Today's reading from Genesis 2:4b-25 offered many potential directions for preaching. Some might have expected that I would preach on normative sexual relationships. Indeed the penultimate verse notes "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24 NIV). Others might have expected me to extend the narrative to include the story of the temptation. This is a well-trod path in much preaching in Genesis. But I took another path. I found encouragement in the commentary of Walter Bruggemann who argues that while the broader story revolves around the themes of vocation, liberty, and prohibition, the first two themes are frequently neglected.
In my experience vocation is an underexplored theme in many of our churches.
The more evangelical churches tend to focus on salvation--that is how to get into a right relationship with God [or how to respond to God's grace in reformed churches]. Other churches, particularly those with roots in the holiness movement tend to focus on sanctification--that is how to grow into Christ's image. But few churches tend to speak about vocation--that is how to embrace the kingdom work that God is called us to do.
And that's a shame. Especially considering that a vocation to care for our neighbourhood is found at the very outset of the Bible: "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it" (Genesis 2:15 NIV). While the creation narratives of the Bible have been labelled by some ecologists as destructive (especially the first narrative which uses language like dominion and rule) a broader understanding of the language of the first narrative and a plain sense reading of today's narrative demonstrates a care for creation that any ecologist should happily endorse.
And yet caring for our neighbourhood (especially as it is related to the non-human parts of creation) isn't something that gets a lot of press in many evangelical churches. Most of the focus is not on vocation but salvation. And if there is talk of caring for our neighbourhood, it is often related more narrowly to evangelism. While I have no doubt that the world will be a better place when more people welcome Jesus, I'm not convinced that a call to care for creation and to work for the flourishing of our neighbours is a task that can be overlooked. As we increasingly become aware of the interdependence of all of God's creation we have even more reason to embrace this God-given task.