1 May 2010
(Genesis 1:26–‐31 Psalm 8,1Peter1:22–‐25,Luke 8:4–‐15)
“Creation Is Charged!”
It was Christmas Eve, 1968. I can remember the moment as if it were yesterday! The
Apollo 8 spaceship had arrived at the orbit of the moon. The three astronauts aboard the spaceship were celebrating humanity’s magnificent achievement by reading ancient religious poetry. They read ten verses from the Book of Genesis, beginning with the very first sentence of the Bible: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
I was 15 years old at the time and I can remember a moment of awe, maybe more a moment of emotional amazement as those words were heard by peoples around the world. I remember watching the grainy television images and listening to the crackly radio transmissions with those little beeps we all got used to hearing whenever we watched something from NASA. Lots of young kids immediately wanted to become astronauts, and I was one of them!
I remember how, even to a teenager on that evening, planet earth never looked so beautiful, so mysterious, and so very fragile. Only a few years later, in a poetry class in college I memorized a poem by Gerald Manley Hopkins entitled, “God’s Grandeur.”
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil Crushed,
Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
Andall is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell:
the soil is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs –
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah!
All creation is “charged” with God’s greatness and it reflects this greatness in the same way crumpled foil reflects light. The world is overflowing with abundance, as when you squeeze an olive and the oil just runs out. The poet then pauses, and says that humanity fails to notice such abundance, yet even when we separate ourselves from the natural environment, “for all this, nature is never spent.”
The poet believes in the re-creative power of the earth, and ends with the image that the spirit of God bends over the earth as a hen draws her little ones close under her warm breast and bright wings! Wow!
On this weekend when we lift up a creation theme with the youth services tomorrow morning, for me there still lingers the tension I felt on Christmas Eve, 1968, the tension between the beauty and magnificence of the earth over against the fragile nature of all the amazing gifts given to us.
Very often we talk of “preserving creation” and “sustaining creation.” But the Gospel word is so much more than that! Never is the Gospel only about preserving and sustaining. These are words used in a mission statement for a museum. The Gospel is always about newness and more life!
If we truly believe that “Creation is charged with the grandeur of God” then creation needs more than a caretaker. We do not need go back into the Garden of Eden and live unchanging lives. Comfort surrounds our notion of creation when we think of it as something finished and unchanging. As if God finished creating in six days and never awoke from his Sabbath nap.
As soon as we think we’ve created a peaceful coexistence with creation by using coffee mugs rather than Styrofoam and making a weekly trip to the recycling center, we wake up and find we’ve settled into a creation faith that only makes us feel good.
The earth is magnificent; but it is oh, so fragile! But if we believe creation has hopes, direction and plans; if we truly believe creation provides a stage for God’s love, then we are onto something more like a living Gospel! God’s love is on the loose (remember, we’re in the Easter season!), with places to go! Easter life is turbulent, conflicted, and volatile. Certainty is rare! Eden is not the place for God’s people and preservation is not our mission.l
We are called to be part of a continuing creation (Genesis 1:29 – “God said, see I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of the earth…”)
There are people to be loved, justice to be done, ideas to try, chances to take, surprises to be sprung upon us. Creation teaches us about change and about the tenacity to create life and sustain life! Creation is not a promise of security backward to an unreachable past. It is a promise that God has plans. And we have been given the power to be part of those plans with a God who is very much alive in our world.
Affirming this image of God doesn’t place humanity at the center of the universe. God, alone, is at the center of the creation story, and humanity is charged with the stewardship and care of all the earth.
At the end of our worship this evening we will sing together: “This is my Father’s world; oh, let me not forget that thought the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. The Lord is king, let heaven ring; God reigns let earth be glad.”