The creation story in Genesis was written while God’s people were in exile, at a time when they were asserting their identity and theology as a people amid the hegemony of the Babylonians and Persians. You can imagine the scene – sitting around a fire when a child breaks the silence: “Where did this all come from?” Someone else, probably the eldest person in the group, begins to tell a story. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless, a void. God hovered over the surface of the deep. On the first day, God separated the Light from the Dark. On the second day, the water above from the water below. On the third day, the Earth produced life – all kinds of plants.
Note the difference here from the 5th and 6th days, when God says the water and the land should bring forth animals and then God makes animals. Here, in verses 11 and 12, God says the earth should bring forth life and the earth brings forth life. It has agency – it is a partner in creation. [Note, too, that the creation of humans on the 6th day is not so much the climax of the story as it is a weird plot twist. But, that’s for another time.] Today, I want to call attention to the God’s speaking. God’s creative action happens with a word.
In the lesson from Romans, Paul takes Genesis a step further: “God’s Eternal Power and Divine Nature are understood and seen in what God has made.” In other words, Creation is a Faithful representation of and witness to Who God is. Not only does the fact that God created tell us something about God, but what God created also reveals God to us.
I read something yesterday that offered for pondering this distinction: When we destroy something created by humans, we call it vandalism. When we destroy something created by God (like a forest or a river), we call it progress. Paul, in writing to the Romans asserts that autonomy (self-law), or the failure to recognize God as God, is the heart of the human dilemma. Carl Jung puts it another way: The worst sin is unconsciousness, by which he means not recognizing the Oneness and the Wholeness of which we are a part.
Have you ever had a dream where animals or objects can talk? Where one person turns into another person? Where one place turns into another place? Dream-work suggests that this is a window into what our minds know deep down – that there is one current flowing through the multiple layers of life. That one person is another person, that one place is another place, etc. That it’s all connected.
Maybe you’ve felt that Oneness. I have. I think it’s what I started to feel that day on the Ranch with Uncle Paul and the trees. I’ve felt it in the woods. At the ocean. In the desert. I feel it when I’m outside and barefoot – just half an inch closer to the ground, yet so much more directly connected. Dana [an astrophysicist] probably feels it when he looks into space. Nathan [a neurobiologist] probably feels it when he looks into the human body. Carol [a teacher] probably sees it in the mind of a child.
Today’s Gospel is John’s variation on the Creation story: John 1:1-14. In the Beginning, John says. That is, before God spoke through Creation, before the creative word was spoken, before light and dark and waters and land and plants and days – before all of that, in the very beginning was the LogoV/Logos, the very Word of God, the expression of what God has to say. And, John tells us, that expressive / creative Word became flesh and lived among us in the person of Jesus. But note how the Word ‘dwelt’ among us: By tenting. We have neighbors who invite us into their Sukkah at the Jewish festival of Sukkot. It’s a temporary shelter – a tent – built in their driveway, built by Jews (in part) to remind them of the vulnerability of life and the temporary nature of existence. And it’s the same word John uses – the Word became flesh and tented among us. Jesus came as One vulnerable; and he tended, fed, healed, restored the vulnerable.
The children this morning in Sunday school learned the lesson of the Burning Bush, and two things come to mind regarding that text. One is that the bush, though burning, was unharmed – a fitting image for our touching the Earth lightly. But the second image is of that bush as a meeting place between the human and the divine. Moses is told to remove his shoes because the place he is standing is Holy Ground.
Yesterday, Gwen and I went over to Saint Mary’s College for a mass that kicked off the sesquicentennial year of the college. As I sat in that chapel, where I first sat 18 years ago, I realized that it, too, is a meeting place. I met some of my dearest friends there. I met the Christian Brothers there. I began to meet an adult faith there. I began to meet my adult self there. And I began to meet God in a new way.
The lessons today speak of God’s speaking; Speaking the creation into being; speaking to us through the creation, and speaking through God’s very Word, which came to dwell in the creation. These are meeting places. These are where we meet God. We meet God here in this place: in Word and in Sacrament, in community and fellowship. We meet God in prayer and service and contemplation. And we meet God in what God has made.
The Good News this morning is that the Finite bears the Infinite; that the Earth is alive, full of the presence of God and of God’s creative and redeeming Word. Every bush is burning, with the Living Presence of God. The answer to Liam’s question – Where does God live? – is: Take off your shoes! God lives in the creation, in me, in you, in each one, in every place. It’s all meeting place. It’s all Holy Ground.