Experiencing God in the Created World – Steve Wickham

created-world-post-Steve-Wickham-MS-clipart

“The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the sky displays what his hands have made.”
— Psalm 19:1 (GW)
From creaking crickets to massages and bubble-gum ice-cream,
Experiencing God is beyond senses and what’s seen.
From travel to babies and the eventual dentures,
Having access to God is not limited to adventures.
From thoughts to libraries and what’s learned at college,
God is in life much more than knowledge.
From dreams to planning and inspirational indemnities,
God extends us past the plain making of memories.
From enjoyment to grief and all emotion between,
God’s in even more than every hard-bitten dream.
From novelty to the veteran and the appreciative skill,
God’s into growth beyond the extent of our fill.
From wonders to signs and the miraculous too,
God’s in all of it—in everything true.
The Scope and Extent of the Created World
We’re not just talking about a physical place; the world—the cosmos—is a system.
There is no limit to the extent of how we might worship God by enjoying his Presence. And each of us has our own ways in which God reaches us to connect our souls with that revelatory truth that transforms us unto growth in Christ.
I find transport—being on trains and buses and planes, and even on my bicycle—gives me inspiration as to the Divine working in my world. And I could extend it to walking; a two or three mile walk, at brisk pace, on a bright sunny day, or in the cool evening moonlight, brings warmth to my soul or an equivalently stark, yet reasonable, inspiration. Noisy cafes, also, but just as much the experience of a meandering stream.
Experiencing God in the created world is a gem of majesty that is limitless in design. For all the seven-plus billion souls on this earth, there would be just as many fragments of divine revelation to be had, for each one, regarding the things of heaven to be enjoyed on this earth.
Within this worldly system we exist in we see God revealed tremendously, from every angle, and through every experience, no matter how we feel.
As we reflect on this Lord of Glory who has begotten us, asking him to make himself known to us in our everyday, we see his glory magnified, resplendent, and dutifully portrayed in all divine faithfulness.
Whatever We Experience In Reflection, God Is Bigger
Of course, we know that we cannot ‘box’ God, though we try, such as our thinking’s limited. As there is no limit to the divine scope for creation, there is equally no limit to our enjoyment of the divine, at any time we choose—in both blessing and want and all between.
As we consider a sunset, a sunrise, the wonder in an insect, or the phenomenon known socially as of this day, we hear God speak through our experience, perhaps in ways only perceptible for us, alone. Of course, we are stoically encouraged when others see what we see, but the point of reflection, the point of honing in on the Spirit as it is present in our moments, is the unique gift of divine light given us, that ingenious moment.
God is infinitely bigger than we can imagine, and the beauty in that thought, in the present discussion, is our reflections catch us by surprise if we are free enough to be caught reflecting, which brings us to a point of fresh wonder.
The limit of God’s awesomeness is a lie. There can be no limit.
When we open ourselves up in awe of God, to the extent of seeing things anew, in new ways, within the broader spectrum of life, the Lord shows us the wonder enfolded in such a gorgeous investment.
It is ours to enlarge our God-consciousness through spiritual reflection.
The world awaits!
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.
This morning’s post in the series Return to Our Senses in Lent comes from fellow Australian Steve Wickham, author of “Grow In GOD” eBook (Proverbs) He holds Science, Divinity and Counselling Degrees and ministers actively in Cyberspace. His social media links: Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/stevewickhamauthor and http://www.facebook.com/steve.j.wickham and Twitter: http://twitter.com/SJWickham
Steve Wickham

Making Peace with the Land

Making Peace with the Land

Making Peace with the Land

I have just started reading Making Peace with the Land: God’s Call to reconcile with creation by agriculturalist Fred Bahnson and theologian Norman Wirzba. This is the seventh book in the resources for Reconciliation series.

All I can say at this point is that this is a very profound book, one that I think is essential for all who are interested in a holistic view of faith. Even reading the prologue has turned some of my thinking on its head. And what time to do this than after Pentecost as we enter the season of Ordinary time or as some prefer to call it Kingdom time. Listen to this provokative beginning talking about the first couple of chapters of Genesis.

We are right to believe that God loves you and me. But in these earliest pages of Scripture, we discover that God’s first love is the soil. This is how it has to be, because without healthy soil and the fertility and food it makes possible, there would be not terrestrial life of any kind. God’s love for us- described definitively in John 3:16 as God’s giving of his Son to us- only makes sense in terms of God’s love for the earth that sustains us. God daily cares for us by providing the nurture of food, as well as the the gifts of fiber and timber and energy, all of which find their origin in soil…. Genesis 2:15 is an invitation to know and share in God’s love for the whole creation. (pp16,18).

