The Creative Christ
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Virtually every day I walk our two dogs around the block. These daily strolls allow me to observe many things about our Northeast Heights neighborhood. For instance, on Tuesday mornings I see trash and recycling barrels out by the curb. I am delighted that so many of our neighbors recycle their newspapers, cardboard, and aluminum cans.
Unfortunately, not all our neighbors recycle. Some Tuesday mornings I am amazed at how much stuff sticking out of their trash barrels could be recycled. Truth be told, I have on occasion transferred stuff from their trash barrels into their recycling barrels. Is that meddling? Tampering? I prefer to call it “saving the planet”.
There have been times when I have felt very censorious when I see neighbors not recycling. I think to myself, “Is it a sin NOT to recycle?” Then I ask, “Is it a sin to judge those who do NOT recycle?” You are probably thinking I take way too many walks around my neighborhood.
Now I have often wondered why people-like me-become so passionate about recycling and the environment. Or to use more theological language, why some people care so deeply about God’s creation. I would like to offer an answer to that question this morning. I will borrow from St. Augustine for my explanation. St. Augustine suggested that we are motivated by what we love. Our particular loves form our main motivations. Perhaps three main loves motivate our concern for the creation. Our love of self and those we care about. Our love of the creation itself. Our love of God revealed in Christ.
First, our love of self motivates our care for the creation. One could even call this self-interested love. By that I mean that we care about Spaceship Earth because our lives as passengers are ultimately at stake. Because we love ourselves, we are deeply concerned that this planet will sustain us and those we love.
Our lives are utterly dependent upon this fragile blue planet-the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat. Our lives are deeply intertwined with the created order and our future will be profoundly affected by what happens to Spaceship Earth. It is as though we are the astronauts aboard Apollo 13 and our lives are at risk because of what has happened to our space capsule.
Global warming puts us at risk. Perhaps you were as stunned as I was to hear that it reached 90 degrees in Anchorage last week. The pollution of the water and the air is very unsettling. The world’s huge population, concentrated in vast urban sprawls, threatens us. The destruction of the rain forest poses real risks. Here in New Mexico in this arid climate we are worried about our future water supplies. Our state is quite dependent upon the fossil fuel industry, yet we know the risk that poses for all of us. That’s why the coal fired plant in Farmington is being de-commissioned and our state leaders are focused on renewable energy-the abundant sun and wind all around us. Taken together, these issues add up to some very sobering concerns.
Why? Because we care about ourselves and those we love. And yes we should care not only about ourselves but also about the kind of world we are bequeathing to our children and their children. The youth who will be attending the Triennium at Purdue are facing a global environmental crisis-perhaps the existential crisis of their generation. Jesus asked, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Maybe we could also ask, “When the Son of Man comes, what will he find on earth?” Because we rightly love ourselves and those around us, we need to care deeply about Spaceship Earth, the good creation of God.
Second, our love of the creation itself also motivates us to care. There is a beauty about this world and indeed the cosmos that is utterly captivating. Like many of you, I find that the glories of nature move me deeply. Just linger over a New Mexico sunset or the Milky Way in the dark sky above or the full moon over the snow-capped Sandias. The Psalmist says, “When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established, what are human beings that you are mindful of them?” (8:3).
Of course, much of nature is “red in tooth and claw”. That is, much of nature is part of an extended food chain so there is undeniable violence in the created order. Things come into existence and struggle and then die. The created order is not eternal. All that we see has a shelf life. Even stars form and shine brightly for a time and then explode. None of what we see will last forever. Yes, the beauty is fleeting and yet it is magnificent, like a butterfly that lives oh so briefly or a flower that blooms ever so quickly and then is gone. Jesus reminded us, “Consider the birds of the air…and the lilies of the field…even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.”
Even in its transient beauty the world is breathtaking. And because we love the beauty of the earth, we care about it. The old hymn says it so well, “For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies, for the love which from our birth over and around us lies, Lord of all to Thee we raise, this our hymn of grateful praise.” We are grateful for this world that envelops us and nurtures us and cradles us. And so our love for the creation itself motivates us to care.
Finally, our love of God revealed in Christ motivates us. The One who spoke the universe into existence with these words, “Let there be…” and there was. Our reading from Colossians bears testimony to the role of Christ in the creation, preservation, and redemption of the world. Christ our Lord is the creative source, the creative preserver, and the creative redeemer of all creation.
The living Christ is the creative source of all creation. The hymn in the Colossian letter says, “In him, that is, in Christ, were created all things in heaven and earth, through him and to him were all things created.” The prologue to the Gospel of John echoes those amazing sentiments: “All things came into being through him and without him not one thing came into being.” These stunning verses affirm that Christ is the agent of creation, in the same way that Proverbs 8 calls Wisdom the means of Creation. Christ the Word is spoken and the light shines in the darkness. Christ the Word is sounded and the worlds were spun into existence. The Gospel of John insists that “the world came into being through him” even if the world did not know him.
When we see the world, we see the handiwork of Christ our Lord. Christ is the Alpha and Omega, creation’s source and its destination. In I Corinthians 8 Paul says, “There is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” Christ is the One through whom and for whom we exist. What an awesome affirmation!
But wait! There is more. Colossians goes on to say: “In him, that is, in Christ, all things hold together.” Remember, these are faith affirmations, claims we cannot necessarily make in a biology or physics class. But the faith of the church is that Christ preserves what has been created. In him all things cohere and find their balance. Christ is the glue that holds the universe together. For sure, gravity is the servant of Christ. But it is the creative Christ who brings order and coherence to the universe. “In him all things hold together.” The eternal Christ preserves the seasons, the sunshine and the rain, the rainbow that promises God’s faithfulness. In a memorable line C. S. Lewis once said speaking metaphorically, “The sun does not rise in the east because of the laws of nature, but because Christ says ‘Arise O sun and shine forth.” What an awesome affirmation!
Finally, Colossians acclaims that the creative Christ will “reconcile all things to himself.” The redemption that began at the cross finds its fulfillment when all things are reconciled to Christ. The created order, as Paul says in Romans 8, “waits with eager longing” for its redemption, when it will be freed from its “bondage to decay” and death. The whole of creation “has been groaning in labor pains”, groaning inwardly for its redemption. Paul describes the creation as a woman in labor longing to give birth to a new heaven and a new earth. The creation as we know it now, with all its suffering and pain, will be utterly transformed. The Omega point will be reached and all will be well and all will be well. What an awesome affirmation!
So Christ is the agent of Creation. All things were made through him and by him and for him. Christ is the preserver of Creation. All things are sustained and supported by him. And Christ is the merciful redeemer of all that is. All things will be reconciled to him and restored in love.
And that ultimately for followers of Christ is why we care about the creation. Because Christ cares. It is his handiwork. It is his on-going task, world without end. It is his passion. And so it is ours. May it be so. Amen.