I have the honor of sharing on the Reformed Journal blog for the four Sundays of August, and I thought it would be a good time to look ahead to the themes of this year’s “Season of Creation” lectionary, which will be used in many of our churches for four Sundays this fall.
Year A of the Season of Creation lectionary is “The Spirit Series,” meant to focus on the Holy Spirit breathing life into creation, suffering with creation, and renewing all creation.
This first Sunday is “Forest Sunday,” but I’m not sure I see that part. The readings are Genesis 2:4b-22—the second creation account in Genesis—Acts 17:22-28—Paul in the Areopagus—and John 3:1-16—Jesus trying to explain to Nicodemus about being born from above while Nicodemus tries to keep up in the middle of the night. Nowhere do I see a forest in these stories.
What I do see is a bit of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. Fred Rogers, Presbyterian minister and children’s television host, sometimes sang “Everything goes together, because we’re all one piece.”
I see that in these lessons: the woman in Genesis is formed from part of the man. He doesn’t get called “man” in the Hebrew, ish, until the woman, ishah, is present. Before that, he is called “adam,” from adamah, or “mud.” The man is a glorified mud pie without the woman.
Now, please let’s not stray into very non-Reformed complementarian interpretations here, because an entire month of blog posts wouldn’t be enough to sort all of that out.
Just stick with this: we are all meant to be connected to one another; we are all connected to the earth; and God, who breathed life into us, is connected to all of us. Jesus is trying to get Nicodemus to see the need to re-establish that connection. Paul is trying to tell the Athenians this is the part they are missing.
“Everything goes together, because we’re all one piece.” It is increasingly obvious that our world is profoundly broken.
- Multiple scientists agree: last month was the hottest month in the history of our planet.
- Where I live—New Brunswick, New Jersey—the skies turned orange with smoke from wildfires in Quebec for a few days in June: planes couldn’t take off or land, children couldn’t safely play outdoors, and, New Brunswick Theological Seminary, where I work, had to close for one day when the smoke filled the building’s HVAC system.
- Norms about how we should treat each other are breaking down in our societies.
- A former president of the United States has been indicted for trying to undo the democratic processes of our government.
- Russia has invaded a neighbor country, creating an international food crisis along the way, and argues that the rest of the world should let it happen.
- People argue that our children shouldn’t have to learn things about the world that might make them uncomfortable.
- Israel, a nation formed as a Jewish homeland after they were horribly persecuted and oppressed for centuries, now engages in regular persecution and oppression of Palestinians and doesn’t see the irony.
- Over 117.2 million people are or will be forcibly displaced around the world this year—refugees—according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Meanwhile, the church, called to minister to this lost and broken world, is itself lost and broken. The Reformed Church in America is seeking to restructure itself in the midst of schism, even as we cannot bring ourselves to talk to one another over how we relate to each other and live together.
The Christian Reformed Church is going through its own painful breaks; again, people seem unable to talk to each other honestly and openly about relationships. And an astonishing number of pastors are leaving congregational ministry, and some are leaving the church entirely, because they have been too badly wounded by the siblings in Christ they sought to serve in Christ’s name.
“Everything goes together, because we’re all one piece.” Our actions toward the planet, toward each other, and toward God all go together. That doesn’t mean any of this is God punishing us. No, God, through Scripture, through God’s Spirit, has given us an owner’s manual for creation, and we’ve voided the warranty.
We are all one piece, even when we choose to deny it. When we wound the planet, we wound each other, and vice versa, and it stands to reason that we are wounding God in the bargain, since God has chosen to be part of us in all of this. This isn’t punishment, but consequences. This isn’t vengeance, but the natural, equal, opposite reaction to treating everything around us as something to be used and discarded rather than something we should steward.
We need to be in relationship with the world around us just as we do with the people with whom we share it. This is all one piece, all one crisis. And we can still fix it.