September 9, 2018 Reflection
Mark 7:24-30/ Romans 12:3-7
Welcoming All of God’s Creation
Are you familiar with the author C.S. Lewis? Are you familiar with the Chronicles of Narnia, a children’s book series written by Lewis? Since C.S. Lewis is known more than anything as a Christian writer, even when he was writing the Chronicles of Narnia, his Christian ideas were dominant in his mind. This series has a very strong Christian tone and is full of Christian analogies. Since we are in a Church season called Creation Time, I would like to start with how the Narnia universe is created in the Chronicles of Narnia. The Great Lion Aslan is a not-very-subtle analogy for Christ. In the Narnia book called The Magicians’ Nephew, Aslan the Great Lion creates the universe with songs. After Aslan finishes creating Narnia and its animals, he picks out some of the animals and gives them the ability to speak. After giving them the speech, he says to them, “I give to you forever this land of Narnia. I give you the woods, the fruits, the rivers. I give you the stars and I give you myself. The Dumb Beasts whom I have not chosen are yours also. Treat them gently and cherish them.”
This scene is meant to remind us of the creation scene in Genesis chapter 1. In Genesis chapter 1, after God creates the first humans, God gives them an instruction like Aslan does to the talking animals. “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 the earth.” Because of the word ‘subdue’, Christians of all times took it as our natural rights to exploit and conquer God’s Creation, nature and fellow humans alike. We have seen remarkable progress of science and technology to pursue a more convenient lifestyle; but unfortunately, as the result of our progress, we exploited our earth’s resources and polluted the earth that God gave us as our home. And then there was colonization; conquering people and their lands. But as Aslan said to the talking animals to treat others gently and cherish them, God, at creation, told the first humans to take care of the other creatures. The word we usually translate as ‘subdue’ has the meaning of ‘taking care of’ in its original Hebrew. We are called to be stewards of other creatures, not the conquerors and exploiters, so to undo the damage we have done to other creatures and fellow humans, we need a serious shift of perspectives; from conquerors to stewards.
Speaking of shifting perspectives, today’s gospel story shows even our Jesus being challenged and changing his mind about something. If you recall last Sunday’s gospel story, Jesus taught his disciples that it’s not what goes in that defiles them but what comes out of their hearts. One of the things that the Jews believed defiled them was contact with Gentiles. In today’s story, Jesus is in a Gentile territory; probably he was trying to have a break from the Jewish leaders, who by this time, became his enemies. A Gentile woman wants him to heal her daughter, he tells her that children should be fed first and that it is wrong to take the children’s food and throw it to the dog. Yes, you heard correctly; Jesus called her a dog for being a Gentile. When ancient people called someone a dog, it has the same connotation as in our culture. But the word ‘dog’ that Jesus uses here is a diminutive; it’s a not a regular dog, but a little dog. ‘Dog’ is an insult; ‘little dog’ shows affection, but possibly with a little condescending tone. But the important thing to remember here is that unlike a lot of proud Jewish leaders at the time, Jesus believes that Gentiles deserve God’s grace, although he still considers them second class citizens. Jesus points this out to her, and she doesn’t flinch; she is defiant. It’s almost as if she is saying to herself, “Ok, the nasty prejudice came my way. I’ll play along.” It looks like she’s begging when she talks about dogs getting leftovers, but she is actually defiantly demanding her human rights with dignity. When Jesus praises her for her strong faith, it is a moment for the human Jesus to further broaden his mind and overcome the little prejudice still left in him.
As God told the first humans in Genesis chapter 1, and as Aslan told the first talking beasts he created, having superior intelligence is a responsibility. Romans chapter 12 reminds us that God gave us different gifts, so we can live a life of service to God, according to our different callings. I decided on the title “Welcoming All God’s Creation”; let us think of what ‘welcoming’ entails. If we are chosen by God and are given superior intelligence over any other animals, that means we are created to watch over all God’s Creation; we weren’t made superior to other creatures so we can take advantage of them for our greed. ‘Welcoming’ means treating with gentleness and care, which is how we should treat God’s Creation. God’s Creation includes our fellow humans and that is where God’s kingdom value of social justice comes in; but since we often talk about social justice in our church, let us focus a little bit more on how to treat our Mother Earth with gentleness and care.
In the scheme of God’s creation order that we call eco-system, everything is interdependent; not one little insect or plant is unimportant and without purpose. The reason why we even hear about the environmental apocalypse is because we are created to live interdependently. If we destroy the eco-system for our greed, it will in turn destroy us. Humans, animals (although we too are animals), plants, river, oceans, and mountains; we are all created as a family, and families take care of one another. We have welcomed another member of God’s family today with a baptism. Just like a baby’s birth gives us joy, a birth of a new member of God’s family, whether it’s a baby, child, or a grownup, gives us joy. As we make a vow to take care of this new child with God’s love, let us also promise God that we will treat all God’s Creation with love and care. What have we done to God’s wondrous world? Let us repent where repentance is needed and make a promise to God and to ourselves that we will stop abusing this natural world that God gave us to take care of. We can reduce waste, especially plastic waste that has become uncontrollable. We could give up a little on our convenience and use reusable products instead of disposable ones. We can pressure the government and big corporations to not compromise the health of Mother Earth for profit. Let us be good stewards for God’s Creation as we strive to be good neighbours to each other. We are called by God’s earth and sky.
Rev. Sunny Kim