Monday, February 16, 2009

Why creation matters . . .

     During the course of the Thursday morning Bible Study this past week, we took a close look at all the readings. We spent, relative to some of the other readings, however, a great deal of time on the Isaiah 40 passage. It struck more than a few of us as strange that God would address the concerns of an exiled people by returning to the story of creation. If these people truly felt abandoned by God, or that Marduk had conquered Yahweh in the heavens, why would God call upon His prophet to speak of His creation? Where is the pastoral concern in that? What need is He meeting?

     But think about the situation for just a second. Ancient Israel was not unlike us. We often believe that we are trapped, that we are captives of our own prisons. Therapists have made fortunes telling people that they are the way they are because of parent's mistakes or their own mistakes. Society is not allowed to seek justice with respect to criminals because those very criminals who engage in all kinds of activities do so because they were not loved enough or had too tough a childhood to overcome. We believe that we are doomed to be islands because we are unable to commit to relationships because of various hurts and wrongs we have experienced. In short, we have come to believe, like ancient Israel, that God cannot transform us. We have come to believe that God cannot redeem our life's circumstances. We have fallen into that worldly trap that claims you and I should be allowed to do whatever we want, but recognizing that we cannot ever really be changed. We are, and will always continue to be, victims of our own circumstances.

     So why is the story of the creation so important and appropriate to both ancient Israel and ourselves? Because it gives them and us that which we lack most: hope. Think about the world's argument that the cosmos all there is, ever was and ever will be. How can anyone have hope in such a stark worldview? Sounds harsh? Think of science's claims. If science is right about the the forces at work in our cosmos, we have some terrible choices. Does matter precede spirit? If it does, if the Big Bang of science is the truth, you and I are accidental at worst and insignificant at best. If the molecules that make our bodies precede our spirits, "we just got lucky" that we were paired with bodies at all. Did all of this truly happen by chance? If the world formed at the exact distance, and the sun formed at the exact temperature, and the atmosphere formed with this exact composition and the land masses and the water and so on and so on as a matter of random subatomic and larger collisions, then what meaning and purpose can you and I truly have? Put another way, if unstoppable forces caused you to come into being, what chance have you to make any difference in the world? What if the reality that you and I experience is the result of eternal conflict or opposition? What if matter and antimatter, gravity and antigravity, yin and yang, light and darkness are engaged in these ceaseless battle? How can we ever see peace? How can we ever be reconciled to one another, let alone this impersonal battle? Finally, if all these forces are everything that ever was, is, and will be, and if they march along in their efforts and cannot be resisted, what hope is there of transformation? What hope is there for salvation? We are simply caught in a web, caught on a wave, and expected to use it for whatever we can get out of it.

     The creation story and claim of the Bible may not seem important at first glance. Who cares whether God created? What difference does it make if He set these processes in place and stepped back? But for ancient Israel, and for us, it makes all the difference of eternity. Science is useful in that it helps us to understand better the ordering of God's mind. After all, He put the order into chaos. But without the Biblical understanding, without the Biblical claim that God created the heavens and the earth, all that is seen and unseen, you and I can, in the end, have no hope. Isaiah goes to the creation story in his care of exiled Israel because the creation story should give them hope. God ordered all things; God made all things. And God did so with a purpose in mind! We may not know it? His purpose may not work as quickly as we like? But He gives all of this meaning. Better still, He gives you and me a choice!

     Do we suffer the consequences of mistakes that are not of our own doing? We all know that we do. We also all know that we suffer consequences of our own doing, as well. The Gospel news, though, is that those consequences are not fatal traps for each one of us. If God has spoken truly through the ages, if God is working out His plan of salvation, if God has intimately united Himself to us as a perfect Father to His children, you and I have tremendous freedom!  We are free not to remain prisoners. We are free to claim God's love. We are free to accept His gift and pick up our crosses for His glory, knowing that He acts and redeems history at all times. We are free to pray for God's grace and so be transformed that we transcend our pasts! We are free to hope.

     And we are called to carry that message of hope to the rest of the world. We are called to go and claim that the God who created all things loves each individual whom we encounter in our daily life and work. We are called to proclaim the Gospel message that the one who created all things can recreate all things, even our hearts. We are called to proclaim hope to a world so desperately in need.

     "Have you not known? Have you not heard?" The same God who created, the same God who delivered, the same God who has called you can redeem you and and transform your life. Is there any better message? Is there any other person or thing more deserving of our worship, our praise, and our thanksgiving?

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