Responsibility can be one of those things we gather to us with pride or something we shy from. In reality, we all have Responsibilities in some way all the time. We are Responsible for taking care of our own bodies; we are Responsible for caring for our children or parents or other family members; we are often Responsible for fulfilling the duties of a job; we are Responsible for being members of a variety of communities; we are Responsible for maintaining the “stuff” (homes, cars, boats, books, clothes, etc) we acquire.
In many instances these Responsibilities give us meaning in life, they bring us purpose, they help us know who we are and how we fit in to the world. Responsibility is a part of living. Responsibility is a part of being a Human.
Responsibility can also be a difficult and intimidating burden.
The texts this week show us three different examples of individuals with authority / power (The Creator, Jesus, and Paul) giving specific instructions and conferring some specific Responsibility to / on humans in specific contexts.
In the Creation story in Genesis 1, we see The Creator making all that you and I know today out of nothing – ex nihilo. This is no small feat. Imagine nothing but a formless void and then suddenly BANG…or BOOM…or BLIP…or AHHH (whatever your cosmology) all that we know and name as Earth exists. So whether that took just a few days or millions of years, it happened. The thing that is the interesting in the Lectionary thread this week shows up on Day 6 when The Creator…or God among gods (or God among Godselves; or God amidst Wisdom, Spirit, Power)…says “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” And then The Creator gives a directive to this new Humankind, “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. See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.”
Wow. Humans are created and are immediately given the Responsibility to care for everything they see. According to this story, they did not even get a good orientation session to their own bodies or to their new neighborhood—they just suddenly had Responsibility for it all.
How long do you think it took them to be able to sing the type of song we find in Psalm 8? Were they immediately at Peace and full of Joy and praising The Creator for the creation? Or were they (like we imagine we might be) a little overwhelmed? Were they pleased to be “given dominion” over All Things or did they look at it all and wonder what they were supposed to do first? And really, the Psalms were written for a scattered nation…over what creation did these Jewish people have dominion?
Then we fast forward to Matthew and see a slightly similar situation with Jesus and the disciples. Jesus has taught them, has led them, has been killed, has been Ressurrected, and now they meet him out on a Galilean mountain where he tells them "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
Can you imagine what that might have felt like to the disciples? Remember, in Matthew’s Gospel it is not until this scene on the mountain that the disciples see him after the Resurrection, and this is one of the first and last things Jesus says to them. He gives them the instructions, the commission, the Responsibility of how they should live their lives from here forward.
And then he disappears. No follow up. No further details. He gives them the Responsibility of making disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them everything Jesus had taught them, and then he leaves it up to them to figure out how to live this Responsibility out. They are given the basic tools they need, and then they are sent out to do the work on their own.
The passage from Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth is his closing…a benediction…a sending forth. It is out of the mouth of Paul, not an apostle but a disciple – one baptized in experience. His direction to the people is very similar – sudden onset Responsibility. But his direction comes from his own experience and belief. He advises this church to seek Peace and assures them that they are accompanied by God the Father/Mother/Parent, God the Son and God the Spirit.
As God’s good creation, we were created with Responsibility. And with it comes some anxiety, some worry, some concern. And also with it comes the presence of the Divine. Spirit, Wisdom and Power can be wrapped around us helping us discern the How of our Responsibility. We wonder if we are we living up to the charge that has been given us? Are our actions, our choices, our deeds worthy of the creation for which we were created to be Responsible? Do we really look to that Spirit, Wisdom and Power to understand How? Maybe we need to ask for instruction.
Touch me, take me to that other place
Teach me, I know I'm not a hopeless case
See the world in green and blue
See China right in front of you
See the canyons broken by cloud
See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out
See the Bedouin fires at night
See the oil fields at first light
And see the bird with a leaf in her mouth
After the flood all the colors came out
It was a beautiful day
Don't let it get away
From “Beautiful Day,” Bono, 2000