13 September 2020

St Dunstan's Anglican Church Camberwell

Creation 2 A 13/09/20

Genesis 3:14-19 – 4: 8-16

Psalm 139: 7-11

Matthew 12: 38-40

Earth, land, ground, soil, dirt, dust- so many words for the same thing all with their own nuanced shades of meaning. ‘Earth’ is both a global word and a more particular one displaying the connection between the two. ’Soil’, is important. It is what we grow significant things in, it is what forms the ‘land’ on which we grow, that is, until it is depleted or it blows away in a dust storm. If we are standing on it, it is ground and we might claim it, or we might feel in our deepest selves that we belong to it. ’Dirt’, on the other hand has a whole lot of pejorative connotations. You play in the soil and you get dirty, and when we want to put someone down they are ‘dirt’. Dust is something to be removed, that is, until Ash Wednesday, for us Christians, when we see the dust as the symbol of repentance or the final stage of life when we say, ‘ashes to ashes and dust to dust’.

In the creation narrative, it is from the humus that Adam is formed and he indeed called groundling, or soil-one or something like that, until he is given an identifier that means ‘man’. And then at the moment of the fall, that mythical story of humans becoming separated from God, the connection is severed and instead of being part of the soil, living breathing soil, humans begin to work the soil, and it is hard work.They have lost something and will only be connected to it in death. That is one of the tragedies of the story. And we are still paying the price for that ability to distance ourselves from the very thing of which we are made.The more separate we see ourselves from the rest of creation the easier it is to despoil, waste, destroy and corrupt.

If the fall of the humans, with the resultant autonomy, is the first stage of the story, the second stage, the ‘founding murder’ as Girard calls it, is the beginning of our relationship with each other, not just with the earth, and the two are intimately connected. Cain spills Abel’s blood on the ground and the very ground cries out to God. Abel, whose name means ‘nobody’, is seen by God and loved by God and the very ground from which he is made, cries out. Life calls out to God when humans take life. The the living thing unvalued by its brother is nonetheless important to God. And this founding murder symbolises all that is wrong, both with interpersonal relationships, and with the exploitation of the earth. Humans treat each other like ‘dirt’, and they trash the planet.

Jesus comes to restore. Jesus, the Christ, comes to restore the relationship with God, and the relationship with the creation should also be restored. Unfortunately, the autonomy granted to the human race is making that restoration of relationship difficult on both levels. Humans’ inhumanity to humans, and humans’ destruction of creation seem to be intransigent. Did you notice that the sign that Jesus says his doubters will see, is that he is going to the heart of the earth? He doesn’t say that he is going to Hades, or to the tomb or to the grave, but to the heart of the earth to be recreated, and to restore creation, to go back to that first place and this is the resurrection.

As human beings our relationship with the earth, land, ground, soil, dirt, dust, should be in essence, our relationship with God. And I am not suggesting that the earth is God, which would be pantheism, but rather that God is in everything, which is Panentheism, and that when we trash the earth, that is part of our rebellion against God. God, the creator, God the source of life and all that is, is also the God of the land. We as followers of Christ must be reunited with the land and begin to heal and save our planet. It is part of our God given humanity and in doing so we glorify God.

Vicar Roberta Hamilton