Cosmology & Theology – start here?

Recently I came across this short essay which asks some the key questions on the debate between cosmology and theology. More can be found on Diarmuid O’Murchu’s website.

 

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From Universe to Multiverse

(READER’s NOTE: Officially, the word multiverse means several universes existing simultaneously. It is sometimes used to refer to the possibility that other universes existed before the present one, and others may succeed it. I use the term with BOTH meanings in mind).

Galileo was hammered by the Catholic Church for endorsing the Copernican theory  that the Earth revolved around the Sun, putting the Sun and not the Earth at the centre of the Milky Way galaxy. We were awakening to a new expansive view of the universe, although it would take almost another 400 years before we would break the firm grip of ecclesiastical control and scientific reductionism. In 1650, the noted Biblical scholar, Archbishop James Ussher calculated that the creation of the world took place on Oct. 23rd, 4004 BCE, and that the end of the world would occur at noon on Oct 23rd., 1997. That became standard Catechetical teaching in many parts of the Christian world up to about 1960.

Meanwhile, a mind-shift had happened in the early 1900s with Einstein’s theories of Relativity and the formulation of the Quantum Theory. It was no longer the Earth that engaged the searching mind but the universe at large, now so complex and mysterious that talk about its beginning or end seemed short-sighted and even irrelevant. 

Towards the Big Bang

With the Hubble discoveries of the late 1920s and the pioneering work of the Belgian priest-astronomer, Georges Lemaitre, the seeds were sown for the leading theory of 20th. Century science: The Big Bang. The term was coined by Fred Hoyle in the 1940s but only became a formal theory after the discovery of the cosmic background radiation by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson in 1963. From a single point of energy, 13-15 billion years ago, everything we know in creation today began to unfold, including Planet Earth which first evolved about 4.0 billion years ago.

That which gave us the evidence for the Big Bang threw up other imponderables, particularly the discovery of powerful gravity in the distant horizons of time-space. The strength of the gravity waves suggests that great quantities of matter exist out there somewhere. Its nature and location we know nothing about as yet, but scientists are forced to the bewildering conclusion that the observable world comprises at most 10% of the known universe, which means we know nothing about 90% of the created universe.

It has taken discoveries of this nature to challenge the arrogance with which we humans study and propose theorise about the created universe. The real issue of course is neither discovery nor study, but POWER. We feel we have the right to be in control, absolute control and this is still the driving force behind a great deal of modern science, and sadly behind a good deal of religious dogmatism as well.

Another Quantum Leap ?

Finally we come to the real big stuff: the multiverse. The story can be traced back to 1957 when an American doctoral student, Hugh Everett (supervised by the Princeton professor, John A. Wheeler), proposed the possible existence of several rather than one universe. His argument is based on mathematical equations derived from Quantum Theory which also leads to the notion that the universe is self-creating and poised for indefinite growth and expansion.

In the 1981, the idea of a multiverse got an added boost from Alan Guth’s inflationary theory. Quantum theory postulates the existence of an original empty space (hence, the quantum vacuum), consisting of energy movements (fluctuations) from which all matter is shaped and formed. Guth proposes that the fluctuations initially manifest like bubbles in a foam, and shortly after the big bang, these bubbles expanded (inflated) each becoming a mini-universe in its own right. A great deal of experimental evidence supports this proposal. And it is strongly endorsed by leading scientists of our time including Andri Linde (Moscow & Stanford), Marin Rees (Cambridge), Brian Green (Columbia), Paul Davies (Sydney).

I find the adoption of fractal geometry particularly inspiring: “Recent versions of inflationary theory assert that instead of being a ball of fire, the universe is a huge growing fractal.” (Andrei Linde). Fractals are revolutionary new mathematical image-like concepts, in which we find repeated patterns buried deeper and deeper (a bit like a Russian doll). The more we unravel the observable pattern (through computer simulations) the more we find it repeated in the subsistent layers. It is a wonderful exposition of the leading principle of the new physics: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, yet the whole is contained in each part. (for more on fractals see my book, Quantum Theology, 2004, pp.51-53).

Theological Implications.

For those who wish to delve deeper, the web pages I cite at the end will provide additional information on these complex ideas. How do we relate these discoveries to the realm of faith, Christian or otherwise? I offer a few thoughts.


