31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
March 19, 2023
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
I have been blessed to travel to a lot of beautiful places. One of which is Grand Teton National Park. The pictures for the Passing of the Peace online are ones I took there a summer ago. All these months later, the grandeur and awe of the Grand Tetons has stayed with me. Wherever you are worshipping, whenever you are worshipping, I invite you to join me on a journey, a journey of the mind and a journey of the heart.
The journey begins in a small log chapel surrounded by a meadow of tall flowing grasses. You enter and take a seat on one of the wooden benches, joining countless Christians and tourists who have paused here to marvel. To marvel at the majestic snow-peaked mountains visible in the distance through the large front window. To marvel at the cross in front of that view. To marvel at God’s love.
From the chapel, you journey through the meadow, into a wooded forest, arriving at a large lake, resting at the base of the majestic snow-peaked Grand Tetons. Sunlight dapples across the lake’s surface. Sunlight shines down on you and warms your face. The sky is clear blue above you. Awe fills your heart. What an amazing world God has made.
You pause for a moment to soak it all in: the grand mountains reaching up, up, up, to the endless blue sky; the different textures of the trees all reflected in this crystal clear lake. You pause for a moment to soak in the beauty of this place, and not just the mountains and trees and water. You pause and soak in the joy of the people gathered all around you. People gathered with family and friends picnicking on the shore. Children and adults splashing and laughing in the water. The serene paddling of the kayaker gliding through, journeying from this lake down the river to the next lake in this string of beauty.
You pause for a moment to soak it all in. God made all of this. God made all of this beauty and called it good, called it very good, and that includes you. You are awesome. You are amazing. You are majestic. You are God’s beloved with whom God is well pleased.
Pause for a moment and let the awe flow into you. Let the awe flow through you. Let the awe flow from you.
Let God’s love flow into you.
Let God’s love flow through you.
Let God’s love flow from you – out into the world, loving God, loving yourself, loving your neighbor, loving creation.
The word steward shows up twenty times in the New Revised Standard translation of the Bible. Always in connection with faithfully taking care of another human being’s property. It is never used to describe our relationship with creation. Instead, we hear that we should “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.” (Genesis 1:26) Other translations say that we should “rule” over God’s creatures or “take charge”.
At first glance, the Hebrew word “radah” (raw-daw) would be translated as “to tread down” or “subjugate”. Living in a world where basic survival was hard, where it took an entire day’s effort to eek out enough food to live, we can understand why the ancient Hebrew people might have used this word in connection to creation. Their basic survival depended on them being able to tame, to tread down, to have dominion and rule over the wilderness that was creation.
And yet, that is just the surface meaning of this word. If we look at “radah” in context (and we should always look at words in context), we see that before God says “let them have dominion”, God says “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness”. (Genesis 1:26)
God says that before, and the Bible says it again after “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them;” (Genesis 1:27)
Created in God’s image, blessed by God, blessed by God with creation, we are not called to dominate and use the earth and all of its creatures for our own agenda and purposes. As God has done with Jesus Christ, we are called to literally walk among creation as equals, shepherding it, being in relationship with creation so we can care for it and it can care for us.
Just as God has done through Jesus Christ, we are called to love- to love creation and all of its creatures. To love the majestic mountains and the sun dappled lakes. To love the plants and the flowers and the trees. To love the bears and the bunnies and the bugs.
Standing at the base of the Grand Tetons, standing anywhere in God’s creation, our souls are filled with awe. Our hearts are filled with love, love of God, love from God, and that changes us. God’s love changes us. It changes our hearts and our minds, and it changes our behavior.
Filled with love from God, filled with love of God, that love spills out of us into lives of service, into love of neighbor, into love and care of nature, into being God’s faithful stewards. The way we choose to live, the way we choose to behave changes. Our eyes are opened to the small and large ways we can treat the earth as precious instead of disposable.
When we say and sing, “they will know we are Christians by our love”, that also means they will know we are Christians by our love of creation, by our love of animals, by our love of the earth. They will know we are Christians because as we walk with our neighbor, we stop to pick up trash. They will know we are Christians because we join the Parks and Recreation Green Team however it is named in your community. They will know we are Christians because we recycle, we compost, we think twice before printing, we turn off the lights, we turn off the faucet, we plant seeds. We plant seeds of love.
Created in God’s image, marked with the sign of the cross and God’s unconditional love, we are filled with awe – awe that God loves us and awe that God has entrusted this beautiful, wondrous, majestic planet to us.
And that awe, that awe flows into us, flows through us, and flows from us. God’s love flows into us, flows through us, and flows from us.
That love changes us, changes us into people who faithfully steward the beauty of this earth, for our sakes and for the sake of all of God’s children, the human ones and the furry ones as well.