And God Saw that it was Good
We are going to spend the next few weeks in worship talking about creation. Talking about what it means for the earth to have been created by God, what our role is in caring for and tending to creation, and how we have failed to live up to that role. But to start I wanted to allow the question why are we talking about creation?
The simple answer is because the Bible talks about it. A lot. And not just what I read or have mentioned. Here’s something that might surprise you. In the Bible there are just under 500 references to heaven. There are just over 500 references to love. If you were to ask people what the Bible is about, after God and Jesus the two most common answers you’d get would be either heaven or love.
And yet the Bible talks about the earth, about creation, 1,000 times. So why are we talking about it? Because the Bible literally can’t stop talking about it.
And the Bible has some revolutionary things to say about creation. We’ve touched on them but let me develop them a bit more.
1) Creation was intended
Creation didn’t arise accidentally or as the result of a battle amongst the gods. Advances didn’t happen because of some war between gods and titans where humans are co-opted. The Bible is clear: God makes creation and what is created was intended by God. It has a purpose. It has meaning. It’s here because God wants it to be here.
2) Creation happened in an orderly manner
Most ancient accounts of creation talk about creation as being chaotic. Which makes sense if you are an ancient person wholly at the mercy of forces outside your control. The world does seem like a scary place. Merchant ships go on a trading run, a storm comes up, and everyone dies. Life is unpredictable. And so religion becomes about pleading to the gods to keep the chaos at bay. What the Bible tells us is that the world is ordered. Creation is ordered. God made the world to work in certain ways. The world isn’t scary, it isn’t bent towards chaos. Instead it’s bent towards order because God made the world for order.
3) Creation is a gift
A necessary extension to God’s intention for creation is that it is given to us. When God creates it isn’t just for the sake of creation. It is so that creation can be a blessing unto itself and God can continue to bless that creation. When the Psalms talk about creation we read about how the order and the interconnectedness of it all is itself blessing. God makes grass for cows, God creates grass and gives it to cows to eat. God waters the trees, they grow strong and tall, and they are given to the birds to make their nests. All of this is a gift to us. It is a work God does for us. It is a way God sustains us.
4) Creation is our responsibility
But we also have a role in creation. in Genesis 2 Adam is placed in the garden and given the job to manage it. The first chapter of Genesis says that humanity is given dominion over the earth. But it isn’t dominion to do whatever we want with it; we are to exercise our responsibility over creation in a manner consistent with how God exercises dominion. We are to care for creation. We are to ensure that this ordered system remains ordered. This isn’t a rental car that we can drive as recklessly as we want because we don’t have to worry about it getting past 100,000 miles. This is a place we are given in order to take care of it.
5) Creation matters forever
When the Bible talks about what happens at the very end of this story, at the very end of time, at the very end of the book of Revelation, it says that the new city, the New Jerusalem descends from heaven to earth. See the home of God is among mortals now the Bible says. And when we hear what the New Jerusalem looks like in the next chapter, it sounds very earthy. There are trees, there’s a river. In the Bible, creation matters forever.
So we talk about it because the Bible talks about it and has some pretty important things to say about creation. But we also need to talk about creation for a couple other reasons.
A global survey by Amnesty International found that climate change is the top issue that young people feel is facing the world as a whole.
Surveys have been coming out for years and years saying that the percentage of the population that identify as Christian decreases with each successive generation. When you ask younger generations why they don’t participate in church, one of the most common answers is we don’t talk about the things that matter deeply to them. And for our youngest generations, millenials and especially gen z, one of if not the most important issue for them is the environment. Creation. And what is happening to it.
But just so we are clear, this isn’t a climate change sermon series. This isn’t an environmental science series. This is a creation sermon series. This isn’t a sermon series about politics and political positions although we will talk about some things we can do individually and collectively to make better choices vis a vis our world. And I’m going to use the term creation rather than environment for a reason. Environment connotes a passive relationship, it’s where we find ourselves. Creation is a term charged with biblical and theological meaning. Creation implies that 1) what we are talking about was created, it didn’t just happen, 2) it is given to us by our God, and 3) in that exchange we are given a responsibility. When we talk about creation care we are talking about discipleship.
And we aren’t talking about creation to appeal to the kids. I make Harry Potter references for that. We’re talking about creation because it is stressing our kids out, it’s causing them a great deal of anxiety. They’re genuinely worried about what might happen to this planet, and in turn their life, if what scientists say might happen happens. And we need to look at the choices we are making, individually and collectively, and say hey what can we do that’s better?
We’re talking about this because as this year’s Australian Open tennis tournament began Australia was burning. A continent was burning. We have seen wildfires in this country that are unlike any we’ve seen before. We’re seeing superstorms causing vast destruction. We’re seeing more and stronger hurricanes. There’s a literal island created by trash in the Pacific. And species dying out because of it.
We’re talking about creation because we can see that we haven’t been doing our jobs to care for what we’ve been given. We have failed in our calling. But we are also talking about creation because the grace of Jesus Christ means that we are free to choose another way. We are free to confess the ways in which we have failed and are sent as free and forgiven people to try again.
There's a song in the Bible, Psalm 104, that is dedicated to praising God for the beauty of creation. This week, I’d like you to seek the beauty of creation. Watch a sunset. Watch a sun rise. Go for a walk in the woods. Notice the birds or other wildlife that live around your house. Head west a bit and notice the mountains. Head east a bit and sit by the water. Try to see this all as a gift from God. A blessing from God. And consider what you think it is God wants us to do with this gift.