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Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service.
September 10, 2023
Grace to you and peace from God, our creator, and from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
When we think about the wonder of the created order, there are plenty of statistics to make us pause for thought. For example, the angle of the earth is 23 degrees. That precise angle is what makes our seasons possible.
If the crust of the earth were 10 feet thicker than it is, there would be no oxygen and, therefore, no animal life. If the oceans were a few feet deeper, all of the oxygen and carbon dioxide would be absorbed and no plant life would exist.
The nine major planets in our solar system move around the sun in exact precision. And our sun is only one of 100 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy. With recent technological advances in telescopes, more galaxies in the universe are being discovered almost daily.
Scientists have all sorts of algorithms and equations to calculate what goes on beyond what we can see in the skies. But even with those calculations, we owe it to ourselves to let the wonders of God boggle our mind sometimes.
The creation story we read today is often called the “second” creation story. The “first” one, in chapter 1, orders everything very neatly. And it portrays God as being the Creator from the very beginning of everything, speaking it into existence. Almost like God was directing it or orchestrating it and watching it happen.
But the story we read today starts out with dirt and water and nothing else. In this story, God creates in a very hands-on manner: on their knees, in the dirt, gathering it together in their hands to form the first people. It calls to mind the image of God as an artisan, or a potter. Forming creation as a work of art.
In this formation – this creation, God establishes relationship with and within the created order from the beginning. This relationship is integral to and in and with all living things – humans, animals, plants – and the environments in which they live. It’s a relationship of interdependence. God created people to care for the land and plants and animals and, by extension, to participate in God’s creative work in the world.
God’s intended vocation for humanity was to care for creation. And that happened for a while. The relationship was at the forefront and everything existed in harmony, as it was intended.
And even though this relationship changed in Genesis chapter 3, it wasn’t fully lost. The connection we have with one another, creation, and God still exists because God created it.
In much of the U.S. this relationship has been forgotten. We take our garbage and recycling out to the curb for a truck to haul away and then we don’t think about it anymore. Many of us aren’t able to grow our own food, so we buy it all at the store or a farmer’s market.
In our part of the world, we are privileged to enjoy moderate weather most years. We didn’t have any extreme heat this summer. And what I call the “smoke season” from wildfires was relatively light. But other parts of the U.S. and the world weren’t so lucky.
We know the planet is changing and why it’s changing. And we’re bombarded with information and threats about what could happen if we don’t change the way we live. And it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the possible ways to change our lives in order to care for each other and for creation.
But it starts with remembering the relationship we share with God and all living things.
For the last two-ish years, there have been news reports about clothing “landfills” in countries like Ghana and Pakistan. It’s reported that in 2019, over 65 million tons of used clothing from western countries was sent to Ghana to be resold in public markets. There are no inspections of the items and no regulation on what is sent. It’s just sent whether it’s usable or not.
Of that 65 million tons, almost 40% was not sold and was instead thrown out. Most of the items ended up in landfills or in the sea.
In a landfill, it stacks up because it takes something like 200 years for textiles to break down. In the sea, it’s often “caught” in the nets of fisherman trying to earn a living. Not only is the catch of fish reduced, but the nets are often ruined because they get tangled up in the clothing.
There are entrepreneurs taking some of the clothes and repurposing them into items like shoes and bags and rugs and children’s toys. Which is great! But sending the discarded clothes “away” neglects the relationship with the people who receive them because they can’t send them away.
Hildegard of Bingen once said, “All living creatures are sparks from the radiation of God’s brilliance, emerging from God like the rays of the sun.”
That is to say, God is literally in all living things. That radiance, that brilliance flows through each of us and connects us to one another and to all living things, always.
So, when we talk about caring for creation, we’re talking about caring for the relationship that exists between us and the rest of creation. It’s a fundamental relationship that God created in the beginning and still exists today.
It’s too easy to live as though this relationship doesn’t exist – as though we aren’t connected to one another and to the created order. But when we remember this relationship, we think about the impact of the decisions we make and we begin to find hope.
When we remember this relationship, we get excited when the cameras on the wildlife crossings over I90 show us the wildlife, and we pay attention when new culverts are being placed under existing roadways to help with salmon spawning. And then we go a step further, and think about the ecological impact when building new infrastructure.
In our homes, we look for opportunities to recycle or repurpose clothing that can’t or shouldn’t be donated. We phase out single-use plastic bags and water bottles.
When we remember this relationship, one step at a time, we ultimately transform our culture into one that reflects our interdependence on the rest of creation. And as we do, we participate in God’s creative work in the world.
The foundation of our world is the relationship in which and through which God created us and all living things. We are forever connected because we’re all made from the same dirt and radiance of God.
Remembering this affects the way we treat each other and the world we share. It helps us keep in mind why God’s intention was and is for us to care for creation. And it gives us hope for our lives now and for the future.
Thanks be to God! Amen.