Let the Earth Bring Forth...
Friday: Genesis 1. 24-31
“And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.’ And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.
“Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’
So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”
Day 6. You might be thinking we’ve reached the pinnacle of Creation. We haven’t. That comes on Day 7. But we have come to a moment of extraordinary importance.
Curious people have been asking big questions for as long as we have been curious people. How are we to live? is one of these questions, and takes us to the core of this Creation story. On this question, the story shines a great light.
Notice the pattern of the preceding days. Day 3: “Let the earth put forth vegetation”. Day 5: “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures”. And at the beginning of Day 6: “Let the earth bring forth living creatures”.
And then this shift. Listen closely and you will feel the earth move beneath your feet. “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness…” The earth generates plants, fish, birds and land creatures. Humankind proceed from God. This does not make us divine, mind you. But it does suggest a difference; primarily, I think, a difference in purpose. “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness…”
Ancient kings often set up images of themselves in the far flung corners of their empires—places they would be unlikely to visit in person. These images were there to remind the people, probably conquered people, who was in charge. And they would send out regents and representatives to be the local face—the living image, of the king. By royal declaration, these men were charged to do, in these nether regions of the realm, exactly what the king would do were he there in person.
This is one meaning of the image and likeness of God. In the Creation story it is the foundational calling of humankind. By decree we hold dominion over the Creation. As the image of God we are charged to care for it as the Creator cares for it. “Be perfect,” Jesus said, “as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5.48). Be in the world, in other words, as God would be in the world. Join with the earth and the sea and, on God’s behalf, generate goodness on the earth.
Through six days the story teller brings us along on a rising spiral of Creation: space and safety, beauty and abundance, food and companionship, peace and possibility. Then she hands the keys to humankind and says, “Now—you take care…”
Prayer: Many days, and in many places, we are not faithful reflections of your image, Creating God. Call us back. Teach us to rest in your grace, to trust in your abundance, to reflect your generosity, to care—in the way you care, for all you have made. Amen.