Many scholars consider the first 2 chapters of Genesis as two separate creation stories because they have such different styles, structure, and emphasis. Genesis chapter 1 follows an obvious pattern throughout its 7 days: God Speaks, It is so, God saw it was good, There is evening and morning.
Genesis chapter 2 lacks that structure and seems to be “another look at creation” (from the New Interpreters Bible). It seems intended to describe in detail several parts of chapter 1, particularly the day we are focused on today – Day 6, the creation of the land creatures.
These two stories are different, yet in both God is the sole creator of a good and purposeful world, with humankind in a key role. These two stories stand together as a coherent whole. When we compare and contrast these stories, we can grow in wisdom and faith. They help us understand God’s desire for humankind. To that end, I would like to share a dramatic reading presented in 2015 for the Season of Creation at White Plains Presbyterian Church in New York. (modified by me)
Voice 3: A reading from the first chapter of Genesis: God created humankind in God’s image, in the image of God, God created them; male and female God created them. God blessed them and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the Earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon Earth. [Genesis 1:26-28]
Voice 3: A reading from the second chapter of Genesis: Then the Lord God formed a human being from the dust of the ground and breathed into the nostrils the breath of life. And the human being became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the East. Then the Lord God took the human being and put the human being in the garden of Eden to serve and preserve it. Then out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal in the field and every bird of the air and brought them to the human being. [Genesis 2:7-8, 15, 19]
Voice 1: I am the first human being, the voice of the human in Genesis One. I am male and female. I am humanity!
Voice 2: I am the first human being, the voice of the human in Genesis Two. I am male and female. I am humanity!
Voice 1: God made me in a special way. The word of God in Genesis One says so!
Voice 2: And God made me in a special way. The word of God in Genesis Two says so!
Voice 1: I am created in the image of God. The very image of God!
Voice 2: I have been made personally by God. By God’s own hands!
Voice 1: I am like God, created in God’s own likeness.
Voice 2: I am liked by God. I even live in a garden where God likes to walk and talk!
Voice 1: I have human reason. That makes me superior to all other living creatures! Above it all!
Voice 2: I am flesh taken from Earth itself and formed by the breath that comes from God, just as the other creatures. All of God’s creation is my family!
Voice 1: I have dominion over all creatures. I dominate! I tame! I rule all other creatures.
Voice 2: I have a partnership with all other creatures. We are friends.
Voice 1: I am authorized by God to subdue Earth, to harness nature, to put creation under my feet.
Voice 2: I have been given the responsibility by God to serve Earth and preserve it, to care for Earth as God’s garden.
Voice 1: I can conquer creation. I rule!
Voice 2: I groan with creation. If you rule unkindly, I suffer.
Voice 1: I am king over creation! It is for my use!
Voice 2: I am a servant on Earth, caring for creation.
Voice 1: I am king, God said so!
Voice 2: I am a servant, God said so!
Voice 3: Wait just a minute! Stop your arguing!
Voices 1 & 2: But I have God’s word on my side!
Voice 3: Sure you do! But do you have the final word? Do you remember God’s son?
Voice 3: It is the son who is the one who reflects the true image of God on Earth. Jesus – the incarnate one of God. He is the one who is the true servant of God. And how does Jesus invite us to live? Is it to rule like the Romans and dominate like their Caesars?! Or to follow the way of the cross and serve as Christ came to serve? Listen to God’s word from the Gospel for today: “your king is coming to you, humble and mounted on a donkey.”
And also in Matthew: whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Humanity came not to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many. [Matthew 20: 25-28]
Voice 3: This too is the word of God.
Voice 2: Yes, we have dominion but we are to use that power to serve as Christ served.
Voice 1: Lord, teach us to serve.
When God made humankind, we were the only thing that was made in the image of God, God then gave humans a charge: to have dominion over the creatures and to subdue the earth. God delegated the responsibility of creation to humankind. Too often the word dominion leads us straight to domination, which is often understood in a more aggressive way. I dominate – I rule – I can exploit! Domination feels like tight-fisted control only to suit my own needs with little concern for the other. However, we bear the image of God. We are the mirror of God to the earth. How God treats us is how, in turn, we are to treat creation. God declared each part of creation ‘good’ and what God declared good, we should not abuse. So to have dominion as God intended is to care and nurture – like a benevolent ruler. As followers of God we strive to do what is best for all of creation.
What does this look like when we put it into action. I want to share 3 examples:
Bread for the World
First, St Francis: Today in recognition of the ministry of St Francis of Assisi, we will bless our animals. Francis lived his life reflecting God’s love for creation and his depiction is usually seen surrounded by animals. Francis was born into wealth in the 12th century. However, after a life-changing illness, he choose to life in poverty. He sought to live lightly on the earth. He loved all of God’s creatures, who he called his brothers and sisters because they all reflected the Creator’s love. Francis demonstrated dominion by caring for animals, the sick and the impoverished.
Second, Campbell Farms: We have been working with Campbell Farms for 12 years now. This ministry seeks to care for God’s children who are too often forgotten on the reservation. Carman Pimms is the Executive Director and she is here today to share a little about that ministry. Welcome Carman. (Carmen speaks)
Through Campbell Farm, we can show the world God’s dominion at work – dominion that nurtures not exploits. Simple acts like collecting diapers for the newborns of the Wapato community demonstrate our care for those God loves.
Finally, our connection with Bread for the World. This is another way that we can live out our call to have dominion over creation. In their own words: Bread for the World is a collective Christian voice urging our nation’s decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad. Moved by God’s grace in Jesus Christ, we reach out to our neighbors – whether they are next door, in the next state, or on the next continent. Each year, thousands of churches from many faith traditions take part in Bread for the World’s Offering of Letters. It is our responsibility to care and nurture all of creation, sometimes by reminding our leaders of their responsibility. We can care for God’s children simply by writing a letter to some of the most powerful people on the planet – urging them to protect and increase funding for global nutrition. There has been great progress to end hunger, but we still live in a world where 11% of the world’s population remain hungry. Should you feel moved to do so, write to our congressional leaders using the sample letter on the insert in your bulletin as your guide. If you bring it back next Sunday, we will bless them and then mail them for you. More information is in your newsletter about that. It is another way we can show God’s style of dominion.
Humankind was created in the image of God and we bear that image in this world. We can be as God is to creation – whether it is through blessing the animals, or helping Campbell Farms by giving money or diapers for families who need a hand up, or in working with Bread for the World to advocate for those who chronically cannot get adequate nutrition. All of these are ways we share the dominion of God God blessed you – go out into God’s creation as a blessing to others!