Over the next week or so I plan to post several articles about how we can steward God’s good earth in creative ways. If you know of examples of creative approaches to stewardship that you think need to be shared I would love to hear from you.

Evangelicals Do Care About Creation

Reflections - Mark Wilson-Thomas

Reflections - (c) Mark Wilson-Thomas. used with permission

This morning I am continuing my series on Christian organizations concerned about creation with a post of the Evangelical Declaration on the Care of Creation which is available through the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN). The EEN  is a ministry dedicated to the care of God’s creation. EEN seeks to equip, inspire, disciple, and mobilize God’s people in their effort to care for God’s creation.

Founded in 1993, their ministry is grounded in the Bible’s teaching on the responsibility of God’s people to “tend the garden” through a faithful walk with our Lord Jesus Christ. Based in the scriptures, EEN publishes and develops material for churches, ministries, families, and individuals to use as they seek to know the Lord more fully, especially his care for all that he has made.  They are hosting the Global Day of Prayer for Creation Care & The Poor on April 26, 2012 in Washington DC.

Evangelical Declaration On the Care of Creation

The Earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof- Psalm 24:1

As followers of Jesus Christ, committed to the full authority of the Scriptures, and aware of the ways we have degraded creation, we believe that biblical faith is essential to the solution of our ecological problems.

Because we worship and honor the Creator, we seek to cherish and care for the creation.

Because we have sinned, we have failed in our stewardship  of creation. Therefore we repent of the way we have polluted, distorted, or destroyed so much of the Creator’s work.

Because in Christ God has healed our alienation from God and extended to us the first fruits of the reconciliation of all things, we commit ourselves to working in the power of the Holy Spirit to share the Good News of Christ in word and deed, to work for the reconciliation of all people in Christ, and to extend Christ’s healing to suffering creation.

Because we await the time when even the groaning creation will be restored to wholeness, we commit ourselves to work vigorously to protect and  heal that creation for the honor and glory of the Creator—whom we know dimly through creation, but meet fully through Scripture and in Christ. We and our  children face a growing crisis in the health of the creation in which we are embedded, and through which, by God’s grace, we are sustained. Yet we continue to degrade that creation.

These degradations of creation can be summed up as 1) land  degradation; 2) deforestation; 3) species extinction; 4) water degradation; 5)  global toxification; 6) the alteration of atmosphere; 7) human and cultural degradation.

Many of these degradations are signs that we are pressing against the  finite limits God has set for creation. With continued population growth, these  degradations will become more severe. Our responsibility is not only to bear and nurture children, but to nurture their home on earth. We respect the institution of marriage as the way God has given to insure thoughtful procreation of children and their nurture to the glory of God.

We recognize that human poverty is both a cause and a consequence of environmental degradation.

Many concerned people, convinced that environmental problems are more spiritual than technological, are exploring the world’s ideologies and religions  in search of non-Christian spiritual resources for the healing of the earth. As followers of Jesus Christ, we believe that the Bible calls us to respond in four  ways:

First, God calls us to confess and repent of attitudes which devalue creation, and which twist or ignore biblical revelation to support our misuse of  it. Forgetting that “the earth is the Lord’s,” we have often simply used  creation and forgotten our responsibility to care for it.

Second, our actions and attitudes toward the earth need to proceed  from the center of our faith, and be rooted in the fullness of God’s revelation in Christ and the Scriptures. We resist both ideologies which would presume the  Gospel has nothing to do with the care of non-human creation and also ideologies which would reduce the Gospel to nothing more than the care of that creation.

Third, we seek carefully to learn all that the Bible tells us about  the Creator, creation, and the human task. In our life and words we declare that full good news for all creation which is still waiting “with eager longing for  the revealing of the children of God,” (Rom. 8:19).

Fourth, we seek to understand what creation reveals about God’s divinity, sustaining presence, and everlasting power, and what creation teaches  us of its God-given order and the principles by which it works.

Thus we call on all those who are committed to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to affirm the following principles of biblical faith, and to seek ways of living out these principles in our personal lives, our churches, and  society.

The cosmos, in all its beauty, wildness, and life-giving bounty, is the work of our personal and loving Creator.

