Cosmos Sunday

Fourth Sunday in the Season of Creation, Year C - Cosmos Sunday

‘There is one Wisdom, one Beauty, one Mind that flows through the universe.’ [1] [i]

Today is the last of the Wisdom Series of Creation Sundays. We have celebrated Ocean, Fauna and Storm Sunday, and today we include all of that and more as we celebrate Cosmos Sunday. The cosmos is essentially the universe - all that God has created, both ‘seen and unseen’. We celebrate the cosmos because as we say in the First Article of the Creed “We believe in one God, … maker of heaven and earth, and all that is, seen and unseen.”

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 story of the Cosmos’ and Earth’s ancient, primordial history stretches through the unfathomable reaches of time and is largely still not understood by us.

I remember being taught in science class at school about the Big Bang theory – the explosion of the supernova, from which the universe is supposed to have come. Some theologians see in this event a life, death, and resurrection – just as we speak of Jesus’ life death and resurrection. The death of the supernova birthed the elements of the universe - helium and hydrogen - the beginning of new life.

Genesis, Chap 1 provides a description of God’s creation of the heavens and the earth as we know them. Verse 2 tells us that when God created the heavens and the earth, ‘… the earth was a formless void and darkness was over the surface of the deep’, over which the Spirit of God hovered. The following verses say that God separated the water from the earth, created sky, the celestial bodies and day and night. He then proceeded to populate the earth with living creatures.

So, as Christians, we confess God as Creator, and creation of the cosmos, ‘all that is seen and unseen’, is foundational to the Scriptures. Jesus and his early followers persistently confessed that the God of the Scriptures and the God of their worship is the Creator who brought into being all that exists. He is, ‘Lord of heaven and earth’ (Matt 11:25) who, as we read in Acts 4:24, ‘… made the heaven and the earth, the sea and everything in them

But we also see Jesus Christ as God’s agent of Creation. In today’s passage from Colossians (Colossians 1:15-20) Paul speaks of Jesus Christ as, ‘… the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible … — all things have been created through him and for him.’ (Col 1:15-16).

This and other passages have led some theologians to a concept of the cosmic Christ, a view that emphasises Jesus’ concern for the cosmos. They suggest that God’s creation of the cosmos out of the life, death and resurrection of the supernova, and Jesus’ part in creation, means that Nature itself contains an imprint of the crucified and resurrected Christ.

They further suggest that knowing that God is in, with and under the cosmos we can discover the wisdom that God employed in the creation of every component of the cosmos, i.e. the codes and impulses in the design of creation.

The Proverbs 8 passage for today introduces us to Wisdom, presented as a feminine personification of a quality of God. The writer of Proverbs 8 saw wisdom as being more than metaphor; it was a deep primal impulse that provides the ordering factor in the design of the cosmos. And Wisdom is the origin and designing force of creativity behind the creation of the world, all the creatures in it, both human and non-human, and indeed the entire cosmos. It is Wisdom that enables the parts of creation to function as God intended.

In addition, Wisdom is seen as having an ongoing role in God’s creation – a role alongside Jesus and the Holy Spirit to enliven, restore, teach and bring justice to our world. Wisdom is seen as the sustaining force in creation.

Now, when God had finished creating the heavens and the earth, it was (we are told in Genesis 1:31) “very good”. And Genesis 2:15 tells us that God took the man (he had created) and put him in the world to take care of it. But we know that through the actions of mankind, God’s original very good creation was damaged. Sin and death entered the cosmos impacting all of the creation. God told Adam that the ground was henceforth cursed and would produce thorns and thistles. And since that time humankind has continued to damage God’s creation.

Today we live with the massive degradation of the human environment that the 21st-century global village has brought on itself as a result of worldwide industrial pollution, nuclear waste, and other such human-created disasters.

