Sunday, December 09, 2007

cherry picking on sunday

In Michigan the idea of cherry picking brings connotations of summer sun & eating those dark sweet cherries as you try to fill your picking bag. It’s not a wonder the growers don’t charge you more for every pound of cherries; they must figure the average cherry eater takes only a pound or two home – internally. Today it was noted by someone that I can be a ‘cherry picker’ when it comes to the use of the biblical text. I realize we can all be accused of this if we try to use the text for anything more than a bookshelf of coffee table fixture. Yet. I also believe I’ve come to a place where it’s not my intent to use the text in this way. Deciding to put aside a particular protestant tradition in favor of more faithful living has helped try to see the text more of its intention. This doesn’t mean that being less of a Calvinist or less of a legalist means you see the text clearly either. St. Paul reminds us that we now see through a glass dimly (or darkly) but someday we will see God face to face. (I Cor. 13) I also believe there are three basic ways of approaching Scripture. One approach: We can simply use it to say what we want it to say. Second approach: We can use it to defend our beliefs. Better approach: We can trust that it will show us more faithful ways to live within our current world while not having a dire need to escape to heaven. It seems that when we allow the text to read our lives – as if God is telling us not only the stories of long ago – but also showing us how to live more faithfully… it is then that we more fully recognize the living and breathing text. This leads me back to cherry picking. For all of the cherry picking that ‘liberals’ or ‘conservatives’ may do with the biblical text – we don’t often take seriously God’s command to take care of his creation. Those on the left too often simply want a sustainable planet. Those on the right think anything that resembles recycling is like tree hugging and will ultimately lead to tree worship. I want to get back to cherry picking and Genesis 1. Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." 29 Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food." And it was so. 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. We have a God who created all things and ends up saying it was very good. Between those things we are told that man and woman are to care for this earth. Some people have called this the creation mandate and others have called it the first covenant between God and humans. Never are we told to abuse it or use it for our gain or for our power. The biblical writers continue for centuries with entire segments dedicated to the recognition of God’s creation and his presence within the creation. When destruction comes to God’s people destruction nearly always also comes to the land - the place where God resides. The prosperity of God’s people is closely tied with the prosperity of the creation. To disconnect the two themes causes chaos to the intent of the biblical text. For the Israelite people – caretaking for the land and following the ways of Yaweh (holy God) were not two things that were separable. They were intrinsically tied together. Critics will quickly point out this becomes some kind of pantheism where a piece of God can be found in all things. But we need to realize that God doesn’t say this is the case. He simply points out that he created all things and they are all very good. Then he leaves humans to care for his creation. We have a number of choices regarding the creation. 1 - We can ignore the environment and simply continue to live as we please leaving the creation to external forces bigger than us. 2 - We can become people who are concerned about how we are taking care of the creation. Depending on our understanding of the biblical text - we can recognize the presence of a creative God or we can become patheists who believe God is discovered in every tree and flower. It seems the first ignores the biblical mandate to care for the creation. Not being willing to recognize God’s call for the caring of his creation immediately creates theological problems for our understanding of the creation account. Likewise - eliminating God as creator for a sustainable earth doesn’t recognize the creator. It also disregards the biblical text in terms of its value for our lives. Only when we recognize that we are caretakers of his creation do we place ourselves on planet earth in a way the biblical writer of Genesis intended. This also leaves us with no option other than to be advocates for the creation. I’ll even suggest that as we become better caretakers of the creation we also become more fully human in the way that God intended us to be – that we as humans become more like the image of God as he intended us to be.

1 comment:

SolaMeanie said...

I won't engage the text in your post. I just came here to say Feliz Navidad.