For 15 April 2020: First Wednesday of Easter
Read: Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Waking up to snow on the ground in April is not my idea of Spring. Yet, that is how Spring has been in Illinois all my life. The year I graduated high school, 1983, I graduated on June 3. On June 7, as we were getting ready to bale hay, it snowed! The snow didn’t last long, just as this morning’s won’t. I was surprise to be on a tractor working in the field in June to have a snow squall suddenly erupt! I’ve seen a snow squall erupt as late as the first week of July! Again, you don’t think of snow in July or sixty (nearly 70) degree days in January; I have seen both. Nature is constantly surprising me.
I read an article in Scientific American while on the front porch this morning. The author recounts the state of Chernobyl, Ukraine. One thousand square miles of that country are uninhabitable because of the nuclear reactor fire 34 years ago this April 26. Toys lay where they were left all those years ago during the evacuation. Schoolbooks simply left. Hospitals and their equipment, abandoned. Family pets, abandoned. The events of that day will continue to haunt that landscape for years and years to come. Yet, in the midst of radioactive fall-out which is still a danger, life continues and reclaims the land. New trees are sprouting. Those abandoned pets have survived; their descendants are having new litters themselves. Buildings and playground equipment are being swallowed by creation itself as they deteriorate; creation renews itself.
God entrusted all of creation to us, human beings. In the reading from Genesis at 1:28 God entrusts “dominion” over creation to human beings. This passage has been used to justify ecologically questionable activities. Dominion, in the sense it is used here, means to have absolute control over creation. Yet, we are simply the caretakers of someone else’s creation. God made our good earth with all its’ peculiar and surprising abilities. Snow falls in July; Warm sunny days happen in January. Life returns to places devastated by human created disaster. Creation is God’s good gift to us especially when it surprises us.
When I read the passage from Genesis, I hear it with different ears today. I no longer hear this passage with dominion meaning “absolute control.” I think of it in terms of “absolute agency” – the ability to act freely on another’s behalf and at their behest. God entrusts creation to us. We are the caretakers of creation. Our choices of how we use the earth have not always been wise. Disastrous events like Chernobyl have challenged both human beings and creation. Life persists even in the face of challenge.
One of the lessons I draw from all this is to remain awe-inspired by what God has entrusted to us. I can’t help but be surprised waking to snow this morning. I can’t help but be surprised at the resilience of life even when in a disaster zone the likes of Chernobyl. I can’t help but remember the surprise I experienced with Summer snow squalls across the Illinois prairie. God has blessed us with an amazingly resilient home. Our home can overcome the conditions which threaten life itself. More importantly, the real surprise is when God’s creation overcomes our expectations. Life returning to a place which was devastated is not nearly as surprising as the surprise I experience when life does the unexpected and overcomes my expectations of it! I don’t expect snow in the Summer. I don’t expect life to have rebounded so quickly after the devastation of a nuclear disaster. I certainly don’t expect tombs to be empty, either! Happy Easter!
(Here's the link to the article I was reading: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-is-chernobyl-like-today/)