Sharing in the Rhythm of God’s Own Life
By Rev Steven R Mitchell
Mountain View United Church, Aurora, CO 6/15/2014
Based on Psalm 8
Sixteen years ago this summer, I took a five week holiday with the goals of connecting and reconnecting with family, nature, and myself; it was in reality a mini-sabbatical. My first grandchild had just come into this world a few months before and it was time for me to travel from the Pacific Northwest to “deep into the heart of Texas” to meet baby Brendan. I took advantage of Brendan’s location to extend my travels through Kansas and spend time with my other two children, my mother, and my sister. Since Texas was the most distant point south and east, I routed my travel back to Seattle via the southern route so that I might have the opportunity to see the Grand Canyon.
This five week adventure was filled with a number of “awe” filled moments; the first was in meeting my new grandchild who was two months old. Not only is there a sense of awe in seeing a new born child, but I had the privilege to attend his baptism during that visit. Coming from a perspective as a man of faith, there seemed to add to the wonder of this new life the privilege to witness his parents bringing my grandchild into the family of God through baptism, recognizing that this child is a gift from God, and that all who were present as well as the larger church has a responsibility to care for the well being of that child.
After a glorious week in the Dallas area, it was time for me to head toward the Grand Canyon. Interstate 40 was the most direct route to travel, taking me through the upper part of New Mexico. I have to admit that my image of New Mexico was less than favorable at the time. When I was a child my maternal grandmother had moved from Kansas, a state filled with green grasses and trees, down to Hobbs, N.M... I do not know how many of you are familiar with Hobbs, but it is located in an area that has literally only flat lands and sand. It truly felt like this was the one spot on earth that God forgot to come and visit. With these childhood memories of N.M., I always assumed that artists were super imposing visions of color in their paintings of the Southwest landscape. That is until I was nearing the mountain range near Albuquerque as the sun was setting behind the mountain range and I was able to behold a vista filled with magenta, oranges, and turquoise. My breath was taken away to see such beautiful colors in a dessert setting.
Finally by the third week, I was able to fulfill a childhood dream of visiting the Grand Canyon. Up to that point I had only read books about the canyon, seen numerous photographs, and watch a number of geographic type documentaries on T.V. about this amazing canyon, yet none of these medians could prepare me for the actual experience I was about to have. Up to that point in my life the Royal Gorge was the closest I had come to seeing something like the canyon. I had the luxury of being totally alone for the first five minutes or so of my first view of the canyon, before the noise of a tour group interrupted this communion with nature. As I stood at the edge of this look out point, looking to the east and looking to the west, looking north across the canyon, I was in such awe, I could hardly breath and tears started to form as I started to recall the lines of a hymn that says, “Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds thy hands have made.” I will not say that seeing the Grandeur of this canyon was more awe inspiring than seeing my first grandchild, but it was right next to that experience.
I don’t often reflect on Psalms as a text of the day, but I chose this morning’s read for the questions that it explores and how we can choose to respond. A Psalm by nature is actually a hymn and therefore often given second class status compared to other types of scripture. Yet very often songs explore the human condition and speak more deeply to us than prose. The Psalmist asks: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for?” To personalize this question is to say, “When I look at places like the Grand Canyon, or the multi pallet of colors in the landscape, or the new born child, what am I to you, oh God? In our architecture, in our art, in our machines that we create, nothing holds up to what you have done, so why would you be so concerned about we humans who in relationship to your creation are about the size of an ant?
Yet the psalmist understands humans to be at the top of the food chain when he states, “Yet you have made us a little lower than God.” This type of thought has lead us to view humans as being above all other creatures within God’s creation. This understanding has developed into a belief that we are the only animals that have a soul, thus giving us the right to do to and with all that we see as below us. As we start to explore the world of quantum theory we are realizing a much deeper inter-relationship between all matter and all creatures, which is opening up the possibility of broadening our understanding beyond what we have traditionally believed to be true; our superiority, our being at the top of the food chain has come into question.
If we go back to the creation stories in the first couple of chapters of Genesis and do a careful reading about the creation of humanity, we can learn two things about us: the first is that humanity is made in the image of God, and the second is we were made to have dominion over all that God created. Somehow the idea of dominion has become perverted by humanity to mean domination, which is an entirely different concept. Dominion means to be a caretaker, a protector, a steward. Kings have dominion over their kingdoms, which meant that it was the king’s job to care and protect those in his or her kingdom. Generally speaking because of an exaggerated sense of self-importance, the role of king’s tended to become one of domination instead of dominion. This perversion of understanding the role of dominion has even affected the view between male and female, leading to unspeakable violence and abuses toward female’s from almost the beginning of human history.
With this type of misunderstanding, we actually have usurped the role of God and in doing so have lost our sense of who we are which leads to our asking, “Why we exist.” We have forgotten what “being made in the image” of God” means. Rev Nibs Stroupe, Pastor of Oakhurst Presbyterian Church, Decatur, Georgia reminds us that, we a humans have been given God-like characteristics: transcendence, individual consciousness, and awareness of ourselves and others. Feasting on the Word, Yr A, Vol 3, pg 36
So here is the point I wish to leave with you today: I believe that our mis-understanding of our role of having dominion over things of this world has also perverted our understanding of God. If we are made in the image of God and have been given the responsibility of dominion-ship, reason should point out that God as creator also has dominion over all that God creates. So if we understand dominion as domination, then we can understand God as a dominator, one who imposes the needs of self upon all others. If we have the understanding of dominion as one who cares for, then we can see God as one who nurtures, protects, and provides for that which God has created. It is on how we view God and how God relates to that which God created that we understand and act out our roles as humans in this creation.
As human beings, we share in the rhythm of God’s life. Depending on how we view God, a God who is dominator, or a God who has dominion (meaning caregiver, protector, and nurture) we will answer that question of “Why am I here” differently. Christ referred to himself as a child of God and to us as his brothers and sisters, giving us the same status as he. If that is true then as creatures who are god-like, are we not also called to be care giving, protectors of, and nurtures of our Parent’s creation? Is our job to abuse and destroy the wondrous works of God for our own self interests, or is it to honor and magnify the creator who is in each of us, to give glory, and honor each piece of God’s creation? On this Father’s Day, let us strive to develop more deeply our god-like nature and become “awed” by our sharing in the rhythm of God’s life. Amen