A sermon given during the 6pm Choral Evensong, by The Rt Rev’d Chris McLeod, Dean, on the 25th of September 2022.
Acknowledging the Goodness of God in Creation
Text: 1 Tim 4: 4
44For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving; 5for it is sanctified by God’s word and by prayer…
4For everything created by God is good … (1 Timothy 4: 4)
This is a wonderful, almost throwaway line in tonight’s reading. We could almost miss it – ‘everything created by God is good …’. Yet, despite this Christians have had a mixed relationship with the created order. In many ways we have followed the ways of the world in our approach to God’s creation.
- Creation as suspicious
There are those who treat creation with deep suspicion. From time to time, and I have been accused of this, that when creation is mentioned, or some worth is given to creation, honoring creation, the accusation of paganism raises its head. Paganism or pantheism is the association of God with creation, that is God equals creation. This is certainly not my view. We can rightly say that God is in all of creation, but God does not equal creation. God cannot be a created being.
However, we need to remember that we are part of God’s creation, and God’s Spirit breathes us into life. The Spirit which breathes us into life is the very same Spirit that was involved in the creation of the cosmos (Gen: 1). We can say and should be able to say that God can be found in creation because God’s Spirit permeates all things. Elizabeth’s Barrett’s poem reflects something of this.
‘Earth crammed with heaven
And every common bush afire with God
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes
The rest sit around it, and pluck blackberries’.
We so acknowledge this intimate connection God has with creation that it leaves with a sense of awe and wonder and reverence for all God has made.
- Creation as a mere resource
There are Christians who have shared in the view that creation is there purely to plunder for its resources, caring little for the future and the legacy we leave to others. With the advent of industrialization and the rapid advance of technology, we have set for ourselves lives that have become dependent upon using the world’s resources: coal for electricity, gold for wealth, and so on. Yet, there will be a time when these resources will be spent, and we face an uncertain future. We have with the help of science come to see how intimately connected we are to the whole of God’s creation. We now realize that how we treat God’s creation impacts human life as well. We are all connected in the ‘web of life’.
We cannot ignore the plight of God’s human creations. There has been a time as well when Christians took their place in treating other human beings as mere servants or slaves. We are all made in the image of God. Reverence for all of God’s creation includes not only what we might call the natural world but also God’s human creation, as well. Just as we are intimately connected with the natural world, we are all connected to each other as humans. This encourages us to lift our eyes and see each other as worthy of reverence and respect; irrespective of our differences, which can be many. Perhaps this might soften the anger that seems to be so much part of today’s social discourse.
- Getting the balance right
There are others who honor God’s creation, both human and natural, with awe and reverence. Paul reminds Timothy that God’s creation should be received with thanksgiving and prayer. The original context had to do with food and marriage restrictions. However, the general principle remains. God’s creation is good, and we should be thankful for it and treat it with care and respect. Prayer and thanksgiving reminds us that God is the creator, and we with the natural world are his creations. It helps us to keep the balance right. Honoring God also means respecting what God has created. Not replacing God with creation but acknowledging that God originally saw what he had made and said it was good.
The Rt Rev’d Chris McLeod – Dean