Creation Time – Reflection 1 – September 13, 2015

SEPTEMBER 13, 2015
Let us pray. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our
hearts be acceptable to you, O God, our strength and our redeemer.
Over the next three Sundays, in the usual spot for the sermon, I will be
offering reflections related to creation. This week, the focus is on our
planet earth, on God’s creation. One of my earliest memories has to do
with planet earth. I remember standing outside, just a toddler. I can’t
recall where exactly, -- perhaps in the backyard of my home; or in a park; at
a playground. But I recall seeing a vastness of green earth and blue sky
through a mirage-like veil , the result of moisture rising in the heat of day –
a common enough occurrence when the sun comes out – hot – after a
time of rain. But uncommon, probably brand new, to my young eyes.
I remember the odour of earth and grass and worms –
I didn’t think this at that very young age; I felt it; I sensed it – it was
absolutely incredible.
And though it was not put into words or even
thought, I was not so much separate from all I sensed but, somehow,
immersed in it, very much a part of it. As a small child I stood there,
transfixed, reveling in the mystery and goodness of God’s creation.
My view of creation, of the earth, would change as the years went by and I
soaked up the ongoing intellectual currents of the time, influenced for
example, by neoplatonism, with its view that created matter is less
spiritually significant than non-material forms.
Christian theology moved
to this view favouring a non-material heaven over the created earth. This
view informed an escapist mind set in which the culmination of the lives of
individual believers as well as the earth itself was thought to result in the
end of creation and the advent of a totally spiritual ‘heaven.’
People such
as N.T. Wright, my favourite scholar, have insisted this escapist tradition –
which arguably remains a dominant mindset among Christians of all
denominations, no matter how liberal or conservative – completely alters
the biblical witness. Fidelity to scripture requires that we be celebratory of
creation, and vigilant against that which would degrade, or abuse creation.
Of course, the industrial revolution furthered the notion, distorting and
favouring one biblical account of creation over another (there are 2
accounts in Genesis – more of that next week) so that domination of the
earth to satisfy human need – and greed - became part of our attitude
toward creation.
Let me now turn to today’s readings from Genesis and John. They are two
of the most familiar passages of the bible. They are our creation myth.
They tell our story – the story of God’s relationship with God’s creation.
This is a story we have heard more times than we can count. But it isn’t a
story for the history books – over and done with, put on a shelf to gather
dust. This is a story that is continually unfolding, made timeless in the
realm of eternity, and made particular in our own lives by the reality of the
incarnation. The same God who started it all in the beginning of creation is
still creatively active in the world – and in each of us – today. All
throughout the creation narrative in genesis, chapter one, God reveals to
us who God is through the action of creating.
God speaks creation into being. God spoke: “light!” And light appeared.
God spoke: “earth, generate life!....and there it was...” – life of every kind.
We know that words are powerful – they can hurt and heal, build up and
bring down, tell a story, evoke a feeling, rouse us to action, preserve a
history. Perhaps the best example of the power of word is poetry. Anyone
who has ever been moved by a poem or a song – and I think that’s all of us
– knows this. In poetry, words are used in their most efficient,
concentrated, potent form. Robert Browning, a Victorian poet wrote, “God
is the perfect poet...” All of creation is God’s poem.
Here’s one verse of a nature poem by the great English romantic, early
19th century poet, Shelley: it is entitled, appropriately, “the cloud”.
“I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers, from the seas and the
streams; I bear light shade for the leaves when laid in their noonday
dreams. From my wings are shaken the dews that waken the sweet buds
every one, when rocked to rest on their mother’s breast, as she dances
about the sun. I wield the flail of the lashing hail, and whiten the green
plains under, and then again I dissolve the rain, and laugh as I pass in
In the second reading today, from the gospel of John, we learn more about
this word of God. We learn that this awesome word, the word that was
there from the beginning, the word through which “all things came into
being,” the word that is with God and is God,
The word that brings life and light, that very word “became flesh and lived
among us.” God stepped into God’s poem. It’s as though God loved
creation so much that God made God’s self a part of it – a creature, fully
human, yet, still, mysteriously, fully God.
The incarnation, God- with- us in Christ – is the ultimate affirmation of the
goodness of creation. It is God reclaiming and reasserting that goodness.
We know, of course, that this goodness isn’t the whole story. Our passage
from John also talks about darkness. We know the reality of that darkness
- we know it in our own hearts and in our own lives;
And we know it in the war and hunger, poverty and injustice, discrimination
and exclusion, greed and exploitation that afflict every corner of creation.
But darkness, evil, sin – whatever we wish to name it –
Is not the final word in God’s poem. The final word is, of course, the word.
And that word is light, and life, and love. “the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it.” Later in John’s gospel we read,
“God so loved the world that God gave us the son, Jesus Christ.” We see
here that the world is good – not by its own merit, but purely by virtue of the
fact that God loves it. This is the most fundamental truth of God’s creation
– it is good because it is beloved. This is also the most fundamental truth
of our identity. We are beloved. And in response to God’s love God calls
us to lovingly care for all of creation. We are to bear witness to the light, to
echo the good word, to let God’s great love poem to God’s creation be
reflected in the living poetry of our own lives, to live in a way that honours
the goodness of God’s creation. In the words of a great lover of creation,
Wendell Berry, “to love all creation in response to the creator’s love for it.”
Thanks and praise be to God for the beauty, the wonder, the goodness of
creation. Amen.
Major Sources:
“Honoring the Goodness of Creation” by sheatuttle, August, 2012.
“Care for Creation Commentary of the Season of Creation – Year B 2012” by Rob Saler