Our relationship with the planet
Watch or read David McKelvey’s reflection on Genesis 1.
Stories and images help us give meaning and understanding to events, items, information. And we all have such stories. We have our personal stories, family stories, church stories, national stories and faith stories. And the Creation account is one such story. So what meaning and understanding can we gain from it?
First, it tells us who did it. It’s very clear that God is not created but he is the creator of us and we are part of Creation. Way back, billions of years ago, bang! God’s energy explodes and those creative reverberations still echo today.
Secondly, how it was done. God did it with intent. Intentional life, abundance and gift creating a delightful and hospitable place for us to live. In fact, it was so good that God said it is good six times, and then he adds, ‘it is very good’. Just awesome.
Thirdly, why it was done. I believe the story tells it was done for relationship. We read that God says it’s not good for a person to be alone and so he created the first couple and the beginning of human companionship. He and then humans were invited to name the animals, and we know that when we name a pet the relationship with that animal changes.
God speaks about creating humans and animals out of clay and then he breathes into the nostrils of the first person and giving them life. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve done mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and that is a very intimate moment. And that sense of intimacy goes on when we read later that God was walking in the Garden of Eden in the evening of the day looking for Adam and Eve to share some time with them. So God did it, it is good and it’s for relationship. But I think we can learn more about what kind of relationship.
God has created us as part of a good creation, for relationship. But then I come to a sticking point in this story, because that relationship is characterised by words of dominion, rule and subdue. And that jars with me. But let’s see this as an invitation to explore it a bit more, and I want to offer you four images – see which one resonates with you or which one challenges you.
The first image is that of a pneumatic drill digging into the Earth below it. This is an image of Power over Creation. The Earth is been ruled and subdued by people for their benefit and, well, people don’t have to worry too much because we’ve got Home and Glory Land somewhere else.
The second image is that of a watering can, which could be seen as Power for Creation. We use our position of authority to work and care for Creation, as is described in Genesis 2. It’s a kind of stewardship, but it’s still very anthropocentric. In other words, humans are in control and doing things to Earth.
In the third image we have people holding out their hands on a level with Earth. There’s a sense of a shared origin and a shared future. So we work with nature to co-create order, abundance and good. It’s a bit like the previous image of Power for, but now there’s more humility. When God created the Earth he used his authority, but there wasn’t so much authoritarianism. Rather, he was permitting, inviting and evoking engagement. And so we’re created in his image should maybe be characterised by that approach.
The fourth image has people in the world along with the rest of the created order. In this we, sort of, see a ‘Power within’ model. Everything there is within our relationship – birds, trees, insects, animals, crops, stars. And around this cloud of mystery which is God, within which everything is. In Acts 17, 28, we read, ‘In him we live and have our being’. So the imprint ,energy and reverberation of God is within everything. Now everything becomes sacred. Matter matters. Awe and wonder are now able just to bubble up. Every bush is a burning bush and our whole world becomes enchanted as part of a kingdom of gift abundant life infused with the energy of love. Dominion now takes the form of a Servant King, where serving the least is the way.
So, we’ve thought about how God created us as part of a good Creation for relationship. And we’ve thought of four images, about how we can conceive that relationship. I wonder which image of that relationship best evokes a response of delight and praise? I wonder which of those images is most likely to birth hope grounded in action? And I wonder which would be most attractive to others?