A sermon delivered at Manningham Uniting Church October 7, 2018. The focus text was Hebrews 1.1-4; 2.5-12.
God, may my words create a place for your presence to dwell; and may my words be ignored if they don’t. Amen.
What do we mean today when we profess that God is Creator? What is Creation? And where does humanity fit within it all?
These questions have pre-occupied a significant portion of my time — and not just in preparing this sermon.
As we zoom further and further out, we grow in our appreciation for the sheer magnitude, complexity, and beauty of nature: stars, galaxies, planets, millions and millions of light years across, the night sky ever evolving and transforming. From this vantage point humanity, the Earth itself, shrinks into a tiny speck — almost disappearing.
As human curiosity digs deeper in the processes of physics, chemistry, and biology that continue to make and remake our world, as we grow to appreciate new and exciting creatures in every part of the world, can we continue to confess today that:
“We believe in One God, the Father Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth, of things visible and invisible.”
Our two readings for today, in their own way, prompt us to consider precisely this question: what does it mean to call God the Creator?
In our reading from the letter to the Hebrews Jesus is identified with the Creator God. The author describes Jesus as a “reflection of God’s glory” and an “exact imprint of God’s very being” (Heb 1.3). The writer of Hebrews works very hard to make it clear that Jesus should be identified with the Creator God: through Christ God created the worlds, through Christ all things are sustained, Christ sits in the place of honour beside God, and his name is more excellent than any other.
It’s not entirely clear what all of this is supposed to mean. But what it at least means is that Jesus must be understood in grand, cosmic terms. Jesus seems to tells us something about the “bigness” of God.
But how do we reconcile the person, Jesus of Nazareth, with these very big claims about a figure that plays a role in the unfolding drama of the cosmos?
There is an extent to which this section of Hebrews, to the modern reader, sounds more like science fiction than Scripture.
And yet, the writer to the Hebrews seems aware of these questions. Without seeing the grand scope of the universe through a fancy telescope, the writer of the Hebrews recognises the tension between the bigness of God, and the smallness of human beings. The author quotes Psalm 8 – one of the ancient poems of the Jewish tradition. There the psalmist expresses the tension that arises out of the conviction that God is Creator. The bigger we make God, as we discover and understand more of the world, the more difficult it is to take seriously that God really does stand behind it all, that God cares deeply about humanity. From this vantage point all of humanity, the Earth itself, shrinks to a tiny speck — almost disappearing.
“What are human beings that God is mindful of us,
or mortals, that God cares for us?”
For the writer of Hebrews the answer to this question, in typical Sunday School style, is Jesus. It is Jesus who bridges the gap between the bigness of God, and the seeming smallness and insignificance of humanity.
The sending of Jesus reflects the Creator God’s relentless movement towards the world, proclaiming reconciliation between humanity and God. Jesus chooses to stand in the place of condemned humanity, to be bound in solidarity with the suffering of humanity, so they he might bring the possibility of new life in the world.
This work of Christ on the cross can only be understood by taking seriously how Jesus dwells with Creation, in sharing in our humanity, and in our suffering. The humanity of Jesus is an inextricable part of who he is; and so, because Christ is also God, Jesus brings humanity into the very being of God.
Jesus in his life, death, and resurrection, embodies the yearning of God to be reconciled with humanity. Jesus opens up how we should understand the Creator God. It seems that our understanding of God must be revised in light of Jesus, and not the other way around. As one Christian writer summarises it: “God is like Jesus, Jesus is not like God.”
The Creator is not simply “out there,” but dwells in and with humanity in the person of Christ. The Creator God shares in our suffering, and allows us to be reconciled and sanctified: bound together in a new community of faith and love.
Jesus reveals that the Creator God is for humanity, seeking to draw humanity into new and renewed life. Hebrews does not simply give us ancient science-fiction, but places humanity within the order of things, as important and valued.
And so the vastness of creation can be reinterpreted in a way that is, surprisingly, human. Creation is not simply disinterested nature, creation is not simply so many stars, and galaxies, and physical laws, and biological processes. But this world we are discovering, and exploring, and learning to understand, is as much about the expression of our human curiosity, and the manifestation of our human capacity for wonder.
The vastness of the universe need not overwhelm us. We are small, but we are loved. We seem insignificant, and yet we are bound up with God through Christ. We are able to fulfill our humanity in the vastness of the world.
What Jesus ultimately shows us about the Creator God, and our place within creation, is that God dwells with us. God may be big, but God is also very close. God is all-pervasive: flowing through the rhythms of life. The Spirit of God still sweeps across the face of the waters. The presence of Christ is still with us.
As it turns out the unfolding drama of the cosmos does include us. We may just be a small part of it all, and yet we are a part of it. The rhythms of our lives are a part of the grand outworking of wonder and awe that we see in the night sky, and in the world of plants and animals. Recognising our important part in this dynamic beauty of creation should lead us to pay attention to the way humanity interacts with creation.
As we explored earlier in our service, our commitment to the Creator leads us to acknowledge and respect the land in which we live; and people who are connected to the land.
Our commitment to the Creator, who is found in the humanity of Christ, leads us to express the fullness of our humanity in exploring and discovering the world.
Our commitment to the Creator leads us to recognise men and women, and children, as worthy of dignity and love and respect.
We must face up to the challenges facing our environment: there too the fate of creation is bound up with decisions and activity of humanity.
To confess God as Creator must never mean closing our eyes to the world. But rather, must also mean confessing Christ as Lord: confessing that God is for us, relentlessly moving towards us proclaiming love, through mercy and justice. Confessing God as Creator means being caught up in the new life that Christ offers us, and seeking to have this new life reverberate through all things. Recognising how far reaching the world is, how important our actions are: that we too are caught up in the cosmic drama of God’s creative gifts.