1. Long before religion ever evolved, humans believed that the divine was intimately involved in creation. All the religions support this idea. Is creation then a kind of primary revelation of God to us? If so, we need to attend carefully to how we understand creation.

2. Our human tendency especially in the past 2000 years is to reduce creation to a human artefact, one we can use and subdue to our advantage; all the major religions, to one degree or another, endorse this orientation. Consequently, we can no longer assume that the religious understandings of creation are in any way adequate – spiritually or theologically.

3. Although scientists also embrace the addictive preoccupation with power and control, many of their intuitions into cosmic and planetary life may be much more spiritually informed than the insights of formalised religions. On the other hand, several of these scientific insights are congruent with those of great mystics from all the religious traditions of humankind.

4. Christian theologians exhibit strong concern about the notion of creatio ex nihilo (creation from nothing). They wish to retain this belief in order to safeguard divine initiative, and presumably their understanding of divine power. Today, we understand the primordial nothingness as a substratum of seething creativity. Perhaps, for God, the notion of a beginning-point is of no significance. Might it not be another anthropocentric fascination!

5. Scriptures of all traditions allude to the end of the world. It is very explicit in the
Christian and Muslim traditions. Contemporary science is rapidly moving towards the notion of a world without beginning or end. Might this not be a stronger indicator of truth, rather than the anti-world stance that underpins some of the major religions?

6. The big fear – scientifically and religiously – generated by many of these new ideas  concerns our human place and role in the plan of creation. It is abundantly clear that we are not in charge, that we are not the ultimate species in any sense, that we rely on many other aspects of creation to survive on earth, that we are one small organism among so many others, and disturbingly, not as wise as we would like to think. So what is our purpose? Of all the responses to this question the one I find most challenging and inspiring is the proposal that we are creation becoming aware of itself. Our unique vocation – and contribution to creation – is to enhance the growth in consciousness. An awesome responsibility! (Perhaps, this is what all the great mystics were, and are, about!)

7. Theologically, the crucial issue is around the notion of revelation. If the divine has been disclosing creativity and meaning in the entire story of creation, throughout these billions of years, why restrict the empowerment of the divine to religiously-validated time and culture boundaries? Somehow, it does not seem to make sense anymore!

Useful Source material:

For a useful overview of current thinking on the Multiverse, see: George Ellis, “Does the Multiverse Really Exist?” Scientific American, Vol 305 (Aug 2011), 18-23.
John Gribbin (2009), In Search of the Multiverse.
Joel Primack & Nancy Abrams (2006)The View from the Center of the Universe.

WEB Pages:
http://www.astro.ucla.edu/research/cosmology.shtml
http://www.edge.org: edited by John Brockman,engages leading scientists in ongoing dialogue.

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Elijah and Chaos Theory

It could be in your newspapers today. Its a story about a middle-eastern morpho-butterflycountry with a dynasty of dictators running it. And as these rulers get cruel and lawless so do the people. Until one faction breaks away and before we know it there’s a civil war. This doesn’t, of course, stop the struggle for power and the rot of corruption. So what is held dear – what is revered if you like – gets more rancid by the day.

 

But then something happens which is not so much unexpected as utterly bizarre. Since from nowhere, into the despot’s palace pops a man who is honest. He says – What you are doing is against God’s will. The reply he gets is – see if I could care but you better watch out my friend. Nevertheless our honest man is also courageous one as well. Since he then speaks like the Sky weather forecaster. He predicts that the rain ain’t going to fall no more. Now that isn’t much of a curse in Scotland but in hot countries where water politics is big business, he is chancing his arm a bit too far. And so he makes himself scare and relying on God’s guidance stays on the run for a few years as the endless drought takes it toll of humans, animals and crops.

 

And that brings us roughly up to date with Elijah and his current CV.

 

No wonder when as a refugee he approached a single parent just surviving with a sickly son in this most sickly season, he had every right to expect to be sent packing. Yet he was not. In fact, he asked for help and out of this woman’s poverty he received it. Then in turn she also received aid and her son even got his life back. And so together through the long cruel heat-wave they held on – they survived – they got through it.

 

What then does this tell us today?

