The Journey: Hendy Woods

Posted by Rev. Daniel Christian on

                    A few weeks ago I took our seven year old daughter for a walk in Hendy Woods. In a hushed and serious tone of voice she asked me if, “we were in the Fire Swamp” from the movie The Princess Bride. I assured her we were not, and we will not see any “rodents of unusual size.” However, I too was hushed and in awe. We both were having our own deep encounter while standing in a natural cathedral of beauty and grandeur.

I began thinking about the biblical book of Genesis. Creation begins in Chaos. Genesis tells the grand narrative of seven days of creation. When we explore God’s goodness in creation, the temptation is to draw upon images in nature that are only beautiful and serene. The Great Barrier Reef in Australia, The Grand Canyon at sunset, sunrise over Haleakala, a still and quiet morning in the Arctic National Park and Preserve.

If we see God’s goodness in a serene nature then we must also draw upon images that depict nature’s power and destructive force. A hurricane along the Gulf Coast, San Francisco’s Marina District after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, and Tornado Alley in the Midwest to name just a few.

If we are to live deeper into caring for and living in God’s creation, then we must hold in tension the picturesque view of the Valley Floor in Yosemite, and a Santa Ana wind driven forest fire in southern California. Both created by violent natural upheavals.

Creation does not come about smooth, easy and peaceful. Creation comes with awesome force. Ask any mother who has ever given birth. If you have any doubt, she will set you straight.

As modern people we have learned truths about the origins of life and our planet. Our desert fathers and mothers never imaged what we know today about modern science. They lived in a “prescientific” time. Our modern world has opened up human potential when it comes to understanding how and when the world was created.

Our biblical ancestors were less focused on the “how the world was made”, so much so, that the Bible, written over thousands of years, devotes 3 chapters to offering an understanding.

Our biblical ancestors are far more concerned with, “Why” did God create the heavens and the earth, and “what” are we supposed to do with God’s creation that honors God.

God’s creation is goodness. But creation is not God. It is tempting with our modern sensibilities, to make God and creation one in the same. God cannot be limited to or contained in oceans, mountain peaks, or a Sequoia Grove. We witness this extraordinary gift everyday of our lives, but God’s creation, is not God. Creation is a gift that was born from Chaos and God created order.

This is good news. Our lives can feel chaotic, out of control, we might feel disconnected from people we care about, depression or loneliness may cause us to feel cut off and isolated.

I like to imagine our biblical ancestors looking up at the night sky full of stars and giving voice to God’s creation of the world. We see a God who has created the world from Chaos and turned it into a paradise.

Humans have been given the freedom to destroy each other and damage creation, which we have done and continue to do this very moment. Though God does not will such destruction. We also have the freedom to care and protect our planet and each other. The Hebrew word for “have dominion” is better translated as, “caregiving” or “nurturing”, not “exploitation”.

The book of Genesis is not a geology or a medical text book. The book of Genesis is a confession of faith! A faith in a God who created the heavens and earth, who created forests and rivers, who created oceans and every living creature, who created human Kind.

That afternoon walking through Hendy Woods I had the joy of seeing world in two beautiful ways. One, through the eyes of a seven year old girl, who later that afternoon learned how to skip rocks for the first time in the Navarro River, and the other, through the eyes of a generous and loving God who created life and order from chaos. Have a blessed Father’s Day weekend.

Rev. Daniel Christian is the Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Ukiah