Welcome to this celebration of the Holy Eucharist on the National Indigenous Day of Prayer.
Check in with one another in the comments and download the liturgy to pray along here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1TOAb3_5IGzgUfxmYqlE0nJNZdrjWBHGD/view?usp=sharing
“To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One.” (Isaiah 40:25)
On Saturday, May 30 in the middle of the afternoon our family stopped whatever it was we were doing at the time. Christina and I called out to the children and we sat on the edge of our seats in the living room as we watched a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch a spacecraft named Dragon (which is a pretty cool name by the way) into the heavens.
It was an amazing sight. And we watched a few minutes later as the rocket detached and landed perfectly on a drone ship in the sea while Dragon itself continued on to the International Space Station, the Earth slowly receding into the background.
I don’t know about you but it’s moments like those that remind me just how small we are, or just how unimaginably big and expansive the universe is. I’m sure you’ve had an experience like that yourself. It’s the experience of being struck with awe at the beauty and wonder of the world. It’s a common theme throughout the Bible as we hear this morning: “Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these?”
According to NASA the sun is a million times the size of Earth and is the nearest star to us at 93 million miles away. It would take the SpaceX Dragon seven months to fly there. And that is just one star out of an estimated 100-400 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy which, by the way, traveling at light speed would take ~100,000 years to get across. And the Milky Way is just one galaxy of an estimated 200 billion galaxies in the universe.
“Who created these?” The Lord, the eternal God, proclaims Isaiah. God is the Creator, the “maker of heaven and earth” as we say in the Creed. That’s a really important and foundational Christian claim. But what do we mean when we say this?
Well in one sense we simply mean that God is different than the world. On the one hand God is: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Period. On the other hand there is everything else, space, time, matter: “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.”
So, God isn’t part of the universe, or the most power being in the universe like Zeus, but is rather the ground of its being. “To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One.” And of course the answer is, no one. To say that God is the Creator is to place God in a category without equal or peer. He is totally unique in himself, totally distinct from the world, so much so that he cannot be encountered in the universe (W.H. Auden). Like, if you could somehow gather up the stuff of the universe and cram it into a jar you wouldn’t find God in there. He is the Creator and as such is totally distinct from Creation.
Yet at the same time this difference, between God and the world, is not a distance. In other words the Creator is not far away. In and around the time of the Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries a belief called deism sprung up. Deism is a rationalistic faith in a supreme being who basically gets the world up and running before fading into the background. Like the watchmaker he puts everything in place, winds it up, and then lets it do its thing. This god is “out there” and does not intervene in the natural order and mechanism of the universe that plods along according to the laws of physics and so on. Or maybe he intervenes from time to time and we call those miracles.
But this is explicitly not the God that Christians worship, who is the maker of heaven and earth. Again, the Gospel of John is helpful in its clarity and simplicity. Everything that is not God exists because God brought it into existence and sustains it at every single moment. In other words, the world is defined by this relation to God and is nothing apart from this it. The natural world is always participating in God.
I just want you to think about that for a moment. Every subatomic particle, every star on the farthest edge of the universe, every blade of grass and tree, exists within the grace of God. As Isaiah puts it, your life isn’t hidden from God, there is nowhere you can go to escape his presence and knowledge of you. Whether you believe in God or not, whether you consider yourself religious, or spiritual, or not, you are already in a relationship with God that defines your life. You are because God is.
If that’s true, then creation becomes more fully what it is within the intimacy of a relationship with the Creator. So, you who are listening to me right now, if God is the Creator and that means what we’ve said it means, then you as his creature become more fully yourself as you grow in intimacy with God (Kathryn Tanner). And the message of the gospel is that this can indeed happen because this God, “the maker of heaven and earth,” has spoken, a single Word in three syllables: Creation, Scripture, and Christ.
John 1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” Simply put, creation proceeds from God’s inner life, the life and love of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. God did not create because he needed to, or because he lacked something, or in order to gain something. No. Creation is simply a consequence of divine love that leads outwards. Creation springs forth from the life of the Trinity.
Therefore, creation communicates something of God’s goodness and perfection. “The heavens are telling the glory of God,” says the psalmist, “and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.” Creation speaks “a wordless language,” (Alter) what one Hebrew poet calls “the language of images,” (H.N. Bialik). Lift your eyes up! Who created these?
The same word that God speaks in creation he also speaks in the scriptures. That’s why the psalm we read moves immediately from the glory of creation to the glory of God’s law. His law is perfect says the psalmist, it revives the soul, it makes wise, it rejoices the heart, it clarifies our vision, it is an object of desire and a source of sweetness. It’s the same movement we see in John’s gospel which begins with creation and moves immediately to the testimony of John the baptizer who is the last great prophet of Israel.
One of the things I love about our Tuesday bible study is seeing people discover, maybe for the first time or may anew, that the bible really is an object of desire and a source of sweetness. Because the living Word of God that brought the universe into being speaks through it, confronts us, undoes us, nourishes us, and transforms us.
And finally, the one Word that God speaks in Creation and in the Scriptures he has spoken most clearly and fully in his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth,” (John 1:14). It is Jesus himself who is the source and the goal of our life, who is our life. His flesh unites God and the world. His flesh draws us into communion and friendship with God so that whoever believes in him becomes a child of God, says John (John 1:12-13). What begins as God’s gift of the world unfolds and deepens into the unsurpassable gift of himself in Jesus Christ which is sealed in us by the Holy Spirit so that we are brought finally to perfection in him (McDade).
The God who made heaven and earth, who is without equal and with whom none can compare, has spoken and can be known in Jesus Christ. Come to him. Love and adore him. Be nourished by him. Become more fully who you are made to be. And allow him to make your life a living word that speaks his name.