 

Mercifully, we do not live in strife torn places such as Syria, Iraq and Somalia. We do not live in famine struck areas such as sub-saharan Africa. But we do live in a time in our nation of hardship even of food poverty. We do walk past the doorstep of the hungry parent of the ill child.

 

It is therefore worth noting the deeper story within this story. Because did you notice, there was no religious language used. There was no judgment calls made. There was no conditions set or budgets considered. There was only one in need and one with compassion. And that was enough. That was enough to change both the lives of Elijah and the widow, it was enough to change the world they lived in even by a microscopic amount. In fact, it was that interchange mercy that created a quantum step away from the cesspit of dog eat towards true community. Or as Christ might express it – they contributed a smidgen to moving a living hell towards the coming of the Kingdom of God.

 

Yet we can still be a bit perplexed as to how such a little event can alter the whole picture.

 

 

 

Well, I heard it said this week that material things come and go but ideas are can never be destroyed once they are talked about! Take the one that was hugely popular a few decades back called chaos theory. Basically it said that everything no matter how small has an effect on everything else. More interesting, even small changes set up new conditions that might just result in massive outcomes down the line. As a result, small happenings can trigger others to give a chain reaction with unforeseen consequences. The classic illustration given at the time was that a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon rain forest causing a typhoon in the China Sea. All a bit far fetched maybe. But even if none of us can alter bad situations a lot, we can least try to alter it a little. For then we improve someone else’s world more than we imagine.

 

Nevertheless, trying to change things even a little, speaking truth to power even a little, asking or giving help even a little seems difficult.

 

But that forgets this story.

 

There was a tightrope walker, who did incredible aerial feats. All over Paris, he would do tightrope acts at tremendously scary heights. Then he had succeeding acts; he would do it blindfolded, then he would go across the tightrope, blindfolded, pushing a wheelbarrow. An American promoter read about this in the papers and wrote a letter to the tightrope walker, saying, “Whilst I don’t believe you can do it, I’m willing to make you an offer. And it is for a very substantial sum of money, besides all your transportation fees, I would like to challenge you to do your act over Niagara Falls.” The tightrope walker wrote back, “Sir, although I’ve never been to America and seen the Falls, I’d love to come.” Well, after a lot of promotion and setting the whole thing up, many people came to see the event. The dare-devil was to start on the Canadian side and come to the American side. Drums roll, and he comes across the rope which is suspended over the most treacherous part of the falls blindfolded!! And he makes it across easily. The crowds go wild, and he comes to the promoter and says, “Well, Mr. Promoter, now do you believe I can do it?” “Well of course I do. I mean, I just saw you do it.” “No,” said the tightrope walker, “do you really believe I can do it?” “Well of course I do, you just did it.” “No, no, no,” said Tightrope, “do you believe I can do it?” “Yes,” said Mr. Promoter, “I believe you can do it.” “Good,” said Tightrope, “then you get in the wheel barrow.”

 

Well if today we feel daunted at taking a small step that could result in a revolution, then here is the story to challenge, prod and to inspire. For if we call ourselves Christians we do need to get into the wheel barrow. We need to get into the wheel barrow to allow Christ to act through us via faith, courage and compassion. We need to get into the wheel barrow and trust that with Christ we will start a waterfall by giving a little and taking a little. We need to get into the wheel barrow and expect to reach the God’s side – for there alone will we discover needy lives changed, fallen nations purified and an arid universe refreshed forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poem for times of trouble

I found this on my Facebook page today:

 

We who were once far off,9994-sunrise-at-orvieto-umbria-italy-free-landscape-and-scenic-desktop_531x331
who wandered as if
in a wilderness,
searching for water,
desperate for shade,
now rest in your embrace,
feast on your word,
drink from a well
that will never run dry,
and have found the place
we were searching for,
as Christ has brought us home.

Days that changed the world

Called to Believe

Called to believe

Texts

John 20.24-29

2 Corinthians 4.16-5.10

In a vain attempt to come across some modern unbelievable things, I rather stupidly pumped the words – unbelievable things – into the internet. And so I encountered the cat with four ears, the fact that earth worms taste like fried bacon and art made in latte coffee. I also learned that the average pencil can draw a line of 35 miles or write 55,000 words, that a hedgehog’s heart beats 300 to the minute, and that coca-cola would be green if no colouring was added. All these then are unbelievable but apparently true.

