Readings: Proverbs 8.1, 22-31; Psalm 104.24-35; Colossians 1.15-20; John 1.1-14 (view all)
One of the joys of growing up in Mid Wales is the amazing scenery, even just the drive back home from South Wales has some incredible views as the road meanders along the side of the valley through the Cambrian mountains. But my home town, Aberystwyth, is also known for its unusual and dangerous weather events. On top of the perilously high waves at the sea front during bad weather, and regular flooding which happened even just last week, I can still remember 10 or so years ago, the news reports about a tornado in the next village from us. Growing up, we got used to both the wonder of nature, but also its dangers.
There have always been different Christian attitudes towards God’s creation and the wider world. At times, in my conservative upbringing it felt like we were being taught the world was an incredibly dark and evil place, and our only defence against it was to shelter in the church against it. On the other hand, some streams of Christianity affirm the goodness of creation, and see the world and culture as mostly, if not all, good.
Well, who is right? Is our world intrinsically good or bad? In light of this morning’s readings – how should we feel about our world? And what should our role be in its future as followers of Jesus?
In our epistle this morning, we encounter Paul’s beautiful poem, or perhaps even a hymn, about the centrality of Jesus Christ, the ‘image of the invisible God’. Paul wants us to understand, through his wonderful, poetic verses, that Jesus lies at the heart of everything, both on earth and in heaven. He is the ‘firstborn of all creation’ – the one who in whom and through whom everything in the world has been created.
This theme continues through our other readings. In John’s gospel, Jesus is the ‘Word… without [whom] not one thing came into being’. And he is the one who delights in the wonderful world he has made, just as our Proverbs reading foretells.
What a wonderful sentiment for Creation Sunday – a wonderful invitation to delight and rejoice in God’s incredible world. However, Paul’s poem doesn’t just stop there. As well as the ‘firstborn of all creation’, he also names Jesus as the ‘firstborn from the dead’.
Paul proclaims the resurrection of Christ as the prototype, the way ahead, for all people and for the whole of God’s world.
You see, Paul isn’t in a dream world, he understands that, while the beauty of God is evident in his creation, that same creation is deeply flawed, and in desperate need of reconciliation with its creator. And this is precisely why Jesus’ resurrection is so important, because it is a foretaste of the new life, the renewal, that awaits us and the whole of creation.
The purpose of Christianity isn’t to escape our present world to a better one in heaven. It is to proclaim the re-creation of the world we have, inaugurated by the resurrection of Christ, and to join with God in his work to bring about the renewal of all things.
So, I wonder this morning: How can we, as God’s church, choose to get stuck into the work of conserving and safeguarding our world? How can we take a stand against evil, working to bring about peace and reconciliation between people and between nations?
Will we hear Christ’s call, to look and listen carefully for the ways in which God is already at work, renewing our world, and join in?
The great missionary Bishop, Lesslie Newbigin, was often asked by all sorts of people whether he was optimistic or pessimistic about the future… whether it was the future of the Church, the future of our world, or both. He famously always responded the same way:
‘I am neither optimistic or pessimistic, because Jesus Christ is risen from the dead’.
Jesus, the firstborn of all creation and the firstborn from the dead, invites us to join him in his work to renew the whole world through him. As we journey to his table together this morning, may we hear his call.
you have created the heavens and the earth
and made us in your own image:
teach us to discern your hand in all your works
and your likeness in all your children;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who with you and the Holy Spirit
reigns supreme over all things,
now and for ever.