While up in the Cloud Forest of the Costa Rican mountains where it is undeniable that there is an amazing God, Michael Leroy gave us a lecture (more like sermon) on creation and stewardship. It was everything I needed to hear. I’m choosing to share it with you.
The issue that many students have on the CASP program is that they see so much hurt and pain and have a difficult time understanding why a God would exist that would allow this. Many of us in the the U.S. understand a relationship with God to be a vertical one- one that is between you and him alone, not reaching anything or anyone else. This type of relationship cannot explain the hurt and the injustice. For this reason, the creator of CASP, Ron Fraise, said that we all need a second conversion. This conversion will mark the difference between what you know if your head and what you come to believe in your heart. Faith becomes a faith that reaches out, not only up like American Christian culture has led so many to believe. So, it is important to develop practical ways to “kick at all the darkness.” Francis of Asisi once said, “Go not gently into the night, rage, rage against the dying of the light.”- we cannot allow ourselves to surrender to the darkness that many people in the world live in on a regular basis. Therefore, it has now become our job to challenge the North American cultural chains that stop Christians from reaching out. We need to work to make sense of the world that we live in that allows us to have hope. Anger and rage can be destructive emotions, but they’re rooted in a good thing: protection. They keep us from being hurt more. We need to protect ourselves from being hurt, but in a proactive way that leads to good.
Creation: With God as the Creator, we read the narrative of his intentionality in Genesis. The four main points are that God is preexisting, not the universe, God is transcendent, God is creator and created something infinitely creative, and God is the sustainer of creation. (John 1, Psalm 29, Psalm 104, Hebrews 1:1-3). In Genesis we also find that all was created by God and it is unnecessary to see it as science- it was meant to be poetic and inspiring. He created humans, and humans alone, in his image. These humans serve as an expression of freedom and humanity. This is a God that wants to bring out the good and harmony. He wants a thriving creation. He developed his creation with certain characteristics: it has inherent value- human rights should always be defended- they are ineliminable; It was created not only for humans, but also for God’s own delight.
Sin: Although sin has its effects on creation, it can only corrupt and distort- it cannot destroy. Sin is described as living between a curse and a promise (Bonhoeffer, Deut. 30:19-20). We can see the curse, we can see the promise- they are co-existing. Sin is comprehensive, therefore effecting all of creation. It has a corrupting influence, not obliterating one. Everything remains retrievable. It can explain death in the world. It is the only thing that really explains death.
Redemption: Althougth sin exists, God’s goodness allowed for the creation covenant (Gen. 8:18-9:17). It instructs us to cultivate, keep, and name. It shows the commitments necessary between God, creation, and humanity. It was God’s way of showing his unconditional and everlasting grace and favor on humanity. In this same way, he created the sabbath to give creation and humanity the rest that they both require. He gave us all we needed. Yet, because of sin, we broke this covenant. Our greed cannot sustain us- for this Jesus came (Is. 5:8-9). It was understood in the Old Testament that when a covenant is broken a sacrifice needed to be made. Humanity should have had to pay for the greed, yet Christ came. We have been redeemed. All of creation was and still is being redeemed whether it recognizes it or not. In this redemption, humanity tends to see it as individual redemption story rather than an all encompassing story (Rms. 8:19-23, Mt. 27:50-52). Yet, when Christ died, it shook the whole of creation. And now, we have the privledge of knowing the end of the story- redemption. It ends well. (Psalm 147).
From this, I can see how individualistic my faith has been. This type of faith will not sustain the world, nor carry us through the hurt and need. The world is in need because humans aren’t doing what God wants them to be doing. If humanity chose to follow his instructions, there would be no inequality- there would be shalom. For this reason, our faith needs to be much BIGGER.
The tendency that humans have is to understand life through a fallen perspective. So, when we hear the biblical idea of ruling and subduing, we think “dictator.” God didn’t mean it this way (Gen. 2:15). Ruling and subduing means not being greedy. It means diligently observing the law. It means bring peace, to be great, and serve (Is. 9:6-7, Mt. 20:25-28). It means fully participating with God knowing that because we don’t have the capabilities to do it right, he will be coming right behind us, ready to fix it and clean it up. Because humanity created sin, we are redeemed with the purpose to serve, to fix what we have broken, and be a part of the redemption project. To be a part of the redemption project there are some things that we can do, some practices.
Now what? First, it is vital to remember that God is bigger than those without faith. Cultivate: help with the growth process. Bring out the best quality in a thing. A nurturing process. Keep: Conserve and preserve in the same way that God does. Name: To name you must know that thing- really maximize your understanding of it. It requires a level of intimacy, study, and knowledge. It requires that we pay close attention. Knowledge: We can be knowledgable and continue to know more. Concern: We should be concerned about what we see and know. We should be concerned for the world in the same way that we are concerned when we make mistakes. Sacrifice: Give up for the greater good. There are serious things going on in the world that require serious sacrifice. It will require us to be uncomfortable in small and big ways. We must not only sacrifice for ‘things’ but for people, too. For we are redeemed and tehrefore able to assist in the redemption, the healing and restoring, of creation only by God’s grace and with God’s help. Solidarity: Be self-sacrificing, committed, and disciplined to working with or for people suffering more than us. We must do this while being mindful of who we are doing it for so we continue to engage. We need to come and meet and know why.
We should strive to be pilot plants. We should want to be and be the first to go into a new area, take on the hardship, so that the path is clear and ready for the others to follow peacefully. It sounds lonely. But maybe life as a pilot plant is only lonely for a short while until it is safe enough for others to rest in the new life as well. Shouldn’t we want to be lonely if it means that no one else will experience the hardships, but insetad have the privledge of experiencing the safe and good?
So, it sounds like life is never going to be the same. How wonderful is that? We will not, and shouldn’t, feel at home in a world that isn’t working in the way that God intended it to. When our faith grows in this way, we cannot be comfortable. We should take this news, use it, and serve well, all the while “thanking God regularly that we are not God.”
He’s amazing. He’s present. “Be still and know that I am God.”