Genesis 1.26-28,2.7-8, 15 and Mark 10.42-45
On this third Sunday in the Season of Creation, we are looking at the role and responsibility of humanity in God’s world. We celebrate the diversity of the human race and rejoice that God’s divine nature is revealed in each and every one of us. And we reflect on the task bestowed upon us when the first people were brought to life in the Garden that we know as Eden—the task of caring for God’s Creation. In the first Creation story we hear that humanity was supposed to subdue and have dominion over all the earth, which implies to be dominant and to be bossy, just like your older sibling when you were growing up. Or was that you, being the bossy one of the kids? You remember those times, when you were playing make-believe and your sister told you what role you were to play and what you had to do and what you had to say? Or when your big brother would settle into his spot in front of the TV and look over at you and tell you, not ask you, to get him an apple? You feel me? I’m not just working out something here on my own, am I? Anyway, to have dominion over something calls to mind dominance without consultation. But there’s the second Creation story and we hear that humanity was to till the earth and keep it. When you keep something, it usually means to mind it and care for it, doesn’t it? You have a responsibility to keep whatever it is safe and sound, and in the case of the hermit crabs that came home one year during winter break, keeping them meant keeping them alive—which is a harder task than you might first imagine when you sign the permission form to do such a thing without considering exactly what it is that hermit crabs eat. Or that they don’t like dogs and 2-year-old grabby hands very much. Actually, public service announcement, hermit crabs like neither of those two things at all.
So, Creation comes into being and humanity is charged with its care. Take good care of all that I have made, says God, there’s only one rule. One rule. Do you remember what it is? Don’t eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. That’s it. Care for the world and stay away from that tree over there. But, of course, the illegal fruit is eaten and things fall apart. Humanity is banished from the Garden and all the difficulties of living are imposed upon humanity. Back pain and birth pains forever change how our lives are lived but God does not release humanity from our essential task of caring for the world. Adam and Eve apparently make it all work. They till the soil, they have children, they keep themselves and the world alive and healthy. But then, do you remember what happens next in Genesis? If you ever want to read a fast-paced and compelling story filled with dramatic highs and lows, read Genesis. It is an exciting tale. Anyway, the world is created, not once but twice. Humanity is created, not once but twice. Humanity is told to care for the world. Don’t eat the fruit. They eat the fruit. Adam and Eve are banished. Crops are planted, babies are born. Then we move to chapter 4. Remember what happens next? Cain and Abel.
We get just four chapters into the story of all of Creation and the first murder happens. There is no mention of violence before this point. Cain gives the bare minimum he thinks he can get away with in his offering to God from his harvest. But Abel, that annoying younger brother, gives generously from his abundance, thanking God for all that God has given. God makes it known that Abel’s abundance is preferred over Cain’s scarcity. Cain gets angry and it shows, cause he gets this thunder face going on and God basically says, why are you angry? You held back, you held back what you had to offer. Cause, you know that God knew exactly the gifts, skill and opportunity Cain had to work with, God knew what Cain had to offer the world. God basically says to Cain, you were not as kind as you had the ability to be, you were not as compassionate, you were not as loving, you were not as generous as you had the ability to be with what you had. Cain, ashamed and embarrassed of having his greed revealed, finds his ego bruised because his brother managed where he could not. Suddenly he sees his relationship with his brother as a competition and he desires what Abel has—to be the favoured one. To have more than what Abel has. To be more than Abel. And so, he kills Abel dead. Which, of course, does not improve, at all, Cain’s relationship with God. And then everything from there pretty much goes to hell in hand basket. Humanity and God begin the seemingly-endless journey of trying to figure out a working relationship in which we can get back to making real the full potential of the world, until we can find our way to the top of God’s peaceful mountain, where all can be well and all can be well and all manner of things shall be well.
