Created to Create

8 03 2010

Yesterday morning I taught Sunday School to the junior high and senior high youth, all together. Our lesson was on the first creation story in Genesis 1, which was pretty familiar to everyone in the room. We spent some time talking about each of the seven days of creation, and then focused in on what God was doing on the sixth day:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

As we puzzled over God’s commission to humankind, I asked, “What do you think God meant when he said to ‘subdue’ the earth?”  Mentally I prepared myself for the competing ideologies of “creation care” and “creation dominance.”

“Making it tame?” someone suggested.

“Making the earth less chaotic?” said someone else.

I got really excited by this answer: it wasn’t what I was expecting, but it was perfect.  It had both beauty and symmetry. Tradition tells us that God created the heavens and the earth out of a formless void…out of the darkness over the face of the deep…out of chaos!  In the very act of creation, God was making the universe less chaotic.   And so, the end of this story comes full circle: in the closing commission, God is inviting us to participate in His work in the world by making the earth less chaotic.  We are created in His image, so that we, too, can create order out of chaos.

I see creation as a process that is still going on in the world today.  And no, that’s not just my reconciliation of creationism and evolution.  I believe that God is still at work, creating us anew in each day and every moment.  That is both the promise that we have received…and the responsibility we have to uphold.

Sneak Peak – North! Or Be Eaten!

15 09 2009

Stay tuned for the full book review on Thursday.  But in the meantime, here is one of my favorite passages from Andrew Peterson’s new fantasty novel North! Or Be Eaten!

What’s magic anyway?  If you asked a kitten, ‘How does a bumblebee fly?,’ the answer would probably be ‘Magic.’  Aerwiar [the setting of the book] is full of wonders, and some call it magic.  This is a gift from the Maker — it isn’t something Leeli created or meant to do, nor did you mean to see these images.  You didn’t seek to bend the ways of the world to your will.  You stumbled on this thing, the way a kitten happens upon a flower where a bumblebee has lit  … The music Leeli makes has great power, but it is clear the Maker put the power there when He knit the world. (ch. 57, pg. 278)

Word of God, Speak…

6 08 2009

BK01David Crowder’s book Praise Habit has been sitting on my bookshelf for about five years.  I’ve taken it down a few times, to read through the first chapter or two.  But somehow I could never bring myself to finish it.  (And at just 155 pages, there wasn’t even that much to finish!)

It is one of those books that cannot cannot be consumed in a day.  Or two, or even three.  In this small volume, Crowder introduces modern readers to the art of Lectio Divina (or, “spiritual reading”), and he gives us 21 psalms to practice with.  Using the Eugene Peterson’s Message translation, he follows each psalm with his own brief meditation on the meaning of the passage.  But, as I am learning, the real “magic” of the book happens off the page.

Crowder describes the practice of Lectio Divino as containing four steps: READ (“immerse yourself” in the Scripture), THINK (meditate on what God is saying), PRAY (converse with God about what he’s saying to you), and LIVE (let the Scripture change you).

I had heard of Lectio Divina before, but somehow that last step had never been emphasized before; I’m sure that the best Lectio-Diviners consider it to be a given, but it certainly changes things to have the “LIVE” step spelled out.

Because, as Crowder notes, “Jesus was the first one to become God’s word in the flesh: ‘The word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. (John 1)’

There is a long tradition that associates the Word of God with life.  In Genesis, the word of God spoken across the surface of the deep becomes the impetus for creation, and thus, for life.

And Psalm 1:2-3 reads as follows (incidentally, Psalm 1 is also first in Crowder’s collection of Lectio Divina Psalms):

Instead you thrill to God‘s Word,
you chew on Scripture day and night.
You’re a tree replanted in Eden,
bearing fresh fruit every month,
Never dropping a leaf,
always in blossom.

A tree replanted in Eden.  That’s beautiful, isn’t it?  That phrase evokes the idea of rebirth and of God’s new creation.  Something about meditating on the word of God brings that new life.  It is a way of living into the kingdom  of God and living in the way we were originally created to be (as Crowder says, living into our “genesis-shape”)

In all of our prayer and devotional life, I think we should be looking for the last step of the Lectio Divina: Live.  For those who have Christ, the Word made flesh, living within us, shouldn’t we be praying that God would allow his Word (in Scripture, in creation, in other people, in meditation, and elsewhere) to continue to be made flesh inside of us, too?

Quote: C.S. Lewis on God’s creativity

25 07 2009

Last night, I found myself re-reading part of C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. Lately I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be created in the image of God, but Lewis describes it much more eloquently  than I ever could:

“A statue has the shape of a man but is not alive.  In the same way, man has (in a sense I am going to explain) the ‘shape’ or likeness of God, but he has not got the kind of life God has.  Let us take the first point (man’s resemblance to God) first.  Everything God has made has some likeness to Himself.  Space is like Him in its hugeness: not that the greatness of space is the same kind of greatness as God’s, but it is a sort of symbol of it, or a translation of it into non-spiritual terms. Matter is like God in having energy: though, again, of course, physical energy is a different kind of thing from the power of God.  The vegetable world is like Him because it is alive, and He is the ‘living God’.  But life, in this biological sense, is not the same as the life there is in God: it is only a kind of symbol or shadow of it.”

Lewis goes on to explain that even though humanity is the closest resemblance to God that we know of (in that we can create, love, reason, etc.), we still are part of the natural world and cannot possess spiritual life on our own:

“A man who changed from having [natural life] to having [spiritual life] would have gone through as big a change as a statue which changed from being a carved stone to being a real man.

And that is precisely what Christianity is about.  This world is a great sculptor’s shop.  We are the statues and there is a rumour going round the shop that some of use are some day going to come to life.”

(from Mere Christianity, book 4, chapter 1)

The Lunatic Gospel Genesis 1-2

18 07 2009

The Creation of Adam, fresco by Michelangelo

The Creation of Adam, fresco by Michelangelo

“In the beginning, God…”

Those four words are completely beyond my comprehension. They may sound simple enough, but in reality, they represent the first of many efforts to reduce God to human words. We know nothing of this “beginning” in which God existed, because everything we know, including time itself, is a part of God’s own creation.

These two stories set up a certain relationship between God and humanity. The two accounts differ in their details (to the point of contradiction, even!), but I sense this deep yearning of both authors to understand our own origins. And if we don’t understand our position before God, then nothing else will ever make sense. These chapters are thus a fitting way to begin this book, this relationship, and this journey of discovery.

Here’s what these chapters tell us:
He is the Creator, we are creation. He is the original image, of which we are merely the likeness. He has given us life and breath, but also some commandments and responsibilities. And this is good; these parameters help us to make sense of the world and provide us with our literal, God-given purpose. We have a duty both to rule over and tend to the rest of creation.

He wants us to be happy. He intends for us to be in fellowship — for it is through this fellowship that we see other images of God. And most of all — we are blessed! We have been blessed since the beginning of creation. With his voice God blessed the first two people and sent them out into the world that he had made for them.

And we are still here, out in the world that he has made for us. And we are blessed.

(originally posted at