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All of us have memories of home. When asked about home, we often talk about the house (or houses) we grew up in. The neighbors next door. The school down the street. The creek or woods or playgrounds we explored as a child.
And we speak of our current home: its place and inhabitants, its traditions and customs, its look and feel. Home is many things, but most importantly it is a place of permanence, a place where we dwell rather than merely live, a place saturated with identity-giving stories. Ideally, home is a place of safety and rest, a place of hospitality, a place of belonging.
Sadly, for some of us home was not a safe place or a place where we fit in. Broken homes are all too common, as are homeless people: those without shelter and living on the street (the socio-economically homeless), those who no longer feel at home in their home place because of the global warming induced changes (the ecologically homeless), those always on the road, whether the perpetual tourist or the postmodern nomad (the psycho-socially homeless).
The Bible begins with a story of home. A homemaking God creates a world for inhabitation. In days 1-3 God creates various habitats and in days 4-6 God creates different inhabitants for those habitats: the sun and moon (day 4) for day and night (day 1), fish and fowl (day 5) for waters and sky (day 2), animals wild and domestic and also humans (day 6) for the dry land with vegetation (day 3). The Genesis 1 creation narrative is a carefully crafted story of creatures inhabiting their God-given homes.
We live in a home with many other creatures. Our home planet is a habitat not only for humans (`adam) but for all living things (kol nephesh hayyah). Though unique in being made in God’s image, and called to rule as God rules, humans are created on the same day as the animals and are permitted to eat the same vegetarian food. As one scholar puts it: “All the createds are relateds.” We humans share the same house with all other creatures.
In sum, God is the gracious homemaker and the earth is our home. In the first three days, the formless takes form. Because of God’s creative word, from an empty void comes a habitable earth. God speaks and separates. God calls and creation responds. God creates livable places for the plethora of creatures to come. And in the second three days, what is empty is filled. Again because of God’s creating-sustaining word, the regions are occupied by an increasingly diverse array of creatures. And it is very good. No evil is woven into the warp and weft of creation. God is a homemaker making a good home for a diverse range of earthly inhabitants.
We begin this season of Lent with fresh memories of fires raging in Australia and California, with reports of a massive decline in bird populations, with the threat of water scarcity in many places in the world. It is good to be reminded by this Bible narrative that we have one earthly home and share it with all of God’s creatures.
Prayer: O God, Maker of heaven and earth, we thank you for the gift of creation, and we ask that you give us wisdom and courage and hope as we strive to live well with all of our neighbors, human and non-human. Amen.