Do you find your mind turning to mush in the heat and humidity of summer? Do you find that you just want to sit and play in the dirt (garden) or commune with nature (fish)? Does the discovery of a ripe berry patch excite you? Do huge orange and green striped mushrooms amaze you? Do dragonflies fill you with wonder, and appreciation for their huge appetite for black files and mosquitoes? Then you are hearing God's call to delve into the first holy book God gave humanity. The first book? – The book of nature, the one through which we can come to know our Maker.
There are at least five very different stories of creation in the Bible: Genesis chapter 1, Genesis chapter 2, Proverbs chapter 3, verses 19 and 20, where the name Sophia is used for the embodiment of God's wisdom, Proverbs chapter 8 verses 22 to 31, and the Gospel According to John, chapter 1 verses 1-5. They are metaphors for our relationship with God and not science. They were never meant to be thought of as a factual description of the material world nor of the methods by which the material, measurable and quantifiable world came into existence.
Judaism and Christianity are not the only religions that teach about a time of paradise before sin entered the world. But the story of the beginning of human sin that we find in the third chapter of the biblical book of Genesis is important. It highlights what we need to be aware of in our efforts to connect with our origins, with God.
Sin did not begin with sex. It didn't begin with the search for knowledge either, although some forms of Christianity seem to have chosen wilful ignorance as the “safest” route through this life God has given us. Perhaps they take the adage “don't look a gift horse in the mouth” a little too literally.
Sin began with people wanting to be like God, and thinking that they (we) could handle that kind of power in a life-giving way. There is a whole lot that has been written about this and more to come, but not in this column today.
Today I want to pay attention to what we need to be aware of in our efforts to connect with God. We can do this through the inner mystical experience of transcendence, through a drug-induced or facilitated experience of oneness with the universe, through the speechless awe caused when we grasp (if that is the right word) the infinite beauty in numbers, when we reach the limits of philosophical thought, or hold a new born baby, or sit with someone who is dying. We can connect with God when we play in the dirt or commune with nature.
Or - is it really God connecting with us? If we reach out to grasp God, to take God into our own control, then it's the same old story again - Eve standing on Adam's shoulders to reach the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The problem is not the knowledge. To continue the metaphor, God put that knowledge in the garden for humanity to see. We read the book of nature God gave us and that reading is what we call science. We are meant to do this. We have the ability to do it. This is good.
The problem we call sin is when we believe that the knowledge makes us God. Those churches that try to prevent that sin by denying the knowledge are participating in the flip side of the same sin. The one side says “knowledge makes us God,” while the other side says “we are not God so we must not seek knowledge.” There is no humility in either approach.
A good healthy sense of humility goes a long way toward a faithful relationship with God. We cannot grasp and control God, but we can be open to God connecting with us. The Bible tells us over and over again that God comes to us repeatedly. That same healthy humility is not too proud to accept that we don't know everything and should use the abilities God has given to us to read the book of creation, because we have responsibilities toward it. Don't deny the gift or think that we made it ourselves.
A good healthy sense of humility comes from knowing our place in nature. Then we know more about the responsibilities God has given us as part of the ecosystem. There are more bacteria living on and in our bodies than there are cells of our own bodies. We need them in order to stay alive and healthy. They need us. God has made us a little lower than the angels according to the Bible, and God has also made each one of us a symbiotic community: human and bacteria. That is as it should be.
So play in the dirt and commune with nature. Let God reach you and take your awareness beyond the edges of your own skin and desires into this whole wonderful creation. Walk once again in the perfection of God's garden knowing your place in it as God's companions.
Rev. Leslie-Elizabeth King is the minister of St. John’s United Church and Advent Lutheran Church in Thompson.