Genesis 2: 4b-7
These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.
1 Timothy 1:12-17
I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
When I am feeling disheartened, discouraged, despairing at the state of the world; when I am feeling overcome by my own inability to manage the demands of my days let alone do something about what is so wrong out there, I wonder — “Why did God do it?”
God could have stopped right there after the making of earth and heaven. God could have stood on that good ground; taking in the artistry of it all; savoring the sweet Shalom; feeling the pulse of what in Hebrew is called hessed, (translated in English as steadfast love, but really more than that—a powerful goodness is not just a blessing but that is a life force really, an energy coursing through all that is and holding all that is as one,) God could have stopped right there, but God didn’t.
When I am feeling so disheartened, so discouraged, despairing, I wonder, “Why did God insist on creating us?” Wouldn’t the world have been a better place if we had never crept up out of that primordial stew and evolved into these big brained, but often dim witted, two legged creatures that are wreaking such havoc? If God is so merciful, so powerful, so wise, wouldn’t God have foreseen what a mess we would make of things? Don’t you think God would have seen that creation would have been better without us?
This summer, I had the opportunity for the first time to go to the 9/11 memorial at ground zero in New York City.
Two large, black, reverse monuments, (for they go not up into the air, but down deep into the ground, into the dirt). And in each of them water rains down – water rains down the sides of these foot prints of what was; water rains down into the darkness of what is no longer.
And then I went down. I went down into the museum that unfolds for what I believe is seven stories down into the earth. And there it is all on display — the best and the worst of what we as humans can be.
You know what is there, you remember what happened that day fifteen years ago today. Cold blooded hatred and cruelty and –unbelievably beautiful acts of compassion. Pain beyond our wildest imagining and — tender heartedness that brings me to my knees. A firestorm of hate meant to break us, and — an upsurge of conviction, commitment and self-sacrifice that tapped into that very hessed that is at the heart of creation. Walking through that memorial, deep in the ground, deep down into the dust, it is all there.
It has been said that we humans are meaning making creatures — we cannot help but ask why? And there is a voice that is quick to answer. “Why are we here?” It tells us “We are here in order to accumulate. We are here to accumulate the most toys, money, power, prestige that we possibly can.” “He who dies with the most toys wins” remember that bumper sticker?
It tells us we “We are to be perfect. We are to be the most beautiful, the most accomplished, the smartest, youngest looking and the most self-assured person we can possibly be.”
That may be one voice we hear, but there is another. There is another voice that calls to us, and that whispers meaning. It is a voice that gathered us here today. It is a voice I heard deep underneath the ground at ground zero and it is a voice that we hear in today calling forth from the pages of Scripture.
God did not stop after heavens and earth were created. God dug down deep into the ground and created our being. God breathed on us and gave us life – Why?
Because, I believe that, God wanted someone to till the soil. God wants new life, a continued creation. God wants seeds to be planted, weeds to be pulled up, tender shoots to be gently staked. God wants someone to delight in the rain and celebrate the harvest. Why did God not stop after heaven and earth were created? Because, God wants a partner in the ongoing creative endeavor of bringing life into this beautiful but wounded world.
What if the reason we are here is not to accumulate or to prove? What if the scripture writers really heard something? What if they are on to something and what if God really does want us to partner with God in the ongoing, life giving endeavor of creation itself?
How would that shape our days? How would that give our lives a renewed sense of meaning? What tender hearted, bold courageous acts of compassion would we dare to step into?
What could partnering with God in the life giving endeavor of creation look like?
I think it looks like what I saw deep down under ground zero? Standing up for what is right and comforting those who are afraid and hurting and lost — of not giving in to fear mongering, or hating but of coming together to bring life out of the ashes?
It look like what we are doing here, engaging in this act of resistance we call worship, daring to hope, and to praise and to create beauty together so that the light of love may burn a bit brighter extending shoots of life giving warmth even further into places of deep darkness?
It looks like gathering at the table of communion, sharing in incarnational love and the out-pouring of forgiveness that brings forth the newness of life that the Epistle from 1 Timothy gives voice to with such profound gratitude.
It looks like leaving this place so filled up with the power of hessed that we are emboldened (to rift on the words of the prophet Isaiah (58:6-12)) to
“ loose the bonds of injustice,
undo the thongs of the yok
let the oppressed go free,
and break every yoke.
share our bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into our house;
So that then light shall break forth like the dawn, and healing shall spring up quickly.”
We gather as a beloved community today and we are sent off into this walk with each other and with God not because it is what we have always done. Not because we have to or think we should.
We gather today as a beloved community and we are sent off into this walk with each other and with God because in doing so we hear and affirm the answer to the question that haunts us in our darkest hour. “What are we doing here?”
We are here, you and I in this moment, in this time to partner with God in the on-going, live giving endeavor of creation.
So let us till the soil, let us tend the seeds, let us stake up the tender shoots and delight in the rain and the harvest.
That is our ground zero, the ground and meaning of our being. – Partners in the on-going, life giving endeavor of creation. Thanks be to God. Amen.