September 25, 2016

4th Creation Sunday
‘LIVING SIDE BY SIDE WITH FELLOW BEARERS OF GOD’S IMAGE’

BIBLE READINGS
Psalm 148
Proverbs 8:22-31

Colossians 1:15-29

REFLECTION

One of the most well known physicists today is the English Professor, Brian Cox. For many people, he is the David Attenborough of the world of space and universe.

In one of the hundreds of publications that he has published, he makes some scientific observations that are simply mind-blowing. He says that every rock, every mountain and living thing on this planet, even every piece of you and me was created not on earth, but in space. Indeed, every atom in our bodies was formed in the depth of space - in the stars - and it was once part of something else like an ancient tree, or a dinosaur, or a rock. Everything is indeed made of the same basic ingredients; just assembled in different ways.[1]

In other words, at the level of atoms, we are no different than the trees and the grass and the rocks and the insects that crawl beneath them. Even more humbling, we are no different than the stars and the moon above us.

This is something remarkable that our modern scientific knowledge can finally say. Yet, whether you believe or not, the biblical writers had already known, at least intuitively, what our modern scientists now have finally affirmed.

In our reading today from Psalm 148, we are asked to join other parts of the universe in praising God our Creator. The Psalm doesn’t consider us as higher than the sun, or the moon, or the mountains, or even the birds. No. We are simply one part of God’s creation where the hierarchy and boundaries that we create in our society mean nothing. Indeed, the kings and the princes, those who inhabit the highest ranks in human society, are asked to join the wild animals and the cattle to praise God. Men have no higher status than women, and vice versa; and both are to join the creepy-crawly things and the flying birds to praise God.

Indeed, Psalm 148 is like a roll call where humans are the last ones to be mentioned. The Psalm begins by summoning the inanimate objects in the ‘sky’: the sun, the moon, and the stars. It then summons inanimate objects on earth: the mountains, hills, and trees; as well as other living creatures in the sea, sky, and on land. Humans are the last ones to be summoned. Indeed, the Psalm calls us to humility. In God’s world, we are not more important than the other members of creation.

Reflecting on the psalm, Bill Staines, an American folk musician and singer-songwriter, created a song titled: All God’s Creatures Got a Place in the Choir.[2] He is right: we are only members of God’s choir and we are not more important than others in the choir. We are to combine our voices with others who have their rightful places in the choir to praise God through our music.

Indeed, the Psalm marks Israel’s departure from the faith of other nations around them. Those foreign nations worshipped as divine beings the inanimate objects in the sky or animals. But not the Hebrews. For them, all things in the universe were not objects of worship; they were all subjects who were to utter their praise to God, their Creator.

It is also important to note that, in the Psalm, the sun, the moon, the mountains, and the animals are not to worship us, humans, as their lords. No, we shall not become objects of worship. Rather, we are fellow subjects who are to say, “Haleluyah!”, which is “Praise the Lord!” in Hebrew.

We find a similar message in our passage from the letter to the Colossians. The letter reminds us that Christ is the fullness of God and everything in the world was created through Him. It means that our exclusive claim that only us Christians who bear the image of Christ is false. We are not the sole bearers of Christ’s image. This letter reminds us that all things in the world bear the image of Christ because everything is created in, through, and for Him.

Indeed, the most prominent word in our passage in the letter to the Colossians is pan, the Greek word that means all. The word is used eight times in our passage.[3] Christ is indeed in all people and all creatures and all things in the world. Our job, therefore, is to proclaim this to all and to start treating others as fellow bearers of the image of Christ.

Yes, Christ is the Wisdom of God, in our passage from the book of Proverbs, who was with God at the time of Creation. Christ is God’s Wisdom incarnates.[4]

Everything, therefore, bears the image of Christ, the Wisdom of God. We all are connected through Christ who is the head of everything. And thorough His sacrifice on the cross, God has reconciled all things to God.

Salvation, therefore, is not only for us human beings, but also for all parts of the creation. God’s will is not only to reconcile us Christians, or humans, but all creation to God-self. That means that Christ died for everyone and everything, and not only for us. Every creature; every part of this creation is the object of His love and sacrifice. This is the Gospel that we are to proclaim to the rest of the world.

Indeed, when the Gospel of John says that, “For God so loves the world that He gave his only Son (3:16),” the world must mean the world in its entirety, not only us. God so loves the world means that God loves everyone and everything in the world. And, Jesus is sent to reconcile the entire world, not only us, to God and to one another.

Imagine, friends, the world as a painting of a landscape. Everything in the painting is the creation of the painter. Everything in the painting mirrors the painter’s wisdom and creativity. One part of the painting cannot say that it is the only part of the painting that truly reflects its painter. Likewise, we humans are simply one part of God’s creation and we cannot claim that we are the only ones who reflect God and God’s wisdom. No, we are not the only ones who bear the image of God our Creator because all are created through God’s wisdom.

We need, therefore, to extend our respect and love to other parts of creation. We must extend our humanity to the trees, the animals, the rivers, etc. We must start treating them as fellow bearers of God’s image.

So, friends, all of our Bible readings today remind us that we are not the lords of the universe. The title belongs to God and to Christ, God’s Wisdom incarnates, and we need to give it back to where it belongs. We are simply members of God’s creation and our action on this planet (and, perhaps, one day, beyond this planet) must match our status. Our treatment of other creatures and parts of creation must be in accordance to their status as fellow bearers of God’s image and love.

So, the next time we see the stars and the trees and the mountains and the animals, we are invited to see them as the images of God who created us. And, hopefully, when we start seeing them in that way, we will start treating them with greater respect. Amen.

Toby Keva

[1] Professor Brian Cox – Wonders of the Universe – Stardust, posted on March 19, 2011 on

http://www.althinking.com/2011/03/19/professor-brian-cox-wonders-of-the-universe-stardust/

[2] William P. Brown, For the Life of the World: Season of Creation Week 4, posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 6:00 AM on http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?m=4377&post=2641

[3] William P. Brown, For the Life of the World: Season of Creation Week 4, posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 6:00 AM on http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?m=4377&post=2641

[4] William P. Brown, For the Life of the World: Season of Creation Week 4, posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 6:00 AM on http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?m=4377&post=2641