“See, I make all things new! …ain’t it Beautiful?”©
by Rev. Jim Ryan, email@example.com
Homily thoughts on the Fifth Sunday of Easter, April 24, 2016, & Earth Day 2016
Biblical literalists may have some difficulty with the collision course that happens with certain texts about creation. Today, for example we hear God say, “See, I make all things new.” (Rev.21:5) God is the creator whose work is eternal. Yet, this is the same God who, in the beginning of the Book of Genesis, tells the woman and the man “to fill and subdue (the earth).” (Gen.1:28)
What’s it going to be? God always already creating into the future or humankind exercising its power to lord it over creation?
There is a difference here, except that there is a certain dominating logic to humans subduing the earth. And this logic shows the path of devastation and destruction. People who live in regions where the economy is principally dependent on extraction of resources from the earth have a very clear picture of what this devastation looks like. Subduing the earth means – in coal country – mountaintop removal, fouled and poisoned streams, injustices toward small landholders and worse. How are we to reconcile a gift-giving Creator with humanity subduing God’s creation?
On the other hand we believe in the God who is about care, about renewing creation and also making all things new. This is a message for looking forward, for seeing the divine movement that is out ahead of us. What if the new thing God is making is the merging of the Milky Way galaxy with its closest neighbor galaxy Andromeda? Astrophysicists say this will happen in about 4 billion years. And what if somewhere in that future time the previously unthinkable annihilation by nuclear destruction of the human race occurs? The simple fact is Earth does not need us.
Earth can survive us. Oh, it may take a few million years to rid itself of the death dealing atmosphere that humanity may leave in its wake. But what’s a few million years among 4 billion? What if the new that God makes has absolutely nothing to do with us? What if God saves that for the next divine experiment?
Be that as it may, if there is to be no collision of biblical proportions but rather a faithfulness to God’s constant creating, then what’s the standard that provides a sense of moving forward, of participating as co-creators, of caring? It seems to me that the standard is beauty – as in the beauty of creation that compels us to care, to more than preserve but to do our part to make all things new.
Too often the language of our faith, of our prayers, of our religious heritages are not up to the task of anticipating the newness of God and God’s future.
The English language, in particular, has all these words that start with re-, as in resurrection, reconciliation, return, redemption. Such words can have a sense of going backward or of recapturing the blessed order that was the beginning. This makes it difficult to love the new, to propel ourselves into the cosmic future.
Which words shall we use to testify to the beauty of God’s new things? How shall we speak in a way that is centered on the Creator of the ever expanding and blessed Cosmos, not on the personal, self-centered pursuit of reconciliation and redemption? The language we search for is to be cosmological, not so much eschatological. We do not pursue the end as much we do the expanse.
Here is the terminology of evolution and the language of emergence. If it is true that God evolves as each new jump occurs from the microscopic to the galactic then our prayers need to be formed as leaps of faith. And if it is true that complexity requires the emergence of reality that leaves one complexity behind for a yet new complexity then God must certainly be in the evolution and the emergence.
“See, I make all things new.”
This is the beauty that jolts us. It is pure gift. Turns out that a rational argument may not persuade us to care. Rather, an aesthetic argument may strike us the way that the question, “Where did this come from?” propels us to love the gift. This love of the earth, of creation, of the cosmos propels us forward, lifts us upward, and expands us outward.
We are not doing all this hard work in the here-and-now simply to return to some version of the primeval Garden of Eden. We are not plugging away to return to some original blessed order of things.
No, we are anticipating the beauty of what’s to come.
“See, I make all things new!” …ain’t it Beautiful?
A Prayer for Earth Day, 2016
We, the people of the Earth, rejoice at the continued creation of beauty, of springtime, of the yearly rebirth of our common home, our own Mother Earth!
We must learn to take time to love the miracles which we did not create. For God has given the gift. And its preservation will be the measure of our recognition and our celebration before it’s too late.
The wondrous marvel of our Living Earth in the blessed Cosmos. Consider creation….. Consider it now….