Rev. George Miller
Sept 20, 2020
Genesis 1:26-28, 15:1-6
How many people do this- you check into a hotel. It’s absolutely beautiful outside. You’re on vacation.
But…you can’t really relax until you unpack everything and put them in their “proper” place.
No matter how blue the water looks, no matter how much the sun shines, no matter how much you want crab legs,
you just can’t fully relax until your shoes are here, your suitcase is there, the bathroom counter has all your products neatly in a row.
Underwear, t-shirts, pajamas in their proper location. A place for your keys, a place for your change, a place for the paper that sits at your door, and your most intimate items placed in the drawer that holds the Gideon Bible.
How many will tidy up their room before the cleaning person comes in?
Or, upon check out, you place your used towels in the tub, give everything a quick wipe, and proceed to leave the housekeeper a nice tip.
If you do any of these things while staying in a hotel, motel, or Holiday Inn, know that you are not alone.
If you don’t do these things…well I guess you’re not an A-Type Personality with a hint of OCD and ADHD.
But for my sisters and brothers who travel this way, I say “Bravo!” because you are doing something that is no natural, and so elementary- you are claiming your dominion.
You are saying “This spot has been granted to me for as long as I am here, so I will do my best to care for it and make it feel like home.”
This is such a natural part of being alive. Dogs do it when they go around and around before they lay down; cats when they sit in your lap; fish in tanks who hide in the crooks and crevices.
Scripture is well aware of this. Psalm 104 celebrates how the birds make their home in trees, goats have the high mountains, and rocks are a refuge for the tiny critters.
The idea of having a home, a place to be, a piece of earth to take care of is so elemental in the Bible, so crucial in the Old Testament. It is one of the first themes we find in the first chapter of the first book.
He we are, beginning a new cycle of the Narrative Lectionary and we have come across this creation story.
In this account, God creates humankind in God’s image. God creates us with a task to do- to have dominion over creation- the creatures of the sea, air, and land. To subdue the earth.
Of course, these instructions have caused some confusion. What does it mean to have dominion? What does it mean to subdue?
Does dominion mean you are a tyrant who gets to chop, crush, burn and consume everything until it is gone?
Or does dominion mean to be a leader and protector who is compassionate, doing your part to keep things in check, collaborate, and be a part of the whole?
When taking this scripture out of context, it is easy for people to use it to justify destruction and consumption.
But if we look at the entire biblical narrative, the teaching of the prophets, Jesus, Paul, it’s clear that dominion is about being called to care, share and be part of something bigger than you.
Dominion- a place to be.
From Genesis 1 to Genesis 15 we jump to the Sarah and Abraham narrative.
They are the ancestors of our faith, chosen by God to leave the past and move into the future in which they’re promised a child, and land.
It’s a story surrounded by difficulty, hinging on trust, always a step away from coming undone.
It lays the groundwork for what dominion means and how it matters.
The idea that God wants us to have our own spot in which we play a part and make a difference.
This is a fraction of what is making COVID so difficult for people. This trauma has made us more aware of the places and spaces that matter to us.
Sure, there is the place we live, that we have been quarantining away in.
Then there’s those places we didn’t know that were such a part of us.
The ones that are easy to take for granted when you get to go there all the time, but when access becomes limited, you realize what those spaces mean.
For those who didn’t realize you had a favorite restaurant with your own favorite booth, until you could no longer go and sit and eat there.
For those who never gave a second thought about their workspace until they could no longer go to their cubicle.
You don’t realize how your office chair or desk is a place of dominion until you get to it at it after a long time away.
Think of the church building. Some of us did not really realize how much this physical place means until we could no longer enter in; could no longer sit in our preferred chair in our preferred row, by our preferred co-worshippers.
Have we ever thought of the council room, the chapel, the narthex, the fellowship hall, this sanctuary, as a place in which we have dominion, in which God has entrusted us to care for and protect?
That when the Willing Workers cut the grass, trim the trees, plant in the Peace Garden, they are caring for the ground God has allotted us.
It can be a way to dominate or a way to live in which you are in sync and you celebrate life.
And there is a beauty about this- God’s call for us to have dominion and care for creation can happen anywhere.
If we are in a jail cell, like the Apostle Paul, we can still have dominion, deciding how to act and what to do.
In a nursing home, I witnessed a parishioner who could no longer speak or move, who created her own dominion by keeping a candy dish by her bed that she could offer her guests.
When you say goodbye to one home and move into a new dwelling, we find new ways to care.
You can downsize into a one-bedroom apartment and still have dominion, even if all you have is a flower in a pot, a cat in your lap, and a fish in a bowl to care for.
Even if your house is under contract, floors ripped up, appliances out of whack, you can still have a sense of dominion wherever you stay.
We are created in God’s image. We are endowed with the duty to have dominion. How that looks and what we do is up to us.
We can hold on, we can horde, we can destroy, and we can dominate.
Or we can use our dominion to share, to shape, to do what the prophet Micah calls us to do.
In closing, let us go to the image we have in Genesis 15.
Sarah and Abraham have done what God asked. They have traveled. They have been patient. They have been waiting for Gods promise of child and land to come true.
When hope seems to be low, after they have fought battle after battle, we have this scene in which God appears to our ancestor.
God says “Do not be afraid; I am your shield.
Abraham, feeling incredibly old and very forlorn, says “Oh God, I continue in what seems to be nothing but utter hopelessness and I am really beginning to doubt you.”
In which God, as a compassionate, protective leader, takes Abraham outside, into God’s dominion, and says “Look to the heavens, count the stars.”
At a time when Abraham felt at his lowest, when it seemed like everything was foolishness and for naught, the King of the World took him out into the Kingdom and said “Look at what I have made and believe in what I am doing.”
And with that, Abraham, our ancestor believed, and with that his and Sarah’s journey continued.
This week, when we feel down, when we feel out, when we wonder if this will ever end, let us take a moment, be aware of the dominion we have been given, no matter how big, no matter how small, and look for the ways in which God can be made known.
Let us look for the ways in which Heaven is revealed.