Friday, 29 April 2011

All Things

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether they are kings, lords, rulers, or powers. All things have been created through him and for him. He himself existed before all things, and by him all things hold together. He is also the head of the body, which is the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he himself might have first place in everything. For God was pleased to have all of his fullness live in him. Through him he also reconciled all things to himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, thus making peace through the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:15-20 (ISV)).

This passage places emphasis on God creating, maintaining and reconciling all things (Anvil Trust 2010, p 42) . Yes, the passage does talk of people as being the "image of the invisible God" and "the first born of all creation" but it is the repetition of "all things" that stands out. Other biblical passages also talk of "all things." We easily translate this to mean all people rather than all creation. These passages talk of God creating “all things” (John 1:3, Romans 11:36, Ephesians 3:9, Revelations 4:11), reconciling or restoring “all things” (Matthew 17:11, Mark 9:12), or “making all thing new” (2 Corinthians 5:17, Revelations 21:5). This Colossians passage emphasises God creating “all things”and concludes by saying “all things” will be reconciled to him. How can “all things” mean all that he created and then mean just people. God wishes to bring “all things” (i.e. all that he created) to its full potential. We need to be working for this purpose as well.

This emphasis on the inclusion of nature is also argued from the perspective of Jesus' teaching through the parables being "filled with images of nature." There is "an inward affinity between the natural order and the spiritual order" (p 42). There is the contrast between "the trust of birds and plants with the anxiety of humans (Mt 6:26-30)", "God's care and sustaining love for creation; the fragile life of sparrows rest in God's tenderness (Mt 10:29)" (p 42). Jesus saw God's hand at work in all of creation and he treated it with gentleness and yet robustly. This is further emphasised by seeing every healing miracle redress the balance of nature (p 43). This last point raises the issue of whether illness and many of our human problems come from the imbalance caused by our activities in nature.

The notes quote Richard Bauckham who observes that "The animals are treated neither as subjects nor as domestic servants... Jesus does not terrorise or dominate the wild animals, he does not domesticate them, nor does he even make pets of them... [He] lets them be themselves in peace, leaving them in the wilderness affirming them as creatures who share the world with us in the community of God's creation" (p 44). If we stopped seeing things as items to be used but rather as things created by God then we would be more careful with creation. Nothing would be treated as of little value.

This section ends by noting that "the eastern Orthodox tradition" sees Jesus as "the one who by his life sanctified all matter, and through his death and resurrection carries the whole creation up to God" (p 45).

In contrast, western culture and economics uses and destroys. It lacks values related to nature and matter. Through endeavouring to place value, we have lost sight of the unity that we share with all matter. I am drawn to think again of Asimov's novel and the planet that saw all life as equal. When we stop asking about value or cost and start seeing as essential and give equal status then we will give back all of creation, its true value.

Reference

Peace & Power: Being vocal, political and spiritual. (2010). Workshop - because faith is a journey. Course Notes. Anvil Trust.

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