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Blessings and Promise: New Creation

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You can watch the video of Pastor Kris’ reflection, Blessing and Promise: Times of Trial, HERE.

As the world continues to grapple with how to deal with the novel coronavirus, everything about our lives has changed. Yet as we listen to God’s Word this morning, we are reminded at the core of creation nothing is new. Since the days of our earliest biblical ancestors, an understanding of who God is in the call and response of our lives has remained consistent. God speaks, and all of Earth and beyond responds in a never-ending cycle of new birth, growth, harvest, and endings—and repeat. Living systems, non-living cosmic bodies, elemental particles, all dance to a Divine tune. In the 21st century, we are witnessing a time of great transformation, and life as we knew it—even as recently as March of this year—will never be the same.

Can there be any hope in the great rift we are all experiencing? Is there an invitation her for us to lean something new that has always been? Christine Valters Paintner writes, “We live in what we might call an age of forgetting. We have forgotten who we are in relation to everything else: the creatures, the plants, the mountains, the forests, the oceans, one another, and even ourselves. With every plastic we discard, with every poison we release on land and in water, with every fossil fuel extracted, we are living in the fog of amnesia…”[1]

Is God calling humanity into a new Great Awakening? In this morning’s beautiful verses of creation God speaks, and the waters and sea creatures, air and birds, respond. God sees their flying, and soaring, and diving, and dancing… and is delighted. But the story does not end there. God repeats this sequence of call, wonder, abundance, blessing, and witness over and over. And perceives it all as good.

I love that there is an amusing sense of surprise described with each moment’s newness. The Rabbi Nahum Ward-Lev notes, “Upon seeing, God was delighted. God had not foreseen the exact outcome at each state of creation.”[2]

“At each stage of creation, when God says, ‘Let there be,’ God does not control but energizes creation to transcend itself and bring forth a creation that is more differentiated, interrelated, and conscious than in the earlier stage. God gives the potential for an indeterminate number of outcomes, but God does not exactly know what the outcomes will be. In creating, the divine energy moves in the world to liberate new forms of life without knowing exactly what those new forms will be… God’s surprise and delight at each stage of creation are captured in the repeated refrain, ‘God saw that it was tov (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). The (Hebrew) word tov is best translated in this context as ‘delightful’ or ‘vital.’ God was delighted by the vitality God saw in creation.”[3]

Holy Delight.

I have witnessed this novel sense of revelation within our own church, Memorial UCC, since the beginning of the pandemic. The core of our mission statement, that we are a faith community reaching out in ever-widening circles, has been affirmed over and over again as we have answered to the need to put everyone’s health and safety first.

This is a place where the Spirit has shifted, and where “all church” still happens. All that is old is new again. For example, since moving worship online we have celebrated communion, confirmation, and have welcomed new members. We have enjoyed live music by soloists and the virtual choir. Today we begin our fall stewardship program. Over the next 4 weeks we will hear heart-felt testimonies, and some humor, woven into the “what” and “why” of joyful giving.

2020 has been laced with catastrophic news cycles in our personal lives, in our local communities, and around the world. Yet the core of who we are is constant: We are a people who gather together to celebrate the presence of the Holy, retell God’s story, and leave blessed and strengthened for the week ahead—following Jesus out of our digital building. Gather. Hear. Act. Repeat.

This past Wednesday, at both the morning and evening Bible studies there was conversation around the ways in which creation is relational. God does not create in a vacuum. Holy Transformation occurs in connecting with others. Ward-Lev highlights this when he says, “In Genesis God cocreates; the Divine creates in relation with the physical world to liberate its potential. God creates in mutual relationship.”[4]

God is still creating. Can we see the potential that can be released here… in THIS time?

Back on Wednesday, the comment was made: “God speaks, but we do not listen” and that “Science can fix anything… or can it?” The resounding response in both groups was “yes, science can fix anything—IF there is collaboration.”

And IF we are listening.

Which brings me to share with you the voices of our youth. September’s card ministry at Memorial UCC suggested we send cards to the students, teachers, support staff, and administrators returning to school. So many, across generations, are stepping into the uncertain spaces of in person and/or online learning.

Thus, I sent letters to families which included a Back to School blessing, and a challenge. The challenge was for the youth. I sent them each a blank postcard with a stamp. On the front, the cards say, “Be the change: vote, respect, unite, love, teach, challenge.” I asked them to answer this question: “What problem do you want to solve in the world?” and then to write their response on the postcard and mail it back to me.

Many of the kids have responded. Their cards have filled me with a sense of joy and great hope for the future of humanity. I’d like to share a few of them with you today. These are from the youth who wrote they have a specific interest in the environment:

  • Siblings Noah and Abby shared similar ideas, “I would like to solve global warming, pollution, racial injustice, and poverty” (and I would point out that of course, all of those issues intersect).
  • Stella wrote, “My idea was for people to stop littering the oceans because it said that in 2050 there will be more trash than fish. People should stop selling and buying plastic non-reusable items like bottles.”
  • Evan’s response was, “I would like to solve climate change so generations to come don’t have to worry about it.”
  • And from Gwen, “No more trash in our ocean to help the turtles.”

Whoa. Listen to the youth (and to the newly emerging Creation Care Team at Memorial… a suggestion to reach out to the kids who are interested in the environment and include them in your action projects!). Hear the voices who are ready to change the world.

For, God does not create in a vacuum. There is an ongoing, delight-filled call and response extended to the entire cosmos, and to each and every one of us.

Be the change.

God is Still Speaking.

May we hear, and take action.

~Pastor Kris

Reflection on Genesis 1:20-25 offered October 11, 2020

[1] Christine Valters Paintner, Earth, Our Original Monastery: Cultivating Wonder and Gratitude through Intimacy with Nature (Notre Dame, IN: Sorin Books, 2020), xi.

[2] Nahum Ward-Lev, The Liberating Path of the Hebrew Prophets: Then and Now (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis books, 2019), 52.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.