Is the Christian Gospel good news for all of creation?

 John Williams

 

Texts for the day: Gen 1:1-20 and John 1:1-14

With important references to Proverbs 8:22-31,Colossians1: 15-20 and

Revelation 21:1-6a

Introduction

“In 1911, John Muir observed how, ‘When we try to pick out anything by itself in nature, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.’  A century later, a gathering of the World Economic Forum discovered the same phenomenon.  Four hundred top decision-makers listed the myriad looming threats to global stability, including famine, terrorism, inequality, disease, poverty, and climate change.  Yet when we tried to address each diverse force, we found them all attached to one universal security risk: fresh water.” – MARGARET CATLEY-CARLSON, Patron, Global Water Partnership, 2008-2010 Chair of World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Water Security1.

Conclusion: The bottom line is that we must change our two incompatible stories about energy, water, food and climate. We cannot continue to foster one story that assumes an infinite planet and is framed around the paramount need for economic growth while maintaining the other story around the paramount need to protect an increasingly fragile natural world. The future therefore depends upon the evolution of a more subtle and resilient story about human-earth interactions, in which energy, water and climate are central and where a new story evolves to  empower a transition to a society that lives within the means of a finite planet and improves global wellbeing at the same time.

That is the new story for water into the 21st century.

Environment issues we face and our theology appear disconnected

The earth that our loving God created is falling apart and where is the wisdom?

Beryl Ingram wrote in 1996 ”Despite the tremendous surge of energy toward environmental concerns since the mid-1980’s, there is astonishingly little being done to bring together the ecological and the liturgical.”

Where in the gospel is there a word or where in scripture are there passages which show that the earth, the land, and its waters matter?

We have rooms full of books on personal salvation and redemption but where do I find Christian wisdom on the redemption of the wonderful creation that supports my very breath?

My father would ask after a good wool season “I just wish I could produce this stuff without damaging God’s creation so much.” Dad I think was about good stewardship but I think he saw it more than that …the creation was God’s and sacred to God.

So for me it is also about a lot more than just good stewardship. That too is homocentric…in our own interests to look after that which sustains us!

A traditional homocentric reading of the gospels suggests Jesus and the gospel writers had nothing to say to our present ecological predicament.

The gospel is all about our personal salvation…about human spiritual salvation and the social justice and care that follows…but appears silent on the natural world of ecosystems on which we depend for life itself.

Is such human centered perspective all there is?

I and I think, an increasing number Christians, are on a journey of discovery to see a new story.

John 1, Colossians and Revelations call us to reflect and regain a balance by giving more attention in our worship and practice to the creative mystery and the cosmic nature of Christ in our tradition.

The classic text of John 1.14 reads:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.

Joseph Sittler at the General assembly of the World Council of Churches in at New Delhi in 1961 spoke from Colossians and stated,

“These verses sing out their triumphant and alluring music between two huge and steady poles—“Christ” and “all things”…

Christ comes to all things, not as a stranger, for he is the first born of all creation, and in him all things were created.
He is not only the matrix and prius of all things: he is the intention, the fullness, and the integrity of all things: for all things are created through in and for him.
Nor are all things a tumbled multitude of facts in an unrelated mass, for in him all things hold together. “

We have a new story emerging  

I see the big picture – that God is reconciling and restoring all creation.

This is the story we can share with whoever will listen.

Creator God blessed the whole creation – which includes us…but not only us…

Creator God acts and speaks

both within and beyond creation….

God cared so deeply for humanity

to become flesh and dwell with us.

I am convinced that God cares deeply

for all that God has created and continues to create….

To make these re-connections…

to understand the epilogue in Revelations and the Hymn to Christ in Colossians chapter 1 – requires much work.

To see more clearly God’s concern for the reconciliation and restoration of all creation is a fundamental part of the gospel.

It is not a side show, an add-on extra, but rather the gospel at its core.

By engaging this truth ensures that  we do have a story to lead us into the future.

This is my passion –

That in the light of this deep gospel story we will need to re-discover, affirm and live out our new story… we need to develop our story…a story that leads us to understand how we fit and might live in the ecosystems of the earth so that the whole of creation might be reconciled and renewed.

We need to pray, listen to God, ponder the scriptures and learn, grow our new story, a new song for the earth.

The essentials of that good news for all creation, and all of us as part of creation,  may be summarised as follows:

The incarnation is deeper than we have often thought. In Jesus Christ, the Word of God becomes incarnate in a piece of Earth, a biological unit that is interconnected with all life past and present on this planet.

This God, incarnate in creation, experiences a normal biological life cycle, suffers as a human being and dies an ignominious death on a cross.This incarnate deity suffers not only for the sins humans have committed against God, but also suffers with, for and as part of creation which has become alienated because of human acts of violence.

The suffering of this deity on Earth, was the hidden power of God at work reconciling all things to God in heaven and Earth.

As the risen incarnate God, Jesus Christ revealed the fullness of God’s Wisdom, the cosmic force that restores and holds all things together in the universe.

The hope and assurance that we can is written in Col 1:20

Sittler again:

“Colossians will not allow us to contain our theology of redemption within the narrower (although profoundly important) orbit of human sin and forgiveness.  It must involve other creatures.  The rest of creation cannot be seen merely as the stage on which the drama of redemption is played out. The Colossians hymn insists that the whole universe is caught up in the Christ event.”

I think maybe my Dad has a glimpse of what Christ and the creation was about.

Join me on a journey as I pose the question:

Has our focus on the historical Jesus been such that we have neglected the post-resurrection Jesus who is alive and with us?

By not giving spiritual attention to the Christ…the post-resurrection Jesus…the word… the logos…the cosmic Christ….have we missed what is so important in our time….the renewal and healing of the ecology and life support systems of the planet…the on-going work of our loving God and  creator?

Well that’s my best effort to tell my story.

…but it is very much a story that is unfinished.

Can we who have grown up in a Christian family where the gospel ended with personal salvation and a cry for social justice possibly grasp a much larger and grander view of Jesus the Christ?

My answer is yes we can!

I see signals that it emerging as our story here at Kippax

If so we can be assured that the post-resurrection Jesus will be the wind under our wings.

Amen

 

Key readings:

Ayre, Clive. 2008  The Church In The Eco-Crisis

See:http://www.csu.edu.au/faculty/arts/theology/pact/papers/The%20Christian%20Mission%20in%20the%20Public%20Square/Ayre.pdf

Collins, Paul. 1995 God’s Earth. Religion as if it really mattered. Melbourne: Dove.

Edwards, Denis, 1992  Jesus and the Cosmos. Homebush (NSW): St. Paul Publications.

Edwards, Denis, 1991 Jesus the Wisdom of God. An Ecological Theology. Homebush (NSW): St Paul Publication.

Habel, Norman 2008  A theology of deep incarnation and reconciliation

See: http://www.seasonofcreation.com/theology/incarnation/

Ingram, Beryl 1996 ‘Eco-justice Liturgies’ in Theology for Earth Community. A Field
Guide edited by Dieter Hessel. Maryknoll: Orbis, 250-264.

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