Paul Olsen

on the way…not there yet

On Service

After seven days
He was quite tired so God said:
“Let there be a day
Just for picnics, with wine and bread”
He gathered up some people he had made
Created blankets and laid back in the shade

The people sipped their wine
And what with God there, they asked him questions
Like: do you have to eat
Or get your hair cut in heaven?
And if your eye got poked out in this life
Would it be waiting up in heaven with your wife?

God shuffled his feet and glanced around at them;
The people cleared their throats and stared right back at him
                                     (song by Brad Roberts, of the band, Crash Test Dummies)

What if the world was made for the joy of it?

What if, as Robert Farrar Capon said, you find God in heaven,
sitting on the front porch, like a watchful parent,
and you show up after curfew,
knowing you ought to be in big trouble,
prepared to catch hell for it,
and instead your every-loving God says,
“Did you have a good time?”

That seems more like the story of creation in Genesis 1 to me.
It’s clear God is having a good time.
What a marvelous delightful time God is having of it,
creating a world of order and beauty
out of the chaos all around us!
God delights to do this!
Because it is good to do this.

Being the Creator is wonderful fun,
but in the end, you want to share it
with someone who gets it,
who could maybe enjoy it as much as you.

So humanity is God’s crowning touch … yes.
And we are given dominion, power,
and awesome freedom to look around, enjoy,
use whatever we want, whatever we need.

But with power and dominion and freedom comes,
not license,
but responsibility.

hat’s the biblical concept of kings and queens:
they are to be shepherds of the people,
and, as Jesus says, the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

So it is really a charge of great responsibility;
though not a weight of responsibility,
a gift of responsibility.

May it be a delight for you
to be a steward of the earth and all its creatures and life forms!

To care for a child is to love that child;
for most of us, it couldn’t be any other way.

To care for the earth is to love the earth.
It is an intimate, loving, mutual, reciprocal relationship:
the earth gives us what we need for food and clothing and shelter.
In return, we give back to the earth,
we care for it,
take only what we need,
restore what we have broken,
we share with each other,
we share with all God’s creatures.

We clean up our mess when we make one
(and that means we have a lot of work to do).

We learn love by showing love to others and to the earth.
We give back,
and become transformed;
we learn kindness, generosity, grace, mercy…
in a word, we learn to become human, truly human.

We serve one another, for the fun of it.

That, I think, is the proper way to think of stewardship:
Stewardship is a delight.
It’s a joy to have the power to care for others,
whether that be the garden of delight
the earth is meant to be,
with all its wondrous plants and animals.
Or whether that be the love and care of children,
family, community, friend or stranger.

We become human
not by taking everything we can,
or using up whatever we can get,
but by learning to care for others.

That’s stewardship—learning to be human,
learning to use our power and freedom
to care for others.

It’s like Jesus said,
and what we have so often said during these past years of pandemic.
When others have claimed a twisted freedom,
insisting you can’t make me do anything,
we have said,
knowing we are loved and forgiven,
cared for by a generous and gracious God,
that we are set free for a purpose:
to love and forgive and care for one another,
to love God and love our neighbor;
to embrace and share the work of God—
to be stewards of the earth,
and of one another.

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