September 12, 2021
Story of Creation
Acknowledging the Territory
As we do each week when we gather here today, we take a moment to recognize that the land upon which we gather is, by law, the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. We offer our gratitude for this land and for those who have tended it and cared for it and we ask the Creator to help us use and share it wisely.
Lighting the Christ Candle
This morning in our scripture reading we will hear how God spoke and there was light. Well, God still speaks and there is still light. As we light our Christ Candle this morning, we are reminded of that light shining in our world and in us.
Call to Worship ~ written by Tim Graves
In the midst of darkness and chaos…
In the midst of earth and water…
God imagined a world filled with trees, blue skies and fluffy white clouds.
In the midst of and empty meadow…
God imagined foxes, bluebirds, and slithering snakes.
In a world of rainstorms and wildlife, of cattle grazing on grasses blowing in the breeze…
God imagined humanity.
In a world teeming with billions of people…
God imagined me.
God imagined you and God imagined me. We are created in the image of God.
God imagined us all. God loves each of us.
So let us worship with the same imagination as the creating One in whose presence we gather!
Opening Prayer (in unison) ~ posted on Third Space Website
Divine Voice, you sing and the universe comes into being. Divine Breath, you breathe and all things spring to life. Divine Word, you call and creation is sustained. Divine Flesh, you are born among us, and the Creator is clothed in creation. Divine Spirit, you fill all that has been formed. Divine Life, you are the pulse of all that is. And so, in amazement and awe, in wonder and celebration we marvel at this mystery: In you all things live and move and have being— In all things, you live and move and express your Divine artistry. And so, we join with creation in the eternal song of worship and wonder. Amen
Gift of Music The Earth and All Who Breathe #295
It is not very often that we read the entire story of creation found in the first chapter of Genesis, but that is what we are going to do today. There are actually 3 refrains that are repeated throughout this passage, so we’re going to have a little fun with it. As Jack reads them, I’m going to invite you to join in these refrains, which appears at the beginning and end of each part of the creation story, as well as the refrain “And God saw that it was good” which appears at various points in the story. The reading appears on the screen and the refrains are printed in bold.
A ‘Good’ Creation
Today we begin a new season in the church, the Season of Creation. It is also a new beginning in our community in general. With the children going back to school and our province entering a new phase of re-opening after 18 months of Covid restrictions, it truly feels like a new beginning.
This year, we are also switching from the Revised Common Lectionary that we have used for many years to determine the scriptures read in church each week, to the Narrative Lectionary which focuses more on story then on individual scriptures. Throughout the fall we will be exploring stories from the Hebrew scriptures. Beginning in December we will switch to the gospels and in the spring switch to the Acts and the Letters. The Narrative Lectionary is a 4-year cycle and this year we will look at the Gospel According to John.
As we begin, it’s interesting to note how often this year, the Hebrew scriptures are reflected in the gospel. Today, as we focus on the story of creation, we are also reminded that John’s gospel begins with the words, “In the beginning was the Word … and without [the Word] not one thing came into being.” This reflects the Genesis passage of God ‘speaking’ the world into creation.
So … as we highlighted the refrains this morning, was there anything that you noticed about this scripture that you maybe didn’t notice before? Did you even notice that there were refrains before this? How many of you noticed that on day two there is no refrain that says, “God saw that it was good.” Of course, I’m sure you can all figure out the reason for that … day 2 … it was Monday.
Actually, there may be another reason for it. If you look at the story as a whole, each day, except for the second day, there is a kind of balance in creation. On the first day, light is balanced with darkness. On the third day, the land is balanced with the seas. On the fourth day, there is a balance between day and night, the sun and the moon. On the fifth day, the balance is between the creatures of the air and the creatures of the sea. And on the sixth day, there is a balance between all that has been created, and humanity.
It is also interesting that it is not until all of creation has been completed and humanity has been given dominion, or perhaps a better word is stewardship, over all creation that it is declared not ‘good’ but ‘very good’. What is considered ‘good’ is not any one element of creation, but rather the balance of the whole. Too often people have claimed that what was ‘very good’ was the creation of human beings, claiming that we are the pinnacle of all creation. But if you look at the story as a whole, creation is only ‘very good’ when the entirety of creation is held in balance with human beings being given the role of stewards or caretakers of all that has been created.
But what about the other refrains that appear in this creation story? The first one is repeated at the beginning of each of the six days of creation. “God said”. In the very beginning of the passage, before creation even begins, we are told that “the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” In other translations the word wind is replaced by the word Spirit, but it could also be interpreted as meaning God’s breath, or perhaps even God’s voice.
The image of God’s voice or God’s word appears many times in the Hebrew scriptures. God speaks creation into being, but God also speaks in and through creation. The Psalms talk about God’s voice thundering across the lands. The prophets talk of hearing God speak to them. In a passage we will read in a few weeks, God spoke to the prophet Elijah in the still small voice of a gentle breeze.
God’s voice still speaks to us today. Sometimes it may be through the scriptures we read. Sometimes it may be through the words of a song or even through a wordless melody. Sometimes God speaks through people, those who challenge us and call us to action. And sometimes God speaks to us through creation.
Standing on a beach listening to the waves lap against the shore, I often hear God whispering to my soul, words of peace and comfort. When I watch birds soaring through the air or animals prancing and hopping around, God’s voice laughs and brings laughter into my own heart. When I watch a tiny ant carrying an immense burden or a snail inch it’s way across a beach to find a safe pool, as it waits the tide to come back in, God’s voice calls me to marvel at the amazing intricacy of creation.
But God’s voice also speaking in the devastating effects of pollution and global warming. I can hear God’s voice crying out in pain. And as I witness the destruction of habitat and the extinction of species, I hear God’s voice, crying out for help. God is within creation, speaking to us through creation. But creation is not God.
