SCRIPTURE: Genesis 1:26-28 (Inclusive Bible)
Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, to be like us. Let them be stewards of the fish in the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle, the wild animals, and everything that crawls on the ground.” Humankind was created as God’s reflection: in the divine image God created them; female and male, God made them. God blessed them and said, “Bear fruit, increase your numbers, and fill the earth—and be responsible for it! Watch over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things on the earth!”
One: This is the witness of The Church,
Many: thanks be to God!
THE MESSAGE: (Rev. Tracy Robertson)
As we come back to in-person worship, we acknowledge that we are still very much in a time of uncertainty and chaos. Yesterday, we marked the 20th anniversary of 9/11 with all the emotion attached to that event bubbling up again. And amidst the 4th wave of a continued pandemic, we find ourselves trying to move forward, albeit at our own comfort levels and speeds. In the season of the church, September is the season of Creation and our liturgical colour is orange; the colour of healing, and ‘Humanity’ is today’s theme – all of which are very fitting as we continue to heal, evolve, and learn. And while we are focusing on the Genesis scripture this morning, it goes hand in hand with Jesus’ gospel message and teachings – that always, and clearly, we are called to serve and preserve. The role of the human made in God’s image is to mirror God to the world and to care as God cares.
Last week was our City-Wide Pride service and Rev. June Joplin shared a sermon of love with us and it’s essential message was that God is love and wherever we experience love, we experience God. And I would say that wherever we live out love, we live out God. So in that way, our scripture this morning of being in relationship with Creation means relating in the world as God would. It reminds us of our divinity and in that, our responsibility to be like God in the world. We have been gifted with the power to take up God-given responsibilities, which means in all we do and all we say and all we think, we need to do so mirroring God; always. On this Humanity Sunday, we explore the relationship of mutuality that humans share with all Creation and reflect on how human action impacts everything on Earth. How might our call to serve and preserve nudge us to consider what kinds of changes we need to make in our lifestyles and attitudes?
Our United Church creed declares clearly that we are called to live with respect in Creation – we say those words often and we also know that the biggest challenge is living out those words in our day-to-day decisions. But I know many of us choose to live with respect in Creation by recognizing the diversity of life in the ecosystems we happen to be in. We take intentional time to sit in the presence of other people, plants, animals, stones, and bodies of water. We learn names, preference, and habits. We go on hikes and camp and participate in guided tours or read about the history of the plant or animal life in the areas we’re visiting. We love it, don’t we? When Todd and I took the train home from Ottawa in 2017, we participated in presentations offered by train staff and learned about the wonderfully diverse areas we were travelling through; the Canadian Shield, the prairies, the mountains. Not only that, I was in my glory getting to know the people on the train with us; where they’re from, their history, their names. We human beings are naturally curious about diversity and yet, we have become fearful of the ‘other’ and the differences. It is in the words “living with respect in Creation” where our natures are indeed nurtured specifically because of the diversity involved.
As the scripture continues, the literal meaning of the commands that humans be “fruitful and multiply” addressing the real concern during a time of exile which was to populate Earth, doesn’t fit for us today and our very real truth about the earth being overpopulated. So today, I read this verse in scripture wondering whether there might be new situations that require humanity to participate in, or multiply, towards Creation’s full potential? Creation’s full potential includes our mirroring and living out God’s love in all we do. And we’ve learned a lot of creative ways to mirror God’s love in the world, haven’t we? For me, touchy-feely Tracy, a big personal learning during COVID has been that I don’t need to physically touch another to show love and care. When Justin and Candace’s son, Declan, was born, they brought him by the office for me to have baby cuddles. Because COVID happened soon afterwards, that was the one and only time I’ve embraced that boy, but we have formed a wonderful bond despite not touching. He recognizes me on zoom and in-person despite my being masked, we play, and we’ve become quite close, and as much as I am a huge proponent of physical touch being comforting and healing, I now know that comfort, healing, and God’s love can be mirrored in the world without physical touch, and that’s been a real a-ha moment that I’ve had to accept and live in to and come to embrace. That is one way that I have borne fruit and multiplied in the world today, and I’m sure there are many ways in which others have done the same mirroring of God’s love.
