Humanity in Creation
Trinity 7 2018
July 15, 2018
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
In our Old Testament reading for today from Genesis 2, we zoom in to the 6th day of creation when God creates Adam. Unlike the rest of creation, God does not make humanity out of nothing. He does not simply speak him into existence like He does the birds and animals and fish and plants, the light and sun and the moon and the stars. No, God shapes man from the existing material of the created world. God takes the dust from the ground and He forms man, breathing the breath of life into his nostrils to make him a living creature. Right there from the beginning we have a definition of what it means to be human – God created, Spirit breathed and enlivened body. Or in other words, a body and a rational soul. That is what it means to be human. It takes both, not one or the other, or one and something else.
At first glance, this may not seem to be such a profound teaching, but nowadays in our culture, this is critical. Our culture is suffering from an identity crisis. What I mean by that is that there is wide spread confusion over what it means to be human. When you disregard or discount God’s creation of Adam and Eve, when a person doesn’t know their creator, they can’t know their purpose or reason for being as a creation. There is a widespread belief that the body doesn’t really matter, that it’s not the “real” you. This is how people can think that a 5 year old can be think he is a boy trapped in a girl’s body, or vice versa. Or non-binary, feeling that they are neither a man or woman “on the inside” regardless of biology. It is the promotion of the false idea that the true self is made up only of how a person self identifies, of their feelings, that what matter is all that is on the inside. This is how people can be led to think that taking hormones, or having surgery to change the body’s natural growth, can fix the problem of identity. Take my mind and download it into a computer and I’ll still be me, but better because machine is better than flesh. All of this is a rejection of our creatureliness, of how the Lord God created humanity. It’s not new, but it’s really just part of an ancient heresy that continues to plague the Christian Church called Gnosticism.
Along with this is the all too common in popular Christian, and non-Christian, belief is that the goal and purpose of this life is simply to die and go to heaven, disembodied spirit singing with the heavenly choirs for all eternity. That then leads to a sense that this world and this life is like the trial period for heaven. That this life is just a temporary valley of sorrow and tears we must get through to get to the “real” life. That’s not Scriptural, and that’s not Christian. The most common place I hear about this is at a funeral, when someone looks a dead body and says, “my grandma” isn’t there. What they mean is that her soul isn’t there anymore, which is true, but her body still is. And that is a body that Jesus died to redeem from death. That is the body that Jesus will raise again from the dust. According to Genesis 2, that body is half the person that is experiencing the ultimate curse of sin, death. Listen to the final blessing in the liturgy for the burial of a Christian, “May God the Father, who created this body; may God the T Son, Who by His blood redeemed this body; may God the Holy Spirit, Who by Holy Baptism sanctified this body to be His temple, keep these remains to the day of the resurrection of all flesh.” Which means the way we treat the body and the way we treat the soul are both important because body and soul is the Biblical definition of what it means to be human.
The key to this is found in the incarnation of Jesus. The Son of God is at the same time both God and man. He is God begotten from the substance of the Father before all ages; and He is man, born from the substance of His mother, Mary, composed of a rational soul and human flesh. This takes place not by the conversion of the divinity into flesh, but by the assumption of the humanity in God. This Christ, perfect God and perfect man, suffered for our salvation, died upon the cross, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence He will come to judge the living and the dead (Athanasian Creed).
Jesus Christ risen, alive, forever fully God and fully human. Christ then both communicates to us who God is, but also who man is. Jesus has redeemed us to be fully human, not to be something different, or only human in part, but to restore humanity to its created intent and purpose. This is why in Philippians 3:21 St. Paul writes in regard to the resurrection that Christ will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body by the power that enables Him to subdue all things to Himself. That is our goal, that is our eternal life: as fully human, body and soul, living with God and all His people in perfect fellowship and unity and purpose.
Immediately after creating the first man, Adam, the Lord God plants a garden in Eden, in the east, and there He plants not just the trees, but also Adam. It is here in the Garden of Eden that we hear of the first “great commission”, be fruitful and multiply and have dominion over creation. Why is man created? To work in and keep God’s creation. Man’s first purpose to take care of God’s creation. This work is neither a punishment, nor is it “hard’ in the sense that it is unpleasant. Work only becomes a source of hardship and suffering as a result of the Fall into sin. But Christ has dealt with your sin. On the cross, your sin is forgiven. By the means of grace, that forgiveness, the fruit of Christ’s work for you, is applied. St. Paul explains in our Epistle from Romans 6, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” It is through Christ that you are freed from your sin, from the curse of the law, from your death, from your selfishness. You are freed to live and work under the cross of Christ to be who you are in Christ: a beloved child of God, created by Him, made anew through the waters of your Baptism, to do the work of God that He has prepared in advance for you to do.
What are you supposed to do? How do you answer those questions, “Why I am here? Why am I still here? What is my reason for being?” The Lord reveals this to you: to take care of God’s creation. That’s your job, that’s what you are supposed to do. Do you need to go be farmers? Plant some corn, sugar beets, hops, hay? Not really, unless that is what you want to do. All the different tasks that we do are part of taking care of creation. If you’re a doctor, you’re taking care of God’s creation by taking care of the physical needs of people. If you are a teacher, you’re taking care of God’s creation by teaching others about God’s creation. If you’re a police officer, you’re taking care of God’s creation by protecting and serving others. If you’re a mechanic, you’re taking care of God’s creation by fixing things that become broke because of sin. If you’re a farmer or a rancher or a dairyman, you’re taking care of God’s creation by those means. All of the different vocations that we have go to serve this purpose. And in all these vocations, God works through people to care for His creation.
In a confused world, remember who you are: created by God, beloved in the Lord, redeemed by Christ, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.