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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Ash Wednesday 2016

Our relationship with God's Creation is primary. God as Creator made us and this beautiful world. The first commandment isn't “You shall have no other gods before me.” It is “Be fruitful and multiply” and it wasn't given to us first, but to all the animals God created. When we damage other animals' survival and threaten their existence, we break a commandment. Some have argued that God's Creation is the main way God reveals God's self to us. In other words we can know about God most through all that God has created, through mountains and stars and slugs and squid and flowers and grass and bugs. 

God's creation reveals who God is. The creation reveals that God is joyful and humorous. The creation reveals to us that God values diversity and working together. The creation reveals that God values cooperation and balance. The creation reveals that God brings new life out of death. 

Each creature has gifts and qualities, parts to play in a whole that only God understands. So when we mess with it, to try to get creation to benefit us, the whole system gets out of whack. There are countless examples. The accidental introduction of non-native species, knocks out other species, like red-rock crab. The crab competes with the dungeness crab, and makes it difficult for the native species to survive. Look at the rise in mercury levels in the sea. For years boats changing the batteries for lights on buoys simply dropped them into the ocean. The little sea creatures became contaminated with a little mercury. Then the bigger fish ate a whole lot of the little creatures and they became more contaminated. The largest fish of all suffered the most. Look also at the effects of DDT—not used for almost 40 years still persists in the environment, and can still be found in the human body, causing who knows what diseases and problems. We try to make our lives easier and we end up making it hard for the rest of God's creation, and it finally comes full circle to make our lives harder, because that isn't how God intended it to be. We are creatures who exceed the limits God placed on us, and destroy so many good things, often unintentionally. 

Some scientists are looking at the times in which we live as the undoing of God's creation story, a great dying of species, the creation story backwards until all that exists is that formless void from Genesis 1. If we could relate better to God's good creation, we would relate better to each other, we would live in balance, we would live in peace. But often we don't know where to start. 

During Lent, we search our hearts. We open ourselves to God's corrective. We read the scriptures. We look for God's revelation in the creation. We pray. We focus. We turn. We turn from focus on ourselves and our own wants, from the distractions and fears that separate us from each other and from God. We turn from whatever doesn't give us life, whatever doesn't give life to the whole of God's good creation and we turn to the Holy One who made us and everything else and who gave up everything to show us love embodied in Jesus Christ. 

During our Wednesday Morning Bible Study last week, we've been watching videos about great Christians and their example to us. We've learned a lot about history and faith. The presenter described many people of our time believing in “God of the gaps.” In other words, we use God to explain what we don't know how to explain, like when someone dies or something mysterious happens. However, with science increasing our understanding of the universe, that gap narrows significantly, and what happens when there is no more room for God because we think we understand everything? Shouldn't God, however, be God of every part of our lives. If we believe that God created us, made us who we are, then wouldn't we want to live by the limits God imposed on us to make our lives better—limits like honoring all life (thou shalt not murder), loving our neighbor and seeking the good of our neighbor—even to the point of praying for our enemies and assuming the best of them. If we believe that God is good and God is love, wouldn't we want that to be part of all our actions, all our decisions, all of our desires? During Lent, we turn toward love, we turn toward life. We work a little more intently on making God the focus of each breath, seeing God around us in each other, in the creation, letting love be our focus, practicing works of love, giving of gifts, listening to God's word, and opening ourselves to being changed so that the world can be changed into the Kingdom of God, a whole and loving place where all can thrive and live in love. Then God isn't in the shrinking gaps, but in every connection, every relationship, binding us together, and growing the love in each of us until God takes over the world and we all live in balance and wholeness.

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