We have just read this morning the Hebrew creation story, written approximately 1450 B.C. All of the Old Testament writings were written in Hebrew, eventually translated into Greek, and then into Latin. The Hebrew creation story is set in ancient Mesopotamia, the area around Babylon, Iraq and Syria. Our Genesis story parallels other ancient literary writings about creation, mainly from this area – Babylon, Sumeria, and northern Syria. Our Hebrew creation story is definitely Mesopotamian in character.
Now this summer, I studied other creation stories in my course which I took at Regent College in Vancouver – Indigenous Theologies – and we looked at the Hebrew Genesis story, as well as Maori and First Nations Mi’Kmaq creation stories. The Maori came from Polynesia, their culture thousands of years old, and the First Nations Mi’kmaq clan or tribe has been established in North America 14,000 years. In all of these creation stories, there is a theme of light/darkness, sky /earth, a Supreme Being creating out of nothing, humans formed from the earth, and a separation between humanity and the Creator.
Is one story right and the others wrong? No, each story is told in its own culture, place and time. These stories try to explain our existence and how we came into being. How all creation came about. But they also try to explain something else, and it is interesting that this theme is in all of these creation stories despite being thousands of years apart – they try to explain our relationship with our Creator, with God. The relationship portrayed is not perfect. There is a separation between humanity and God in all the stories. Our human nature which often does wrong – and we know when we’re doing something wrong – our imperfections and failings distance us in our relationship with God and with creation.
European thought and the West see humanity as dominant over creation – having dominion. And we’ve learned this teaching largely from the Hebrew creation story where we’re told that God gives us this authority: “Fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over every living creature,” says my bible, the New International Version. “Have dominion over every living thing,” says the King James translation. This emphasis creates a separation between humans and the rest of creation. The Hebrew creation story tells us that everything was made for us, to be used by us, ruled over by us, and the story written this way, has profoundly affected us this way. We humans throughout the centuries, since that story was written and recorded and told and retold throughout the generations, have given ourselves permission to abuse and exploit creation. We use creation for our purposes. We use all beasts, fish of the sea, birds of the air, plants and trees and every living creature that moves on the face of the earth – everything that has the breath of life in it, we use everything for our purposes.
But indigenous creation understanding does NOT see humanity’s role in creation this way. Throughout all North America and in other parts of the world, our role in creation is seen quite differently. Indigenous peoples see humans as part of creation. We are not separate. We are part of it all, and a living entity enmeshed and connected with all living creation – all of it – animals, humans, plants, all life a part of the whole.
And this concept is strengthened and validated by science.
Colin Tipping has written a book called Radical Forgiveness in which he expresses the theory that when we shift the energy within us, we shift the energy around us. Our thoughts, actions, attitudes, and behaviours change energy. Colin uses scientific fact to back up this concept. All matter is made up of cells, molecules and atoms. Each atom is composed of a nucleus of protons and neutrons, at the centre, around which one or more electrons orbits at ultra-high speed. All matter is made up of this. Now, to get a feel for the spatial relationship between the nucleus and the electron, imagine a football stadium with a basketball sitting in the middle. Now imagine a golf ball orbiting the stadium, the size of the arena, travelling several thousand miles per hour, orbiting the basketball in the centre. This is roughly the size difference between an electron and a nucleus with the immense space between them. You could say an atom is composed of 99.99 % space. Matter is composed entirely of atoms, so matter must be composed of 99.99 % space. Matter seems solid to us because the atoms are packed together so tightly. All matter consists of this energy. Everything physical represents energy we detect with our senses. If the atoms stopped, everything would stop. We would dissipate. Disappear. The atoms, all of us, all of what surrounds us, all this energy, would go elsewhere.
How does this affect your perception of creation?
My learning this summer with indigenous teachings strengthens the concept that we are connected to, and with, all creation. For thousands and thousands of years, the indigenous peoples of North America specifically have believed and taught that we are all part of creation, part of its animation, part of its energy. We are not separate. Humankind and creation are interdependent, interconnected, and interrelated. We all engage in the animation of life, which has been given to us by our Creator. All living things embrace the spiritual and the physical. Humanity is responsible for the physical and spiritual management of all living things, and in turn, all life is responsible for our physical and spiritual well-being. Creation is co-stewardship. We are co-dependent. Part of the great whole. When you are born into a native North American clan or tribe, each clan family associates with different parts of creation, responsible for the physical and spiritual management of that part of creation, responsible for its animation, its energy, its life. This speaks of a restorative and renewing understanding of creation and its care.
Christian peoples, indigenous and otherwise, believe that God came to us in Jesus to restore us, to renew us, and bring us into right relationship with our Creator. Jesus says: “I am in the Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” Jesus is talking about his spirit living within us, our connection him, with God, and each other. “These things I have spoken to you so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete.” The joy Jesus brings is a spiritual, holy energy. Jesus loves us and teaches us to love our world and each other the way our Creator intended.
As we celebrate creation, and new concepts and perceptions, remember that we are always learning, and that we live in a world of wonder, awe and beauty. What was the intent of our Creator? And Jesus coming to us? To co-exist with them, and with all creation of which we are a part. It is quite wonderful. And amazing. Let’s celebrate all life, take care of our world, its animation and energy, and take care of each other. Amen.