Today’s Author: Paul Sponheim

It is indeed good, very good, (Gen.1:21,25) that we live in the very presence of our Creator. But biblical faith would not say it is perfect. Why not? Well, for a couple of reasons.

First, creation is about life and perfection can seem to suggest that there’s nowhere for life to grow, to become, to live. The text Pastor Ruth preached on last Sunday is simply teeming with vitality. Getting the sun and the moon and the stars in place is perhaps orderly enough. But on the fourth day of creation, God creates “swarms of living creatures”, birds to fly above the earth, great sea monsters. (vs. 20-23)Then on the fifth day, we have cattle and creeping things and wild animals; indeed, “everything that creeps upon the ground.” (vs. 24-26) Can you feel the movement in the words “swarm”, “ creep”, “wild”? The being of what God creates is becoming because God creates life.

On the sixth day, humankind is in that same picture of movement. Maybe there is soon to be a pause for a day of rest, but right now we even get imperative verbs like “be fruitful and multiply”(vs. 28). Indeed the newer Testament suggests that perhaps the image of God is ahead of us. Romans speaks of God calling us according to his purpose so that we will be “conformed to the image of his Son.” (Romans 8:29). 

There’s a second reason why creation isn’t perfect. I was reminded of that a couple of weeks ago when I received an in-person visit from a former student and his wife. I’ll call him Tom. It was great to see Tom and Alice. Well, it also wasn’t so great. As I led the way to my apartment I looked back to see my guests way back. Tom was leaning heavily on his cane and his other hand was firmly grasping Alice’s strong arm. There’s more. In the ninety minutes we talked, Tom probably asked the same three questions at least a half dozen times. 

So what do we say of disease, dementia, and death? I’ve always said that I will not curse finitude in principle. Only God is infinite. But does it have to be this hard? What is our role to be in relation to the darker side of creation? Well, it wouldn’t hurt to lament a little. Or a lot. It wouldn’t hurt the Creator, who in the biblical writings survives all sorts of complaints. And we are called to remember that the ever-present God of whom we spoke yesterday has not disappeared. God is there in the suffering, somehow. Alfred North Whitehead writes wisely of God as “the fellow-sufferer who understands.”  (Process and Reality) Here’s an agenda for an adult ed series. That series will also need to spend time on the suffering of the non-human creatures. Is it good or very good that over 90% of all the species that have ever existed are now extinct? Well, it’s not perfect for sure. 

The Creator does not get a free pass. I’ve always tried to follow the lead of John Polkinghorne, physicist-priest of the Anglican church. He writes: “The created order looks like a package deal. Exactly the same biochemical processes that enable cells to mutate, making evolution possible, are those that enable cells to become cancerous and generate tumors. You can’t have one without the other.” (Quarks, Chaos, and Christianity) I realize that in much of human suffering the sufferer’s own choices play a role in the causality. There’s a human role called for also in the response to the suffering. That’s up for tomorrow. . .

Prayer of the week –
Boundless God, we are overwhelmed with the power, the beauty, the peacefulness and the glory of your great creation. Fill us with your creative Spirit, so that we can participate with you in the ongoing creative work that is unfolding in the world. I pray that Christ Jesus and the church will forever bring praise to God. God’s power at work in us can do far more than we dare ask or imagine. Amen.
(Prayer resource to be used on Day 2 of the 2022 National Youth Gathering)

“Mid-week devotions are authored by members of our community.  If you are interested in creating a trio of reflections to be shared on an upcoming Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday contact Pastor Peter.