The Gospel of Creation – Br. Geoffrey Tristram
Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Genesis 1:1-19 / Psalm 104:1-12
“Bless the Lord O my soul, O Lord my God, how excellent is your greatness! You are clothed with majesty and splendor. You wrap yourself with light as with a cloak.”
Those wonderful opening lines of today’s Psalm 104. There is this amazing intimate relationship between God and creation. God wraps himself with light as with a cloak. So when we look at light we see something of God. And so with the cloud and the wind. They speak to us of God.
And this same relationship between God and creation is revealed in those opening verses of the beginning of the Book of Genesis. God creates the dry land and the sea, light and darkness, vegetation, plants, trees, seeds, fruit, birds, fish, cattle. And each time God saw that it was good. God creates with love and tenderness and in God’s image. The imprint of God’s very hand – the divine potter – is on everything he created. It is very good. This intimacy between creator and created is very important, because I know that the created world – the trees and flowers and birds, the sunshine – even the snow! – have the power to reveal God to us.
Martin Luther, whom we associate more with “sola scriptura”, wrote these remarkable words: “God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also in the trees and in the flowers and the clouds and the stars.”
And of course Jesus himself was intimately involved with the natural world. When he spoke of God and of God’s Kingdom he almost always pointed to the natural world around him: to seeds, the harvest, the clouds, vines, weeds, sheep, fire, water, mountains, lakes, birds, lilies, bread, wine. “Look at these – that God has created” – and they will teach you about the Kingdom.
Consider the lilies of the field: consider the ravens. The word used for ‘consider’ is a very strong Greek word, it doesn’t mean glance at, it means – stare at them: gaze at them. Let the lilies speak to you of the One who created them.
But we have lost touch with the power of the natural world to speak to us of God. We have become alienated from the natural world. Many of us live in cities. A survey recently found that the average American spends just 4% of the day outside! That’s pretty frightening. We actually fight against the natural world. Air conditioning, artificial light on all through the night. We separate ourselves from the natural world – we groan at the snow – the weather, which Genesis and the Psalms and Jesus himself see as channels of God’s grace – we often see as a nuisance, getting in our way. As our relationship with the natural world diminishes – our relationship with the virtual world of IPhones and Facebook increase.
The deepest danger is that we lose our sense of the sacredness of the world.
“The earth is charged with the grandeur of God.” So writes Gerard Manley Hopkins. What a sad loss, to lose the sense of God in God’s glorious creation.
I have just returned to the monastery from Emery House, which is a place whose natural beauty is a powerful revelation of God – a thin place. I will always remember a very special day there, a few years ago. It was in the summer and we had invited a whole group of youngsters from Chelsea, who were from low income families and were part of the B-SAFE summer program. Many of them had never been out of the city before, and their experience of food was really what came out of the supermarket. The day was about helping them learn and experience the wonder of creation and how food grows. They picked wheat and ground it into flour. They looked into a beehive and saw the honey. They dug potatoes, gathered eggs from the chicken coop, and at the end of the day everything they gathered was used to make pancakes!
The kids had the best time – they were full of wonder. Wow, they said. It’s the best day we’ve ever had!
There was something very sacred – holy about it. Something of God was I think glimpsed and revealed and enjoyed.
“God”, says Martin Luther, “writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also in the trees and the flowers, and clouds, and stars. – So maybe you might want to consider if you yourself have rather lost touch with God’s natural world, God’s wonderful creation. Maybe plan a visit to the country – to walk or run or to be still, and wrapt in awe. Or to simply go outside where you live, and gaze – at a tree, or a sunset, or the gently falling snow.
Walk out into God’s wonderful creation – and be touched by the very hand of God.
Please support the Brothers work.
The brothers of SSJE rely on the inspired kindness of friends to sustain our life and our work. We are grateful for the prayers and support provided to us.
Nothing teaches us more about unconditional love than the love of a faithful dog, one of God’s great creations. They love us no matter what. Evennn if we are in a badd mood their love does not waiver. Surely God has given us Dogs to learn from – and what wonderful companions and friends they are, especially for those who live alone. Indeed God’s Creation is very good.
Oh, so true! Every morning after I awaken I look out at the mountains, the sky and the vegetation, and am amazed at the beauty that God has created! Thanks be to God!
Thank you Br Geoffrey for a beautiful sermon. I have been wondering lately about that expression “the face of God” that we see in the Bible so often, and it might relate to what you say here.
My husband used to say that he felt closest to God was when he was out in the fields with our sheep. For over 35 years, my commute took me through the English countryside, and no matter what lay ahead in the classroom that day, all the beauty about me—geese and pheasant, wildlife in the fields, new growth—calmed me and reminded me that He would be with me. And at the end of the day, those same beautiful wonders helped me to relax on the way home.
Glory Be to God! I have heard the blue, blue sky proclaiming the glory of God. I have heard the snow whisper of reflected beauty, a gift from above, even if a bit cold. I have heard the trees of winter giving praise with their strong, bare arms raised in joy. Each little creature reminds me of God’s care of even minute details. The gospel is everywhere. Thank you for lifting this truth before us.
So very true. I generally pray while walking outdoors, on a nature path or trail near where I work. Last week I was blessed to be able to pray while walking along the beach in South Florida. God’s surf cleared my mind and stilled my soul, refreshing my heart. Thank you God for being readily accessible in the wonder of your creation!
So true. I deliberately say my morning prayers not in my office at the church but looking out into my back garden at the bird feeder. Watching the sparrows and wrens and cardinals and juncos and woodpeckers and chickadees creates such wonder and such peace that I feel surrounded by the sacred. Elizabeth Hardy+