So what about a man who was killed by asphyxiation after being skewered through his wrists and hung up before being stabbed in his stomach to make sure he was dead. Finally, he was buried for nearly 48 hours before he appeared alive. Now, is that believable or unbelievable?

Well what we do not need to believe because is it certain is that this single unbelievable event caused a tiny band of frightened people to found a world religion that has shaped world history for nearly 2000 years and has 2 billion followers today. A number of believers which, I hop,e we count ourselves amongst here and now.

Nevertheless, we are still left wondering – How do we believe something that seems essentially unbelievable?

Well, the answer is to ask a different question and that is – why is it we find this event- unbelievable?

And the answer is, of course, because we do not hear of such a happening in our everyday. We ourselves have never seen such an event. Moreover, we are all sceptical of any claim made in the name of religion today. For, we do live in an age that does not really have faith in that which it cannot touch or see or maybe even buy. As a result, most people will say, when it comes what is their spiritually certainities – I only believe in my own senses.

Yet on the other hand in every other walk of life we must take much on trust. If it were not so, we would not be able to use paper money. We would doubt that men had landed on the moon. We would be left asking – did the First World War actually happen? In fact, can we really be certain that wee Johnny went to school last week just because he told us so. In other words, society cannot function for a second without a degree of trust. You cannot even stand up in your pew without a significant amount of trust in many things and people.

In essence then – believing in the resurrection event comes down to who or what we trust. Thomas, for example, was a very modern man. He did not trust the testimony of his fellow apostles. As he said – he would only trust his senses of touch and sight. And as a result, Christ met that need and Thomas believed – Thomas was blessed – Thomas became a believer.

Paul was different. Paul needed less his physical senses satisfied than for his searching soul to find union with the spirit of Christ. That requirement too was satisfied by the encounter on the road to Damascus. Thus Paul believed – Paul was blessed – Paul became a believer.

The risen lord therefore knew on both occasions what was needed to engender trust even certainty and he provided it. He provided it not through compulsion or to a set of evidential rules or a human agenda. He simply provided because it was asked for – it was in his gift – it was within his loving grace.

Therefore, I ask now – what do you require to believe – what is the barrier to your faith – what is stopping you fully meeting your call to be believers? For, if you confess your requirement in your heart – Christ will bless and gift and grace. He will provide the trust necessary. Is it a bible passage? Is it a happening in your life? It is a sense of love or peace or guarantee that has eluded you for years? Whatever it is then just ask and God will provide. For, trust me, he wants you amongst his followers – he wants you now as an apostle. He wants you to be a blessed foundation of the future church.

Yet the secular world out there is asking why is it so important that you believe that a 34 year old man was murdered, buried and was resurrected? Miraculous it may be – they might claim – but on its own, it is miraculous only for him yet irrelevant to us.

And that just isn’t true. For within that miracle is the grace to trust something else. Indeed within the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the means to meet our overwhelming requirement. And that is to be certain that our lives not just have meaning but that we will have continuation.

Indeed, it is very belief that Paul writes of in his letter to the Corinthians. Since, maybe as a result of the thorn in his own flesh which he makes reference to elsewhere, he feels his frailty, he creaks in his bones and he fears his mortality. And so rather in a reversal of Thomas, he says I will only believe my immortality when I can put my finger on it. And Christ then answers him and says look and see and know and believe. For, just as you trust that I am alive, so will you live.

During our first session of the Emmaus course, I think we came to a startling conclusion. And it was this – belief is better than certainty. For certainty comes from touch and sight, but leaves no room for the greater things beyond our puny faculties. Certainty also leaves no room for opportunity and wonder and discovery. But above all, certainty leaves no room for grace. For it was pure generosity that Christ came to earth, died and rose again. It was pure generosity he met the needs for Thomas and Paul to believe and so founded the Church in which we can trust. And it is pure unadulterated generosity that he provides us the knowledge, faith and hope of eternal life that our senses can never give. Since, unbelievable as it may seem, that trust alone is ever the believable blessing of God. And for that,we ever give him thanks.

