Celebrating Creation.I

From: Robert Schneider (rjschn39@bellsouth.net)
Date: Mon Oct 14 2002 - 20:38:52 EDT

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    For several years now, thanks in part to the efforts of the Episcopal
    Environmental Network, a number of Episcopal parishes throughout the country
    have set aside the last eight Sundays of the Pentecost season as a time for
    a special celebration of God's Creation. This "Creation Season" begins on
    the Sunday nearest the Festival of St. Francis of Assisi (October 4) and
    ends with the last Sunday of Pentecost, the Festival of Christ the King
    (this year, November 24). Prayers, biblical and other spiritual readings,
    and homilies focusing upon the creation are included in the Sunday liturgy.

    This year I have volunteered to provide my fellow congregants at St. Luke's
    Episcopal Church in Boone, NC, with a series of meditations on the Creation.
    They will be inserted in the Sunday bulletin as a separate sheet which
    people can take home with them, the first one appearing this coming Sunday,
    October 20. I thought I would also offer these meditations to our
    readership on the ASA list. Here is the first, the others to follow weekly.

    Grace and Peace,
    Bob Schneider

                            CELEBRATING CREATION

                      Meditations for the "Creation Season"

                                     Robert J. Schneider

                      St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Boone, NC

                                     October 20, 2002

    St. Luke's, like many other Episcopal parishes, has set aside the last
    several weeks of the Pentecost Season to celebrate God's gift of creation.
    On this and succeeding Sundays before Advent, I will offer some thoughts for
    reflection and meditation on this wonderful creation we celebrate.

    I. WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES US ABOUT CREATION

           First of all, the Bible reveals to us the astonishing news that we are
    part of a universe created by a God who saves. God redeemed Israel from
    bondage in Egypt, and centuries later led home the Judahites exiled in
    Babylon. Through the words of prophets God assured the exiles that the One
    who created heaven and earth would liberate them just as he did under Moses,
    when God first created them his Covenant People:

           But now thus says the Lord, he who created you., O Israel;

           Thus says the Lord, your redeemer.

           I am the Lord, who made all things,

           Who alone stretched out the heavens,

           Who alone spread out the earth. (Isaiah 44:1, 24)

    God's creativity is not limited to the universe, amazing as it is; he
    created Israel to be his Chosen, and God creates us in Christ through the
    Holy Spirit to be the people of his New Covenant. "Anyone who is in
      Christ," St. Paul wrote, "is a new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17).

           This, then, is what the Bible teaches us about creation: "creation"
    does not refer so much to how God does it; rather "creation" refers to God's
    relationship with his peoples and with the whole universe God called into
    being. Many Christians have been taught to believe that the First Creation
    Narrative (Gen. 1:1-2:4) is a scientific description of how God made the
    universe, but some Church fathers and most Bible scholars today think
    differently. They recognize that Genesis 1 is a majestic proclamation, cast
    in the stately rhythms and repetitions of a liturgy, which teaches
    theological rather than scientific truths. It proclaims that we live in a
    universe that has a beginning, that it is the work of the one true God, that
    it is spoken into being through God's word of power. It declares that the
    universe God created is natural, not divine; orderly, not chaotic;
    purposeful, not meaningless; and good, very good. And God also makes the
    equally astonishing--and equally mysterious--declaration what we human
    beings are made in God' own "image and likeness," and that we have been
    given the task of governing and caring for the earth upon which we dwell.

           We also learn from the Bible that God not only calls the world into
    being but also sustains it in covenantal fidelity. The awesome breath of
    God that blew over the waters at the beginning (Gen. 1:2) is the same Spirit
    that renews the face of the earth (Ps. 104:30). In this majestic hymn of
    praise, the Psalmist lauds all of God's creative activity, declaring how God
    gave the earth its form and features and endows it with all of the food and
    raiment that beast and human needs: boughs for the stork's nest and high
    mountain homes for the wild goat, grasses for the cattle, water to quench
    the wild ass's thirst, bread to strengthen and wine to make glad the human
    heart (Ps. 104:10-18). Yes, God's covenant with the earth is a covenant of
    faithful sustenance and continuous creation. The biblical God is always
    making things, sustaining things, renewing things, blessing things.

           These works that evoke our faith in God's creative care for the
    universe show us also God's intimate relationship with the creation. If the
    First Creation Narrative reveals God's transcendent otherness from the
    creation, the Second Creation Narrative (Gen. 2:4-24) teaches that God is
    immanent in creation, intimately present to all of the creatures he has made
    with his hands. In the Book of Job (chapters 38-41) God declares to Job not
    only the Lord's intimate knowledge of every element in the universe, a
    knowledge and comprehension to which no human can fully attain, but of God's
    almost ecstatic joy in his creation, whether it be in the "majestic
      snorting" of the horse or the soaring hawk or the wild ass "that scorns the
    city" (Job 39:7, 20, 26). God loves and takes delight in all that God has
    made.

           Science reads the Book of Nature, and has learned a great deal about
    this universe, but its wiser practitioners recognize that it cannot answer
    the ultimate question: Why there is anything at all for science to study?
    That question is answered in the Book of Scripture. Over these next several
    weeks I invite you to meditate on its revelations, and be thankful for God's
    wonderful creation--for its gift of life, for all of the beauty in which it
    is clothed, for all of the delight that it brings to our lives.

    Readings: Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Genesis 2:4b-24; Isaiah 42:5-12; 43:11-21;
    44:23-24; Job 38-41; Psalms 104; 102:25-27; 33; 74:12-17; Ecclesiasticus, or
    Sirach (Apocrypha) 42:15-43:33.

      (Bob Schneider is a member of the Episcopal Church's Committee on Science,
    Technology and Faith, and chairs its subcommittee on Creation.)



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