2nd Creation Sunday
‘A GOOD WORLD’
This year, 2016, has had its share of natural disasters. Recently in August, an earthquake hit the town of Armatrice, Italy, in the middle of the night, killing more than 200 people. One of the victims was an asylum-seeker from Afghanistan who fled the chaos and war in his homeland. Earlier in March, the small nation of Fiji in the pacific was hit by the most powerful storm to make landfall in the southern hemisphere, killing more than 40 people. Closer to home, in January, a bushfire in Yarloop, in the South West of WA, destroyed more than 100 houses in the area.
After all these natural disasters, it’s understandable that some people may think that nature is inherently evil; that it is out to get us humans. But others may argue that nature is not inherently evil, but indifferent to life. For them, nature does not have moral values: it is neither evil nor good. Earthquake, for example, is simply earth’s plates moving and colliding with one another. Living creatures, including us humans, are the collateral damage of such a natural event.
The biblical writings, however, beg to differ. The witnesses in the Bible boldly proclaim that nature is not evil or indifferent, but is inherently good. In the book of Genesis, after each day of Creation, God always said that what God created was good (Genesis 1). Indeed, God has created the world so that it would support life and make it prosper.
Now, biblical testimonies do not deny that nature can bring destruction. People in the biblical time must have also experienced natural disasters like earthquake, flood, tornado, bushfire, etc. Yet, they somehow still saw the earth as, first of all, an inherently good place that God had created for all creatures, including them.
Our reading today from Psalm 104 is one example of these testimonies. The Psalm declares that God has created the world so much so that life would flourish. God provides water for the wild animals to drink and trees for the birds to build their nests and grass for the cattle to eat. God controls the movement of the sun and the moon so that time is set on earth and all creatures, including us humans, know when to work and rest.
Unlike the book of Genesis, however, this Psalm does not see human beings as the pinnacle of creation. We are simply a part of creation. And, just like the other creatures, we need God’s providence to survive and prosper in the world.
Our modern lifestyle, however, has often made us forget about our dependence on God’s natural world to survive. We are not only on top of the food chain; we are also at the end of the chain of commercial production. Most of us don’t hunt or farm for food any longer. When we are hungry, we just go to the supermarket and there we will find everything that we need to satisfy our hunger.
As the result, we often don’t know, or do not want to know, where our food comes from. We can eat fish as long as it has been turned into a fillet, or a pig as long as it has been turned into hams, or a chicken as long as it has been turned into a sausage, etc. We refuse to acknowledge that our sustenance comes from another life in God’s world. And by doing this, we refuse to acknowledge that our very existence depends on what God has provided for us in the world.
In our reading from the Gospel according to Luke, Jesus took this assurance of God’s providence even further. We need to be careful, however, not to read this passage as if our modern scientists had written it. Here, Jesus didn’t talk about ecology or the interdependence of everything in the world. He simply used the natural world as an example to drive his message home to those who listened to him. He reminded them that if the birds and grass, who were not as sophisticated as human beings, could survive in the wild, how much more they would survive. Indeed, God had provided what they needed not only to survive, but to thrive.
Yet, we often want more than what God has provided for us. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.” Indeed, greed is the result of us seeing the world not as a place of ABUNDANCE, but as a place of SCARCITY. Greed is born out of our fear that the world and its resources are not enough to support us and everyone else in the world. So, we fight against one another for the world’s resources instead of sharing what we have with one another.
This scarcity mentality was reflected in the life of the rich people in Jesus’ time; the so-called ‘pagans’ in our Gospel reading today; those who didn’t believe that there was a God who cared for all. These were the people who were like the rich fool, in Jesus’ parable, who stored up pile and pile of grains from his field only for himself.
Indeed, for people like him, the world and all its resources are not enough. They believe that they have to keep everything for themselves, collecting more and more wealth to survive, ignoring others in the process. But, the more wealth they amass, the worrier they become. Indeed, their wealth cannot stop them from worrying because it is born out of the wrong mindset. They are trapped in an unending cycle of want and worry, leading to their own demise.
But, Jesus invites us to trust God and to trust that God has created the world so much so that our need and others’ will be met. Indeed, just like the testimonies in the Old Testament, Jesus saw the world, first of all, as a good place; a place that will provide us with what we need. Therefore, instead of worrying about what we will eat or drink or wear, Jesus invites us to aim for a higher purpose. He invites us to work to make God’s Kingdom and its values a reality in this world.
Indeed, friends, God has created the world as a place of abundance that provides enough resources for everyone and everything to thrive. What we need to do is to learn to free ourselves from the cycle of want and worry so that we can search for God’s Kingdom and make it a reality on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
Rev. Toby Keva