The Raw Materials of Faith: Body
Creation—The First Incarnation
The word incarnation is one we tend to confine to one particular season of the year. It’s a Christmas word when we celebrate the fact that God came in human form in the person of Jesus.
But the birth of Jesus was actually the second incarnation of God, albeit the most meaningful and significant. The first incarnation was at creation itself.
St Paul writes in the book of Romans chp 1
20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made,
The Psalmist writes
Psa. 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. 3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. 4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. God makes himself visible in and through everything that is.
Poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning writes,
Earth’s crammed with heaven
and every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
the rest sit round it and pluck blackberries
Creation itself is the first revelation of God. His glory is visible in and through his creation.
One really interesting area of theology that is developing today is body of God theology. The idea that in a sense God took on visible form in the creation…in a sense there are parts of the character of God which are embodied in Creation.
One theologian says that when we see God in creation we are looking at God’s back, rather than his face. But even looking at his back we can discern something profound about God. Sallie McFague writes:
We come from God and live in God and in the ‘interim’ we live in the presence of God–even when we do not know or acknowledge it. We are created in the image of God (the entire universe reflects God’s glory, each and every creature and thing in its particular, concrete, unique way). Creation is a panoply of mind-boggling diversity, a myriad of outrageously extravagant species and individuals who all together make up the body of God…. Each creature praises God by simply being itself, by being fully alive.
This way of viewing the creation is hugely important for our day. For we can honour the body of God by honouring his creation. Polluting the earth is polluting the image of God in the world.
So it is an important aspect of our discipleship that we care for the planet. That being a Christian is more than just attending church, or reading our bible, or praying. An important element of being a Christian is caring for the environment.
It is also a way in which we can make genuine connections with our neighbours. I wonder sometimes if many of our struggles in connecting with our neighbours are because we demand they engage always on our terms. We determine the subject matter of the conversations and where they take place.
But care for the planet is an issue that many of our neighbours are passionately concerned about. They may approach it purely from a scientific basis, or ecological, but we can genuinely approach this from a theological basis. We do it because we believe that the physical world reflects the glory of God…the wisdom of God, the power of God and by caring for it we are caring for God. And we make common cause with our neighbours because their issue is also our issue, it’s one we share.
And in doing so we demonstrate that the Christian faith is concerned about the things that people are concerned about, rather than always trying to make them interested in the things we care about. We share the same passions and energy to make this world better.
So think about going deeper here. How can we go deeper in our care for creation?
The above is part of a church service at Ballycrochan Presbyterian Church (audio HERE). This is Reflection 1 from a 3-parter.