The Sun Rules! (Gen. 1.14-16)
In the ancient world the sun was often portrayed as a deity, a divine king ruling from the skies. Interestingly, on the fourth day the sun is created by God to rule like a king, to maintain order on Earth, sustaining the seasons, shedding light and governing times. With ecology and solar warming, we have come to realise just how vital it is for planet Earth to have a balanced flow of heat and light from the sun. It is crucial for us as custodians of this planet to respect the sun, to protect our planet and to recognise that God has provided the energy from the sun as a clean, green source. We have a mission to heal Earth by making sure that we make our church buildings, communities, atmosphere and lives green. If life on this planet is green—be it plants or planets—then God too is green. We are dependent on God for life and green.
A tabernacle for the sun (Ps. 19.1-6)
By creating a tabernacle for the sun, God declares it sacred and special, like the glory of God that covered Sinai and filled the tabernacle in the wilderness. When the skies, including the sun, declare the glory of God’ they are recalling the words of Isaiah (6.3) that Earth is ‘filled’ with God’s living presence. We are invited to see that presence shining especially in the sun. The skies, including the sun, also announce that the work of the Creator is everywhere and that God keeps on creating all around us, especially through the rays of the sun. An awareness of God’s presence and care in every part of creation ought to motivate us to respect our planet and honour the sun as a source of life from God.
The Sun Shines Equally on all (Matthew 5.43-48)
The sun is not only the source of light, life and warmth, the sun is also a symbol of justice. We might call it solar justice. Most sermons on this passage quite rightly focus on the call to Christians to relate to their enemies with love and compassion rather than hatred and cruelty. And rightly so! Often unnoticed, however, is the ground for this action that Jesus cites. The basis Jesus gives is not the boundless love of God, but the way the sun shines on both the just and the unjust, the good and the bad—endlessly and without discrimination. As such, the sun is an exemplar for justice, giving life equally to all creatures and peoples on Earth. Jesus calls his disciples to do the same and go a step further. They are summoned not only to treat all people equally, but also to go that extra huge step and ‘love’ the unjust, love the enemy, love the alienated.
Christ rises with the dawn (Luke 24.1-5)
It is at dawn that the disciples discover that Jesus’ tomb is empty. The rising sun announces the Risen Son with every dawn. The association with Christ and Christ’s glory and the sun has long been part of our Christian faith. The ancient hymn of Charles Wesley reflects this connection:
Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true the only light,
Sun of righteousness arise,
Triumph or the shades of night.
Dayspring from on high be near;
Daystar, in my heart appear.
With the rising of the sun we are invited to celebrate the rising Son!
For more details see the Bible Study
A Tour of the Cosmos (Job 38.1ff)
The book of Job is often viewed as an enigma. Job screams ‘bloody murder’ to God because Job has experienced injustice at the hands of God. Job is an innocent plaintiff who calls on God to appear in court and answer Job’s charges. God appears alright, but in a whirlwind and takes Job on a tour of the physical universe. Job is challenged to understand the various domains of nature. Why?
We might explore two reasons: First Job has to learn that just because he is suffering, there are no grounds for saying that God uses his wisdom to destroy Earth (12.12-15). God uses wisdom to govern not crush creation.
Job may also come to realise that in life—and in creation—senseless suffering does happen. In the end, God says Job spoke the truth (42.8). A tour of the cosmos ends in a realisation that in the grand design of things, some creatures suffer.
The epitome of that innocent suffering is Jesus on the cross. Sad to say, much of creation suffers, including the ocean, because of human greed rather than natural causes. Christ also suffers when creation suffers because of human crimes against creation.
Innate Wisdom (Job 38.2)
The challenge of God to Job is to look beyond his own personal crisis and consider the ‘design’ (‘etsa) implanted in the universe. God asks Job to consider the many components of the cosmos—the Earth, the oceans, the constellations, the lightning, the deeps, the clouds and more. Each component functions in its own way as part of the cosmic design.
In the wisdom literature, the ‘way’ of each part of creation is that innate element, the inner code that governs its character and function. Job is challenged to be one of the wise, the scientists of that day, who sought to grasp the inner way of things, the wisdom implanted in nature. To live according to that wisdom is to live both in harmony with nature and with God.
