“Creation Theology According to Jesus”
Text: The Gospel of Thomas; saying #77
Jesus said, “It is I who am the light which is over all things.
I am All. From Me All come forth, and
to Me All attained. Split a piece of wood, and I am
there. Lift up the stone, and you will find Me there.”
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned a few parts of my creation theology as part of that sermon. I received a little bit of interested feedback from that very brief synopsis and so I thought it might be interesting for you to have me expand on that thinking just a bit.
So for starters, I wanted to recap what I said a couple of weeks ago about how I see God and our universe and our planet connected. These are the very same points that I spoke of briefly in that sermon two weeks ago.
*God created it – the how doesn’t matter, but God created it.
*God is present in creation – what we do to the planet, we do to God.
*Creation belongs to God – Creation is God.
*Our relationship with creation mirrors our relationship with God.
*How we care for creation mirrors how we care for one another.
*The pulse of creation is the energy of God and is the source of all that is.
So to expand on these ideas is what I will be up to for the next several sermons. This may be a bit of a jigsaw puzzle over the summer, but that is one of the reasons I always try to make copies available of each sermon. That way, if you miss a Sunday, or as was the case last week, when I miss a Sunday, we can all keep track of what is going on.
Before we begin the expansion of these tenets of what I call my creation theology, I thought it might be good to look back and explore some of the things which I think have influenced the formation of this theology. The text I read a few minutes ago is probably a good place to begin.
Before I entered Seminary I had never heard of the Gospel of Thomas. There were fragments of this Gospel as part of some writings that had been discovered in the 1800’s, but it wasn’t until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls that we had a complete manuscript in our hands. At first, when the Gospel of Thomas was discovered many thought that this could be the lost gospel that has become known to scholars as “Q”. I have mentioned previously that “Q” is considered by many to be a second source that the authors of Matthew and Luke used in the preparation of their gospels, in addition to the Gospel of Mark. The “Q” theory proved not to be the case, and the Gospel of Thomas was matched up with the fragments we already had and scholars then knew what it was. In terms of Biblical manuscripts, the Gospel of Thomas is very new to us, having been discovered as recently as 1945.
So when I found myself in Seminary I was exposed to the Gospel of Thomas for the very first time. It is an interesting gospel, in that it is a “sayings” gospel. This means that the text does not attempt to put anything in context of a story, it just simply says Jesus said: this or that. Then it goes on to the next saying. The sayings are just numbered 1 through 114; the one I read this morning as mentioned is saying number 77.
This particular saying, when I heard it the first time, confirmed for me much of what I already believed to be true. I have always had a connection with the earth and with nature. I have always felt closer to God in the woods or in the mountains than anywhere else. This saying confirms that Divine presence which I had always felt.
A second confirming experience also happened in Seminary. This came in the form of a book which I read called “The Body of God” by Sallie McFague. This book is an in depth look at creation and the presence of God in creation. Sallie McFague is a contemporary author, so the ideas and the concepts put forth in her book represent very modern thought. Sallie McFague teaches at Vanderbilt Divinity Seminary and here is what one of her colleagues from Harvard had to say about this book.
“A very distinctive and important new option for Christian theology. McFague proposes in a clear and challenging way a theological program based on what she calls ‘the organic model’ for conceiving God. Her model is in keeping with contemporary scientific understandings of the widely accepted common creation story and provides a good basis for reconceiving the Christian understanding of human existence in an ecologically ordered natural world. Very illuminating, with some brilliant insights.”
— Gordon D. Kaufman, Harvard Divinity School
Of course, I think you can see how this book may have had some significant influence in how I view God and how I relate to God in the natural world.
I mentioned that Sallie McFague was a contemporary author with modern ideas and concepts, but some of those concepts are still very ancient. I think the saying from the Gospel of Thomas we looked at mirrors much of what McFague says in her book, but there is another person of interest that also has articulated much of what I believe to be true about God. This person is from the 13th century; you may have heard of him, it is St. Francis of Assisi.
Even before seminary, I had a connection with St. Francis. Having had the opportunity to actually visit Assisi that connection has grown even stronger. St. Francis is well known for his popular prayer, which we recite here often. But he is a much more diverse and interesting character than just his prayer. Legend has it that St. Francis was particularly well connected to animals and some say he could communicate with them. Statues of St. Francis often include birds resting on his arms or other animals around him. When asked why the animals would come to him, he simply said that he tells them he is no danger to them and they listen.
Less famous than his prayer, but still very well-known is a manuscript authored by St. Francis that has taken many forms over the past 8 or 9 hundred years. This manuscript is often called the Canticle of the Earth, but portions of it and other expanded versions have appeared in a variety of names, but generally all are accredited to St. Francis. Just so you know, a canticle is a hymn or a song, often from a Biblical text, but not limited to that. A canticle is most often used in a church or religious setting.
What I have done is I have chosen a variety of the texts I have found attributed to St. Francis and combined them into my own interpretation of the Canticle of the Earth by St. Francis of Assisi. I hope you enjoy it.