Monday, February 11, 2019
Gn 1:1-19; Mk 6:53-56
In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters.
Water. Our bodies are made up of water. Our bodies need water, and if we do not or cannot drink, we will die. Drought — a severe lack of water — damages both land and human beings. Water can be dangerous and chaotic. (Who can forget the devastation caused by Hurricane Florence last fall!) In the Bible, water also brings both life and death. There’s the Great Flood and God’s promise never to flood the earth again. There’s the Exodus, when the Red Sea parted and the Hebrew people were able to leave slavery behind and travel toward the promised land. Jesus was baptized by John, changed water into wine at a wedding, and washed the feet of the disciples. In the beginning, there was water. At the end, there will also be water — and God.
For your steadfast presence in both calm and chaos, O God, we give thanks.
Tuesday, February 12, 2019
Gn 1:20—2:4a; Mk 7:1-13
Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.
Almost every human culture has myths about the Earth and its origins. Many ancient cultures saw the Earth as a mother, the fertile source of life. Creation therefore was holy and sacred; human beings were part of creation and lived in harmony with creation. Most Westerners, however, tend to see creation as raw material to use, manipulate and control for our benefit. After all, as it says in Scripture, God told us to subdue the earth. God gave us dominion. Unfortunately, “dominion” came to be understood as a God-given invitation to use the resources of creation however we wanted. We forgot that human beings were created to live in harmony with each other and with the rest of creation. And human beings were given a special responsibility to care for the Earth. So instead of being caretakers and stewards, we act like owners. We exploit, pollute, consume and waste while foolishly thinking that the Earth will survive.
May our lives reflect our calling to be stewards of your creation, holy Creator.
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Gn 2:4b-9, 15-17; Mk 7:14-23
The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.
One of my joys over the past year and a half has been transforming a very blank, boring front yard into a flower garden. A church member helped till and remove the grass, and last May I planted all kinds of native perennials. By August, I was amazed at how much the plants had grown, even though we had a terribly hot and dry summer. Butterflies and hummingbirds enjoyed the butterfly bush, loosestrife and Black eyed Susans. Before long, I will be planning the flowers and plants to add this coming spring. Although it’s a lot of work, cultivating my little garden is also meditation, prayer and what I call “dirt therapy”. There’s something very satisfying about planting, watering and weeding – and then getting out of the way to watch things grow.
Creator God, thank you for the opportunity to cultivate and care for your earth.
Thursday, February 14, 2019
Gn 2:18-25; Mk 7:24-30
Saints Cyril, Monk, and Methodius, bishop
The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals; but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man.
In the garden, God does not want the first human to be alone. So God creates all kinds of animals and birds, and the man names them. But for all their marvelous diversity, not one is a “suitable” partner for the man. So God creates another human being, a woman — different, yet equal. Both are created in God’s image, and both are created to live in relationship with God and with each other. This second creation story makes it clear that we are all God’s children and we were all created equal. And yet, women and girls around the world are still considered second-class human beings. They are denied education, vilified when they speak up about abuse or assault, paid less, and sold into slavery. As disciples of Jesus, who challenged the norms of his day especially in regards to women, we too are called to protect women’s fundamental human rights.
Even as we give thanks for our identity as God’s children, we pray for the day when all people will be treated as equals.
Friday, February 15, 2019
Gn 3:1-8; Mk 7:31-37
So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
After the two different creation stories, we now have an account of the first sin and its punishment. I imagine the Hebrew writer looking around at the world and wondering how to reconcile the selfish, rebellious actions of the human creatures with the goodness and shalom of God. The Hebrew writer created a story, a myth, about how the first humans fell from the grace of paradise because of their disobedience. Then, thanks in large part to Augustine, early Christian theology began teaching that we too are infected with “original sin.” For Augustine, we sin because we are sinners; it’s in our DNA. But “fall” and “original sin” aren’t in the story, are they? In fact, the Bible told us — as we heard just a few verses earlier — that we were created in God’s image, as part of a good creation. We turn away from God by making bad choices — not because we are carriers of sin, but because of ego, fear or insecurity.
For the wisdom and grace to choose your way, we pray.
Saturday, February 16, 2019
Gn 3:9-24; Mk 8:1-10
God then asked the woman, “Why did you do such a thing?” The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”
Do you remember the “Family Circus” cartoon? Mom or Dad would ask their children who did this-and-such, and every one of them would say, “Not me.” Running through the cartoon was a little ghost-like figure who was the infamous “Not me.” Those cartoons remind me of this story, where both Adam and Eve say, “Not me!” In the end, they are punished and banished from the garden. There are legends about what happened to Adam and Eve that never made it into the Bible. According to one of them, God gave them a cave to live in just east of Eden. Desperate, they begged God to let them return. God said no, but God compassionately tried to rouse them from their despair. Nothing worked. Finally, as the legend goes, Adam and Eve let God teach them how to make clothes. It was a big step. They picked up the pieces and decided to live.
Forgive our excuses, merciful God. Set us free from a past we cannot change.