The revelation of God through nature is discerned in the discovery if wisdom in nature. Paul adds that the ultimate expression of God’s wisdom is found in the cosmic Christ, who not only reveals God presence but also gathers together all the components of the cosmos into himself (Eph. 1.8-9). Now, it would seem, we are invited to discern the wisdom which is the cosmic Christ as well as the primal wisdom that governs nature in the creation around us.
Gone Fishin’ (Luke 5.1-11)
Many of us like to think we have learned something of the art of fishing, whether in streams, lakes or the sea. Without a fish finder, Simon Peter knew the ‘way’ of the fish, their feeding habits and their normal habitats. The challenge of Jesus was for Simon to throw out his nets in the deep! The deep is the realm of mystery and wonder.
The deep is what Job had been challenged to explore beneath the seas and in the world of the dead. The deep was the unknown. And it is precisely in that domain that the disciples catch a mass of fish. Jesus challenges them to move beyond their comfort zones, the known world and to explore the deep.
Jesus, it seems, is in tune with the wisdom innate in the deep of that lake and knows the ‘way’ of the fish. Jesus challenges his disciples, however, to move beyond knowing the ways of fish to knowing the ways of humans so that they come to understand his message of new life. There is another deep they must explore: bringing people to know the cosmic Christ, the risen one who permeates all creation. Gone fishing in the deep, the cosmic deep!
For more details see the Bible Study
The Way of the Wild (Job 39.9-11)
It is probably rare that we focus on the kingdom of the wild for a special message. For Job, however, the wild is where he can learn to understand his relationship to God and creation afresh. What do we see in the wild? A world we want to conquer or to understand, a world for hunting or for learning about ourselves?
God asks Job to consider the ‘way’ of many creatures in the kingdom of the wild. They are free to be themselves and do not require human care or control. They each have that inner wisdom that enables them to be true to their character in the ecosystems of creation.
God invites Job to consider especially the wild ox—with a touch a humour.
You recall the famous passage of Gen. 1.26-28 where humans are apparently given the right to ‘dominate/rule’ nature. Here God, tongue in cheek, challenges Job to try and do just that.
God challenges Job to ‘rule’ over the wild ox and make it ‘serve him’ like a handmaid. If Job can control the wild ox, then it should be willing to lie calmly beside his bed at night and do his bidding by day. It should be happy to plough the furrows of his field and return from the field bringing in the sheaves. The implication is that no wild ox will be a docile servant. The way of the wild ox is not to serve humans.
Our role is to understand the unique character of our kin in the wild, preserve their habitat in the wild and not assume that we can treat them as beasts of burden or objects of curiosity.
Laughing with Leviathan (Ps 104. 14-23, 26,31)
This section of Psalm 104 emphasises that the domains of the wild that Job was asked to explore are under God’s care. God provides the food, the habitat and the seasons needed for the wild to survive and thrive.
But there is more to life than survival; there is celebration. Humans are given wine to gladden the heart and oil to make the face shine with happiness. God has his/her own tall trees that God waters. God even plays in the ocean with the huge sea creature called Leviathan, perhaps the ancient name for a whale (104.26).
It is instructive to watch whales cavorting in the ocean and reflect on the presence of God tumbling with whales, laughing with Leviathan, as it were. It is so easy, living as most of us do in cities, to lose a sense of God’s presence rejoicing in nature. The Psalmist prays that God may continue to rejoice in the wonders of creation, to celebrate with wisdom in all the mysteries of the cosmos.
Have we humans turned God’s celebration into sadness, God’s laughter into lament? The masses of mercury and fossil carbons we have pumped into the air have begun to choke many creatures in the wild. It is time to reflect on how we have mutilated many of the majestic domains God created for celebration. It is time to listen for God’s loving laughter in the wild even now.
The Kingdom of God (Luke 12.22-31)
The kingdom of God has been understood in many and various ways by interpreters over the years. For some it is a spiritual reign that entered the world with Jesus Christ. For some it is ultimately the reign of heaven, begun but yet to come.
In Luke 12, Jesus introduces the kingdom of God by taking us first to the kingdom of the wild. At first glance, Jesus’ words might seem ludicrous. We are told not to worry about food or clothing! God takes care of the creatures in the wild, so God will take care of us! Ridiculous! Surely we have to take care of our basic bodily needs!
Consider the ravens! Sure! They do not sow, reap or gather into barns! Yet God feeds them. Are we to live like ravens?