Our creating God is prior to and other than creation, yet intimately involved with it, upholding each thing in its freedom, and all things in relationships of intricate complexity. God is transcendent, while lovingly sustaining each creature; and immanent, while wholly other than creation and not  to be confused with it.

God the Creator is relational in very nature, revealed as three persons in One. Likewise, the creation which God intended is a symphony of individual creatures in harmonious relationship.

The Creator’s concern is for all creatures. God declares all creation “good” (Gen. 1:31); promises care in a covenant with all creatures (Gen. 9:9-17); delights in creatures which have no human apparent usefulness (Job 39-41); and wills, in Christ, “to reconcile all things to himself” (Col.1:20).

Men, women, and children, have a unique responsibility to the Creator; at the same time we are creatures, shaped by the same processes and embedded in  the same systems of physical, chemical, and biological interconnections which  sustain other creatures.

Men, women, and children, created in God’s image, also have a unique responsibility for creation. Our actions should both sustain creation’s fruitfulness and preserve creation’s powerful testimony to its Creator.

Our God-given , stewardly talents have often been warped from their intended purpose: that we know, name, keep and delight in God’s creatures; that  we nourish civilization in love, creativity and obedience to God; and that we  offer creation and civilization back in praise to the Creator. We have ignored our creaturely limits and have used the earth with greed, rather than care.

The earthly result of human sin has been a perverted stewardship, a  patchwork of garden and wasteland in which the waste is increasing. “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land…Because of this the land mourns, and all who live in it waste away” (Hosea 4:1,3). Thus, one consequence of our misuse of the earth is an unjust denial of God’s created bounty to other human beings, both now and in the future.

God’s purpose in Christ is to heal and bring to wholeness not only  persons but the entire created order. “For God was pleased to have all his  fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things,  whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood  shed on the cross” (Col. 1:19-20).

In Jesus Christ, believers are forgiven, transformed and brought into  God’s kingdom. “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation” (II Cor. 5:17). The presence of the kingdom of God is marked not only by renewed fellowship with  God, but also by renewed harmony and justice between people, and by renewed harmony and justice between people and the rest of the created world. “You will  go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands” (Isa. 55:12).

We believe that in Christ there is hope, not only for men, women and children, but also for the rest of creation which is suffering from the  consequences of human sin.

Earth Day Is Coming – Why Should Christians Care?

Sunday April 22nd is Earth Day but why should Christians care? Over the next few days I plan to post statements from several different religious organizations that are concerned for creation.

The post below comes from earthministry.org. It very eloquently articulates my own reasons for being concerned for God’s good earth. Earth Ministry is a Seattle based creation care advocacy group. They have initiated the Washington Interfaith Power and Light project which organizes an interfaith response to climate change.

Alaskan landscape

Alaskan landscape photo by Coe Hutchison. Used with permission.

Spirituality

Creation itself inspires us and calls us to care.  Many people have had their most profound spiritual experience in nature. As we behold the power and love of God in a mountain range, a sunset, or in the timelessness of the ocean, we can’t help but be moved.  But creation also includes humans – our families, communities, and created landscapes.  God created all things of Heaven and Earth and God is our inspiration to care for both wild places and our own cities and backyards.

Stewardship

Psalm 24 states that “the Earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.”  Humans simply hold the Earth in trust for God.  We are tenants here, called to care for the creation on behalf of future generations and all species. The Bible calls us to “till and keep the garden” and names human beings as the trustees of creation. Because God created all the Earth and all of us, creation is beautiful and good and sacred.  We are called by our devotion to God and our love for God’s works to protect it.

 Sustainability

At the heart of sustainability is the goal of meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In a world of finite resources, those among us who have more than enough must address patterns of consumption so that we can provide for all. Acquiring more “stuff” has a direct effect on the sustainability of the planet and on the quality of life for people around the globe.  The good news is that more and more people are realizing that spiritual emptiness can’t be filled by consumption.  What makes us happy is intimacy – intimacy with self, with others, and with God. In the end, sustainability means seeing ourselves and our neighbors as children of God, not as consumers or competitors for Earth’s resources.

Justice

Justice means that in addition to providing aid to our neighbors, we are called to change societal systems that cause poverty, injustice, and environmental damage in the first place. It goes beyond helping to meet physical needs to creating a society with laws and policies that allow the needs of all Earth’s inhabitants to be met. Care and responsibility for the “least of these among us” is a central tenant of Christianity and has a direct connection to environment issues.  The impact of environmental degradation falls most heavily on the people around the world who are least able to mitigate these impacts — poor and vulnerable populations. It also disproportionally affects fragile plants, animals and ecosystems.  Working for justice calls us to channel our faith into power, to call for social and environmental justice at the local, state and national level.

