- Written by Wendy Janzen Wendy Janzen
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Reconciling with Creation
Calling us back to community with creation/Creator
On Friday morning I spent some time wandering on a piece of land not far from our house. It used to be a little patch of forest along the Spurline Trail that we would pass when walking to school or biking uptown. Last summer when we returned from a week of vacation, we discovered that the trees were all gone. Someone, presumably a developer, had ripped down the little forest. It has sat vacant these months, looking empty and scarred.
Right now, though, it is a sea of pale blue forget-me-nots, sprinkled with pinks and yellows and whites of other “weeds” that have taken root in this empty one-acre lot. The slides that you see up on the wall are from this wild meadow that has brought new life to the broken, barren earth.
As we read in our opening prayer, God calls all life into being. God’s presence is all around us - every atom is full of God’s energy. Romans 8 tells us that all of creation groans with the anticipation of redemption in God - every created thing in unison, including people. We are God’s creation, created in the very image of God, part of the community of creation that God brought into being with word and breath as described in the two creation accounts in Genesis.
In this worship series on Healing a Broken World we have been looking at various broken relationships - and in her introduction, Marcia outlined the five different areas we have identified as needing reconciliation. So, today we are focusing on Reconciling with Creation. Our relationship is broken. We are no longer living in unison with creation. In fact, we have created a society that idealizes civilization and runs from wilderness. We have forgotten our place in creation, and our need to be in relationship with it.
What does it mean, or look like, to have a relationship with creation? It seems that in our modern, urbanized world, our lives have become largely removed from nature. We live indoors, we work indoors, we often exercise or walk indoors, we shop indoors, we worship indoors, we travel in air conditioned cars, we have domesticated and tamed our yards and our animals. Is nature something we are in relationship with, or is it something we have controlled and commodified? In the process of taming the wilderness, we have also ended up taming our souls.
This winter I took an online course through Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary called “Biblical Foundations for Creation Care.” One of our textbooks had the subtitle: “Rediscovering the Community of Creation.” It merged the ideas of ecology (which is the interconnectedness of all things, living and inanimate, on the planet) and biblical theology (which also evidences a strong sense of the interconnectedness of all creatures and relates this to their common dependence on God our Creator).
The author, Richard Bauckham, argues that the Bible as a whole offers a vision of creation that highlights our commonality with other creatures, our dependence on them as well as our significance for them, and a life in which all creatures both glorify God and receive redemption in Christ.
Yes, the other-than-human world also is in relationship with Christ. It is the whole world, the whole cosmos that is made a new creation in Christ. New creation refers to a transformation of this world by a newly creative act of God comparable with the original creation. It is a new future for the whole of creation, not just for humans. (Baukham, 125)
Let me read some excerpts from what is called The Colossians Hymn (1:15-20):
He (Christ) is the exact image of the invisible God, the firstborn of creation. It was by him that everything was created: the heavens, the earth, all things within and upon them, all things seen and unseen…
[He] bled peace into the world by his death on the cross as God’s means of reconciling to himself the whole creation—all things in heaven and all things on earth.
Focusing solely on stewardship or creation care does not do the fuller biblical picture justice. We need to begin to understand the biblical sense in which humans are fellow-creatures within creation. Genesis 9 reminds us that we are in covenant not only with God, but with every living creature and with the land itself. We need to reestablish our relationship with creation and see ourselves as part of God’s wonderfully diverse creation, not separate from it.
I think this is where the brokenness of our relationship with the earth and our need for reconciliation comes to play. We have, as a society at large, and for many of us as individuals, forgotten or neglected this relationship. We have distanced ourselves from rhythms of the day and the turning of the seasons and relationships with anything other-than-human. We have averted our eyes to the degradation of the earth, or thrown up our hands in despair in the face of climate change.
In considering how we reconcile with creation, I’d like to go back to the five steps to reconciliation Gloria Shantz highlighted the children’s stories over the first four Sundays.
