I’m from here. I haven’t been here long, but I just want to be clear that, if you ask me where I’m from, I’m going to say that I’m from here.
When I came to Bashaw 11 years ago, one of the first services I did was at the seniors lodge. I was talking to an elderly man afterwards, he was in his 90s, and our conversation went something like this.
He asked me where I was from. I said that I was the new minister at the United church here in town. He said yeah, but where are you from? Well, I said, I came here from Edmonton. He must have had a sense of something, I guess, because he said yeah, but where’re you from, really? Well, I said, I was born in Toronto.
He kind of gave me a look and said yeah, you’re not from here. I came here in 1930-something (he said an exact year, but I don’t remember it). I’m from here. You’re not from here.
There was no point in arguing, I knew what he meant: your home town/province/country. Fair enough, but shouldn’t you get to decide that for yourself? After all, it’s where you feel most at home, not where someone else tells you. Or it shouldn’t be.
I’m from here. This is my home. Yes, I mean Bashaw, Alberta, Canada. But I also think we need to go bigger. And, at the same time, more intimate.
In the beginning … there are two creation stories in Genesis. They’re complimentary, I think. The first is the six days of creation, seventh day rest story. It’s about the creation of everything, the beginning of the world we know, with human beings created in the image of God. The second is simpler and focuses more on the place of humans in the story. Their creation is more detailed: Adam is created from the earth (Adam means “of the earth”) and placed in the garden of Eden and, well, you know the story from there.
So, just to be clear. There’s a story of how God imagines everything into existence, including us being in God’s image, and then a second story in which, everything being imagined into existence, God creates a human being from the dirt of the earth, with water from the earth, and breathes into it the air of the earth to give it life.
Here’s my take away from that. These stories aren’t a history, and they’re not just about a long dead past. They’re a way of communicating an essential truth about where we come from and where we are. And, wherever we might think that is, we’re of God and the earth. That’s how intimately we’re all connected.
So when I hear Jesus say “love God and love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31) that just makes sense. We are of the earth and God and love is the thing that connects us. So we love God when we love our neighbour, we love our neighbour when we love ourselves, we love ourselves when we love God. There is a unity there, from love, when we recognize our connectedness.
So why do we need to be reminded by Jesus? Why is it so hard to do? Why aren’t we always doing it?
Well, that same creation story – or stories – continues with the first human beings making a choice. I think that choice is the beginning of free will and, rather than being cast out of the Garden because of their disobedience and sinfulness, I think that’s the moment at which they became aware. Instead of simply existing in the perfectness of creation, we began to be aware of the diversity around us, we could choose to engage and create, build and destroy, love and hate.
We haven’t always chosen well. Instead of stepping confidently into the unknown, we’ve feared it and allowed fear and ignorance to lead us to hate the diversity rather than embrace it. Our experience can lead us to build walls to protect ourselves and separate us from others. And God.
And that’s just it. In all that diversity, we are still of this one earth and this one God, however you know or experience those things.