Amen

Called to Speak

Exodus 4.10-17

Matthew 10.24-33

During our holiday we visited Upton house near Banbury in Oxfordshire. We arrive on a warm Saturday afternoon to be asked – did we want to attend a millionaire’s house party? All though we felt that we did not qualify by being about 999,999 pounds short, we agreed. And so we were greeted at the mansion’s door by one of the National Trust Guides in evening gown and feathered head band to be addressed you as your grace, or worship or my lord. She then assured us that the servants would be getting your bags to our rooms, told us when we must dress for dinner at 8 pm and enquired whether our valets had told the butler our preferred wine. She then recommended, although did not serve up, a 1930’s cocktail called the earthquake. The reason for the name was that it contained nearly every form of alcohol possible and so after drinking it there could be an earthquake and you couldn’t care less!

Of course, the whole charade was no more than a house tour built around the theme of a ‘between the wars’ weekend party. But what a great way to communicate – to communicate about something that was a great passion to all the mock flappers and hooray henries who were acting as guides – to communicate about a way of life they thought we should know of? What a great way indeed to get our interest!

Well, If only we had the same enthusiasm, initiative and panache to explain what is important to us. Put directly, if only we had the same will and ability to communicate the meaning of the living presence of Christ Jesus in our lives.

Therefore as we start a new series of sermons on what we are called to be, let us commence with the greatest of all callings – the calling to be communicators. A calling enshrined in out gospel text of today. Since it was there we hear the need to acknowledge Jesus before all humankind and to do so without fear.

Here then is our clear call to stand up and speak up – here is our call to share our enthusiasm and knowledge – here is our commissioning as communicators.

However, recent studies have shown that many people fear public speaking more than chronic illness and even death. And most of us can empathize with that phobia. For after all, few of us can stand on our feet and spout forth un-self-consciously. It is then we need to recall Moses; that Moses who was so full of excuses and that Moses who claimed that he was slow of speech and tongue. But also that self-same Moses who God helped to be his chosen communicator by giving him a method by which to communicate. Because, it is of course much easier to be a communicator of any great truth if have a plan and a technique and a vision of what we want to achieve.

Now when I was in Dartmouth we were taught our leadership skills from a formula developed by one Professor John Adair. Well Adair also wrote a book on effective communications. And in it he laid down a few simple rules; a plan that indeed would take our calling as communicators forward and a technique that will help us effectively bear witness to Christ even if like Moses we have no great gift of eloquence.

For Adair starts by requiring us to be clear and to be well prepared – Great guidance. For how can we hope to make Jesus’ case to an easily distracted world if we do not know what God has done for us, is doing for us and what he will do for us. In all honesty, how can we be powerful Christian advocates if we have not thought through where Jesus is leading us and why we want to go there.

Similarly, Adair reminds us to be simple and vivid. For surely our lord chose not long legalistic diatribes to get his message over. Instead he chose the memorable parable, the sharp story and the even sharper direct command. Therefore, let us cast aside the thees and thous of the Stuart Kings, the vocabulary that is straight out of a theological dictionary and the holy Willie phrasing that some adopt.  Instead all we need do is recognise the great wisdom of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania who once gave advice on being a communicator like this:

Speak in a few, plain words that are your own and speak not showily but to be understood.

Finally, our illustrious Professor tells us to be natural. Jesus never wanted us to purport to be anyone other than ourselves. An that is a person of faith – even if from time to time we fail it; a person of beliefs – even if from time to time we do not understand them and a person of compassion even when from time to time we forget it. Because in the end of the day, it was Moses with all his faults and failings who led a disbelieving people out of meaningless captivity through a doubt-filled dessert and into the promised land. Christ today then asks no less or no more from us!

However, all this sounds difficult and hard work.  And when we start out as God’s Communicators, it probably will be even when we know the prize of our success will be enormous. Yet Christ knew this when he counseled against the easy option. Moses also knew this when he asked for God assistance in his forthcoming witnessing. Professor Adair too was aware of the difficulties for anyone wishing to begin to communicate effectively.  And that is why he concludes his book by remarking:

Like learning a new language, speaking out at first seems awkward. But it is not unnatural because we are only perfecting our natural gifts. Eventually, with persistence, our efforts will drift into our subconscious abilities and then we will have the power and joy to influence others with a message which is greater than ourselves.

Happy communicating!

