creation :: a-part (a reflection on genesis 1 for creation sunday 2020)

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

Genesis 1: 26-31

During this Harvest season (in the church’s calendar) I have been thinking out God’s Creation and our part within it.

The Family of Creation

For as human beings we are active part-icipants in creation. We are part of creation, not apart from it.

St Francis of Assisi understood this truth better perhaps than anyone of his era of Christian history (12th century BCE), as is expressed in his Canticle of Creation:

Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord, All praise is Yours, all glory, all honour and all blessings.

To you alone, Most High, do they belong, and no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.

Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all weather’s moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.

Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious and pure.

Praised be You my Lord through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You my Lord through our Sister,
Mother Earth
who sustains and governs us,
producing varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praise be You my Lord through those who grant pardon for love of You and bear sickness and trial.

Blessed are those who endure in peace, By You Most High, they will be crowned.

Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.

No second death can do them harm. Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks,
And serve Him with great humility.

Canticle of Creation, St Francis of Assisi

Creation is family. We are members of creation’s family. Despite our misguided attempts, creation is a family we simply cannot separate from. Divorce is not an option.

Very Good

We are part of creation and creation is ‘good’…

  • light is good
  • darkness is good
  • the sky is good
  • the land and oceans are good
  • vegetables and fruit are good
  • fish and animals are good
  • and we – humans – are good

Creation is ‘good’, and we essentially – in essence – good because we are part of Creation.

God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. (Genesis 1: 31).

Every thing is very good.

Not everything is good all the time. Sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes bad things happen to good people, and sometimes bad people cause bad things to happen to good people, and to the good earth.

There is another Bible story illustrating how the good turned bad. This can be found in Genesis chapter 3.

My point is this…we are ‘good’ before we are ‘bad’. Genesis chapter 1 comes before Genesis chapter 3.

Original Blessing

Not only are we good in God’s eyes, but we are also blessed.

God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them

The Hebrew word for blessing is barak (בָּרַךְ), meaning to show adoration. God adores us, as God adores the whole of creation.

To use a term coined by the Roman Catholic theologian Matthew Fox, this is God’s ‘original blessing’.

And God has given us ‘dominion’ over Creation.

Dominion, not domination

‘Dominion’ is not the same thing as ‘domination’. Quite the opposite in fact.

The Hebrew term for (having) dominion is ra’dah (רָדָה). It relates to the biblical idea of rulership or guardianship.

As human beings we are created in the image of God. Take a picture image. A portrait or a photograph. A picture image is a visual representation. An image re-presents a thing in visual form.

As imagers of God/the Divine, we re-present God. We are embodied. We possess a mind. A spirit. A soul. We are not God, but we are like God.

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.

As God’s representatives within creation, we have a responsibility toward the creation. Toward the earth upon which we live. To care for the earth in the way that the Creator does. There may be occasions where we need to subdue – or manage – creation for its and our benefit, but we are not permitted to use or abuse it for our own profit or gain (sins of commission).

We are guardians of the earth and have been entrusted by God with its safekeeping.

From Omission to Mission

When we are entrusted with something which is good, we should want to both keep it safe (protect it), and keep it going (sustain it).

And this is why being an ‘Eco-church’ is a priority for us here at Christ Church. Its not an award. Its a duty. It is why it is important for some of us to rebel against the extinction of planet earth, and for others to give their time to Green Party politics or to lovingly tending our church wildflower garden. The care of creation is God’s very first command to humankind.

There are many ways in which we can fulfil God’s command. To do nothing, however, is not an option. It is a sin of omission (things we have left undone that we ought to have done).

“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill [tend] the earth and subdue [manage] it; and have dominion [protect and keep safe] over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

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