The New Testament writers point to the present brokenness of the cosmos, the real world in which they live their lives. In his letter to the Roman believers Paul speaks of the creation as “subjected to futility” and caught in the snare of “bondage to decay” (Rom. 8:20, 21). And Paul concludes, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now” (Rom. 8:22).

Paul links human grief and pain, the present day and real world sufferings, to the destiny of the cosmos itself. As Paul sees it the destiny of humankind and the destiny of the cosmos are inseparably linked, and they are both waiting for deliverance and ultimate redemption.

You might remember that a similar statement was made in the article to which I referred three weeks ago about the critical state of the Great Barrier Reef. Professor Emma Johnston and Professor Katrin Meissher wrote, ‘Today, much of our immediate future depends upon our oceans … they play a critical role in determining our climate …’

On Cosmos Sunday we are looking at the bigger picture, and as we do that we can be encouraged because the scriptures also tell us that God will one day redeem creation. Cosmic destruction is not the end of God’s story. The New Testament writers tell us that beyond death lies resurrection. Whereas we, through human sinfulness, have polluted and abused the cosmos, God will re-create it.

It is all of creation that is destined for redemption and restoration. In his letter to the Ephesians Paul proclaims that God “set forth in Christ . . . a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph. 1:9-10).

And here again, as with creation, the role of Jesus Christ is crucial. The broken relationships between humankind and the cosmos will find their ultimate restoration and re-creation in Jesus. The cross of Jesus Christ is more than an act through which God redeems humans – it also signals the process of God redeeming all creation.

Returning to the letter to the Colossians, Paul writes in verses 19-20: “For in [Christ] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell; and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross” Christ is not only the one who brings healing and reconciliation between humans and God, but between all creation and God.

But in the meantime, mankind continues to work against God by damaging and destroying God’s creation. I wonder how Jesus can gather up all things in heaven and on earth to himself when we have caused so much of God’s creation to become extinct - and continue to place the existence of even more of our world’s fauna and flora in jeopardy.

In the Gospel passage (John 6:41-51) Jesus claims the authority of God, his Creator Father and says, “I am the bread of life”. The implication is that God is still engaged in the work of creation - bringing life and healing to those who are sick and suffering. And because God is still busy with creation activities, so also is Jesus, God’s faithful Son. This very same commission to continue God’s work of creation is passed in turn to Jesus’ followers, including you and me.

Jesus calls us to be collaborators together with him in God’s creative work of bringing life and healing to humankind and to the alienated creation. We are called to participate with God in God’s ongoing works of redemption and healing carried out through the power of God and in the name of Jesus. It is the calling that comes with our confession of faith in the God who has created all things.

We should acknowledge God’s good creation as a gift to humankind and to receive God’s provisions and God’s sustenance with gratitude and joy to the glory of God. This should be accompanied with a deep desire to respect God’s good gifts – not taking for granted that the creation has been given to us by God for us to ‘lord it over’ it, or just for our food, or amusement.

Instead, we are to re-orient our relationship with creation and to try to discover and learn from the wisdom in creation. And, as children of the Creator God, we should model what it means to answer Wisdom’s call to take responsibility for the health and respectful treatment of all Creation.

We are invited 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 God’s wisdom, from the beginning. Wisdom is based on understanding how the world operates (because it is God’s world), and therefore how to live best within it.

And finally – we have a responsibility to pass on the wisdom to our fellow inhabitants of our local domain. This is a responsibility for the entire Church in its task of public theology.

May God give us the grace to be faithful to this calling as we live in our cosmos. Amen

[1] Care for Creation Commentary on the Common Lectionary—Year C by the Rev. Dr. Leah Schade, PhD

[i] Acknowledgement: Material incorporated into this sermon has been drawn from Care for Creation Commentary on the Common Lectionary—Year C by The Rev. Dr. Leah Schade, PhD; and from the Bible Study available on the website www.Season of, copyright held jointly by Norman Habel and the Justice and International Mission unit within the Commission for Mission of the Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania – used with permission.

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