Dominion

Earth Day 1

Scripture Text:  Psalm 8

1O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.

2Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.

3When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established;

4what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?

5Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.

6You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet,

7all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,

8the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

9O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

 

Earth Day 2Today is Earth day.  I’m not exactly sure what that is.  Somehow, it is the day we honor the earth, remember the earth, care for the earth, revere the earth.  Yes, we, we humans, who God gave dominion over the earth have apparently designated a day when we do that.  Dominion…we struggle with that word.  In our world of empires and winners, dominion for us connotes power.  It depicts the one who is on top, who has “won out” and can make all the decisions.  And so we have reaped and sowed and pumped and spilled and flattened and built and paved and thrown and used and have given little in return to this Creation that God breathed in being and then lovingly placed in our hands.  Dominion is not about power; it is about responsibility; it is about care; it is, ultimately, about love.  We have been given dominion over the works of God’s hands, over this Creation that God spoke from chaos.

Earth Day 3I wish I would be more caring of the earth.  Actually, I DO care.  It’s just so inconvenient sometimes.  It was much easier when I could recycle on the curb.  It’s hard to walk to work because there is a really, really busy road to cross and I have lots to carry.  And those plastic water bottles are just so easy to use.  But those are just excuses.  Dominion is not about convenience.  God gave us Creation for our sustenance and our life and, yes, even our pleasure.  But God did not give us Creation to use up, to deplete.  Remember, dominion is about responsibility.  Having dominion over something means loving it so much that you can do nothing less than give it the means to thrive.  And thrive it will, given the chance.

When God breathed Creation into being, there was nothing about it that was static or temporary.  In God’s breath was life.  And as God breathed, God also invited each and every creature into the ongoing creative activity.  So over time, the earth itself would move and groan and give way to shifts in its existence.  Plants would dig deep into the earth for their life and some would reach extraordinary heights while others would bloom for a season and then die away to replenish and nurture the other, letting go so that life could continue on.  Animals would scale or slither or walk or swim, some providing food and warmth for other creatures and some returning themselves to the earth after a time so that the soil would nurture life again.  And there would be some whose purpose seems to be to do nothing else but give companionship to those with dominion and remind them what it means to care, and what it means to love.Earth Day 4

I guess it’s good we have this day.  It’s always good to have a day not to finally do what we are called to do, but to remind us what it means to have dominion, remind us what it means to care and what it means to love.  The Psalm says that God made us a little lower than the angels and placed Creation in our hands.  Look around at what God has done and what God has placed in your hands. And so see and breathe and savor and plant and tend and water and feed and care and love.  And be in communion with all that God is and all that God has made.  And let it give back to you willingly with its gifts of life.  And us?  Well, we are made in the very image of God, the image of the One who gives life.  What does that look like?  What does it mean to give life?  It means to have dominion, to care, to love.  “How majestic is your Name in all the earth!”

If I spend enough time with the tiniest creature—even a caterpillar-I would never have to prepare a sermon. So full of God is every creature. (Meister Eckhart, ca. 1260-1327)

Click below for a wonderful photo prayer from the website of The United Methodist Church:

God’s Gift of the Earth: A Photo Prayer

 

FOR TODAY:  It is Earth Day.  Plant or feed or water or use.  But, whatever you do, take dominion in love.

 

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Blessed

jesus-washing-the-feet-calvin-carterScripture Text:  John 13: 1-17, 31b-35

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them…

 

31…“Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

Tonight is the night.  Tonight is the night when death begins to cross the threshold into life, when Jesus begins to slip away from the disciples and from his life here on earth and surrenders to what will be, surrenders to where this journey will take him.  But before all that, before the history of the world changes, before the Divine comes once again flooding into the earth, before Jesus takes that last walk to the Cross, he gets up and ties a towel around him, kneels, and washes the disciples’ feet.  Think about what an intimate act that is in the middle of this Passover crowd.

The first time I participated in a foot washing, I have to admit I was a little reticent at first.  Wouldn’t this be uncomfortable?  After all, washing feet is very intimate.  Yep!  That would be the point!  I remember washing one woman’s feet.  Her name was Caroline.  When I picked up her feet, feet that had had a hard life early on in her native Nigeria, feet that had seen wars and conflicts, feet that had known deep grief in the death of her husband when she was a young woman and deep joy at the lives of her four sons who she had raised alone, I felt life.  It was palpable, almost scary, as if it shot through me.  There, holding in my hand, was not a foot, but life, God-given life, rich life.  I was holding her humanity—and mine.  And then Caroline started praying aloud in her native language.  It was incredible.  It was transcendent.  I understood what it all meant.  I understood why Jesus knelt and washed the disciples’ feet.  Washing feet calls one to serve; having one’s feet washed calls one to be vulnerable, to let go, to surrender.  Foot-washing is life.  It is a way of entering each other, of knowing each other, of sharing each other. If you know these things you are blessed if you do them.