These were her five steps:
1. Admit you did something wrong, you made a mistake.
2. Say “I’m sorry.” Ask for forgiveness.
3. Make restitution. Do your best to correct what you did wrong.
4. Make a promise not to do it again.
5. Ask God to be with you and help you.
It is hard to admit that we have been wrong, that we’ve made mistakes in relationship to creation. But imagine for a moment doing these steps of reconciliation with regards to our relationship to creation…
I would like to reiterate that one of the key things I think God is calling us to is to remember our place in creation. We are not demi-gods with the power to create. We are people of the earth - adam - humans who ultimately belong to the wilds of creation and Creator. We are creatures, created by God, to be in relationship with the created order, caring and listening and tending and asking for forgiveness when we cause brokenness. We cannot love or be in relationship with that whom we do not know.
Last week, when I was on vacation, I went to Colorado to attend a retreat led by Seminary of the Wild. It was a wild and wonderful experience - deepening my relationship with both Creator and creation. We spent most of our time outdoors in the mountains until a snowstorm forced us indoors! However, through practices and invitations to engage our souls while engaging in wilderness, I experienced a profound sense of God’s love and a fuller awareness of my interconnectedness with creation.
One exercise we did was to go on a wound walk, to find an non-human being that exhibited a wound, and to allow it to mirror our own woundedness to us. I will not go further into that experience right now, other than to say it then inspired me to do a similar, but different, walk with the girls in our MYF when we had our Girls Night Out on Tuesday. I invited them to join me on a Wild Beauty Walk. We went to Breithaupt Park and wandered into the forest, each paying attention for something to draw our attention with its wild beauty.
It was a dandelion seed head that caught my attention, possibly because there were so many of them! I know many may find it difficult to see dandelions as beautiful. But bear with me. With whatever flower, plant, tree, animal or bird that called to us, we spent time admiring it’s beauty, allowing it to mirror both our natural beauty and the nature of God back to us. I think what drew me to the dandelion is that it is wild and free. It stands tall and sure of itself - in praise to God by exhibiting its full dandelion-ness. It holds its feathery seeds lightly, ready to let the breeze catch them and carry them off with the promise of new life.
Like the dandelion, which is not domesticated, our God who created these abundant flowers is a wild and creative God. Try as we might to control dandelions, they spread with wild abandon. I’ve been reading the Chronicles of Narnia with Levi and Kai for the first time. Aslan, the Christ-figure lion, is beautiful and compassionate and full of love, but is not a tame lion. Neither is God a domesticated God, though in our own smallness we may think it so. Our encounters with the wild otherness of nature can be a sacrament of encounter with the greater otherness of God - a God who is wild enough to have created everything that is, including dandelions.
As we deepen our relationship with creation, our eyes are opened to the nature of our Creator. We regain a childlike wonder for nature and a respect and love for our fellow creatures. We are reminded of the sacredness of all of creation. We begin to see that due to our interconnectedness, what we do to creation we do to ourselves. We recognize the places of brokenness in creation and our need for reconciliation. We see where we need to correct our wrongs and promise not to do it again - with the help of God.
I don’t want to take a lot more time here, as we want to be able to do some of this connecting with creation following the service. I know not everyone will be able to come down the the river this morning, and so I want to give everyone an idea what we will be invited to do. Maybe you can find time to reflect on this during the week if you can’t join us today.
Here’s the invitation: As you are walking or sitting in creation, watch for a place, plant, tree, flower or animal that draws your attention. Sit with it, and contemplate some of these questions:
What drew you to it?
What unique or wild beauty does it exhibit?
Do you feel a spiritual or coveant connection with it?
Does it give you any insights into the nature of God, our Creator?
Are you able to offer words of gratitude or reconciliation?
May we continue to be agents of reconciliation in our world, with our neighbours, and with all of creation. Thanks be to God for this holy calling!