits are hard to break. So some religious people want to dismiss the reality of what is taking place by saying, “Humans don’t cause global warming,” or “God is coming back to fix this mess” or at least air lift me from it. We are comfortable, complacent. We like our lives. But it comes with a devastating effect.

There are however, many Christians who are starting to wake up, and not exercise dominion like such barbarians. Rather than dominion over, we attempt to use words like stewards who tend to the earth; or priests who care for creation.
Words help, but so do actions.  People of faith are starting to connect the dots and realize, “Hey, we are part of the problem, and if our scripture tells us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and give water to those who thirst, and as a result of my fuel consumption the world’s most vulnerable are put at even greater risk, maybe I should start being part of the solution.” We have got to take seriously a simple mandate from Jesus, deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow.  
For me, this means doing everything we can to fast from our collective addiction of fossil fuels: fuels we use to travel, to heat and power our homes, to get food and products to us cheaply.  
It’s interesting to think, we sixth day creatures are the latecomers to creation. We are the  youngest children on the face of the earth. In Carl Sagan' s famous example, if we could squeeze the creation of the cosmos into a single year, then the Big Bang happened on January 1. The sun and the planets came into existence on September 10. Human beings arrived on the scene at ten minutes before midnight on December 31?  Genesis one tells us we were welcomed by "plants yielding seed,and fruit trees of every kind." "lights in the dome of the sky; "the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves," "and every winged bird of every kind."
And then there were the cows, made just before us; cows who stood around mooing while God laid us in the manger of the divine image, to have dominion over all our elders on this planet.
What did the babies of creation do to deserve this? Nothing.[6]
There are two ways in which I think we can respond to our designated special place in God’s good creation. If we say that God so loved the world, and imagine God creating all of this earth and declaring it good, would not that creator and lover of the world love what has been created?
Created in God’s image, might we become lovers of creation as well. Lovers who listen and delight, rather than use and abuse.  Let us exercise a dominion of love—without condition, without distinction, without self-interest. Let us value all things, and not just reduce them to a price tag. Made in the divine image, we are here to love as God loves. And in this way we say, Gracias.  Music to God’s ears.
The second thing to consider during lent...the seventh day of creation. Creation was not complete--not fulfilled--until God rested.  The holiest day, the perfect day. The Seventh day.  
God rested, and delighted in creation; declared it holy.  So much of what we need, and what our planet needs is rest.  Stop being in such a hurry; Stop worrying and rushing around from here to there; Stop feeling like we’re missing out if we don’t do something; Just rest and be.
Sabbath rest, one day a week. Can we do that during lent?  Saturday, the original Sabbath day, seems like a perfect time to just be outside of your home, reading, listening, praying, gardening. Resting. Taking refuge under the shadow of the Great Bird's wings.  
This Lenten season I am calling on this church to take seriously a notion of sacrifice.  
To look at Christ’s sacrificial living; and from our privileged perch in Creation, and privileged place in the world, the USA, to live Sacrificially.  It’s just 40 days.
Because right now, there is a whole creation seeking refuge, and you, you and I are the spitting image of the One who gives life to all; may we spread our wings to provide care for God’s vulnerable creatures.  

[1]Dominion of Love, Journal for Preachers, Pentecost, 2008.
[2]There is a story of someone who tied himself to a tree when the work began to construct the Santa Fe Ski Basin
[3]This is what happened in the Pacos.
[4]From Bill McKibbin’s, Eaarth
[5]Sander van Doorn, former member of WPC and biologist, was explaining to me another complicated issue.  Smaller organisms such as certain larvae of bugs hatch earlier than they have for thousands of years as temperatures quickly get warmer.  Because of consistent historical temperatures, birds would migrate in anticipation of larvae hatching. Birds, because they are larger organizms cannot adapt to the subtle but real rise in temperature.  So they arrive to feast on larvae, and the experience famine, because the larvae has hatched and is gone before they get to them.
[6]Barbara Brown Taylor

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