Friday, March 07, 2014

The Littlest One

In the famous musical, “The Sound of Music,” the littlest of the Von Trapp children (Gretl) asks why her name is always last on the list of concert playbills.  Her stepmother Maria lovingly replies, “It is because you are most important!”   Man too is the last on the playbill of creation. First came the light, then the firmament, then the dry land, then the plants, then the sun and moon and stars, then the sea creatures and birds and sea monsters, then the animals and finally man. He is the littlest, the youngest, the one created last of all when God made the heavens and the earth.   Yet God has exalted us on high.  As the apostle Paul says, we will even judge the angels. (I Cor. 6:3) It is, however, good to remember that we are not exalted in this way because we are smarter or somehow better than the rest of creation.  We are lifted up and have dominion over the plants and animals because of the love of God, because of his plan of grace.   David asks, “What is man that thou art mindful of him,” crowning him “with glory and honor,” giving him the care over “the sheep and the oxen...the birds in the air...the fish in the sea.” (Psalm 8).  On the very last day of creation God made a being in his own image, someone who would be a living, breathing, walking, talking statuette, depicting the Lord God.  God made man; God’s glory.  Then God makes the woman, who is the glory of the man, “glory squared” as I have said in some of my sermons.  God makes the last, first!  The above is a simple enough thing to notice about the Bible, but it changes the way we think of creation and it changes the way we think about ourselves.  The animals and the plants are no longer “lesser beings” but as the Bible puts it “living souls,” like ourselves.  Moreover they are elder brothers over which God has given us the dominion.    Will we be the good gardeners and farmers that God means us to be?  I hope so.  In light of Genesis we also think of ourselves differently. The philosopher Descartes said, “I think therefore I am.”  But as we ponder the creation story we see that Descartes was wrong.  Our ability to reason is not what lifts us up to the skies, rather it is as theologian Karl Barth said, correcting Descartes, “I am thought on by God therefore I am.”