Saturday, September 12, 2015

Created to Serve

Most mothers, these days work very hard to bring up their children with the best of modern theories in mind.

One such mother thought it was important for her only boy to have his friends over for socializing so she would ask his friends over from time to time – to have “little boy’s time” for them all.

They had been playing outside very well for a while when her son comes in with a concerned expression on his face and asks:  “Mummy.  Where did I come from?”

Again, concerned to respond to her son’s questions with the best of modern theories on child development in mind, she proceeded to illuminate him, quite appropriately, about what we sometimes call “The Birds and the Bee.”  In short, a brief journey from conception to childbirth.

When she had finished her little boy sat quietly – which made her wonder, so she asked:  “Honey, what did you want to know all that for?”  To which he replied:

“Well, Yanni Papodopoulos says he came from Greece, and I wondered where I came from.”

Today we are celebrating Humanity Sunday in the Season of Creation, and the scriptures chosen to guide us in this celebration are rather interesting.

In Genesis we start with the creation of all living things in the first chapter, and then skip into the second chapter for the story of how God formed the first man bodily out of the earth and breathed his own spirit/breath into it to give him life.

The Psalm tries to unpack a sense of our place among all created things – a delicate web of inter-dependency.

Philippians explores what it meant for God, in Christ, to take on our humanity, and finally, the Gospel has a very clear emphasis that the earth owes us nothing.  Rather we were created in order to serve one another.

Our liturgy will use words that gather us with all people in praising God for this created world we enjoy so much, so I thought I might just explore these texts a little to get an idea of how we arrived at the views expressed in the Gospel.

The story we read in the Gospel is only part of the story.  James and John had quietly asked Jesus if they could have those places of special honour, sitting on the left and right of Jesus when his Kingdom comes in.  These men really understood the ways of the world in which the most important and powerful  lauded their power over people and had people serving them – meeting their every need.

Jesus very quickly makes it clear that this is not the way things will be in God’s Kingdom.  He says that the pathway to greatness in this Kingdom involves service to others.

Let me offer you three suggestions that are brought to mind by these readings.

Firstly, our understanding of the Creation Story is that we were given a responsibility to look after all created things – to look after the earth so that the earth could look after us.  So service is hinted at in that story.

Secondly, if we are to correctly understand what the Psalmist getting at, it seems to me that we understand ourselves as being at the pinnacle of the created order – just a little lower than the angels or gods as our translation has it – and if we were to unpack the Hebrew behind the words “dominion” and “subjection” we would come up with a much greater sense of mutual responsibility, of healthy husbandry of the animals and land, so that both the land and creatures are served and looked after.

The third glimpse at God’s purpose comes from the glorious description of the significance of the incarnation in Philippians 2.  One of the principal meanings we derive from our understanding of the incarnation is that in Jesus we see all that is possible to see of the character of God in human form.  So in this person Jesus, God has put aside his goodness, and what we see is a servant – humble and obedient.  I take from this the sense that when we take on that same role of serving others and the whole creation, we are giving human expression to this aspect of the character of God.  This is how God wants us to be.

So on this Humanity Sunday of the Season of Creation we are encouraged to see the complex inter-dependency we share with all other humans and the rest of creation.  The well-being of others and the created order is our responsibility, and in caring for them we will find ourselves served and looked after by the rest of creation.

Let us all praise God for his love and wisdom in making thing thus that we should serve one another has he came to serve us.  Amen.

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