God gave us the responsibility to care for our world. To love one another as we would love ourselves. To spread the good news to all of creation. To till the land and keep the world so that it would flourish just as we hope our children will flourish. Being kicked out of the Garden of Eden was not the end of this responsibility. Adam and Eve still bore the responsibility to care for Creation and we bear that same responsibility today. I know that the story of Cain and Abel was not our scripture reading today (fun fact, Cain and Abel didn’t make the Lectionary cut and so, yet another story you very rarely hear from the pulpit) but I think it is an important story for us to remember when we are talking about humanity’s role in God’s Creation. Because, it seems to me, when we are exploring the ills of the world and ask how and why people behave in such ways that so many people and the environment are harmed—like the decision making process around this nonsense of Ticketmaster allowing scalpers to cheat the system to the benefit of Ticketmaster, the decision to deceive people out of their life savings, the decision to cut taxes at the expense funding education and health care, the decision made by Volkswagen to cheat on the environmental tests of their cars, the decision that leads someone to light what becomes a wildfire, the decision to sell fresh water to corporations while whole communities of people, particularly indigenous communities right here in Canada, do not have access to clean, drinking water from their kitchen tap, the decision to deregulate industry so polluting the environment is not discouraged or punished…decisions such as these go back to chapter four of the Book of Genesis.
The disregard that Cain had for the life and the well-being of his younger brother Abel is repeated again and again throughout our history of humanity. Disregard for another’s life, disregard for the health of our ecosystem, disregard for those who are not our family, disregard for those who do not love as we love, disregard for those who do not identify as we identify, disregard for those who do not believe as we believe, disregard for those who do look as we do, disregard for those speak as we speak, disregard for children that are not our children, disregard for people who are not our people. We have forgotten that our place in Creation is not as ruler above all but instead to be engaged with and amongst all that God has created, animals, humanity, the environment. Humanity was made in the image of God. The Divine is revealed through us humans, our actions and our behaviour. The Divine is revealed through our ability to be just, to be loving, to be compassionate with all aspects of God’s creation. And knowing that each one of us—each and every person who walks this earth—is a reflection of the Divine, how can we possibly continue to support those making the decision of Cain when the well-being of one or a very select few is lifted above and over the well-being of another of God’s people, another of God’s reflections? How can we assist in shepherding Creation and the world to its full potential when we allow for an individual’s or a corporation, which let’s face it, is made up of a bunch of individuals, when their greed and egos take priority over that which is best for the community, for those who do not have a voice at the table, for those who are at the margins, for those whose needs are ignored?
This Season of Creation is an opportunity to be reminded that each one of us most definitely have a role in keeping God’s Creation. In shepherding this world that God has created into being a place of peace and joy. Jesus told his disciples this very thing. In the reading from the Book of Mark, Marci read, Jesus says, you know the leaders of those non-Jews, they are leaders who bully and who lord their authority over those they rule. But, he says, this is not how God wanted the world to be. Those who lead must lead from amongst the very people they are leading. In fact, those that lead must be right where the people are—they must drink the same water, they must have the same access to health care, their children must attend the same schools, they must live as close to the city dump as others, they must walk and drive the same streets and see all aspects of the community they are leading. You must serve those you lead. And, then, shockingly, he tells them that he came not be served but to serve. And this is exactly how we, you and I, can continue to keep this world and Creation of God’s. But, we who live right here can help our community and our province. Believe it or not, but it was not planned to hold the Outreach Showcase on Humanity Sunday but I could not help but recognize how fortudious it is that in my conculsion today, I wanted to encourage each one of us to go out and serve the community you live in, serve the needs of this city of ours, serve the environmental needs of our living space and the wider province. If each one of us were to serve in some small way or another, we cannot help but make a difference in our world. And, when we serve together as a community of God’s people, the impact we can make on Creation will be even greater. And, today, you when you leave the sanctuary, the Outreach Committee has very nicely set up a series of displays in which you can see what type of God and Jesus loving ministry they make possible to those in need. And they cannot make it possible without engagement by people from this congregation. Not only will you witness the impact we, as a community of faith, in our surrounding communities, but you will have the opportunity to see where you and your family can participate, where you can serve the very people and environment that you live with and alongside. And if you have an idea or a plan for further ways we can make a difference in God’s Creation, talk to anyone from the Outreach Committee, I’m sure they would love to hear your idea. We are not alone this world. We live amongst and with God’s Creation and God is with us, God never leaves us. Thanks be to God.