Consider the lilies! They don’t toil or spin like humans! But the glory of their attire outshines even Solomon in all his splendour. True, but are we to live like lilies whose glory lasts but a season?
Is Jesus’ point that we should not ‘worry’ about such things as food and clothing, becoming obsessed with getting enough to eat or to wear? Or is there something deeper in his challenge?
Jesus finally gets to his point that we should strive for the kingdom of God! What is this kingdom? A super spiritual realm that has invaded this world with the coming of Jesus or something else?
Jesus makes it clear that this kingdom, this way of living, is in contrast to political or economic kingdoms of nations. Such kingdoms are all about power and productivity, exploiting resources to increase possessions.
The kingdom of God, Jesus seems to be saying, is like the kingdom of the wild where creatures live in harmony with nature and with God their provider. We ought to live our lives in like manner, learning to fit into the ecosystems of creation rather than exploiting them. The kingdom of God and the kingdom of wild complement each other – they are connected in and through Christ, who is God incarnate in the natural world when the word became ‘flesh!’
For more details see the Bible Study
A Storm God? (Psalm 29)
In the Old Testament God is sometimes depicted as coming in a storm. Psalm 29 is a bold portrayal of the Lord as a storm God. In this Psalm the thunder of the storm is the voice of God. That voice is so powerful it causes ocean waters to rage, the mighty cedar trees of Lebanon to break and forests to be stripped bare. God’s thundering voice also causes lightning to appear as flashes of consuming fire. God’s voice can be a devastating power on Earth; in response the beings in the heavenly temple above respond with their own ‘gloria’!
Are we as Christians today, expected to view storms in the same way? Is God coming to destroy, to demonstrate power, to punish or to intimidate mortals? Are hurricanes, tornadoes or tsunamis expressions of God’s very nature as a mighty storm God? Or does the message of the Gospel give us a new insight into the nature of God’s presence? Does Christ stilling the storm point to a different way of relating God and storms?
Clearly storms are integral to the weather patterns of our planet, even if global warming and other factors have intensified the impact of these storms. And we need to learn to live in a way that takes into account the natural forces around us.
Yet, the God revealed to us through Christ in the cross is not first and foremost a God of thundering power and might. The God incarnate in Jesus Christ comes not to blast away the evils of Earth with hurricanes and tornadoes. This God does not come down from the cross the strike the taunting crowd with lightning.
Instead, the God we know in Jesus Christ, is ready to suffer with and for human kind. This God is with the victims of the storm rather than riding the winds. This God suffers with mothers in a tsunami and with fathers in a hurricane. Our God is a suffering companion not a storm king.
When God Discovers Wisdom (Job 28. 20-27)
Job 28 is rarely read in church, yet it speaks of one of the most amazing truths in the Bible: how God discovered wisdom!
Job 28 explores the ancient question: Where can wisdom be found? It seems, no humans can find it below, no eagles can spy it from above, no amount of gold can buy it. It is elusive and mysterious.
God, however, did discover wisdom. Like a good sage, the scientist of old, God undertook a close observation of everything on Earth, everything beneath the skies above. He scrutinised and analysed the natural world in search of wisdom. (28.24)
God observed how four things were designed by God: the wind, the waters, the rain and the lightning. Together these four elements suggest a storm. God’s observation, however, is not simply the presence of these elements. Rather, God analyses their design and construction. The wind is weighed, the volume of the waters determined, rules for the rain established and the ‘way’ of lightning recognised. (28.25-26)
In the very construction of the ‘way’ or design of each of these elements of the storm, God ‘sees’ wisdom, discovers its presence, uncovers its place. So the place of wisdom is not in one location. Wisdom is that inner dimension of all things that gives them their very nature, the underlying design of things, the hidden impulse that both governs and controls even the elements of a storm.
God is here portrayed as the model sage, the scientist of old, who searches, discovers and then returns to re-search the very wonder that has been uncovered. And if humans wish to discover wisdom in the world, God’s way of operating offers a genuine model to follow.
Of course, the image of someone trying to weigh the wind or measure the volume of the ocean suggests just how elusive and mysterious wisdom really is. The ‘fear of the Lord’ is ultimately following the way of God in the search to find wisdom as a governing impulse deep within this creation (28.28). Knowing Christ is to know that wisdom revealed in the mystery of the incarnation, the elusive wisdom seen by us all, not only by God.
