I jumped at the opportunity to preach a sermon only at this early service because I felt like it was the perfect chance to read together our creation stories, dwelling in the beauty of creation. This outdoor worship service gives us the opportunity to do together what many of us do individually throughout the summer - and that is to get outdoors and simply worship our God, our Creator!
I wonder where in creation you particularly delight…Water, trees, forests, gardens, flowers, animals, bugs, mountains, oceans, beaches, songs of creation…
It feels as though, the God who spoke creation into existence, who created the mountain peaks and the tiniest flower is waiting for us to show up, beckoning for us to join God in creation, yearning to calm our worries and breathe refreshing, deep, holy breaths into our hearts and souls. So, this morning we join God and worship.
The passage we shared from Genesis is the first creation story in our scriptures (the second we find in Genesis 2). And this version from the Priestly writer was written to help reveal to the Hebrew people the power of a God who creates, celebrates, and delights in the entirety of the created world. It tells of our God who speaks worlds into existence.
The first day, God hovers over the tehom, the Hebrew word for the deep waters and out of chaos, beauty and new life emerge. In Confirmation we remind the kids that our holy scriptures are not a science textbook and we shouldn’t expect them to be – so we don’t think this creation story details the precise way that the world was actually formed, but it does convey other truths – like who formed the world – Our Creator God. We see relationships established between God and God’s creation and the created with one another. God invites humankind to care for all that is, all that God so lovingly created, including humankind.
Those early Hebrew people would have been instructed too by what is missing. It departs significantly from some of the other Mesopotamian creation narratives where the god Marduk murders the goddess Tiamat and creates the world from her carcass. Conversely, the Hebrew people understand a God who creates out of love and not violence. God who creates humanity in God’s own image and says they are very good. This version of creation was intended to be a people-shaping story should still shape us today, reminding us of who we are and who God is. It has the power to reorient us, to center, affirm, reminding us of our foundation.
Barbara Brown Taylor wrote a beautiful book entitled An Altar in the World. In it she writes and I agree with her wholeheartedly, “People encounter God under shady oak trees, on riverbanks, at the tops of mountains, and in long stretches of barren wilderness. God shows up in whirlwinds, starry skies, burning bushes and perfect strangers. When people want to know more about God, the son of God tells them to pay attention to the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, to women kneading bread and workers lining up for their pay. Whoever wrote this stuff [of the Bible] believed that people could learn as much about the ways of God from paying attention to the world as they could from paying attention to scripture.” (p 12-13)
So, this next week, I invite you to pay attention. “The House of God stretches from one corner of the universe to the other. Sea monsters and ostriches live in it, along with people who pray in languages I do not speak...whose names I will never know... I am not in charge of this House and never will be... I have no say about who is in and who is out… I do not get to make the rules.”
Like Job, I was nowhere when God laid the foundations of the earth. I cannot bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion. I do not even know when the mountain goats give birth, much less the ordinances of the heavens. I am a guest here, charged with serving other guests – even those who present themselves as my enemies. I am allowed to resist them, but as long as I trust in one God who made us all, I cannot act as if they are no kin to me. There is only one House. Human beings will either learn to live in it together or we will not hear its sigh of relief when our numbered days are done.”(13-14)
I hope and pray that we are able to breathe deeply of this beautiful creation – that outside of this worship hour, our souls may find worship. Next week, we will bask in music. St. Francis of Assisi loved singing hymns with his brothers and sisters – who included not only Brother Bernard and Sister Clare, but also Brother Sun and Sister Moon. t. Francis read the world as reverently as he read the Bible. Barbara Brown Taylor says that “For him, a leper was as kissable as a bishop’s ring, a single bird as much a messenger of God as a cloud full of angels.” (9)
I hope that we will spend time praying and worshiping along with the rocks, trees and flowers this week. As we are noticing and worshiping along with creation, may we also see the ways that we can more faithfully live into the covenant of being creation caretakers. This story of creation has a role for humanity, and that role was not to sit idly by and consume without also tending. How will you and I recommit to our role of being caretakers? God has generously given us an extraordinarily beautiful home, and we have polluted it!
There are some of our siblings in Kenya who noticed the alarming numbers of flip flops washing up on the beaches of the Indian Ocean. Not only were these flip flops an eyesore, but they were disrupting the marine ecosystem, killing sea life and birds who were confused. So they started collecting them and turning trash into creative works of art. It’s as though out of the tehom, the deep waters of chaos, has come a new creation where beauty can be reclaimed. Ocean Sole is the organization that is helping to clean up the ocean, raise awareness of the situation with pollution, and creating something beautiful for the world to enjoy.
The summertime invites us outside, and I am able to give you homework in ways I just couldn’t at other times in the year so I am asking you to make sure you take some time to slow the pace this week and soak up the creation that God has made – from the wiggling worms to the rainbows in the sky, the birds, the flowers, the trees, and allow your soul to sit with God. Summer is coming to a close. Relish each and every second. Make sure you take the time to see the trees, listen to the birds, see the kindness in another’s eyes…and think to consider how you’re doing your part After all, the Spirit of God hovers over the tehom in our world and out of it speaks forth whole new worlds. May we not miss what God is doing and not miss our invitations to co-create with God. Amen.