Sunday, 8 February 2015

God and Creation

Sermon preached at Templederry, Nenagh and Killodiernan on Sunday 8th February 2015, the 2nd before Lent year A

I want to share with you some thoughts about God and about Creation, because that is the common theme of today’s readings
When we look about us at creation - at this amazing living world and the wider heavens - how can we feel anything but awe and wonder? It is natural for us as human beings to interpret it as the work of a mighty creative God. The Psalmist captures this in beautiful poetry (Psalm 104:26-37):
‘O Lord how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.’

God in his wisdom has made his creation comprehensible to us through logic, mathematics and science. Thanks to science we now comprehend so much more about creation than the Psalmist ever could. We can now see that creation is not a once-and-for-all thing, but an unending process starting from the ‘big bang’ at the dawn of time, and continuing still into the distant future.

I do not consider myself an old man, but in my own lifetime we have discovered how the material universe evolves: we are literally made of star-dust – the very elements of this earth came into existence in the explosive deaths of generations of stars. And in my own lifetime we have started to unravel how the subtle biochemistry of DNA has allowed teeming life to evolve on our planet.

Some people like to say that this new science is incompatible with the idea of God, but I disagree. I think that’s poppycock! For me it makes God’s work of creation even more marvellous. Evolution is the mechanism God uses in creation – and God has not finished his creation yet.

The OT reading from Proverbs (8:1, 22-31) introduces us to God’s Wisdom.
God’s first creative act was to create Wisdom, we are told. And Wisdom has remained beside God ‘like a master worker’ throughout creation.

I like to think of Wisdom as like the laws of nature, God-given. The laws of nature make continuing creation through evolution not just possible, but inevitable.

Cosmologists have been surprised to discover that the laws of nature seem to be very finely tuned to allow the evolution of a universe like ours, with life like ours. Some have proposed what is known as the Strong Anthropic Principle, that the Universe is compelled, in some sense, to eventually have conscious and sapient life emerge within it.

Perhaps we should see this as God’s Wisdom at work: Wisdom tells us, ‘I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race’.

But there is more to creation than physics and biochemistry.
Ours is also a moral universe. We human beings have been created as souls with a moral sense of what is good and what is evil, and a conscience which prompts us to choose good over evil. We can distinguish between right and wrong, truth and falsehood, beauty and ugliness, love and hate. Yet all too often we fail to choose wisely and do what we know we shouldn’t. We are imperfect beings, incomplete, not yet finished by God – that is what the idea of original sin and the myth of the Fall is all about.

It is not true, as it is sometimes said, that nature is always red in tooth and claw – there is more to life than a vicious struggle for existence. Communities of plants and animals live together supporting each other. Think of the intricate three-cornered dance of life between plants like plums and apples, the insects that pollinate them in return for pollen and nectar, and the animals that disperse their seeds in exchange for the fruit. Think of social insects like ants and bees, how virgin sisters devote their lives to raising their queen’s children. Think of the altruism and unselfish love of which we human beings are capable at our best.

This shows me that God is still at work, creating a moral universe in which good triumphs over evil. Shall we call it the Kingdom of God? Perhaps the Kingdom is an emergent property of creation, necessarily arising out of evolving life, just as life necessarily arose out of the physics and chemistry of matter. If so, the potential for it has been there from the start, a consequence of God-given laws of nature. It has evolved gradually in many species. We see it dimly and imperfectly in our human natures. And we may believe that it will become ever brighter and more perfect as God works his purpose out through creation.

Why should this be so, I ask myself? The answer I think is this: Just because God is good, and God prefers all that is right and true, beautiful and loving.

The moral universe – the Kingdom of God - is what matters to both St Paul and St John.
Both of them place Jesus Christ at the heart of the evolving moral universe, much as Proverbs places Wisdom at the heart of the evolving material universe.

In Paul’s letter to the Colossians (1:15-20), Jesus Christ ‘is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation … through (whom) God (is) pleased to reconcile to himself all things… by making peace through the blood of his cross’. In John’s Gospel (1:1-14) Jesus Christ is the eternal  Word: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … he gives power to become the children of God to all who receive him, who believe in his name’.

Theirs is a deep theology, and I am no theologian. But one key message I take from them is this:
God offers through Jesus to complete his creation of us in his image to be part of God’s Kingdom.
The big question for each one of us is this:
Will we accept God’s offer?

If we want to be a part of the Kingdom of God – the emerging moral universe filled with all that is good, right and true, beautiful and loving - then we must start with Jesus. If we want to be reconciled to God, then we must start with Jesus. If we want to become children of God, then we must start with Jesus.

Because in Jesus, ‘the Word (becomes) flesh and (lives) among us, and we (see) his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth’.

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