Sunday, July 08, 2007

Doing Theology with Genesis 9:1-3

I can talk about stewardship. I'm pretty good at that. Genesis 9:1-3 is a call to stewardship.

A literal approach to the Bible is very--well I think we've already covered this--childish. If I were teaching the Bible to very young children we might focus on creation and Noah's ark because that's where they are. They like animal stories. And doing so helps build a familiarity with the stories in the Bible. And this is where young children are developmentally. You plant a seed. You water it and keep it in the window; rows of styrofoam cups. You watch them sprout and grow. You start a few at home in case some kid's seed doesn't germinate. You talk about the life cycle. You talk about being kind to animals and pets. The idea you want them to remember, if they remember anything at all, is that God created everything and everyone; that God loves them individually and all of creation as well; and that we have to take care of all of creation and each other. These ideas seem to naturally flow from each other in my mind.

But these are the challenges to a Catholic understanding of the Bible. When you start at the beginning, you don't know you're supposed to already know the end and interpret everything in light of the whole. Let's start then, with two principles to guide us:
The Bible is BOTH the word of God and the word of human beings. I suppose a literal way of looking at it has Matthew going into some trance and the Holy Spirit possessing him and moving the pen. Puh-lease. God uses as authors human beings with all of their human limitations. (Jesus is the incarnational model of the word, fully God and fully human.)
The Bible is not a single book but a collection of books, a library, an anthology. A biblical passage is biblical ONLY in the Bible. Take it out of its context and it becomes something else, like a liturgical reading, a proof for my point of argumentation, etc.

So where does the concept of Stewardship come from? In the Bible? Well, all over the place. Stewardship is the Judeo-Christian concept that we have been blessed by God and that we are called on to nurture and develop those blessings for our own good and for the good of the human family. Deep down, people of faith know that our talents, our possessions, our money, and even our time do not really belong to us. They are God's property that has been generously entrusted to our care and for which we will be held responsible.

"For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property..." Matthew 15:14 (ack! proof texting!)

So how do you get Stewardship from this passage? Taken in the context of the whole Bible, and even later verses of that chapter, we know God doesn't want us to hurt the earth. God makes his covenent, not just with Noah, but with all of creation.

"Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark." Genesis 9:9-10 (oh no! more proof texting! I must stop this!)

We're called on to serve and protect, to develop and nurture. So if I was going to try to create some theology out of this passage, that's what it would be.

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