When Jesus was finished, he got up, removed the towel, and looked at the disciples.  He had tears in his eyes.  He knew this would be the last time that he would share in this way with them.  This would, after all, be the last night that Jesus could share humanity with them.  He knew that and now they did too.  Sharing humanity…such a rich, profound, joyous, sometimes painful experience.  Jesus showed us what being fully human looks like—not “only” human, but “fully” human, the way God created us to be.  Being fully human means compassion; it means service; it means vulnerability; it means connection; it means love; it means life.  It would be impossible to maintain the barriers we build between us if we were fully human.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think being fully human means that we sit around with permanent smiles on our faces and sing “Kum-ba-yah” nonstop.  (Nothing against that song.)  Being human means that you feel—feel joy, sorrow, hurt, anger, etc.  So being fully human means that you feel them fully, right?  You feel them and then you take your shoes off and wash each other’s feet so that they can feel them too.  Wow!  Let’s have Congress wash each other’s feet.  Not only would that stay a few news cycles, it might even get them to talk or even listen.  Let’s have all of the leaders from every country meet for a day of old-fashioned footwashing.  I wonder what the world would look like if we shared our humanity.

Jesus praying in the gardenSo on this night of nights, when death looms up ahead, and friends are sharing their lasts, remember what Jesus taught us—how to be human, fully human, how to be real, how to be who God envisioned we would be.  Remember that Jesus taught us how to feel, how to live, how to love. If you know these things you are blessed if you do them. And after all these things, Jesus turned and looked to God knowing that the end was here.  The soldiers came and took him down the path.  He turned and looked back at them—those he had called, those he had led, those he loved.  He loved them all, even the one who had just kissed his life away.  They would be fine.  They were not alone.  They had each other.  They were on their way to being free, to being fully human.  “Take this cup from me.  I have done what I came to do.  Now I look to you.”

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.  We are spiritual beings having a human experience. (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)

FOR TODAY: First, take your shoes off. And be fully human.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

The Wilderness of Ourselves

Three Crosses and Silhoutted Person in Prayer at SunriseScripture Text:  John 3: 14-17

 

14And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

This is it: THE verse.  So what we do with THE verse?  It’s on street corners and billboards and T-Shirts and tattoos and faces and signs at sporting events.  I think it is often read as some sort of great reward for doing the right things.  You know, if you do everything you’re supposed to do, you’ll be rewarded when it’s all said and done.  And if you don’t, well you’re just out of luck.  So, look at me…do what I do, go to church where I go, be what I am, look like I look.  I’m saved; are you?  (I hate that!)

But we’ve read it wrong.  For God so loved the world—not the ones in the right church or the right country or the right side of the line—but the WORLD.  God loved the world, everything about the world, everyone in the world, so much, so very, very, VERY much, that God came and walked among us, sending One who was the Godself in every way, to lead us home, to actually BRING us home, to lead us to God.  Are you saved?  Yes…every day, every hour, over and over and over again.  I’m being saved with every step and move and breath I take.  I think that’s what God does.  God loves us SO much that that is what God does.  God is saving us.

God came into the world to save the world.  So why would we interpret this to mean that God somehow has quite loving some of us or that we have to somehow bargain with God to begin loving us or that “being saved” is a badge of honor?  See, God loves us so much that God is saving us from ourselves.  It’s back to that snake thing.  OK, kids, you think your main problem is snakes?  Alright, here it is, look at it, hanging there on a tree.  Look at it, really, really look at it.  Quash your fear, let your preconceptions go, just do it.  There now, all is well.  No more snakes.

OK, kids, what is the deal this time?  You have let the world order run your life.  You have become someone that you are not.  You have allowed yourself to be driven by fear and preconceptions and greed.  You have opted for security over freedom, held on to what is not yours, and settled for vengeance rather than compassion and love.   I created you for more than this.  I love you too much for this to go on.  Look up.  Look there, hanging on the tree, there on the cross.  Stare at the Cross.  Enter the Cross.  See how much I love you.  In this moment, I take all your sin, all your misgivings, all your inhumanity and let it die with me.  All is well.  All is well with your soul.

In this season of Lent, we inch closer and closer to the cross.  We shy away.  It’s hard to look at.  But perhaps it’s not the gory details, but the realization that we are the culprits.  Lent provides a mirror into which we look and find ourselves standing in the wilderness of ourselves.  But the Cross is our way out (not our way “in” to God, but our way “out” of ourselves).  Because God loves us so much that God cannot fathom leaving us behind.  But the Cross is the place where we finally know that. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

 

 

First United Methodist Church, Cleveland, TX
First United Methodist Church, Cleveland, TX

In Christian language, to be truly human is to shape our lives into an offering to God. But we are lost children who have wandered away from home, forgotten what a truly human life might be. When Jesus, our older brother, presented himself in the sanctuary of God, his humanity fully intact, he did not cower as though he were in a place of “blazing fire and darkness and gloom.” Instead he called out, “I’m home, and I have the children with me.” (Thomas Long, from “What God Wants”, 19 March, 2012.)

 

FOR TODAY:  Bask in God’s love.  Look up.  What do you fear?  What is wrong?  Look at the Cross.  All is well.  All is well with your soul.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli