The Wonder of it All

Sep 2, 2018 by

John 1.1-14 ‘The Word becomes part of Earth’

The Word, that is before all things and is God, is the source of all creation.  And that Word becomes flesh and blood, the very stuff of creation. The Word of life becomes part of the living planet called Earth.

 

The picture of earth taken in 1968 by astronaut Bill Anders is called “Earthrise”.

My granddaughter, Aurora, had an interesting experience with sunrise recently. She had woken too early and it was still dark outside. Her mother, knowing her two-and-a-half year old well realized she wasn’t going to go back to sleep so she let Aurora play while she got ready for the day. When Aurora saw the darkness outside she declared, “It’s broken!” Her mom said, “Oh no, honey, the sun isn’t up yet- it’s not broken”. So, the little girl went back to her play and the next time she looked up it was bright outside. This time she declared, “Mommy, I fixed it!”

I do love a two year-old’s confidence in their sense of God-like power!

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”

When astronauts first saw Earth from afar in the Apollo 8 mission in 1968 — the US’s second manned mission to the moon — they described a shift in awareness after seeing our planet “hanging in the void.”

One of the astronauts on the Apollo mission stated, “When we originally went to the moon, our total focus was on the moon. We weren’t thinking about looking back at the Earth. But now that we’ve done it [looked at the earth from space], that may well have been the most important reason we went.”

Seeing cameras turn around in a live feed of Earth for the first time — even for viewers at home — was life-changing. The iconic “Earthrise” image on our easel today was taken  by astronaut Bill Anders.

Until that point, no human eyes had ever seen the blue planet from space. Now, we take these images for granted.

NASA astronaut Ron Garan explains this incredible feeling in his book, The Orbital Perspective. He himself had a quite a unique experience. He was clamped to the end of a robotic arm on the International Space Station in 2008, and then flung in an arc over the space station and back.

He described his experience this way:

“As I approached the top of this arc, it was as if time stood still, and I was flooded with both emotion and awareness. But as I looked down at the Earth — this stunning, fragile oasis, this island that has been given to us, and that has protected all life from the harshness of space — a sadness came over me, and I was hit in the gut with an undeniable, sobering contradiction.”

“In spite of the overwhelming beauty of this scene, serious inequity exists on the apparent paradise we have been given. I couldn’t help thinking of the nearly one billion people who don’t have clean water to drink, the countless number who go to bed hungry every night, the social injustice, conflicts, and poverty that remain pervasive across the planet.”

“Seeing Earth from this vantage point gave me a unique perspective — something I’ve come to call the orbital perspective. Part of this is the realization that we are all traveling together on the planet and that if we all looked at the world from that perspective we would see that nothing is impossible.”[1]

God looked with love on all that God had created, and saw that it was good- very good. Now we have something of a God-like perspective and have this picture of Earth hanging in the void, our awe-inspiring blue planet.

Genesis 1:26:  Then God said, “Let Us make humans in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

God let humanity rule but we didn’t take our example of how to rule from the Supreme Ruler. Adam & Eve’s defiance changed the relationship and humankind liked the idea of dominating and controlling both the planet and fellow human beings. Humanity became users and creators of waste, both of raw materials and other human beings. God doesn’t waste; everything God creates is recycled or renewed. God does not oppress or enslave or abuse.

Krista Tippett, in her book Becoming Wise, makes these true and arresting statements:

“We’ve been treating the earth as if it were a supply house and a sewer.  We’ve been grabbing, extracting resources from it for our cars and our hair dryers and our bombs, and we’ve poured the waste into it until it’s overflowing… but our earth is not a supply house and a sewer.  It is our larger body.  We breathe it.  We taste it.  We are it, and it is time now that we venerate that incredible flowering of life that takes every aspect of our physicality.”

Ellen Davis is an American theologian and Old Testament scholar. She has written a book on the Old Testament view of land and ecology. She presents these truths from a different perspective:

“One day”, Davis stated, “in the fullness of time, all of creation will be given its voice and we will be called to sit down at table and listen, really listen, and hear the pain we have caused.”

Imagine hearing the ocean weeping over being clogged with billions of pounds of plastic and other garbage we have all helped dump into it; the air choked with pollution we pumped out; hearing the pain of trees being clear-cut and mountains being reduced to rubble; and hearing the cries of animals being harried into extinction. Then to hear the hunger of mothers and fathers and the thirst of small children, 5000 who die every day for want of clean water while we let the tap run just so the water we drink will be colder.

But the task before us seems so completely overwhelming. How does a caring person make a difference when faced with the scale of the tragedy we cannot hide from and confronts us in every news cast and countless on-line feeds and posts.

Edward Everett Hale, author and Unitarian minister said, “I am only one, but I am one. I can’t do everything, but I can do something; and because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do”.