The Bible – A gift from God

Text: Matthew 5.17-20

It wasn’t often that we had rabbit served up onboard ship. But the one time it did happen was just when I was reading Watership Down. Proof if any was needed that the Good Lord has a sense of humour. For you cannot read that tale of rabbits with human feelings and not look at a warren in an entirely different light. In essence then, stories change us – they move us to look at the world differently – moreover – they force us look at ourselves more closely. And so it is with the greatest story ever told – that immense literary work – that wonderful gift from God – the holy Bible.

However, to try to justify the Bible as God’s gift to humanity in a thousand words or so, on the face of it, is facile.  Yet, if we cannot explain the main purposes of our sacred book in a few words – how can we expect to do so in many.

Therefore, here goes!

Well, at its most basic level, the Bible answers fundamental human needs. And by that I mean the almost primeval urge that we each have to survive by knowing ourselves to be safe and secure. And this almost biologically programmed need is really only met when we live in an ordered community. Yet a wholesome and trustworthy society only comes about when each member knows what is right and what is wrong and when we find a way to encourage others to live by the same moral standards. Therefore, at its most elementary, the Bible’s purpose is to declare there is an external source of morality and there is also a living source that is also the judge of how each of meet that benchmark. But, more important than these, the bible makes abundantly clear this ethical source has supernatural powers to reward human obedience with permanent effects. For, in a nutshell, the Bible is saying – obey God’s laws and you and the human race will be forever restored. Or, as Deuteronomy puts it:

The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the lord our God, so that we may prosper and kept alive. If we are careful to obey the law, that will be our righteousness. (Deut. 6.24 ff)

Nevertheless, the Bible is more than a code of best practice; more than a lifetime highway code; more than a manual for communal survivability. Since, it also meets the needs of the mind. And so, it is the foundation stone of our Christian beliefs. Just it was Christ’s Jewish beliefs. For this morning did we not hear him say:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.

The bible then, through its account of how God has spoken to a variety of people, allows him to speak to us now.  Therefore, just as scripture was Christ’s source-book and inspiration, it is also the basis of our own personal encouragement, devotion and admonishment in good times and bad. It helps us to answer why we should obey as well as what we should be obedient in. Indeed, it is ever the sword and shield for our minds as we try to influence the whole of our society towards values that will make it worth redeeming in the first place.

However, the most crucial role of the Bible is in the spiritual dimension of our being. Because it may teach us how to survive physically and it may tell us too how we battle our own fears and the failings of others, but it still has something more important to tell us. For, far exceeding its other purposes, the Bible offers the gospel of Christ to each and everyone of us. And that is the good news we can individually have new life, we can individually be forgiven for renewed life and we can individually be saved into eternal life. To put it as Paul did to the Romans;

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace that we now stand.

James Merritt, in his Collected Sermons, remarks that when a merchant ship of any size, enters a port, it takes on board what is called a pilot. In fact, we often see the pilot cutter rushing past Broughty on its way to some vessel entering the Tay Estuary. Well this pilot knows the waters of his or her port backwards, he knows the length of it and he knows the depth of it. He knows where the hazards are. He knows where the tides and currents are; what direction they flow in and how strong they are. When this master mariner comes on board then, he takes control of the ship, and he gives the orders for its safe navigation. Put simply, he is an outside expert who is brought in to make sure that ship docks with certainty.

Well, we to have a pilot in our lives. We have a gift of God in our lives. We too have a guide to safe harbour in our lives. And it is the Bible. For God can only be known to the extent he reveals himself. Certainly, we have no way of knowing otherwise. And the clearest way of him revealing himself is in the pages of the bible. Similarly, we can know nothing of Jesus without the Bible. And so again the Bible reveals his gospel and the way to Christian living. Finally, it is in the keeping of the Bible central to our community of the church that we ensure we have its moral compass and upright companionship.

Let then, every Christian prize this gift from God; let every Christian be obedient to its guidance. And let every Christian make it a basis for all that is said and done. Because it is only then that our Bible’ story will ring out again in our daily living.

Amen

Creating with God


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Psalm 8

Galatians 3.23-4.7

We have all seen them. It the headline on the tabloids – Man plays God. And usually this purple prose accompanies some breakthrough in medicine or biology. Take the latest such utterance. It was when scientists recently copied some DNA from one cell and replaced into another. Personally, I am not sure that a Chinese copy of a Rembrandt makes it a Rembrandt. Yet the newspapers and news channels blared out their siren warning of Armageddon – Man plays God.

