So what do you see and hear in today’s reading from Genesis chapter 1? Let me briefly offer three things this morning. We could spend much longer over them, and perhaps another time we will. For the moment, let us just gently hold them up as contributions to our shared reflections. Firstly, this is a kind of hymn, or poem, to recite, inwardly or outwardly, within our hearts and lives. Indeed, some scholars suggest it is a priestly liturgical canticle, or an expansion of one. Note its shape, particularly its rhythms and refrains. Adapted a little, it is thus something which could shape our own personal and communal prayer. For we too are called to be priests, singing the song lines of Creation. Secondly, this reading highlights the wider Creation, with no mention of humanity. Yes indeed, human beings do come later in the hymn and can be seen as the ‘crown’ of Creation. Yet we might do better to see humanity as a later thought, interdependent with all that goes before. Note well, on this particular Sunday in the Season of Creation, the attention given to the Sky: to the changes of light and darkness; to Sky’s relationship to the Earth, its waters and other properties, and the heavenly bodies which move within it. These are infinitely valuable to God in themselves, prior to ourselves, and part of ‘the communion of subjects’ we affirmed recently. Thirdly, and most importantly of all, Genesis 1.1-18 speaks of God’s goodness – repeatedly. Note well: goodness here means neither moral perfection nor completed creation. It does however proclaim that, in origin and ultimacy, all of God’s Creation is to be seen and treated with love.
In contrast, Jeremiah chapter 4 speaks of what happens when Creation is not seen and treated with loving compassion. Like many other prophetic texts, not least in Jeremiah, it is discomforting. Indeed, such passages typically approach Earth’s suffering with ancient preconceptions of God with which we may struggle. Yet, if some of us understandably baulk at raw ideas of judgement and providence, we must acknowledge the power and reality of the pain and destruction present in such imagery. There may not be straightforward ‘Maker’s instructions’ in the universe and we may understand God’s role and judgement differently. Yet it is a vivid lament for what happens when human beings neglect the promptings and the web of love in the universe. Above all, the final verse rings out a word of hope for our troubled planet today. Even if, as the prophet discerns, ‘the whole land shall be a desolation’, God’s word rings out: ‘yet I will not make a full end.’
So, strengthened by the hymn of the goodness of Creation and the prophetic affirmation of continuing hope out of desolation, what will we now do as co-creators of God’s love and purpose? Gerard and Vivien will offer us ways forward. Importantly, they will speak of God’s creating love already at work in others. For it is not simply a question of WWJD – what would Jesus do? We can be also inspired by what I would call WIGAD – what is God already doing? In particular, what can we learn from the activities of ARRCC, Extinction Rebellion, and others, and how may we play our part more fully?
Gerard McEvilly's reflection can be found here
Vivien Langford's reflection can be found here
(see also: an interview with Meredith Knight, Pitt Street Uniting Church member, Ecopella singer, and Extinction Rebellion supporter)
by Josephine Inkpin, for Pitt Street Uniting Church,
Sky Sunday, 19 September, in the Season of Creation 2021