Maybe the first step is to really understand that we are all connected; everything is connected, all of it.

Father Romano Guardini put it this way, “Although I am not God, I am not other than God either.” The realization of this reaches out in all directions. Although I am not you, I am not other than you either. Although I am not the earth, I am not other than the earth, either. We begin to see the implications and it changes the way we act in the world and in relationships with other people.[2]

What I do matters to people I will never meet; the choices I make will affect countries I may never visit; the chemicals I pour down our kitchen sink will sour my neighbors water years from now. Simply waking up to the ways that each of us effects just the ground around our own homes is a start.

When I was young it was nothing to throw trash out the window of the car as you drove along. Just tossed it out because it didn’t matter. Then Lady Bird Johnson got it into her head that the American countryside was a mess, a dump from sea to shining sea and she started a campaign to clean up the whole country!

The idea must have seemed ridiculous at the time and probably most thought it would never work. But it did work, in the US and in Canada. Now if someone throws out trash we practically do a citizen’s arrest. We are horrified. Not everyone respects this cultural norm, but when they don’t, well we don’t look kindly on them. From no big deal to criminal offence, that is a huge change brought about by the vision of one person.

Reuse, recycle, renew, because as Henry David Thoreau said, “what’s the use of a fine house if you don’t have a tolerable planet to put it on?”

I can’t take care of the whole of God’s creation, but I can try to take care of what is right in front of me. I can change and make better choices as influence governments to do the same.[3]

I was so delighted when the Kinder Morgan pipeline was stopped by the courts. “In a unanimous decision, the court stated that the National Energy Board’s review of the project was so flawed that the federal government could not rely on it as a basis for its decision to approve the expansion and they needed to have much more consultation with the Indigenous peoples.” I know that is not the end of it, but it is a great encouragement.

The wonder of wonders: God becomes part of Earth

When our kids destroy or misuse something they have been given, what do we say?

  • “Having that is a privilege; if you are going to abuse it, you will lose it”
  • “Make that kind of a mess again, and you won’t be allowed in here”
  • “You obviously aren’t ready for this thing, so it’s gone. When you prove to me you are ready, I’ll let you have it back”

Imagine if God said that to us!

“This planet is a privilege you know- look at the mess you have made!!”

Sadly and frighteningly, the consequences for the mess we have made are built it. After some 5 or 7 thousand years (with two or three hundred years of the industrial revolution) those consequences are literally circling over our heads.

It is incredible, then, that God does not remove us but sends the Word to become flesh- a part of earth- to save us from ourselves.

John delvers a breath-taking opening to his gospel: ” In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. [KJV]3 All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.”

Breath-taking and bewildering at the same time. I find myself simultaneously struck by the sense of the awesomeness of Christ’s coming to earth and feeling like there is a lot to unpack here…which there is. [it’s like I am hearing the ramblings of somebody on drugs…to which the only response is, “Dude- that’s deep” (!).]

It can sound so esoteric- grand statements that only a few can understand. One author says, “the readers mind is overwhelmed by a rush of staggering assertions”. He goes on to say as we read we want to pause at each assertion but no such pause is allowed as John rushes on, his mind seeming to outstrip his pen.

It is a very useful exercise to take the time and go over these few verses phrase by phrase.

For now, stand back and consider the big picture. The Christ of the NT is a figure so sublime, so magnificent and exalted, those who wrote of Him were instinctively moved to bow in reverence and worship.

“This Christ who is the express image of God’s person; in everything he does God’s representative, and himself divine; the very thought and mind and word of God to us become alive here on our earth; the mighty conqueror of sin and death and hell, meeting the full shock of their power and trampling them beneath his feet.”[4]

“He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God ”

Thus, the struggle continues between those who want to care for fellow humanity and for the planet, and those who are given to a self-indulgent life where both the planet and the people in it are for personal gratification.

We have our example in God in Genesis of what it really means to rule this planet. Then we have the example of Christ in the NT and his care for all people equally, and his protection of the disadvantaged and oppressed.

Jesus is our courage in times of discouragement and despair, in these politically, environmentally and violently troubled times.

Conclusion

God entrusted this planet to our care. We continue to explore and seek to understand it. In spite of the mess we have made- both in oppressing fellow human beings and in treating it like “a supply house and a sewer” – God sent the Word, the Word that was and is God, to become part of this earth, to be made from this earth just as we are. God plans to redeem every part of creation, so our mandate is to cooperate with this plan of redemption by caring for every aspect of planetary living until Christ returns.

 

[1]  [Information taken from Tech Insider – Business Insider publication, author Julia Calderone Aug. 31, 2015]

[2] Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation – August 22, 2018

Taoism and Buddhism

[3] http://www.trinityepiscopalchurch.org/Sermons/Vinnie_s_Sermons/Earth_Day_Sermon/

[4] The Interpreter’s Bible

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