September 5, 2021 Planet Earth Sunday by Pastor David

Genesis 1:1-25 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. But the earth became chaos and emptiness, and darkness came over the face of the Deep—yet the Spirit of God was brooding over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Light Be!” and light was. God saw that light was good, and God separated light from darkness. God called the light “Day” and the darkness “Night.”  Evening came, and morning followed—the first day. Then God said, “Now, make an expanse between the waters!  Separate water from water!”  So it was: God made the expanse and separated the water above the expanse from the expanse from the water below it. God called the expanse “Sky.”  Evening came, and morning followed—the second day. Then God said, “Waters under the sky:  be gathered into one place!  Dry ground:  appear!”  So it was. God called the dry ground “Earth” and the gathering of the waters “Sea.”  And God saw that this was good. Then God said, “Earth produce vegetation—plants that scatter their own seeds, and every kind of fruit tree that bears fruit with its own seed in it!”  So it was: the earth brought forth every kind of plant that bears seed, and every kind of fruit tree on earth that bears fruit with its seed in it.  And God saw that this was good. Evening came, and morning followed—the third day. Then God said, “Now,  let there be lights in the expanse of the sky!  Separate day from night!  Let them mark the signs and seasons, days and years. and serve as luminaries in the sky, shedding light on the earth.”  So it was. God made the two great lights, the greater one to illumine the day, and a lesser to illumine the night.  Then God made the stars as well, placing them in the expanse of the sky, to shed light on the earth, to govern both day and night, and separate light from darkness.  And God saw that this was good. Evening came, and morning followed—the fourth day, God then said, “Waters, swarm with an abundance of living beings!  Birds: fly above the earth in the open expanse of the sky!”  And so it was: God created great sea monsters and all sorts of swimming creatures with which the waters are filled, and all kinds of birds.  God saw that this was good and blessed them, saying, “Bear fruit, increase your numbers, and fill the waters of the seas!  Birds, abound on the earth!” Evening came, and morning followed—the fifth day. Then God said, “Earth, bring forth, all kinds of living souls—cattle, things that crawl, and wild animals of all kinds!” So it was: God made all kinds of wild animals, and cattle, and everything that crawls on the ground, and God saw that this was good.

Let’s take a moment to hear God’s word inside us in response to the music and the story of creation. Listen for your breath and your heart beat and feel the divine work of creation that has gone on and is still going on in you.

September 5, 2021 Planet Earth Sunday

For three weeks of our vacation Cathy and I visited various parts of eastern Massachusetts - centered at her aunt’s house on Martha’s Vineyard and her mother’s house in Medfield, outside of Boston. While we were at her mother’s house we took a day trip into Boston and took a long boat ride over to George’s Island. There are a lot of islands in the Boston harbor. Right now, travelers can only visit 2 of them. Most of George’s Island is occupied by Fort Warren, a large fort finished during the Civil War. We had an interesting tour of the fort and heard the story of its history.

At one point on the tour, the guide pointed to a room and told us he wasn’t going to take us in. He suggested we go in by ourselves, but warned us it was really dark. He said that was the best thing about the room and invited us to go in without light and experience the pitch dark. Only a couple of us went in. I went in a few steps and it was totally dark. I couldn’t see a thing. You know what I did? I turned around, and turned on the flashlight on my phone. The guide was right of course. With light, the room was totally uninteresting. The most interesting thing about the room was the darkness. 

Maybe you’ve been in a place where -as they say - you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. We don’t experience that very often these days in our brightly lit environment. But darkness is something, when you get to experience it. 

“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 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.” I remember my Hebrew preacher delighting in the Hebrew words that are translated “formless void and darkness” - “tohu ve bohu”   The earth was chaos and nothingness. 

The Earth is a key character in this story from the very beginning. There was just an unformed earth in darkness and God. God is the force that helps to bring shape and form and light out of formlessness and darkness. Darkness does not have a negative connotation in this passage. It just is, and the darkness holds creative possibilities for the One who creates. 

This passage was written down by Hebrew priests in exile in Babylon, trying to make sense of the chaos of their lives, far from their homeland. Walter Brueggemann, a brilliant theologian, particularly of the Hebrew scriptures writes about this passage, saying the main theme of this text is “God and God’s creation are bound together in a distinctive and delicate way. This is the presupposition for everything that follows in the Bible.” he says.
“God and God’s creation are bound together in a distinctive and delicate way.” Today and this month, this Season of Creation, we will celebrate God as Creator, and how God and God’s creation are bound together in a distinctive and delicate way, how all of God’s creation is dependent on, connected to every other part. I would hope that we could gain or regain a new respect for the Earth itself, respecting it’s gifts to us. 
This month of celebration of God as Creator has been going on for about 6 years now. I love starting the school year, the church year, with this emphasis on the first part of the Trinity, the Creator. Then as we move into Advent and Easter, as we focus on Jesus birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus and focus on the second part of the Trinity. And then in May, we emphasis the Spirit at Pentecost and through the spring and summer. It’s become a good ritual in our church year. 

It’s all connected. Everything belongs. We begin today at the beginning, in the darkness. God speaks, and light comes into being. Earth begins to take shape as a home for all of God’s glorious creation. Night and day appear, sky and dry ground, moon and sun, plants, birds, fish, and other animals. This passage is beautiful in its recognition of the interdependence of all of creation. I enjoy reading it this way too, reading just up to the fifth day. I felt like something was left out. I’m used to the creation of humanity being the culmination of the creation story. We’ll talk about that next week. For today we give earth its proper respect and honor. And we recognize its autonomy, the wonder of creation in its own right. 

39 This week the skies got dark as night during the day as the remnants of Hurricane Ida blasted through our neighborhoods. As far as I know people in our congregation stayed safe and no one I know suffered extensive damage. Some people though died trying to save others. Some people were not spared in the destruction. We have to ask ourselves what the Earth is asking us to learn from the storms, from the fires, from the earthquakes, in the darkness. Can we learn about the presence of the Living God, the regenerative power of the divine? Can we learn about our duty to take better care of this precious home called planet Earth?

Today, we share a meal that contains a powerful mystery. We believe that this meal given to us by Jesus, teaches us to share with each other, connects us with the whole Earth, connects us to each other, connects us to all that exists, connects us as the body of Christ, even after we have done all we could do to sever that connection, even after we humans have abused God’s creation and denied our affinity with all that lives. 

In this meal we celebrate the deepest promise possible - that God and God’s creation are bound together by the powerful, gracious movement of God toward that creation. (Brueggemann) This binding together of God and creation is mysterious, inscrutable… unfathomable on one level. We know it only by faith and ritual. Yet we know it, through the declaration of Genesis, given to us, declared by a band of exiles in Babylon, we know God’s irreversible connection to creation and our re-creation, our reuniting with God & creation, through the eating of this bread and drinking from this cup. 

In this bread and cup, we remember God’s great faithfulness, morning by morning, God’s movement toward us, re-connecting us with the songbird, the river, the mountain, the fields, the beaver, and the wolf. And we find a way to reconnect with the divine as seeds ourselves, growing to be God’s people. 

Responsive Hymn: 583 You Are the Seed