Sharing the Ground of Being
Murray, an artist who worshipped with us before he died of cancer, used to talk about “seeing slowly” — pausing and giving your full attention to the act of seeing. We all know what trees look like, but when you pause and observe a tree, slowly, a world of subtle details open up that bring that a particular tree to life: the sap oozing from a crevice in the bark, the trickle of ants crawling up the trunks, the hummingbird nesting on the bend in a branch.
The same is true of biblical texts, particularly the ones that are very familiar to us. We think we know them and what they mean. Take the story of Adam’s creation in Genesis 2. We know, before even opening the Bible, that God brought the first human, Adam, from the ground, the “adamah”. But, if you see this text slowly, you will notice how God also draws the trees from the “adamah”. The trees and the first human come from the same source — both drawn from the ground by God.
Not only are they drawn from the ground by God, they are drawn from the ground by God for each other. God gave the forest garden, with its abundance of trees, to the human as home. God then gave the human to the forest garden to tend and care for it. There is an implied relational connection between the forest garden and the first human, a mutuality of care and kinship. I had not noticed these strands of kinship between the human and the trees before preparing for “Forest Sunday”. It’s funny what you notice, when you really slow down and sense freshly.
A toxic interpretation of the Genesis creation stories (particularly Gen. 1:26-28) views human dominion, not kinship, as God’s design. Starting in the fifteenth century, ships from competing western powers raced to establish dominion over newly encountered territories in Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Oceania. In the name of a Christian God, nations justified the expansion of their empires and the subjugation and murder of indigenous peoples. All so that they could access, extract, and exploit the land.
In Genesis 2, God shared with Adam and Eve wisdom about the trees: eat freely from these trees — there is abundance — but do not eat of this tree, it is not for your consumption. In the story, how they treated the trees was interconnected with the way they treated God. Would they embody the wisdom of the Creator and respect the unique purpose of the tree, or would they treat it as a commodity to fulfill their own curiosity and pleasure? They broke kinship with their tree-kin and with their Creator, exchanging the net of kinship for the exercise of dominion.
There is a stand of Populus tremuloides, Trembling Aspen, in the Fishland National Forest of Utah. It covers 106 acres and includes approximately 47,000 trees. When you visit the stand, you think you are seeing a forest full of individual trees. However, as scientists have learned to see slowly, they have discovered that each tree is genetically identical to the next. They have all sprung from the same living source — a root system that is 80,000 years old. All the trees, which are many, are also all one, because they partake of the same lifesource. This stand of trees, known as Pano, might just be the oldest, and largest, living organism on earth.
We, like the aspen trees, share the same ground of being with the rest of creation. We are of the earth. We are of God. Though we are many, we share the same lifesource. We are all one. The path of domination is spiritually bankrupt. The pathway forward is mutuality of care and kinship.
Deep peace and blessing,
Rev. Anne Baxter Smith
Pastor, Church at Southpoint
Location & Zoom. We meet on Sundays at 15639 24 Avenue, Surrey. Zoom is offered if you cannot attend in person. If you have trouble with the zoom link, use: meeting ID: 831 1690 9977 with password: 753319
Sermons Are Podcasted
Catch up on Southpoint sermons by finding the podcast “Meditations from the Church at Southpoint” on Spotify, Apple and Google. They’re also available on our website: www.southpoint.ca.
This Advent We’ll Lean into A Sanctified Art’s “How Does a Weary World Rejoice?”
Sun Dec 3 Anne Baxter Smith
We acknowledge our weariness
Lk 1:1-23, Ps 80:1-7, 17-19
Sun Dec 10 Anne Baxter Smith
We find joy in connection
Lk 1:24-45, Is 40:1-11
Sun Dec 17 Anne Baxter Smith
We allow ourselves to be amazed
Lk 1:57-66, Ps 126
& Sing Stories of Hope
Lk 1:46-55, Lk 1:67-80
Sun Dec 24, ** 4:00-5:00 pm ** At Kingfisher Farm
Christmas Eve Service (NOT in the Sunnyside building)
We make room
New to Southpoint?
At Southpoint, it all begins with God’s love. Just as a plant grows, it receives sunshine, so we grow as we receive God’s love. At Southpoint, we are growing in our capacity to love God, ourselves, one another, and creation.
We seek to be a community of grace that is intentional yet organic, spacious yet authentic, grace-filled yet accountable. * We are fully welcoming. *
We encourage relationships rather than run programs, yet we recognize the importance of intentionality and structure as we nurture life together.
As a community, we seek to put our love in action. We value helping out on Sunday mornings, sharing food, and showing up in hard times. We keep our church life simple so folk have time to build relationships with family, friends, and neighbours. We encourage folk to serve in tangible ways within the wider community. We rent space rather than own a building, allowing us to do more with less, supporting missions at home and abroad.
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