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Humanity Sunday - St John's Papatoetoe

Humanity Sunday

We have entered the season of creation on our Church calendar. The theme for 2021 is The Word in Creation. It is a wonderful theme! It guides us through our current Lockdown, giving continuity and reason to gather online each Sunday. Currently, we will not be meeting in person until we reach Level 1. Unfortunately, we don’t know when that will be.

Last week was Planet Earth Sunday. The elements that compose our earth were spoken into existence. Quite literally, the Word is the Creator. Ironically, the Word became part of the earth when it manifested as human.

Today is Humanity Sunday. In our call to worship we invited all peoples of all lands to worship with us, including our Indigenous brothers and sisters.

Humans are part of God’s creation. Just as God calls upon Planet Earth to give glory to its Creator, so too humanity is encouraged to worship God. The Word of God manifested itself as human in the person we know as Jesus Christ. Jesus helps us to understand humanity’s relationship with the rest of God’s creation.

That is the usual theme for Humanity Sunday:

The relationship between humanity and God’s creation.

Humanity Sunday is important as it revisits the Genesis passages talking about Humanity’s origin. We heard two readings from Genesis. They each had a different voice. They are both God’s word. How then do we reconcile the one that states Humanity has dominion over the God’s creation and the second voice crying out in relationship?

With the first voice we heard in the Genesis reading,

We celebrate the kinship between humanity and the rest of creation.

We often refer to the planet on which we live as “Mother Earth”. The expression of endearment recognises that our human bodies share the earth’s elements. In the Genesis story, humans were formed from the ground itself.

Scientists today confirm that aspect of the Bible’s account, calculating that 96% of the human body is composed of the same elements found in earth’s crust: Oxygen, Carbon, Hydrogen, Calcium, Phosphorus, and Trace Elements (Potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium)[i]

We are literally connected to the Earth. Material elements observable for the sensual sciences (sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch) are shared by humanity, the animal kingdom, and the rest of Creation. That physical connection is important.

Many assume that “dominion” over creation means the right to pillage and plunder resources. Our connection with the planet means humanity has responsibility of “caretaker”. “God gives humans the cultural mandate to rule the creation as benevolent kings”[ii], not malevolent dictators.

The voice of dominion is balanced by the voice of relationship.

With the second voice we heard in the Genesis reading,

We rejoice that humans bear the image of God.

One of the theological notes in The Reformation Study Bible has an interesting introduction to this theme of human beings being created in the image of God:[iii]

In art, the making of images is an exercise of beauty. Painting, sculpture, and the like are often imitative. Through our craft we depict objects drawn from real life.

The ultimate artist is God. When He fashioned the universe, He left His own mark upon it in such a way that the heavens declare His glory and the firmament shows forth His handiwork.

When God made the creatures that filled the earth and the sea, He created one creature to be uniquely made in His own image….

The Reformation Study Bible

He made us!

With God’s image, we have been given responsibility to care for God’s creation. We love and care for the planet and its inhabitants in a responsible fashion. We have sustainability in mind when we harvest its resources. We use those resources responsibly, respecting their divine origin.

With the gospel reading we heard from Mark,

We now understand our role as servants who follow Christ, the true image of God.

The gospel passage helps us to understand what it means as God’s image-bearers. Let us revisit that passage.

So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.

Mark 10:42

Jesus is commenting on what it means to rule. It is relevant as Genesis gives humanity the responsibility to rule. Jesus, then, is helping us understand the Genesis command to have dominion over creation in the context of being created in God’s image.

But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.

Mark 10:43-44

To correct the disciples’ worldly understanding of power and authority, Jesus presents them with His own example. Jesus, the Son of Man who will inherit “dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples should serve him” has come first as a suffering servant, fulfilling the prophecy of scripture. 

For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’

Mark 10:45

So then, Genesis’ assignment of humanity’s rule over creation is one of servitude now until all scripture is fulfilled and the earth ceases its groaning as we all wait for the return of Jesus and the bringing of God’s kingdom to earth.

Humanity Sunday is often a time of “beating up” on humanity and telling off humans for how “bad” they have been in treatment of the planet and its creatures. I want us to understand that Humanity Sunday does not have to be so negative.

The theme of Humanity Sunday is the relationship between humanity and God’s creation. As we are created in the image of God, we have a responsibility to care for God’s world and its creatures. It requires us to listen for God’s wisdom.

Imagine standing outside Britomart at the end of Queen Street in downtown Auckland. You hear many voices calling out for your attention. There are electronic messages, sales solicitations, billboards, and signage, not to mention human voices. Wisdom is also calling out to you. Are you attuned to her voice?

Wisdom not only speaks in humanity’s streets, but she also calls out from the heavens. Although literal sounds in outer space are now captured by scientists, the passage points to symbolic messages. One such voice is that of the Sun. It rises and falls in testimony of God’s Son. Jesus was crucified until dead but then rose again.

We are often so busy listening to ourselves speak that we do not hear others. Too many carry on in collective monologue. There is so much power in words! We are encouraged to listen to them being spoken by others and hear Wisdom’s voice through them.

By far our gravest error is thinking we have heard Christ when in fact we have missed his message. Savouring human teachings and delighting in the tastes of human understanding of God’s words leads to tragedy. Listen to Christ’s Wisdom.[iv]

  • Love yourself enough to recognise your need for Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.
  • Love your neighbour enough to recognise your responsibility as a servant to God’s creation.
  • Love God enough to recognise your need to give God glory in all that you do.

[i] Calculations based on Wikipedia articles: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Composition_of_the_human_body and https://www.thoughtco.com/chemical-composition-of-earths-crust-elements-607576

[ii] The Reformation Study Bible note on Genesis 1:26

[iii] The Reformation Study Bible, p.13

[iv] Listening through the Noise, https://stjohnspapatoetoe.org/2021/09/09/listening-through-the-noise/

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