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. (Genesis 1:29-31)
On Christmas Day 1968, the crew of Apollo 8, Commander Frank Borman, William Anders, and James Lovell Jr., were circling the back side of the moon, taking black and white photos of craters and landmarks never seen. They were beyond radio contact with mission base for the entire time, busily recording their findings. As they rounded the other side of the moon the earth began to rise from the horizon of the moon. Anders noticed it first and said, “Oh my God! Look at that picture over there! There's the Earth coming up. Wow is that’s pretty.”
He asked James Lovell for a roll of color film, which he quickly put into his Hasselblad camera and captured the now famous picture which is known as “earthrise.” The Earth hangs in space like beautiful blue jewel beyond the brown cratered surface of the moon.
Even from as far away as the moon (239,000 miles away), the beauty of the earth is unmistakable! There is no other planet like it anywhere in our solar system because no other planet is blue, no other has water in liquid form, so no other planet can sustain life. Scientists have been searching for earth-like planets for many years now, but so far, they’ve only found six planets that might possibly sustain life... but who knows?
So, the earth is not only beautiful, it is one-of-a-kind. As far as we know, there’s no other planet like it. It is as if God bent down and kissed this planet, blessing it as a site of a very special gift called life. And that is exactly what the writer of Genesis describes in the opening chapters of his book. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The author is speaking from the reference point of his own time - he is aware of the earth (at least a corner of it) and he is aware of and the heavens – the moon, the stars and other planets that are visible on a clear night. So, he begins Genesis by stating that God is creator of all of it - the entire observable universe is God’s handiwork. And then he goes on to describe how it all came into being:
Earth was formless and void...empty... lifeless, but then the Spirit of God hovered over the deep and God spoke into the darkness saying: “Let there be light” and there was light. Then God separated light from darkness making day and night and that marked the end of the first day. So, light was the first act of creation.
On the second day God said: “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters,” and there was. It also says that this dome separated the “waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome.” The author seems to think that the blue hue of the sky is actually a result of water above the dome! This may explain where rain comes from (holes in the dome?) So, God creates a dome, an atmosphere in which all living and breathing creatures can live and move and have being.
On the third day, God separates land from sea and brings forth vegetation of every kind... plants and fruit-bearing trees.
On the fourth day, God creates the sun and the moon – greater rules the day and the lesser rules the night.
Then God speaks and fills the sky with birds, fills the waters with swarms of fish big and small... a fifth day.
On the sixth day God, pulls out all the stops and fills the earth with living creatures of every kind – large animals like cattle, and creeping things like reptiles. And lastly, God said: “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness with dominion over the fish, the plants and the birds. So, God made humans male and female in his image, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.’ And it was very good!”
Notice how each day of the creative process builds on the former days. There is a process going on that is culminating, building to a climax on the sixth day, which is the creation of human beings. The glory of God is evident each step along the way, but nothing reveals God’s glory more than the creation of you and me! Human beings are the crowning achievement of God!
Now I know there are literalists out there who want to turn Genesis into a history book by arguing that the world was made in seven days. But the writer of Genesis is not a historian but a theologian... he’s not interested in conveying historical dates and highlights, he’s interested in proclaiming the sovereign power of God our creator and sustainer. He’s lifting God’s glory which is revealed in creation itself and, in you and me.
When the CN tour was first opened in Toronto back 1976, it caught the world’s attention because it was the world’s highest free-standing structure at 1,151 feet. The tower was crowned by a 330-foot antenna that was lifted into place by a huge helicopter nicknamed “Olga.” The process captured the attention of everybody working in office towers downtown and many thousands of hours of work were lost to employers because of Olga. When the project was all done they opened the tower to the public and they showed a time lapsed film of the 40 months of construction. In about five minutes you could watch this tower rise from its humble beginnings to its glorious completion. Well, Genesis chapter 1 is sort of like that; the author is sharing with us the time-lapsed process of how this beautiful place called earth came to be. And along the way the author is making some theological points – namely that human beings are the most glorious creative achievement of God of all. We humans have been made in the image of God... which means we reflect God’s glory in a special way.
And we not only reflect God’s glory, we are given a position of glory in creation. God blessed us and said, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it, rule over it all.” So, God gave this masterpiece of his to us... this one-of-a-kind creation was given into our care and control. It’s our gift!