Of course, we are also as God is in the world when we take care of those things we’ve been given responsibility for. As our scripture says, “Let humankind be stewards of the fish in the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle, the wild animals, and everything that crawls on the ground.” But what does being a good steward mean? Assistant Clinical Professor and Department Head of Graduate Studies for Goodwin College Drexel University, Anne Converse Willkomm states this about being a good steward. And you might be surprised to hear that being a good steward in business is similar, if not exactly the same, as being a good steward in your faith, church, or in the world, so as I read Willkomm’s words, replace her references to institution or company with faith, church, or world and replace the word stakeholders with community. Willkomm says that stewardship is saying hello, being polite, and helpful to any stakeholder – known or unknown. For the stakeholders we know, it was remembering their birthday, their recent trip to Greece, or that their mother-in-law was recently hospitalized. It also means using the dollars at our disposal with care, concern, and integrity to advance the mission of the institution. She also explained that in her view, stewardship began the moment someone entered our doors and it did not end when they left – it was ongoing. And perhaps equally as important, it was about championing the institution to the public. She lists three simple, but important strategies, you can employ to be a better steward:
Listen to others and cultivate relationships.
Do not speak ill of the company.
Be responsible with company money.
Willkomm ends by saying, “Being a good steward is similar to being an ambassador. A good steward, like an ambassador, is a respected representative, one who acts on behalf of their company, promoting it. They meet and greet and engage with many people, never knowing who might later be a friend or a foe. They build and cultivate relationships. So, think about how you interact with your co-workers, leadership, and clients, and ask yourself – am I a good steward?”
In our current time and place, the world seems to be in chaos and I, quite frankly, am not seeing many examples of good stewards. From the throwing of rocks, spitting, and defacing political signs to the insistence of not wanting to wear a piece of fabric on our faces, the world is unrecognizable. At least to me, anyway. People have stopped caring for the children who died at residential schools; many not knowing that the number is up to almost 7,000 and still growing; and where’s God, where’s love? According to today’s scripture, we’re God; we’re responsible for mirroring God in the world, of being love…so the question really is, where are we? We have candidates running right now for government and municipal positions who want the conversion therapy ban rescinded or the history of Canada to be whitewashed; what’s our response and responsibility as divine images and reflections of God? I see more and more that people are choosing to be hurtful and harmful instead of loving and kind. And I get it; people are done with this pandemic. They’re tired and frustrated with leadership or lack of leadership but when individual organizations make decisions based on their best intentions, dare I say, mirroring God in their care for others, anger seems to be the only response these days. It is upsetting to me that a loving response to rising COVID numbers has become political rather than plain and simple care for one another; being God in the world. Forget politics and start thinking humanity. It is an honour for humankind to be made in the images of God. And we’re called to be good stewards of the Earth. There’s no politics involved; just love for one another. God is love and whenever we witness love, we witness God. So what are we witnessing with the hurling of stones and the giving of the finger and the spitting in the faces? It’s certainly and most assuredly not God.
Today, Humanity Sunday, Welcome Back Sunday, we are reminded, from the very first book of our bible, that we are made in God’s image with the words, “Let us make humankind in our image, to be like us.” What a wonderfully comforting reminder that we are created as God’s reflection. We are made in the divine image of God. They made us and they blessed us. Let’s give thanks for that divine gift by being the best reflection of God we can be; in our relationships with the Earth, Earth’s creatures, the Creator, and of course, each other. We bear the face of God – not just sometimes, but always. Our responsibility is to represent God – not just sometimes, but always. Our pride should come from being like God, a divine ambassador – not just sometimes, but always. Let’s hold ourselves accountable to that. God is trusting us to make it so. Amen