“Interdependence” was a sermon preached by Pastor Pam Schaefer Dawson in conjunction with our worship celebration on September 10, 2023. It was/is based on the story on the Creation based in Genesis 2:4-25. To access a copy of this week’s worship bulletin, click here: Worship Order 20230910
The book of Genesis contains not one, but two, creation stories. Each is quite different from the other. The creation story that we did not read today, the one from Chapter 1 of Genesis, is actually thought by scholars to be the newer version, with the one we read today being the older version. Scholars believe that the text we read this morning dates back to the time of King David, who ruled Israel from 1090 – 970 BC, whereas the account in Genesis Chapter 1 is thought to come from the time of the Babylonian exile, which happened four centuries later in 597 BC.
The accounts served unique purposes related to the events going on in Israel at the time. Chapter 1, with its emphasis on God bringing order out of watery chaos, would have been comforting to the people of Israel as they were living in exile in the land between the rivers – Mesopotamia – which flooded every year. The account in Chapter 2, the earlier account, was written during a time of relative stability in Israel under King David, and depicts man as being in charge (created first) and responsible for the care of creation. And in this version of the creation of the world has God bringing together four rivers to form an oasis where there had previously only been dry ground.
In our account from Chapter 2, the woman is created last, and this has caused some to question whether her being created last indicates that she is less than man in some, or even many, ways. Some have taken it to mean just that. However, being created last does not imply being “less than.” Note that in the Chapter 1 account, human beings (“male and female”) are created last, as the crown of creation. Also, the structure of the text, with man being created, then all of the world’s plant and animal life, and then woman being created, places man and woman as complementary to one another, framing the rest of creation. Woman is built from the same DNA as man, not formed from the ground as the animals are. The man calls her, “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh,” which is the very same wording used by the tribes of Israel as they assent to David being their king (recorded in 2 Samuel 5). And so, much as some would like to surmise the inferiority of women because in this account she is created last, that just doesn’t hold up. Patriarchy and male domination, and the oppression of women, enter the story as sin enters it; they are not a part of God’s good creation.
This creation narrative weaves God’s creation as an interdependent web. Human and non-human creation, and even the Deity, are all caught up in a relational reality. For example, our text says that on the day that the Lord God created the heavens and the earth, there were no plants or herbs. Why? For the fields to produce, there needs to be divine gift and human work. The Lord God has not yet caused rain to fall, and the natural cycle of rain has not yet started. Creation is dependent upon God’s sending the rain. In addition, the fields do not yet produce because there are no humans to serve and work the land yet. Humans are made from the earth, and the earth depends on their work to produce. They are intertwined, interdependent. We and the land and all of creation are interdependent. In this version of the creation story, the earth needs us and we need the earth. Unlike the dominion we hear about in the other version, here we learn that our place in creation is to serve it and to care for it.
Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment, folks. How well are we doing with caring for creation? Not too well, it seems to me. We’ve got garbage (largely plastic) piling up on land and in the sea. We’ve got a depleted ozone layer. We’ve got the by-products of coal and oil production and consumption dirtying our air and our land. We have water issues, as well as over-farming issues. And that’s just a start. Humankind has been selfishly using more natural resources than can be replenished for decades now, and things are looking bleak.
If we are really being honest with each other, we also need to take a look at how well (or poorly) we are caring for other human beings as well. Here at Holy Shepherd, through our Giving Beyond Ourselves, we do give to aid people and communities in need. And that is a very good thing. However, financial caring is only a part of the picture when it comes to caring for God’s creatures, particularly humans. How well do we advocate for justice for those who are oppressed, both here and abroad? How much do we give of our time (either listening to or doing loving deeds for those who have need)? And what about those in our very own circle of family or friends? Do we sometimes get so busy with our own lives that we do not take the time to slow down and deeply listen to the cares and concerns of those closest to us?
God created the world, all of its plants and animals, and us, to be interdependent. We need creation, and it needs us. We need God, and yes, God needs us. We were created to be in community with one another and with God, and to care for the whole of creation. God has given us every good gift needed for this joy-filled work.
When sin entered the world, human beings cut themselves off from God and from the goodness of creation in order to follow our sinful and selfish desires. We still tend to feel more comfortable in this separate state – separate even from one another – than we feel with being in community and with interdependence with God and with creation. Our state of being separate, and of thinking that it is a weakness to need anything from others, has gotten grooved and worn.
But we were not created by our loving God to live separated from each other and from creation. We were not created to live separated from God. God’s deepest desire is that we turn to God and learn again to be interdependent with God, with creation, and with other human beings. God so loved the world that God gave the only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
The solution to the separateness that sin introduced into creation is Jesus. The solution to our trying to live self-sufficiently, pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps is Jesus. The solution to our overuse and destruction of God’s good creation is that we repent and ask Jesus’ guidance as we work to heal creation.
God has given us, and continues to give us, everything that we need. We are called to be good stewards of this earth that God has created, as well as of the animals and the other human beings that are a part of God’s creation.