Narrative Lectionary for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year Four
September 10, 2017
Lessons: Genesis 1:1–2:4a, John 1:1-5
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people honor—and take part in–the divine dance of creation and rest.
Key Scripture: God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2 And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. Genesis 1:31 – 2:2
What words and images stand out to you in this week’s lesson from Genesis? For me it’s the idea of creating, the power of speaking and Word/words, of proclaiming all that is created to be good, of celebrating the creation, and of resting from the work of creation. It’s a divine rhythm as natural as drawing breath and exhaling—both active and reflective. Best of all, God invites us into relationship so that we are part of the dance. Here are some of the things that I’ve been pondering this week:
Creating: Is it possible to consider the possibility that creation is ongoing and participatory? After all, in the creation account, God engages that which has been created in the ongoing work of re-creating and perpetuating the divine dance of creation. “Be fruitful and multiply,” God commands that which has been created. And so it is to this day. Fruit trees bear fruit. Animals reproduce. The sun shines. Rivers run. As the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote:
“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”
Celebrating: Perhaps our work this Sunday is to create holy space and conversation around this story, to encourage one another to take off our shoes and stand in awe of God’s presence and creative energy. We are reminded that even in the work of the people (a.k.a. liturgy) we are participating in creation. We bring our best—at least theoretically—our praise, our first fruits of time, talent, and resources, and our entire self to worship. For an hour or so each week, we are partners in creating this holy space where God meets us.
That’s not all though. When we are sent back into the world, we go with the Jesus and the Holy Spirit to continue our participation in God’s creative work. We tend gardens, we build relationships, we work for justice, equity, and peace. We enjoy and live and flourish in God’s good creation. Yes, at our best, we participate in the healing, renewing, and restoring of all that God has made.
At our worst, as captives to sin, we participate in destruction rather than creation. We make choices that damage the earth, we wound one another with carelessness and cruelty, and we turn from God’s will for our lives. We refuse to rest and honor the gift of Sabbath. We seek control, and in doing so, we ultimately fail.
Good: God, in the act of creation, proclaimed everything good, very good. As people of faith who desire to be co-creators and restorers of the breach, we too must proclaim God’s work to be good. In addition to simply saying that it is good, we are called to live our lives in ways that reflect this goodness and our ongoing participation in it.
Resting: The gift of Sabbath is a tough one for humankind. We are conditioned to believe that work determines our worth, that he or she who amasses the most wins, and that some folks have more value than others. We even see this played out in our news this week with media self-absorption with the devastating hurricanes, flooding, and fires around North America while forgetting that others suffer great tragedy and loss from flooding in parts of Bangladesh, India, and Nepal. While such neglect may not even be deliberate on our parts, it happens.
We find our worth in God, and we take our rest in God. In short, every breath we take is creative gift of God, and every move we make should be in faithful and joyous response to God’s abundance. Finally, as we celebrate, participate, and rest, let us remember that we do this not of our mastery or cunning, but rather because we are God’s beloved and created people. Thanks be to God—for everything!
Consider how you might lift up our partnership in the divine creative rhythms. What does it look like to flourish? How is rest intimately woven into this? Even in worship do we take adequate time to rest and reflect? In many cases I suspect we do not. What creation hymns might you sing today? If you use stations in worship, what opportunities might you give for worshipers to create using words, images, and visual art? Can you create space in your worship for rest? How might we find both rest and creative energy in the Eucharist? How might you provide visual imagery for the four elements of air, water, fire, and earth?
Yes, even God rested. In our world of hyper-competition, many teenagers will relate to the lack of time for holy rest and rejuvenation. Many of our youth are overscheduled, pressured, and driven to succeed. God provides a model for creative work and sustaining rest. Talk with youth about why rest is needed to recharge and re-energize our finite bodies and human resources. Explore ways the youth with whom you work can find time to rest. Be sure to celebrate their creative participation in making this world a better place—be it in participation in sports, the arts, academics, work, community service, or any combination thereof. Encourage them to take time to rest, and talk about ways they might make that happen.
What time is it? Is it time to work and create? Time to play? Or is it time to rest? Remind the children of the way God created the heavens and the earth. Stress that once God created, God rested. God reminds us to seek a balance between work and play and rest. Give each child a large piece of cardstock and some crayons. Tell them you’re going to challenge them to a game of “Create and Rest.” Tell them when you say “create” they are to draw something that God created. When you say “rest” they are to stop their creating and rest. Do this several times. Encourage them to breathe deeply when resting and to work steadily when they are creating. Give them enough time to end up with a picture of something. Tell them that God’s plan for us is to be partners in creating a good, beautiful and just world—and also to take care of ourselves, our relationships, and our faith by resting in God. Finish with a simple prayer. Invite the children to post their artwork in a prominent place in your worship or gathering space.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
God created the cosmos and proclaimed it all good. And then God rested! We have this divine model for creative participation, appreciation and celebration, and holy rest. Let us strive to live into God’s preferred future by prayerfully considering how we might more fully embrace the rhythms of Spirit life and daily discipleship.
Stewardship at Home
Accept the challenge this week to spend at least some time every day marveling in the goodness of God’s creation. Whether you splash through puddles, fall into leaf piles, go hiking in the woods, or simply walk through your neighborhood, do get outside and get moving. Try to spend some dedicated time resting in creation, too. Whether you relax in a hammock, unwind in a lawn chair, or gather around a crackling campfire at the end of day, dedicate some Sabbath time that will help you celebrate and value the created world. Doing so simply takes time and effort; doing so is also simply good stewardship.
Spend some time at the end of the week pondering your experiences and considering how you might be a better steward of creation.
Photos: © freshidea – Fotolia.com; stuart, Creative Commons. Thanks!
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