Tag Archives: creation

Scope of belief and scale of revelation

You are God: we praise you;
You are the Lord: we acclaim you;
You are the eternal Father: all creation worships you.

Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you;
Father, of majesty unbounded,
your true and only Son, worthy of all worship,
and the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide. (BCP 95)

As I sit on my patio saying Morning Prayer I am thinking about the scope of belief and the scale of revelation.

Creation

“All creation worships you” we say in the Te Deum laudamus, the ancient canticle of praise.

The scope of our belief is not just the seemingly endless universe spanning 14 billion light-years, but the power of God himself, the “Father, of majesty unbounded” — that is, beyond all our measuring and all our perception.

And yet the scale of revelation is that even the chirping of the birds on this misty morning speaks to me of the nature of creation, of its goodness.

Church

“Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you.”

At our Deacons’ Council meeting yesterday, we spoke with Bishop Matt Gunter about the Diocese of Fond du Lac joining in a companion relationship with another diocese in the Anglican Communion.

He shared his experience with the Diocese of Renk in South Sudan, and others on the council spoke of mission trips to Guadalajara, Mexico or to Lima, Peru.

The bishop of our neighboring Diocese of Eau Claire, one of the smallest in the Episcopal Church, is visiting their companion Diocese of Harare, Zimbabwe, one of the largest in the Anglican Communion.

Our belonging to that worldwide Church is mediated to us, brought to scale, through relationships with people in our own parishes or in the places we visit.

We participate in that worldwide acclamation by joining others around the altar for Communion on Sundays and praying the Offices as fellow-Christians do in every time zone around the globe.

The Church is brought to human scale by people in a parish and pages in a book. They are the signs to me that I belong.

Daily Office Basics

 

Human Scale

But these small-scale revelations draw me back out into consideration of a mystery.

Like the people around me, who show me God in their faces, and like the book that contains the words of the Scriptures and the prayers of the Church — like these, God comes to us in human scale.

“The Father, of majesty unbounded” is known to us in the person of Jesus, his “true and only Son, worthy of all worship.”

The mystery that we call the Incarnation is all about scope and scale.

In a specific person who lived in a specific place at a specific time, the God who is beyond all knowing chose to reveal something of himself to us.

And in that revelation, our notions of scope and scale are turned upside down and we begin to see ourselves as God sees us.

“Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matt. 6:26).

Listen to the chirping of birds in the garden, to the witness of the people around you, to the words of the prayers and the Scriptures.

For those who have ears to hear, that human scale reveals a love of limitless scope.

 

Putting away all earthly anxieties

As the body of Jesus lies wrapped in grave clothes in the tomb on this Saturday, we “praise and highly exalt” God for the earth and its creatures:

Let the earth glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, O mountains and hills,
and all that grows upon the earth, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O springs of water, seas, and streams, *
O whales and all that move in the waters.
All birds of the air, glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O beasts of the wild, *
and all you flocks and herds.
O men and women everywhere, glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever. (BCP 89)

As God incarnate, made man in the person of Jesus, occupies the last part of creation — death itself — we pray on this Holy Saturday that we, “putting away all earthly anxieties” (BCP 99), may be prepared for the service of God’s sanctuary.

From “the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home” (BCP 370) to the microorganisms in the soil of the tomb, from the largest blue whale (“that Leviathan”) to the smallest child newly born, all creation is God’s sanctuary.

Every part of it has been made holy, not only by God’s creating it, but by God’s inhabiting it.

Paul writes that “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:19-21).

Even the darkest night, even the fear of death, even the silent cry of loneliness, all of the creation’s “bondage to decay” and all of our earthly anxieties have been redeemed, made holy by God’s inhabiting them.

The Song of the Redeemed  Magna et mirabilia
Revelation 15:3-4

O ruler of the universe, Lord God,
great deeds are they that you have done, *
surpassing human understanding.
Your ways are ways of righteousness and truth, *
O King of all the ages.

Who can fail to do you homage, Lord,
and sing the praises of your Name? *
for you only are the Holy One.
All nations will draw near and fall down before you, *
because your just and holy works have been revealed.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Surpassing human understanding

My God It's Full of Stars

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. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)

In my Education for Ministry (EfM) group at St. Thomas Church is a priest who was ordained in 1955, about thirteen years before I was born.

He has embraced a sort of “second beginning” in his retirement, studying Old Testament all over again last year and now the New Testament this year. He has even gotten a scholarship to sign up for an online course in Biblical Hebrew!

In our reflections yesterday afternoon he shared his sense of wonder that the God who created everything that is — the universe, galaxies, stars, and planets — is present to us in the person of Jesus. “I’m having a hard time taking it all in,” he said.

After the Gospel reading at Morning Prayer today, we responded with Canticle 19:

O ruler of the universe, Lord God,
great deeds are they that you have done,
surpassing human understanding. (BCP 94)

It was in the light of this sense of wonder that I read Rabbi Daniel Brenner’s article about Bob Pollack, a Columbia University professor who teaches science to clergy.

The clergy in his class get restless and agitated when Pollack describes the universe’s origin “in a tiny particle fourteen and a half billion years ago,” but he responds with a lovely reflection on the second creation account in Genesis (2:4-25), which we also read this morning.

Look at Genesis. In Genesis the entire universe is made from words. The earth and sky and every plant and animal are made through God’s speech. But humans are not made in this way — God synthesizes humans from nature, from dirt, from a mix of organic and inorganic. In other words, we are made of live things and dead things. And we are the first example of chemistry and of transformation. As a result, we are the first species to have developed the ability to understand the bio-chemistry of the natural world. For this reason we are called “in God’s image.”

To the clergy’s objection (which I share) that understanding the natural world isn’t enough, Pollack also asked, “So what knowledge other than scientific knowledge do we need to thrive as humans?”

We also need, as we usually pray on Mondays at Morning Prayer, God’s help to “drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to keep your law, and guide our feet into the way of peace; that having done your will with cheerfulness during the day, we may, when night comes, rejoice to give you thanks” (BCP 99).

We need each day to reconnect to the God whose “ways are ways of righteousness and truth.”

May your sense of awe and wonder at God’s creation also lead you day by day to seek God’s help, and “may the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (BCP 339).