Celtic Spirituality – What is the Attraction?

Celtic cross

Celtic cross Iona Scotland

As I get ready for our Celtic retreat now just over a week away, I have been revising the list of the characteristics of Celtic spirituality.  We talked about these too at our Celtic curriculum meeting last night which is developing the programme for the SEED semester that will begin September next year.  I know that I have shared some of these in the past but they so resonate with who I am and where I am at spiritually that I thought I would share them again today.  I know that there is a lot of confusion about this stream of Christianity because so much pagan imagery has come from similar roots.  However this is an authentic and vibrant form of Christian faith and one that is attractive to a growing number of people.  A faith that embraces all of life, including creation and sees the sacredness of every encounter is so necessary in our world today.

By the way there is still time to sign up for the retreat.  It is my favourite event each year

Distinctives of Celtic Christian Spirituality

  1. Central to Celtic spirituality is incarnation and an intense sense of the presence of God.  The Celt was very much a God-intoxicated person whose life was embraced on all sides by the divine Being.
    1. The presence of Christ was almost physically woven around their lives
    2. God was treated with awe, reverence and wonder but was essentially seen as a  human figure intimately involved in all creation and engaged in a dynamic relationship with it.
    3. Christ is our “walking companion”.  He is our guide, our protector, and we pray with him and can trust him always wherever we go.
    4. The Trinity is part of God’s eternal family to which we also belong.  Each family unit, clan or community was seen as an icon of the Trinity.
    5. All creation responds to God’s creative presence and sustaining love. God not only encircles and protects creation but also enlivens, activates and inspires it.
  2. A belief in the thinness of the veil between this world and the next.  Heaven and earth are interconnected and interacting.
    1. Celtic Christians believed that the “cloud of witnesses” is always with us.  They prayed consciously as members of the great company of hosts – the persons of the Trinity, angels and archangels as well as all who have gone before us were all seen as close companions on their journey.
    2. Through this same host of witnesses God protected them from evil forces and enemies.
  3. Importance of little things – no task is too trivial to be sanctified by prayer and blessing 
    1. All work is holy – Even mundane little task like washing dishes, milking the cow and sowing crops have sacred significance
    2. This is parallelled in their identification with the little people, the marginalized & the oppressed.  All persons represented God and might be heavenly visitors in disguise.
    3. Extending hospitality opened a door to the kingdom of God and welcomed Jesus into their midst.  It was an important expression of love both toward God and neighbour
  4. According to Celtic theology, the body is essentially good.  Sinful action was seen as wrong, but the body is a gift in all its capacities.
  5. A strong sense of sin and the presence of evil forces in the world resulted in a strong recognition of the need for penitence which often led to austerely ascetic lives.  Celtic spirituality holds that sin deforms the person we are called to be in Christ.  It enslaves, and the goal therefore is freedom from slavery.  Some Celtic saints became perpetual pilgrims or lived as hermits to avoid the comforts and temptations of a settled existence in which evil might flourish.
  6. All of life flows to a rhythm of ebb and flow reflected in the natural world.  This is reflected in the monastic rhythm that flowed between prayer and study, work and rest, community and solitude.
  7. Celtic Christians adapted well to the culture in which they operated.  They are sometimes accused of syncretism because of their use of pre-Christian symbols which they transformed into the symbols of faith.

 

Creation Liturgy by John Van De Laar

The following beautiful creation liturgy was written by John Van de Laar .  It is another wonderful resource as we pray for God’s creation today.

Beautiful old English oaks

Call to Worship

O Divine Voice,

You sing and the universe comes into being;

O Divine Breath,

You breathe and all things spring to life;

O Divine Word,

You call and creation is sustained;

O Divine Flesh,

You are born among us, and the Creator is clothed in creation;

O Divine Spirit,

You contain all that has been formed;

O Divine Life,

You are the pulse of all that is;

And so, in faith and expectation, in wonder and celebration

we gather to remember this mystery:

In you all things live and move and have being,

In all things, you live and move and express your Divine artistry;

And so we join with creation in the eternal song of worship and devotion.

Amen.

