Creation and incarnation
Is the Christian gospel good news for all of creation?
Many of us despair about the magnitude and complexity of finding ways to live within the ecological and hydrological limits of the planet’s ecosystems.
We cannot continue to foster a story that assumes an infinite planet and is framed around the paramount need for economic growth while maintaining another story around the paramount need to protect an increasingly fragile natural world.
The future depends upon the evolution of a more subtle and resilient story about human-earth interactions, in which energy, water and climate are central; a new story that empowers a transition to a society that lives within the means of a finite planet and improves global wellbeing.
Environment issues we face and our theology appear disconnected. The earth that our loving God created is falling apart.
Where is the wisdom? Where in the gospel is there a word or where in scripture are there passages which show that the earth, the land and its waters, matter?
A traditional homocentric reading of the gospels suggests Jesus and the gospel writers had nothing to say to our present ecological predicament.
The gospel is all about our personal salvation; about human spiritual salvation and the social justice and care that follows. But it appears silent on the natural world of ecosystems on which we depend for life itself.
Is such a human-centred perspective all there is?
The Bible — in John’s gospel, in Colossians, in Revelation — also calls us to reflect and regain a balance by giving more attention in our worship and practice to the creative mystery and the cosmic nature of Christ.
The big picture is that God is reconciling and restoring all creation. This is the story we can share with whoever will listen.
Creator God blessed the whole creation, which includes us but not only us.
I am convinced that God cares deeply for all that God has created and continues to create. To see more clearly God’s concern for the reconciliation and restoration of all creation is a fundamental part of the gospel.
It is not a side show, an add-on extra, but rather the gospel at its core.
Engaging this truth ensures that we do have a story to lead us into the future. We need to pray, listen to God, ponder the scriptures and learn, grow our new story, a new song for the earth.
The essentials of that good news for all creation, and all of us as part of creation, may be summarised as: the incarnation is deeper than we have often thought, the Word of God is interconnected with all life past and present on this planet; this incarnate deity suffers not only for the sins humans have committed against God, but also suffers with, for and as part of creation; this suffering was the hidden power of God at work reconciling all things to God in heaven and Earth; and as the risen incarnate God, Jesus Christ revealed the fullness of God’s Wisdom, the cosmic force that restores and holds all things together in the universe.
Has our focus on the historical Jesus been such that we have neglected the post-resurrection Jesus who is alive and with us?
By not giving spiritual attention to the Christ — the post-resurrection Jesus, the word, the logos, the cosmic Christ — have we missed what is so important in our time :the renewal and healing of the ecology and life support systems of the planet, the on-going work of our loving God and creator?
Can we who have grown up in a Christian family where the gospel ended with personal salvation and a cry for social justice possibly grasp a much larger and grander view of Jesus the Christ?
My answer is yes we can!
If we see Redemption and restoration of the whole creation as a matter central to the heart of God then two things change: first it is a central faithful response to God’s call on us and second we are not alone in the matter and we in God’s power can be expectant — a people of hope.
John Williams, FTSE, is a lay preacher, part of Kippax Uniting Church worship team and founding member of Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists.
This article is based on a sermon preached at during a celebration of the Seasons of Creation.