Before we take off running into a new church year, let’s take a moment to reaffirm why we do what we do. It’s time once again to hear the old, old story and to reclaim it as our story.
In the beginning all was void. Since love cannot exist in a vacuum, God created something other than God’s self-something which would still be a part of God but have its own identity-much like a mother birthing a child. So God birthed creation. God’s spirit was-and still is-enmeshed within this living creation. From the smallest amoeba to the greatest oceans and mountains, from elephants to the mice-wherever there is life, there is God.
The world was filled with light and darkness, birth and death, yin and yang, everything in balance. Everything was dependent upon everything else and, although certain creatures may have fed off of other creatures, no one took more than they needed to survive. God saw all this and thought it was very, very good.
As much as God enjoyed dancing with this creation, God desired to make a creature more like herself—a creature who could dream and create. So God created us and gave freedom to our wills so we could choose to love God by our own desire. For who would not love a Creator who had given humankind so much beauty, who filled our souls and minds with so much bounty? But what God didn’t anticipate was that in spite of all that God had provided, humanity would fear what was beyond its own control. Thus, their desire became not to depend upon God, but to depend solely upon themselves. Consequently, they lost faith and their connection with God diminished. God became a belief not a reality.
God had not dared to believe that after all God had provided people would not trust their own mother. Fear entered creation. What if God didn’t give them what they wanted? What if they didn’t get enough? So people began to take control of their own destinies. They began to use their imaginations and creative powers to develop their own dominions.
To ensure they had enough, they built storehouses, stockpiled them with what they thought they needed and then locked the door. “Keep your hands off of it. This is for me, not you.” Their imaginations ran away with them. They imagined that they needed more and more. Their lives became an endless pursuit of consumption as their fear of sacristy grew. They waged war for more land. They pressed others into the service of filling their barns for them and left them nothing but the scraps from their tables. Oppression was born and God wept.
God tried time and time again to correct their course. When people decided that they wanted the gifts of heaven as well as what they had down here on earth, they tried to build a tower by which they could knock on heaven’s door. God gave them different languages so they would spend more time trying to listen to each other.
God tried starting over by washing the earth with a flood. But fear came back. God sent the prophets and teachers whose words were too hard for people to hear, so they burned most of them at the stake. Even after all this bad behavior, God could not turn a deaf ear to the cries of her children so he led them to a land flowing with milk and honey. There were a few of God’s children who thought themselves privileged enough to take all the milk and honey for themselves. Again, God wept.
Then God decided that the only way her children would listen to her was if she went to speak to them directly. So God ascended from the celestial throne and wrapped the eternity of grace and love into the folds of our humanity. To show us our fears were unfounded, God came to us as a vulnerable child dependent upon a peasant woman for his survival. God came as child to learn. God lived as a refugee in Egypt. God lived the life of a slave to a repressive Roman regime that took two thirds of everything he worked for. He spent three years not knowing where he would lay his head at night, or whose table he would dine at or if he would eat at all. He would dare social excommunication by daring to acknowledge the voices of the cursed and unfit. He would take their faces into his hands-look into their eyes-and say, “I created you. You are beautiful and holy in my sight. Do not be afraid.” He showed them that their fears where only shadows and could only hold power over you if you believe they are real. As it turns out, fear has very deep roots. They would not trust their fate even to the creator of their world. Imagine the vanity of humankind to believe that they could destroy the eternal power of God.
They tried to humiliate God into submission. They tried to beat God into submission. They even tried to bury God deep within a tomb. But how do you bury life? How do you end the creative and rejuvenating powers of grace, of forgiveness, of peace, of a love which is the genesis of all life? You don’t.
So today we gather to affirm that we are a people who live in God’s world. We gather praise to the living God, to acknowledge our fear and thus release the shackles fear binds us with, to be reminded of God’s wise words and to summon from God and those around us the courage to place our lives into the hands of God.
Then, we leave this place and head out into this world seeking God’s justice for the world. With each face we touch and lift, with each eye we look into, to each person we offer the dignity of being called our brother or sister, with each border we walk across, we loosen fear’s grip on the world and bring the resurrecting power of God’s love to light again. And someday, someday, we shall all return to the garden. That, my friends, is our story.