Creation is a gift and a responsibility from God, but God is so much more. There are those who believe that all the problems of our world are the result of human beings not maintaining their proper place in creation. They believe that if we would simply return to the “ideal” life of Eden, everything would be perfect. They believe we should shun any form of technology or innovation because that is not the way God created things.
For me, the problem with this idea is that if we deny the creative instincts within us, if we deny the human drive to create and explore, then we are denying the very essence of our own creation. If we believe that all of creation truly is “good” than the part of humanity that constantly strives for new ideas and new innovation is also good. But in order to be “very good” we must learn to balance all of creation, including our own creative desires.
And perhaps this is where the last refrain from our reading this morning, comes into play. “And there was evening and there was morning”. When I read that, it almost feels like that should be reversed. There was morning and then there was evening, and that was the end of the first day.
But that is not how it appears in the scripture. “There was evening and there was morning”. Is this simply a choice that the original author of this story made, or is there some significance to the way it is written? Would the meaning be different if the two were reversed? Perhaps the significance is that evening is an ending, but morning is a new beginning.
Perhaps this scripture could be interpreted as calling us out of a view of creation based on an ideal image of the past and into the possibilities of coming to understand how we might achieve a new balance within creation today and a new vision of how we might care for and protect whatever creation may become in the future.
There are those who say that we have already destroyed this planet and sooner or later it will destroy us. But surely whatever Divine Mystery created all that exists right now, is equally capable of creating whatever will be next. Surely beyond whatever evening or dark night we might find ourselves in, there is always the hope of a new morning.
As we begin this new season in our church year and in our own lives, things will not be the way they were. Covid has changed our world forever, whether we like it or not. Going forward we will have to find a new balance. Although the compulsory wearing of masks and the requirement to social distance will be dropped this coming week, we will need to find a balance between those who want to live as if Covid never happened and those who are still worried that they are at risk and who are frightened to be in a crowd where they do not feel safe.
But I think there is another balance we must also work to find. And that is the balance between fear and joy. When we think of the wonders of creation, Covid-19 is not exactly the first thing that springs to mind. It has caused a great deal of fear and loss in our lives, and for many people it has caused immense sorrow.
But there have also been moments of joy. People sending thank-you messages to health care workers who have dedicated so much of themselves to caring for the sick. People who have found unique and often humorous ways of connecting with others. There are many places where open spaces and natural habitats have become a refuge as people have rediscovered the joy of spending time in creation. In fact, during periods of shutdown, air quality improved all over the world as less vehicles were on the road and many factories were shut down.
The thing is that we don’t always see the moments of joy because we are so focused on the problems. And this doesn’t just apply to Covid. None of us knows exactly what will happen next. None of us knows what the future will hold. But if we look for the balance, we will find joy, even in the most difficult times.
With the changes that are coming in the next few weeks, it truly does feel like we are beginning a new day. Like each new day in our creation story, it is filled with endless possibilities. It is full of amazing potential. But it will also contain struggles and uncertainty.
I believe that what we need to remember going forward, is that God has promised that creation is, at its very core, good. We also need to remember that when we can respect, care for and find balance in creation it can truly be “very good”. Amen.
Gift of Music All Praise to You #297
We Offer Our Gifts
Each time we come together for worship we bring with us an offering. It may be the offering expressed in the monetary gifts we offer to our church. It may be the offering of words or music we share. It may be the offering of our prayers, for ourselves of for others. Or it may be an offering of ourselves in a new way, in our commitment to our faith or to one another. But whatever it is we offer today, let us ask God to bless both gift and giver.
Let us pray;
Divine Mystery who has created all that is, we pray that you will accept what we, your creation offer to you this day. Amen.
We Offer Our Prayers
And now, let us take a moment to remember all those named in our prayer jar, in our hearts and our thoughts this day … Amen.
Minute for Mission
Prayers of the People
Divine Creative Spirit, we thank you for the beauty of this earth, for the wide sky and radiant sun, for ocean and streams, for towering hills and whispering wind,
for trees and green grasses. We thank you for our senses that allow us to hear the songs of birds, to see the splendor of fields filled with flowers, to taste autumn’s harvest, to smell the salt air and to feel the earth beneath our feet. Grant us hearts opened wide to all this beauty. Forgive us for being so busy or so distracted that we pass unseeing by even the common thorn bush without recognizing the wonder of your creation.
Remind us that each new day is filled with infinite possibilities for new discoveries and new beginnings, that life is constantly changing and renewing itself. In this new day remind us once again that we are made in your image, with the seed of creativity that you have planted within each of us.
We praise the clean lines of the sculpture, the complexity of the concerto, the beauty of the poet’s words. But remind us also to appreciate creativity where we don’t always notice it: the spaces in a sidewalk that allow for expansion, the technology that allows us to flip a switch and brew a cup of morning coffee, the complexity of a computer (when it works), or even the simple words of a text message or email that help connect us and carry us through the day.
Forgive us when we squander or aimlessly disregard our capacity to create. Forgive us the times we have used our creativity for our own selfish desires without considering the cost to others. Help us to truly appreciate the creativity that you have planted within us. Give us the patience and courage to nourish that creativity and to use it always to nurture and care for the wondrous creation with which you have blessed us. Amen.
Closing Hymn Touch the Earth Lightly #307
And now, as we go out from here may we always walk gently upon the Earth,
in right relationship, nurtured by your love, open to the wind of the Spirit, taking only what we need, always open to the needs of others, making choices that bring wholeness and balance, living with generosity, striving for justice, always mindful of those who will come after us, and honouring always our place as part of your creation. May we go knowing that you are with us in all that was, all that is and all that is yet to be. Amen.