Praise and Confession

O God who gives birth to all that we see, all that we know, all that we dream,

and all that is unseen, unknown and unimagined,

We celebrate your life that holds and nurtures the universe

we celebrate your love which joins creation as one and unites all things with you; We give thanks for your life which is incarnated in Christ

and which is revealed in every created being; 

We savour your presence which is limitless and welcoming,

and your Spirit which fills every moment of time and every fragment of matter.

But even as we receive again your vision of life,

we recognise that we have been blind to its universal heartbeat;

Even as we remember the connectedness of all things,

we acknowledge that we have divided and separated ourselves, and forgotten our part in your creation;

Even as we are energised by your breath within us, we confess our destructiveness,

and repent of the harm we have done to ourselves and our world.

For the sake of Jesus, the firstborn of all creation, who, in death, disarmed all that is evil, and, in resurrection, stripped death of power,

We ask you to recreate us, to reconnect us, and to restore to us the vision of your life in creation, and the power to live it.

Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer may be said together.

Statement of Faith

Let us proclaim together our conviction of, and commitment to, God’s purpose in creation:

We believe that God gave birth to the universe and all that is in it,

and we proclaim that God’s life is beyond and within it all.

We believe that, in Jesus, God was revealed in human flesh,

and we proclaim that all is recreated through Christ’s saving work.

We believe that God’s Spirit energises the created order,

and we proclaim that all things are one, and everything lives in God.

Amen.

Requests

Let us open ourselves to the grace of God, to the brokenness of our world,

and to the call to be agents of healing and recreation.

Where human greed has stripped the world of beauty and life, and robbed people of dignity and subsistence,

We pray, O God, for a new vision of abundance, and a new commitment to nurture the world that feeds us and share with those who do not have.

Silence

Where human hatred has severed relationships, and broken the connection that unites creation,

We pray, O God, for love to be renewed, 

and compassion to draw us back into union.

Silence

Where human loneliness, weakness, sickness and grief, and the suffering of our planet and its inhabitants hide the signs of your life,

We pray, O God, for healing, comfort and strength and for the courage to keep hoping in the renewed creation to come.

Silence

O God, restore our faith, revive our hope, rekindle our love, And hear our prayer;

For we offer it in Christ’s name.

Amen.

Communion

The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it,

And the Lord’s glory covers the earth as the waters over the sea.

The trees of the field clap their hands, the birds of the air sing songs of praise

And if we should fail to express our worship, even the rocks and stones would cry out!

And so, we lift up our hearts, and we lift up our voices

And we offer thanksgiving and adoration to the Lord the Creator of all.

Blessed are you, Sovereign of the Universe,

for from seeds sown into the earth

you have given us the gift of bread to feed and nourish us.

And at Jesus’ last meal with his friends, before facing the cross,

Our Lord took bread, blessed it and broke it.

Then he passed it among them saying:

This is my body, broken for you.

Take and eat, and do this to remember me.

The bread is broken in the sight of the people.

Blessed are you, Sovereign of the Universe

for from grapes which grow ripe and sweet on the vine,

you have given us the gift of wine to refresh and heal us.

And at Jesus’ last meal with his friends before facing the cross,

Our Lord took the cup of wine and blessed it.

Then he passed it among them saying:

This is my blood shed for you.

Take and drink, and do this to remember me.

The cup of wine is held up in the sight of the people

And now we come to your table again, Jesus,

Mindful of how you laid your life down,

so that we and creation could be born anew;

Mindful of how you took your life up again,

so that we and creation could be filled with the life abundant;

Mindful that we cannot earn or purchase this privilege,

but that it is your grace which beckons us,

and your grace which ensures that all creation may be one and whole.

May your Spirit work in these fruits of earth,

so that they may become for us a sharing in Christ’s body and blood.

May your Spirit work in we, who are children of earth,

so that we may be transformed into Christ’s body,

carrying his life, his care, and his salvation to all creation.

Amen.  (The Sacrament is shared)

Thanksgiving and Sending Out

In this moment and this meal, we have remembered

That the whole creation is held in the hand of God

and that the whole creation is filled with the life of God;

That the whole creation has been restored by the work of God

and that the whole creation is flooded with the Spirit of God;

That the whole creation will be renewed according to the promise of God

and that the whole creation reflects the glory of God from eternity to eternity.

So now we go from this place back into the world,

to proclaim the saving message of God,

in word and action, in challenge and compassion, to all creation.

And we go in the confidence that comes from knowing that

Christ’s limitless grace, God’s infinite love, and the Holy Spirit’s relentless companionship, always encompass us, and are always within us. 

Amen.