Sermon by The Reverend Dr Sam Cappleman
In a week which has seen reports of an essay by Winston Churchill coming to light asking ‘Are we alone in the Universe’, and reports of a new continent called Zealandia it seems that we remain fascinated by our world and what might lie beyond.
Churchill’s interest in UFOs is widely reported so it’s not surprising this essay which has just come to light poses the question that it does.
Neither is it surprising that we seem to have unearthed a new continent which is largely below sea level. The Shell Ocean Discovery Xprize is a competition designed to increase our understanding of the ocean floor at depths over 2000 feet by mapping it at a resolution of 5 metres. Only 5% of the seafloor has been mapped using modern methods, in contrast to all of the moon’s surface which is known in great detail due to satellite observations.
One thing we know for certain is that our quest to explore the heights and depths of our planet and cosmos will continue unabated. We remain restless to understand more about the created world into which we are placed. Whether that’s through the increased interest in cosmology and astrophysics championed by people like Prof Brian Cox, or plumbing the depths of the oceans with Richard Attenborough in his undersea submersibles, our quest to understand more about our world and how it was created and is sustained continues.
The story of creation in Genesis is not meant to be a scientific account so it’s not surprising that people point to seeming gaps in it if we use it to try to explain the world in all its minutiae and detail.
And while it might not give us great understanding of deep sea oceanography or space, or even UFOs, it does give us some insights into the God who created the world and continues to redeem it.
One reading (interpretation) of the first verse of Genesis which is grammatically possible, is ‘When God began creating heaven and earth…’ giving a sense that the process of creation was started but is still ongoing, continuingly evolving as time passes. On the seventh day Genesis records that God ‘…finished the work He had been doing’ in the previous days, perhaps giving us a glimpse into the potential for the future work of God.
Reading it like this gives us a sense of a God who has not finished with His creation yet, He is still intimately involved in His world, including all of us.
And the first thing God creates is light. Through the words ‘Let there be Light’, light came into the world. Darkness was there but God pierces it with His unquenchable light.
Perhaps the gospel writer John has Genesis in mind when he too refers to the light coming into the world at the beginning of his gospel. A new kind of creation was coming on the earth through God’s Son. The light that was with God in the beginning and through which all life came was made incarnate.
And in both the Genesis and John accounts in the act of creating light we see a God who is no longer distant (if He ever was), we see a God who intervenes in His world and continues to create all that we see around us.
And as creation continues through the story of Genesis there more commands of ‘Let’, ‘Let the waters…’, ‘Let the earth…’, and so creation continues.
And then there is a change in structure, something special is about to happen. Rather than continue with the command ‘Let there be…’, God says, ‘Let us…’
In the Genesis account God, ‘Elohim’ is always plural but as humankind is created we see a change in how creation happens. No longer is it a matter of mere command, now we have a corporate act of God acting in all His forms to create people. People who are created in God’s image and likeness and who have a relationship with Him.
God speaks to them and invites them to join with Him in being stewards of His creation. And in so doing He gives them gives them both purpose and identity in that relationship
A relationship, identity and purpose with people that started at creation itself continues into the present and future. As humans we are alone in having that intimate relationship with God.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus continues His discourse known as the Sermon on the Mount. He has just instructed the hearers how to pray in the words of the Lord’s Prayer, and indicated that the disciples should not store treasures up for themselves on earth but focus on their treasures in heaven.
Now he tells them not to worry about life and what they are to eat and what they are to wear.
And in a structure which has parallels with God beginning His creation Jesus instructs His disciples to ‘Keep seeking…’ the Kingdom of God.
Our seeking after the Kingdom of God is a present and continuous action. Just as we as human seem to be restless to find out more about our physical universe, so we should be spiritually restless to find out more about the Kingdom of God.
It would seem that we are called to continually know more about the God who created us, the Kingdom that was revealed through His Son and make that known in our world through the enabling power of God with us now, His Holy Spirit.
And as we do, so we find our true purpose and identity that was given to us at the beginning of time itself.
Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee, as Augustine writes in his ‘Confessions’
As we seek more of God’s Kingdom, through reflection, prayer, study and our actions, so creation and recreation happens in our lives.
Light comes in the darkness, order comes from the chaos we often find ourselves in, and anxiety and despair give way to peace and hope. In seeking after His Kingdom we find our true identity and purpose.
Through His act of creation, God invites us through Christ to keep seeking for the Kingdom of God. To continue in spiritual restlessness as we discover more of Him and His will for our lives.
Lent offers us a time to do this, perhaps restart the process. Spend a little more time in reflection, reading, prayer and study. A bit more time in quiet with God rather than the bustle of life.
God understands that the things of everyday life are important, what we eat, what we wear, but invites us to change our perspective and focus away from these things towards the Kingdom he offers to all who continue seeking.
God’s not finished with us yet, but neither should we be finished with God.