Now whilst we humans have neither right nor probably any realistic chance of playing God, can we in any way help God? Do we have a part to play in his creativity?  And the answer is – yes we can. For scripture, carefully read and with an open mind, does say that humans are called to help God in his creation. In fact, they called to be co-creators. And it is this opportunity and responsibility which form the gift of God we will look at today; the gift of being creative as part of divine creativeness.

Many years ago, I heard of a famous Scottish preacher who, on the day of his ordination, had his much cherished piano removed from his home. That was in case it became a distraction from his ministry. I always find that a bit sad. For surely, we easily glimpse the hand of God in a Mozart concerto or in a Michelangelo painting or just in a beautifully fiery sunset. Because in encountering true beauty just as much as with real goodness we should feel closer to God; we should feel inheritors of something of his creative gift; we should start to understand the wonderfully generous gift of being imaginative daughters and sons of God.

Let us then go about our daily routine more carefully looking for created beauty; let us more often allow our minds to be enlivened by anything made wonderfully; let us never forget to worship God when we find something created with God’s glory in mind . Moreover, let us never stop opening our hearts to the magnificence of divine creativity. For Moira Lipmann’s husband, the playwright Jack Leventhal, said just before his death when being wheeled through a park – look – it’s all so wonderful.

It’s amazing how often we forget the many traditions of our own homeland. Other times we just take them for granted. That is until someone from abroad reminds us of them. And so it was when I read the writings of an American recently. For, he was telling of how the Royal Standard of the United Kingdom allows us to track the Queen around her realm.  Because when the Queen is at Windsor Castle or Balmoral, the Royal standard flutters overhead. When she is in Buckingham Palace or Holyrood the Royal Standard flies brightly in the wind. But when she is not in residence, the Royal Standard is replaced by either the Union Jack or Royal Standard of Scotland.

The UK’s Royal Standard then is a sign of the monarch’s presence.  And so it is when we too are genuinely creative. For no matter what we attempt, if we make or do something in God’s honour, then he we will make it into a thing of real beauty. For, whether it is great or small, proud or humble, well or rudely made, it will point to God. It will also confirm our kinship with God and it will ‘signpost’ his valuing of us. May then all that we create, be done in his name and in heart-felt thanks for his creativity of ourselves, his world and his son who offers us eternal life.

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Oh we say – that’s all very fine – but I can’t make anything at all –I cannot sing or play an instrument or paint a picture. Where then can I show I am a co-creator for God?  Well, we can always create things that are intangible; things like peace and security and justice. We can always reconcile, comfort and advise. We can all make life better for our fellow heirs of creation and siblings in Christ. Since these are the greatest creations that honour God.

And the reason for their supreme loveliness is that they truly reflect what Paul wrote:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ. You are a son or daughter of the living God.

Because when we do create a genuinely handsome world for those who have not seen beauty but only hardship, then we do release the possibility of creativity in them as well. We do allow them to see God’s creativity in things beautifully made. Indeed, we show what it means to be co-creators of God’s creation which honours humans to the degree recorded by the psalmist when he asked:

What is man that you are mindful of him?

You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings

And crowned hum with glory and honour.

On Monday we took ourselves off to visit Kellie castle outside Pittenweem in Fife. Now until it was taken over by the National Trust for Scotland, it was the home of the ultra-artistic Lorimer family. In fact, he last occupant of this medieval pile was the sculptor Hew Lorimer. Indeed, his workshop or studio is still there with an exhibition of his work. However, a display board proclaims that, as a devout Roman Catholic he believed not that an artistic creation was an expression the individual but was a gift from God. Since he is then quoted as saying:

I came to see that human imagination is not paramount in the creative process; that what is paramount in the creation is he who created it. That which the artist is expressing is not himself but his response to the eternal process of creation.

May then is day and all the days to follow we be aware of the gift of creativity. May we be aware of the responsibilities of being a co-creator. And may we never fail to respond to God’s creation of ourselves. For then, the whole world is our canvas, the whole family of God is our score and the whole future is our play of delight.

Amen