Sermon: “Loving Planet Earth” [Gen. 1:1-25] (Sept. 5, 2021)

This time last year, the sanctuary was being painted…which meant that I wasn’t able to record worship services in the sanctuary.  Because September is the Season of Creation, and because we live in these beautiful mountains, that wasn’t a problem for me.  You might recall that I recorded from lots of places–mountains, creeks, and more than one park in the area.  

In truth, having worship every Sunday of the Season of Creation outdoors might make the most sense.  What better way to celebrate creation than to be out in it enjoying it?  We’ll have a taste of that next week at the Campout.  (If you can stay overnight, great!  If not, do come join us for the cookout on Saturday.)

Awhile back, someone asked me whether church was really necessary.  If we can experience God in nature, why bother with religion?  I get that, especially now that I live in the mountains.  It would be easy to spend every waking moment outdoors, offering my praises to God from mountaintops and streams.

So, with all this natural beauty around us, is religion necessary?  As I’ve reflected on the question, I’ve decided that it sets up a false dichotomy.  Why do we have to choose, religion or creation?  Why not engage in spiritual practices within a community of faith AND spend time in creation, offering our explorations as prayers?

The creation story in Genesis 1 is the best case we have for living life at the intersection of religion and creation, faith and the environment.

In the late 1800s, when scholars began studying the Bible with a more critical eye, they discovered four sources that were used in creating the first five books of the Bible, the Torah.  The people who wrote the version of the Torah we read today stitched together pieces from all four sources.  

If you want to impress your friends, you can tell them about the JEDP theory.  JED and P refer to each of the four sources–the Jahwist source (that refers to God as Jahweh), the Elohist source (that refers to God as Elohim), the Deuteronomist source (who was concerned with religious laws), and the Priestly source.

Genesis 1 comes from the priestly source, which means it was part of the community’s worship life.  Did you catch the repetition in the reading?  God said, “Let there be light, Let there be a dome in the sky…”  And there was light; there was a dome in the sky.  And God saw that it was good.  There was evening and there was morning, the first day, the second day…

The repetition suggests Genesis 1 was used liturgically.  Let’s try something.  “God’s got the whole world in God’s hands…”  “God’s got you and me, sibling, in God’s hands…”  “God’s got Asheville city in God’s hands…”  

What happened as we sang the song?  The parts that are the same, you sang on.  With each verse, you listened to hear what I would come up with, then you joined in.  The format was simple and helped you to focus on this idea that God’s got our world in the divine hands.

That’s what Genesis 1 is.  It provides a simple structure for organizing our celebration of creation.  And I can read it by myself–have done.  That’s fine…but when we read it communally, Ah!  The meaning rachets up, doesn’t it?  Together we are acknowledging the goodness of creation.  Together we are celebrating this amazing planet God has made.  And in our celebrating, as we profess our deep love for the created world, we begin making our plans for working together to act Earth and all its inhabitants into wellbeing.   (Gen 1 video)

And God saw that it was good.  In the beginning, God saw that it was good.  I wonder what God would say now?  What might we as a faith community do today to elicit a “good” from God?  What might we do today to heal our beloved planet home?  (“Come Home”)

About reallifepastor

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