Sunday, September 16, 2018

We are made of Earth!

Today is Humanity Sunday in this season of creation…So what do we look at differently or what perspective on humanity do we take that is different from other Sundays?  What does this season call to attention?  There are 3 assigned readings for today
Genesis 1:26-28
The message reads this verse this way…
God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature
So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, and yes, Earth itself,
And every animal that moves on the face of the earth.”
God create human Beings they were created godlike, Reflecting God’s nature.
God created them male and female
God Blessed them:
“Prosper! Reproduce! Fill the Earth! Take Charge!
Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,
For every living thing that moves on the face of the earth.”[1]
Then in Genesis 2:7-8 then the lord God Formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east; and there God put the man that God had formed. 2:15 God took the Man and set him down in the Garden of Eden to work the ground and keep it in order or in another translation to till and keep it.

How should human beings relate to Earth, our planet home?  Does Scripture give us the right to dominate and subdue creation as many have claimed in the past.
If you read this, it doesn’t quite sound that way. In my hearing we are called to be co-creators with God. God Planted a Garden and then humans are established in the Garden to continue Gods work.
This concept of the right to dominate has even been used as justification for suppressing Indigenous peoples as mere animals!  As it stands, Genesis 1.26-28 reflects the language of royalty, of ruling and subjugation.  But should we be satisfied with that text as the basis for our relationship with Earth and the creatures of Earth. 
There have been several interpretations around this.  We have evolved in our understanding;
In God’s Image…How does being formed in God’s image make humans unique in creation? Interpreters have answered that questions in many different ways. Their answers typically relate to how they themselves view human nature.
Early Christian interpreters believed that having God’s image made humans like God gave humans a soul. For example, Augustine believed the image of God referred to the rational soul, placed by God in the human body. Thus, God and humans were spiritual beings, while all other life was merely material. However, this division between soul and body, or spirit and matter, is a later development in Greek thought. The idea of a soul is not shared by the OT writers.[2]
We spoke of this a bit last week.  It out of this concept that we hear these theologies that give humans an excuse to dismiss the earth. This is also what gave permission to dismiss others as not human.  By claiming others did not have souls gave certain races permission to subjugate other races.
A different answer given by interpreters from ancient to modern times is that being made in God’s image gives humans special dignity. According to this interpretation, the divine image refers to worth of all human beings. In this view, all persons carry God’s image and are to be treated with equal respect. This understanding of human nature focuses, as genesis does, on the whole person rather than on the soul alone. It has given powerful support for those demeaned, marginalized, and oppressed.[3]
This calls us to recognize the dignity in each person.  As Christian it calls us to see the face of Christ in any and all persons. We are called to treat each with the respect called for as if we are meeting Christ matter how they may treat us. For in each human is the face of God.
Recent biblical scholars have looked in ancient cultures around Israel to understand this idea of the image of God in Genesis 1. Egypt and Mesopotamia described reigning kings as the image of particular gods. The phrase designated a ruler as a certain god’s special representative on earth. So by adapting this expression, the writer of Genesis 1 identifies human beings as the representatives of divine rule on earth.
This interpretation of humans as representatives of divine rule matches what comes next in Genesis. God says that humanity is made in the image of God so that humans can take charge of animals (gen 1:28). So, when read in light of its literary and ancient culture contexts, the image of God describes humanity’s prominent position in the world. It shows humanity’s responsibility to rule creation as God’s representative. Human beings are thus considered mediators of God’s presence in the world.[4]
So let me ask the question again, Does Scripture give us the right to dominate and subdue creation as many have claimed in the past? No! because we are smarter than that. We know better. No! Because the very next chapter (2.15) reinterprets this relationship!   Rather than being hailed as a ruler of Earth Adam, our ancestor, is given the responsibility of ‘serving and preserving Earth’. It is time to confess that we, especially in Western Christianity, have often abused our role as human beings by assuming we have the right to dominate the rest of creation without considering the word of God that calls us to serve and preserve what God has given us as our home.
We must confess we have yet to treat each other with the respect that is called for by these verses in Genesis. Daily we degradate, subjugate, segregate and mistreat people in the name of well, pick it, in the name of greed, in the name of corporations, in the name of governments, in the name of religion!
We have used and abused sacred text for so long that we sometimes do not see what we have done or what we are doing.  This is why we must focus on humanity during this season of creation.

