Sermon: “We’ve Got the Whole World in Our Hands” (Gen. 1:1-25) [9/2/18]

Image result for planet earth images

So…did you enjoy playing God?  What power!  “Let there be light!”  And there was light!  Let there be sky, land, sea, animals, creepy crawly things…and there were!  

Our sacred Scriptures begin where the sacred texts of most religions begin–with the story of how we got here….or in our case, the stories of how we got here.  In Genesis 2, we get the story of Adam—literally, Earth man….how he’s lonely so God creates animals, and how when that doesn’t help, God creates a “helper” out of Adam’s rib…yeah.  We’ll deal with THAT text another day.

Today, our focus is the other version of creation, the one found in Genesis 1.  As we read just now, did you feel the rhythm of the passage?  God said, ‘Let there be’….  And there was.  And as soon as it was, God named it–sky, land, sea.  Then, “God saw that it was good.”  “There was evening and there was morning, the first day.”  “The second day.”  “The third day.”

The rhythm of the passage suggests it was written for a worship service.  It’s similar to what we do during prayer time when we say “God in your mercy, Hear our prayer.”  The rhythm of the response, the structure it creates helps us organize our prayers.  The structure also frees us to open our hearts, minds and souls to whatever God is doing in the moment.

That’s what we get in Genesis 1–we get a rhythm, a structure that helps us open our minds and hearts to what God is doing in the midst of creation.

So, what is God doing in the midst of creation?  In Genesis 1, how does God create?  You just played God in the reading a minute ago.  So, God, how did you create?

“God said…”  That’s God’s primary action in Genesis 1: speech.  “God said…”  It doesn’t say God created these things; it says, “God said, let there be light.” And there was light.  In Genesis 1, creation happens in response to a word spoken by God.

What’s the significance of telling the creation story in this way?  What’s the significance of God inviting creation to be through speech? 

Allen and I talk a lot in the car.  He drives most of the time.  I help in whatever ways I can, mostly through speech.  Like this past Friday.  Allen, kind soul that he is, was driving me to get some bloodwork done.  Fasting bloodwork.  No food.  No caffeinated beverages.  You get the picture.

So, we get to the traffic circle up here at College and Allen pulls into the circle at a point that was CLEARLY too soon.  I used my speech to inform him of this fact.

As Allen often does when I use my speech to offer helpful insights, he used his speech to explain that he had done a quick calculation and had ascertained that there was plenty of time to enter the traffic circle in complete safety for all concerned.  To which I replied:  “I haven’t had my coffee yet!  Please factor that into your driving!”

Let’s analyze this “speech event.”  Why did I speak?  First, I wanted to connect with my beloved spouse.  Once that connection was made, I hoped to communicate a specific intention to him.  I’m pretty sure I was successful on that point.

So, I wanted to connect with Allen and I wanted to communicate a specific intention to him.  In addition to connecting with him and sharing my intention with him, I confess that I also was hoping for Allen to respond in a specific way.  My way.   But we’ve been married a long time.  In that time I’ve learned that I can say whatever I like, I can hope for whatever response I want to hope for from my wonderful spouse, but at the end of the day, he’s going to respond how he responds.  So, in addition to my words helping me connect with Allen and revealing my intention to him, they also placed me in a vulnerable position—Allen could change his driving behavior.  Or not.

So, per this meticulous scientific study, we can conclude three things about speech.  Speech reveals, first, a desire to connect with the one addressed, second, the speaker’s intention, and, third, vulnerability on the part of the speaker.

Divine speech in the act of creation reveals the same things.  By speaking an invitation to creation, God reveals a desire to connect with something other than God’s self.  And when God says, “Let there be light,” God reveals God’s intention that light happen.  Notice that God doesn’t command light to be.  “Light–BE!”  No, God says “Let there be.”  God’s word comes not as command but as invitation.

By inviting light–or anything else—into being, the Creator creates room for creation to respond.  And if creation is free to respond, it is free to say yes or no.  Which means that, when God invites creation to be, God chooses to be vulnerable.  God’s got ideas about how creation will emerge…but if creation has other ideas, God’s best aims for creation will miss the mark.  If creation declines the invitation, God’s intention won’t be fulfilled.

But God’s God, right?  God can do anything!  So why in the world would God choose to be vulnerable?  Why would God create space for creation to say no?  Why would the divine creator depend on fallible creatures (which includes fallible human beings) to nurture creation into being?  Surely, there must have been a more efficient means of creating!

But maybe God’s point in inviting creation into being isn’t efficiency.  Maybe God speaks the invitation to creation because God wants to connect with something other than Godself.  Maybe God speaks the invitation to creation because God chooses no longer to be alone.  Maybe God speaks the invitation to creation because… that’s what love does.  Love doesn’t tell someone who they are or command them to be a certain way.  Love listens and creates space for the beloved to become their best selves.  As the lion Aslan says in the Chronicles of Narnia, “Creatures, I give you yourselves.”

Creation isn’t something God does TO us.  Creation is a dance God invites us to join.  God invites creation into being—“Let there be light”—then waits for creation to respond.  Once creation responds—“And there was light”—God responds to the response.  Creation isn’t a straight line trajectory.  Creation is a conversation between God and creation.  We—God and creation—create together.  And we do it out of love.

As we begin the season of creation today—which we’ll do every September—the insight we gain from God’s speech in Genesis 1 is the foundation for everything else that will come.  God wants to connect with creation, God has hopeful intentions for creation, but God will not force creation to become itself.  No matter what part of creation we’re looking at—humanity, the sky, mountains, or animals—God only invites us to become who God hopes we will become.

God invites, then waits for us to respond.  Looking at the state of creation these days, I suspect God is getting a little antsy waiting on us to respond.  By this point, God might even be tapping the divine foot.  Maybe God’s rethinking this whole thing of counting on us to respond.

Maybe…but I don’t think so.  Why would God choose to give creation a choice about becoming itself if not because God believes we can and trusts us to make the right choices?  And by “right,” I mean choices that will act creation into wellbeing, choices that will help all creation become who it is created to be?

We have so much more power than we know.  Our words have so much more power than we know.  God’s not the only one whose speech can invite creation to be who it is created to be.  Our speech can do that, too.  Our speech is powerful enough to nurture creation into being.  Of course, our speech also is powerful enough to kill creation.  And our silence.

I don’t know about you, but in the last two years, I’ve begun to doubt the power of my speech to do anything to help nurture creation.  Shortly after the current administration began its work, my U.S. representative back in Georgia introduced a bill to abolish the EPA.  I know legislators introduce all kinds of bills all the time.  But abolish the EPA?  Who could possibly think that was a good idea?

Apparently more people than just my representative.  This summer, we’ve seen the effects of climate change rachet up significantly—more and more intense wildfires, significant flooding across the globe, glaciers melting, more and more intense storms, rising oceans….  And how is our government responding to this alarming evidence of climate change?  By rolling back environmental standards that were kind of pitiful to begin with.  Anybody else feeling powerless?  And voiceless?

And yet, as Pete Seeger once sang, “God’s counting on me, God’s counting on you.”  That’s the message of Genesis 1 for us even today…especially today.  When it comes to acting creation into wellbeing, God’s counting on us to use our speech to invite creation to become who it is meant to become.

Sing:  We’ve got the whole world in our hands, we’ve got the whole world in our hands, we’ve got the whole world in our hands, we’ve got the whole world in our hands.

In the name of our God, who creates us, redeems us, sustains us, and hopes for the wholeness of all creation.  Amen.

Kimberleigh Buchanan  ©2018


About reallifepastor

I'm a pastor who's working out her faith...just like everyone else.
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