Stilling the Storm (Luke 8.22-25)
The story of Jesus stilling the storm is well known to us. Jesus is fast asleep in the boat as they travel across a lake to the other side and apparently unaware of the conditions on the lake. A windstorm threatens to fill the boat with water, a crisis that the disciples who were fisherman would have experienced before.
Jesus wakes up, rebukes the storm and chides the disciples for their lack of faith!
It is traditional to read this story as an example of Jesus’ miraculous power, his capacity not only to heal the sick, but also to intervene in the course of nature. Here he controls a storm that terrifies the disciples.
It is also possible to read this narrative in the light of the wisdom theme analysed above. Jesus is not so much exhibiting an extraordinary power play, but rather connecting with the wisdom in the storm, the inner impulse that governs the storm. Jesus, like God in Job 28, sees the wisdom in the storm and knows how to move that wisdom to produce calm. Jesus is in tune with nature and in tune with wisdom.
Jesus nowhere provokes a storm; he calms a stormy sea. Jesus nowhere uses a hurricane to punish the wicked. Jesus heals rather than curses, he casts out demons rather than imposing plagues. Jesus’ role is to heal both lives and creation.
Amid our current ecological crises, the God we know in Christ summons us to calm climate storms created by humans, to heal creatures crushed by human greed and to cast out the demons of nuclear, carbon and mercury pollution.
For more details see the Bible Study
In, With and Under the Cosmos (Prov. 8. 22-27)
The cosmos is impossible for us to even imagine; it is so vast in the domains around us and so minute in the domains within us. The cosmos beggars the imagination and the mind.
The theory of Intelligent Design argues that from inexplicable dimensions in the design of the cosmos we can argue for the existence of God as the only possible explanation for such realities. The text of Proverbs suggests just the opposite. We cannot prove God’s existence by intellectual reasoning.
But knowing that God is in, with and under the cosmos we can discover the very clues to the wisdom God employed in the creation of the cosmos. In fact, they are more than clues; they are codes, the very impulses in the design of every component of creation that can excite us as they excite God. And those codes are wisdom working at the core of everything, revealing the God in, with and under everything.
We are invited to be among the wise who discern and delight in these inner mysteries. They do not prove God’s existence; they celebrate God’s continuing creative hand.
In the Beginning was Wisdom (Prov. 8.22-27)
Proverbs 8 introduces us to Woman Wisdom, a fascinating figure at the side of God in the creation of the cosmos. We can, of course, simply dismiss this as passionate poetry from the wise in ancient Israel.
The wise, however, were not primarily poets but the modern equivalent to scientists. For them wisdom was more than metaphor; it was a deep primal impulse that provides the ordering factor in the design of the cosmos. In the scientific language of old, if God is energy with a capital E, then wisdom is code with a capital C or design with a capital D.
God and wisdom are complementary dimensions of the creation process, or as Proverbs describes it, Woman Wisdom is at God’s side, as an agent, companion and celebrant in the creation process. Wisdom is the complement of God’s power in creation that invites us to explore, wonder and identify those dimensions of our world that can help us live in tune with our local domain on Earth and begin to revive those ecosystems that have been implanted with wisdom, from the beginning
Connecting with the Cosmic Christ (Col. 1.15-20)
Many of our sermons focus on the crucified and risen Christ, the Jesus of Nazareth who is God incarnate, crucified for our sins. We recognise this as the Gospel message we are commissioned to proclaim, and rightly so!
This reading from Colossians, however, celebrates the cosmic Christ. Christ is here portrayed as the cosmic power through whom all things visible and invisible were created. Christ is the cosmic one who is not only before all things but the one who is the unifying impulse in all creation. In other words, the Wisdom spoken of in Proverbs is here identified with the cosmic Christ, the agent and ordering force in all things. ‘All things’, by the way, is an ancient Greek expression for the entire cosmos.
Christ is also that eternal force working now to ‘reconcile all things’ to God. Where there are forces that have brought alienation to the created order, Christ is the impulse to bring healing and unity. Christ is not only the one who brings healing and reconciliation between humans and God, but between all creation and God.
The cross of Jesus Christ is more than an act through which God redeems humans. The cross signals the process of God redeeming all creation. As servants of Christ we are called to work with the cosmic Christ in healing a wounded and alienated creation.