Todays Gospel of how we are called to be servants
The message interprets the reading this way;
Jesus got them together to settle things down. “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around,” he said, “and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage.”[5]

This text from Mark is often cited as a guide to the way we should live as disciples of Christ, serving others rather than dominating them.  Jesus reminds us that among the Romans of his day, the aspiration of leaders was to dominate and control, to have power over others.  Jesus declares that his way is just the opposite.  His followers are to serve rather than rule.  The language used here reflects a reversal of the language in Gen. 1.26-28. Those who follow Christ are not rulers, but servants.
Marjorie Suchoci, reflects on this in her own context in the Methodist church
Muse a while on the seeming oxymoron of “servant
leadership.” We have lost the shock value of Jesus’
words and actions that specify that true leadership involves
serving others, not ruling them. Yet, in many ways we have
reversed Jesus’ reversal by accepting the term servant leader
but reinvesting it with the trappings of power and privilege.
…If we truly valued servant leadership, wouldn’t pastors vie
for appointments to rural or inner city or poor churches
where leadership would indeed be sacrificial? In Mark 10
Jesus explicitly reverses the social position of leader from a
place of power to a place of sacrificial service, even to a place
he calls slavery. His crucifixion sealed this reversal where
the Highest suffered with the most lowly for the sake of
saving the lowly. We are followers of Christ.
(By Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki from The Upper Room: 60 Days of Prayer for General Conference 2016) [6]

