In the book of Genesis, we hear that before God began to create, the Earth was dark and without form, and that the Spirit hovered over the water. From water and Spirit, God created, bringing everything out of nothingness into being. And all of creation, God called “good.”
God created humanity last, and gave us a unique role in creation; a role that makes possible the continued existence of creation — a creation that when separated from God is finite. Thus humanity was charged not simply to be “stewards” of the created world, but we were to be the ones who continually offer creation back to God, so that God could continually bless it, and creation could continually live; humanity was created to be the priests of God’s creation.
The fall of humanity is connected to a rejection of this role. Instead of offering creation back to God, humanity attempts to assume the role of God; to refer creation back to ourselves and to attempt to control and manipulate it for our benefit alone. This leads to death — our death and the death of creation — because while God created the world to live forever, separated from God, the possibility of infinite life is replaced by certain death.
In Jesus Christ, humanity is given the opportunity to reclaim its role as priests of creation. And remarkably, God begins this process of restoring humanity and creation with the same beginning that we heard in Genesis, for it is at the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan that this “re-creation” begins; just as in Genesis, where creation began with the Spirit of God hovering above the waters, when Jesus enters the Jordan, the Spirit of God is again there, hovering above the water in the form of a dove.
With the baptism of Christ, a new birth is offered not only to humanity, but to all creation. The waters, sanctified by Jesus’ entering into them, flow out, baptizing all creation with a new birth from above. With rebirth through water and Spirit, humanity is given the opportunity to let die the distorted role of exploiters of creation and to be brought back into an everlasting life as priests of creation.
This past Sunday, as we celebrated the feast of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, the Orthodox Church asked for the Holy Spirit to descend upon the waters of the Clark Fork, and to bring the same life giving blessing here to our river and to our life. We continually ask for these blessings by protecting, caring for, and most importantly, offering creation back to God, so that through God, it may be healed, transformed and given eternal life.
Ultimately, our ability to be truly human is intimately connected to embracing our role as priests of creation. And as priests, who offer creation back to God, we must attend to the exploitation and sin that humanity has and continues to commit upon the world. Generations of sin and its influence upon all of God’s creation, including our own humanity, can be overcome when God is once more connected to creation through those to whom He gave that role in the beginning.