The question I have for you today is, what is the faithful way to receive such a gift? Are we faithful if we abuse this earth? If we rape the land for its resources, pollute its waters for our profit, and choke our air in the name of industrial progress, is that faithfulness? If we are made in God’s image, then each generation needs to preserve the glory of God’s creation – we must do our utmost to leave the world the same or better than we found it so that the next generation can enjoy. It’s completely irresponsible for our generation to abuse the earth and then to leave it to the next generation to clean up! The stewardship of creation is everyone’s responsibility. Each generation must do their part so that we leave the earth reflecting the same glory as we received it. Anything less is a sin.
There are two environmental issues that are pressing today for which our generation is responsible and must take ownership. The first is global warming and the second is the introductions of plastics. Global warming has been caused by a build-up of CO2 gas in the atmosphere. When fossil fuels are burned, it leaves a byproduct called carbon dioxide in the air. This gas acts like a blanket over top of the earth – it prevents heat from escaping so the world is getting hotter. This is leading to the melting of the polar caps and the rise in sea level. Communities along the ocean are beginning to experience flooding already. In fact, some places, like Tangier island, will likely be uninhabitable in 20 years’ time.
The gas combustion engine is one of the biggest contributors to CO2 gas. This engine has outlived its usefulness in our world and needs to be replaced with electric alternatives. The single biggest impact you can have as an individual is to buy an electric vehicle. Honda has come up with a vehicle that gets a range of over 300 miles now, so there’s no reason not to buy into this technology anymore.
Plastics are the other global issue for our planet. Our world produces over 300 billion tons of plastic each year with less than 10% of it being recycled. Plastics in cars is good because it makes them lighter and more fuel efficient, but single-use plastics such as bottled water and grocery bags are bad because they become garbage very quickly. Many of these bottles and bags end up in roadside ditches and they eventually make their way into our rivers and out into the oceans. Our oceans are now literally choking with plastic pollution. Marine life such as sea turtles and whales are dying in increasing numbers because of ingestion of plastics. The plastic makes them feel full when in fact they are starving to death.
Because we live alongside the Chesapeake Bay, we need to be especially plastic-conscious. Don’t buy bottled water and don’t bring your groceries home in plastic bags... store recycled bags in your trunk and bring them in with you, or request paper bags. Organize a garbage clean-up in your neighborhood to clean up any bottles or containers that are littering the roadsides and waterways to prevent them making it into the ocean. Together we can stop plastic from choking our waterways if we change some simple daily living habits surrounding plastics. I once heard a member of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation say that the Chesapeake Bay would be pollution free if the people who live in the vicinity wanted it to be. In other words, the power to make this area pristine again is really a matter of personal will. It’s within our reach if we simply will it together.
Make some changes!
CBS This Morning is my favorite morning program because they aren’t fluffy – they have some substance to them. But not always. Recently I heard one of the stupidest interviews I’ve ever heard. They interviewed scientist Dr. Micheo Kaku who was promoting his new book entitled The Future of Humanity where he suggests that we need to establish a colony on Mars. Why? Because, he said, we need a back-up plan in case life on earth comes to an end – an asteroid collision, global warming or nuclear war. So, he suggests we approach some of the Silicon Valley billionaires to finance a colony on Mars in the near future.
The problem I have with this is theological. Micheo Kaku suggests we look to space as an alternative to earth because the future on earth is questionable. That is simply not so. This earth is God’s gift to us. It has an atmosphere that can sustain life, it has water that we can drink, it has animals and plants that we can eat. Mars has none of that, so we would have to ship everything we need from here to there to sustain life. Expensive and hardly what you’d call life.
Here’s a novel idea! Let’s save the billions of dollars it would cost to colonize Mars and spend it on this planet! Let’s clean up the waterways, let’s invent a bio degradable alternative to plastic, let’s clean up the air and let’s give to our children a world that is as good or better than the world we inherited from our parents! They deserve it! This world is God’s gift to us... let’s not treat it like a plastic bottle. – used and then discarded. The earth is a one-of-a-kind jewel in this universe and you are a one-of-a-kind creation of God. God has blessed us to be a blessing to each other and a blessing to this earth.
So, live out that blessing in the name of God.