It Starts with the Land

It starts with the land.

Everything starts with the land. On the first day of creation 

God created light and then the next day the waters of the earth were pushed back to form land. The cultural mandate given by God to humans to fill, subdue, and rule over creation (Genesis 1:28) was given before sin entered the world and was meant as a way for us to bear God’s image. Following God’s example, we are to fill the land with our creative productivity. That includes bearing children, but also so much more. We are to subdue the land by rooting out what doesn’t belong—whatever could potentially keep creation from flourishing. We are to rule with God’s wisdom, with deep love and concern for all things, and with a desire for shalom. 

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

—Genesis 1:1 

I believe in God,

the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

—Apostles’ Creed

The balance and harmony of God’s creation was shattered when sin entered into the world, and “dominion” began to mean greed and self-preservation. The success of oneself or one’s nation became more important than the flourishing of all things. Sin led to the development of hierarchies in creation and within humanity: those judged superior are given more resources while others struggle to survive. Sin led to the Doctrine of Discovery (see p. 33), which codified the idea that European Christians could claim any land as theirs and swindle Indigenous Peoples out of the land they needed to flourish—or worse, Christians were given permission to kill Indigenous Peoples and destroy their nations and cultures. Sin led to enslavement and the devaluing of people that still exists today. The land, its value, and the desire to use it for personal or national gain without care for others can be found at the core of so many wars, inequities, and yes, even pollution and climate change. 

It starts with the land. So as Reformed Worship begins a year-long focus on the intersection of worship and justice, it is appropriate for this issue to begin there as well because if we desire to see our fellow humans and indeed all creation flourish, there are clear implications for our worship. As The Worship Sourcebook articulates so well, 

The worshiping community needs to give praise and thanks for the creation; to express grief and pain at the abuse, pollution, and corruption of what God has created; and to offer prayers for God’s blessing on the seasons and on our faithful use of provisions God makes available through the creation. In our corporate worship we also need to affirm human efforts to carry out God’s command to exercise obedient supervision over all God has created; to see wisdom in our tasks of creative efforts; and to seek discipline in our work of being caretakers. 

The Worship Sourcebook, Second Edition © 2013, Faith Alive Christian Resources, p. 377

In this issue of Reformed Worship we will consider what it means to be caretakers and good neighbors to people in our congregations and communities (p. 3), to students of all ages (p. 47), to those without adequate housing (p. 40), to Indigenous Peoples (pp. 26, 33), and to the creation as a whole (pp. 11, 14, 15, 20). We also consider how we might express our laments and protests visually (p. 50) or preach about justice (42). As always, you will find helpful resources for worship planning and leading as stand-alone resources, such as the Q&A written by our new columnist Rev. Paul Ryan (p. 44), and as sidebars accompanying longer articles.   

While we acknowledge that there is much that is wrong in this world, and that we don’t all agree on how best to address those injustices, let us not let go of hope. Instead, let us be inspired by the Holy Spirit to work to build a beloved community that prefigures the promised city where the tree of life flourishes and brings “the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2).

Rev. Joyce Borger is senior editor of Reformed Worship and a resource development specialist at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.

Reformed Worship 148 © June 2023, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.