I love this for I live by the belief I will go where I am called, and I will be called where I am needed. I confess I do not have an inkling what that will look like and or where it will be yet. This is true for our relationships with creation and the creatures of Earth as well as our relationship with other humans.  In short, Jesus’ words make it clear that the way of serving Earth (in Gen. 2.15) is more consistent with the way of the cross than the way of domination (in Gen. 1.26-28). 
The ways humans have treated each other and continue to do so is disturbing history even here in Petaluma we cannot ignore what has been done to our indigenous people and what we have don to this land.
I was reading an article from KCET titled the last woman form Petaluma I want to share just some of her story
Her Indian name, or at least one of her Indian names, the only one any of us know, was Tsupu. She was my great-great-grandfather’s mother, or my great-great-great grandmother, and, again as far as any of us know, the last native of Petaluma, not the city we know today, but the ancient Coast Miwok village of the same name….
Though the village was abandoned once and for all after the 1838 smallpox epidemic claimed its remaining citizens and though American farmers demolished its large midden, using the centuries-old refuge of decomposed shells for fertilizer, eradicating any trace of the village, Tsupu never forgot it. The last time she visited she was completely blind, yet nodding with her chin to an empty hillside, she said “there,” as if she could see Petaluma plain as day, tule huts and fire smoke.
The village was atop a low hill, east of the Petaluma River, located about three and a half miles northeast of the present city of Petaluma. Petaluma in Coast Miwok means “Sloping ridge,” and, as was often the custom, was no doubt named after that distinct feature of the landscape associated with its location.
Petaluma, a thriving community of at least 500 individuals, was a major village of the Lekatuit Nation,…
The Petaluma Valley region was prized for its enormous herds of deer and elk as well as for its productive groves of valley oak and black oak. Coast Miwok elder Maria Copa (from Nicasio) told anthropologist Isabel Kelly in 1932 that “deer and elk used to be plentiful in the valley this side of Petaluma [present city] -- just like cattle there [and that] Nicasio people got acorns from the Petaluma Valley.” Ducks and geese flew up from the Petaluma River and its tributaries so thick as to obliterate the sun for an hour at a time, and seasonal swarms of monarch butterflies passing through the Petaluma Valley a mile wide, several miles long, forced the Lekatuit there to take refuge for sometimes a full day.
When Tsupu was born, by any estimate about 1820, the village of Petaluma was in crisis. At least a third of its citizens had died within the last ten years of European diseases — smallpox, pneumonia, syphilis — to which the natives had no resistance; and the great herds of deer and elk, frightened by blasts from Spanish muskets, were scattering, migrating north, replaced by mission livestock — cattle, horses, sheep — which spread foreign seed in dung, giving rise to oat grass, among other invasive species, which supplanted the native bunch grasses and sedges. The Lekatuit, like other California aboriginal nations, had had an intimate relationship with their environment, specifically a seasonal schedule of harvesting, pruning, controlled burning and the like, from which a particular and sustainable ecology had evolved over 5,000 years or more. With fewer individuals to tend the landscape, or garden, as we liked to call it, and with a major disruption of native animal and plant habitats, the valley began to appear “wild.”[7]
This is only part of a much longer tale.  Yet it gives pause.  In Sonoma county Indigenous people are only 2.2 % of the population.  It is sad note when you think that at one time they were the only people who lived here. What happened to the very people who lived here was because one group of people believed they were better, worthier, than another.  What happened here was the land scape and the natural life of the valley was changed forever because humans transformed it.
The dominant human population, no matter what race or where they are, have a history of coming into a community and instead of learning from them we subjugate, control, enslave and kill. This culture of we are superior, and we know better is what causes pain, distrust and down right anger even here in the united states.
MY heart aches when someone tells me we cannot fly the rainbow flag because then we have to fly all flags.  My heart breaks when I hear someone say all lives matter because that diminishes the meaning and the movement of Black Lives Matter.  My heart breaks when I see images of people burning Nikes because they have an add that features Kaepernick.
I saw a post that sums up the taking of the knee in professional sports
It was never about the anthem, it was never about the flag, it was never about the military.
It was about: Patrick Harmon 50, Philando castile 32, Alton Sterling 37, Sandra Bland 28, Anthony Hill 27…the list goes on and on it was about due process of the law it was about justice….
It sad that today its almost a weekly event that someone, usually white, is calling the police on people of color for living. people have reported black people for sitting in Starbucks, shopping at CVS, mowing lawns, playing golf, staying at an Airbnb or napping on a couch in a college dorm, and selling lemonade.
Of course, most recently a man was shot and killed for being in his own home…. This is humanity Sunday and we as humanity have a long way to go…But we are making strides In Petaluma alone you can find a number of organizations making a difference.  Like our book group you see education is always the first step in making a difference.
There is hate free Petaluma -We stand together to promote inclusivity and respect for all
Petaluma blacks for community development - through various programs and events we share black history and culture within the Sonoma county community
Onepetaluma -We are a group of Petalumans committed to encouraging and creating peace, justice, and equity in our community.
It won’t happen here -We raise a call to the officials of Sonoma County to protect the community from discriminatory orders and law
Interfaith movement for human integrity - We pursue justice and equality; honor holistic approaches to well-being; cherish peace building traditions; uphold the dignity and sanctity of every human life

We confess to the fact that human beings over the centuries, even in the name of Christianity, have exploited creation and abused the Indigenous people of Earth, we must reclaim one of the messages of our faith that we have missed.  In Genesis 2 it is clear that all human beings are made of Earth and the breath of God, the Spirit.  We all have a kinship with nature, both physical and spiritual. We now must claim and act upon a spirituality that celebrates our common kinship with creation and each other.  We have a spiritual bond with the Earth, the creatures of the Earth and all of Humanity. We must surrender our us versus them attitudes, we must surrender our “God Given Right attitudes and become humble and walk and live in servitude to each other and to the planet when we all can start doing this healing will begin.

[1] Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2003.
[2] The CEB Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Common English Bible, 2013.
[3] Ditto
[4] Ditto
[5]   Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2003.

No comments:

Post a Comment