The Earth As God's Temple
Dear Kaleid Ladies,
I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness in the exuberant earth. Stay with God! Take heart. Don’t quit. I’ll say it again: Stay with God. – Psalm 27:14 (The Message)
Good morning! What a joy to have the brisk air and sunshine welcome us to a new day!
Y’all know that this is our “See the City” season at Kaleid (to read more about our rhythms, check out this blog from a few months ago.) In our See the City Foundations Circle, we talk about seeing the “soil,” “stories,” and “systems” in our city. Participating in the Kingdom of God coming on earth as it is in heaven means relating to our lived, local reality… to creation (soil), to the history and rhythms of our community (stories), and to the systems that harm and bless people in our city (systems).
Making a case for the soil—for why creation matters—can be hard for Christians, because we suffer from the longstanding sense that the material is bad, and the spiritual is good. (This belief is an ancient heresy called “gnosticism,” by the way, but it has infected our sensibilities, nonetheless.) We tend to think that anything earthly and bodily is home to sin and should be overcome and that anything heavenly or spiritual is home to God and should be advanced.
We don’t have time or space here to talk about how these dualistic ways of thinking became so entrenched, but they have done a great disservice to our ability to experience God’s life in creation and to worship God through the way that we interact with our natural world.
Is there a way to reconsider our understanding? Is there a way to read Scripture with an eye toward God’s invitation to nurture creation and to receive nurture from creation?
We say yes!
Let’s go to Genesis to begin.
The first creation story in Genesis is Hebrew art with phenomenal linguistic riches. Sadly, we don’t have ears to hear our astounding origin story in its native tongue. One of its beauties is its parallel repetition. Days one through three tell of God bringing order through division: light and dark, our earth and beyond, land and sea and vegetation. Days four through six tell of God decorating these ordered spaces with manifold generativity: stars and planets, fish and birds, animals and humanity. Order and filling repeat three times… the space created on day one is filled on day four, and so forth. Creation is good. Many times over.
Also, each creation day has verbal boundaries, “It was evening, and it was morning…” That is, except for the seventh day. The seventh day does not have the familiar closing refrain to tell us of its boundaries. There is no “It was evening, and it was morning” for day seven. This is the day that God rests and blesses. And it continues, even now. God’s Sabbath and blessing on earth have not stopped.
A curious but common agreement among Old Testament scholars is that Hebrew readers would have understood the creation story to be a story of God creating earth as God’s first temple and then coming to rest in that temple. Just as God’s presence comes to dwell in the Israel’s tabernacle, and her Temple, and in believers through the Holy Spirit, God’s presence originally came to dwell with humanity in the temple of the earth.
And God didn’t leave.
There is no “it was morning, and it was evening” for the dwelling, resting, blessing day. It continues even now. God’s presence remains in our created world, God’s relationship with humanity is located in the created world, and God’s first endowment of responsibility to humanity is that we fruitfully oversee and care as God would care for the created world.
So, why does creation matter when it comes to “Seeing our City” so that we can love well where we live?
It seems that the created world matters because the natural world is a temple where we discover and know God. And, it is our holy dwelling, too, where we tend to it with as much intentionality and delight as God, because we are women in the image of our intentional, delighted, still-here-with-us Creator.
Today, what can you do today to be nurtured by the Creator through creation? How can you nurture God’s created world today?
The Kaleid Team
P.S. Here are two videos you can watch—one is the Bible Project video that explains the poetry of the Hebrew and one is a (much longer) dive into why creation care matters, biblically and theologically.