The Third Day – Are we paying attention? | June 20, 2020
Inspired by Genesis 1: 9-13
Three days into witnessing the unfolding of Creation and, if we are paying attention, a pattern emerges that holds the potential to shift our understanding of this first chapter in Genesis. Arriving to the third day of the creative process, we notice the loyalty to a liturgical pattern in which word and deed partner to reflect divine transformation in an evolution toward that which will give and sustain life.
The initiation of a process launched in the creation of the heavens and the earth secedes to a relational endeavor demonstrates through a divine dialogue between the visionary voice of God and the response of an evolving creative body.
And God says…
Let there be light.
And God says…
Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.
And God says…
Let the waters under the sky be gathered together in one place, and let the dry land appear.
The New Interpreter’s commentary reads,
“Th(is) divine speaking often involves a speaking with whatever is already created in such a way that the receptor of the word helps to shape the result. The earth itself assists importantly in creative activity. While God’s work creates potential for this creaturely response, it is creation from within the creation, not from without. Both human and nonhuman creatures are called to participate in the creative activity made possible by God.”
If we are paying attention, we realize that this story has two main characters. If we are paying attention, we begin to understand that what is happening is not simply the retelling of how things have been done but what is happening is a forecasting of how things are to be done in the continuation of the creative work initiated in the first chapter of the sacred text that speaks life into us today.
And, God asks us today, in this moment of great turning and turmoil…
Are we paying attention?
This word, this voice of God speaking life into being, personalizes the creative work we witness in the evolution of Love today. This voice, initiating response of a creative life that resides and rises to the call of justice, places God as catalyst for creative deeds then and now. This birthing statement of, “Let there be…,” repeated again and again, is that which transitions time and space, inserts order into chaos and transcends common, contemporary understandings regarding the creative process as dominion over into a visible engagement of working with.
These statements that birth newness in each day, identify “the separateness of God from the created order, which is not a divine emanation or birth. At the same time, God’s speech reveals divine vulnerability, for God’s speaking does not occur in isolation or function as command. The use of the jussive ‘let there be’ leaves room for creaturely response; the cohortative ‘let us make’ leaves room for consultation; the ‘let them have dominion’ entails a sharing of power.”
What we are witnessing, if we are paying attention, is a lesson in engaging creative power within a creation that contains a sense of individual integrity. Creation listens and responds. Before we are even birthed into the creative imagination, creation and creature have begun a partnership through which all of creation will be birthed and sustained. This is not modeling for modeling sake. This is the divine nature of holy making planted in the sacredness of what we call, The Land.
Then God says…
“Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.”
Life was birthed into a promise of mutuality, reciprocity and appreciation. God speaks vision into Creation which in turn receives and responds to God’s voice with creative manifestations in every form. God receives with awe and appreciation that which Creation has manifested and placed on display for God’s re-visioning of what might be birthed next. The work of moving forward, of making ‘more’ happens only after that which has been created has been noticed and affirmed. It is a cycle marked with appreciation and trust; God sees the movement of creation in response to God’s divine vision shared and responds with gratitude for the fruits of partnership. In every cycle of creative evolution God looks upon creation’s new birth and affirms the goodness of their collaborative efforts. There is no tweaking, critiquing or micromanaging. God’s word speaks into the movement of creation which responds by absorbing the vision, making the vision its own and offering the creative interpretation of God’s vision back to God as the manifestation of an articulated imagining.
And, God asks…
Are we paying attention?
Are we paying attention to the desecration of the sacred rhythm of a relationship formed and functioning long before capitalism co-opted, and colonialism corrupted, the life-giving cycle of divine imagination? Are we paying attention to the daily distractions that dilute our participation in cultivating solutions to the crisis of Anthropocene that threatens the planet’s ability to sustain life as we know it? Are we paying attention? Are we paying attention to a story that reminds us of the relationship from which we were birthed, to the weight of the baptismal vows that we each willingly took, to the convictions and teaching and call that it should not require a protest for people of faith to rise up and cry out that the way we are living in this world is wrong. Are we paying attention to the depth of the repentance we are being called to, to the urgency of our need for reconciliation? It is time that we got real about the situation we are in because the reality is, we are not paying attention.
When it takes the release of an eight-minute video of a black man being murdered by a white man who is employed to serve and protect the community for a people to rise to the streets, we are not paying attention. When 120,493 people have died of a virus in one of the wealthiest, most privileged countries in the world and our attention is focused on what we can reopen, we are not paying attention. When our oceans are filled with plastic due to the creation of a throw-away culture, when our friends are dying of cancer because we refuse to regulate industries that are polluting our planet, when people are working multiple jobs and still they cannot afford access to health care, we are not paying attention. When we spend more time watching shows of people performing than we do reflecting the ways in which our own lives are unfolding, we are not paying attention.
And Gods asks…
Are we paying attention?
It is time for us to get real about what requires our attention and what paying attention will cost us as a community. It is time to get real about whether we are following Christ or whether we believe Christ is following us. Privilege is a powerful game of pretend.
And God asks…
Are we paying attention?
Are we paying attention to our present reconciliation in the world after a forced withdrawal to protect the life of our neighbors and friends? This is our movement toward reconciliation, and we must pay attention to that with which we are reconciling ourselves too. There is a choice and the economy, the politics, the institutional systems and the entertainment industries will not make this choice straightforward. Will we reconcile to a system which has become an enemy in the evolution of life, or will we reconcile to a decentralization of our own privilege in order to plant ourselves in a Land that we do not own, to work for a harvest we will not hoard nor squander? The way we return to patterns of societal belonging from the isolation of this pandemic, the way we re-enter into the story of creation as it evolves and spirals and cries out, requires that we pay attention.
This week a clergy colleague posted this status on her page;
An observation: COVID cases go up; hospitalizations rise; and positive tests increase.
Meanwhile, the state re-opens; and many conversations center around re-opening, including a district committee meeting I was part of today on Zoom (*have your speech ready when the press comes**)
Here’s what we are living: We refrained from in-person worship for 3 months. Now, as numbers rise on COVID cases state-wide, churches are simultaneously planning and implementing in-person worship.
The observation is simply this: despite data, and despite facts, we make decisions based on something completely other than facts and rationale. In short, we make decisions, on how we’re feeling. Sure, we’d love for the logical and thoughtful side of us to be in control; but when we look around, something else seems to be steering the ship. We make decisions based on… anxiety, the need to control, the thought of what others will think of us, what everyone else around us is doing, boredom, etc.
And, this right here, is what requires our attention because our escape from discomfort has and continues to threaten the life of creation and the possibility of creative manifestations in the sacred cycle of evolution toward wholeness. We need to get real about what we are paying attention to and confess that just because the reality is painful or upsetting or frightening, does not make it any less real. Or, we can return to the fairy tale of privilege, the storyline that assigns an excuse to the suffering of the Other, that strategizes a plan to defeat the risk of death …but we will not be following Jesus in this journey. Jesus, who walked silently toward death so that all might have life. What we need to pay attention to, is identifying what crosses of our own creation are we being called to carry in our own journey with Christ. This is the return, the reconciliation, the renewal of the goodness birthed in the process of those initial days of Creation. This is the pain worthy of the promise of a resurrected world.