Creation Groans

The Book of Psalms offers a universal vision of worship and praise. It is not just God’s people who praise the Lord. The chorus of praise is joined by all the nations, every ruler, and very loudly, by creation itself.

Praise the LORD!
Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for he commanded and they were created.
He established them forever and ever;
he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.
Praise the LORD from the earth,
you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost,
stormy wind fulfilling his command!
Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
Wild animals and all cattle,
creeping things and flying birds! (Psalms 148:1; 3-10)

Stars give praise by shining, waters by being wet, and bees by buzzing. Cows moo, apples are tasty, stormy winds do their part, and even sea monsters are, well, awe-inspiring and scary! Joined to the hymns sung by the faithful, the cacophony of creation joins the praise to sing to the Lord!

This may be a strange image for us. We don’t think this way or notice creation as beauty and signs of grace. We see creation as ore to be mined, trees to be cut down, and food to harvest. The evidence of our objectification of everything (even other humans) has led us to God’s creation in crisis. Instead of songs of praise, creation moans and groans under the weight of consumption and human sin. Paul pronounces:

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God;for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now;  and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:19-23)

As London bakes and the Pacific Northwest prepares for temperatures higher than ever, creation groans. As wildfires ravage Europe and the western United States, St. Louis floods, and sea levels continue to rise, creation cries out. As Lake Mead, the source of water and electricity for a vast swath of the Western United States gets closer and closer to being a dead pool (only 150 feet to go), creation gasps. And what do we do? Nothing.

One lone senator who is looking out for the coal money that supports him derails efforts to do something in congress. Countless people around the world, and especially here in the United States, still think there is no problem. AP reports:

“The tragedy of this is that all over social media, you can see tens of millions of Americans who think scientists are lying, even about things that have been proven for decades,” said Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at Harvard University who has written about the history of climate change disinformation. “They’ve been persuaded by decades of disinformation. The denial is really, really deep.” And persistent. Just last month, even with record heat in London, raging wildfires in Alaska and historic flooding in Australia, the Science and Environmental Policy Project, a pro-fossil fuel thank tank, said all the scientists had it wrong. “There is no climate crisis,” the group wrote in its newsletter.

There are biblical parallels to this kind of response to an approaching disaster. The prophets pleaded, called, cried, and yelled at the people of Israel and Judah to open their eyes to see the coming destruction that would result from turning away from God. They would not listen. Judgment came.

Now, I am not suggesting that God, like some Hollywood tough guy, is going to use some terrible miracle to punish. No, God’s judgment comes by our own hands. God has established creation and its balance is maintained through faithful love and stewardship. When we go crazy (as we have) the consequences of nature will be our doing, and God will weep. It is, nevertheless, judgment.

The science is clear. When the global average temperature rises by 1.5 – 2.0 degrees Celsius, things get bad. In theological terms, judgment comes. All our denial, all our claims that it costs too much or that it isn’t the right time will be laughable testaments to our foolishness and genuine lack of love for creation and the humanity of the next generations.

So, is there a word of grace in all this? Certainly. Note that Paul has named the children of God as those who bring about hope and redemption to the creation. The world in agony is waiting for Christ to redeem it, and that redemption is, at least in part, in our power. None of us can, by ourselves, solve these massive problems. Nor can we see a way ahead that will not bring changes, and even pain. But, together, with the cross and resurrection clearly in view, we can do what is within our reach today and work toward the coming reign of a God who brings life instead of the death we have wrought.

Image by ELG21 from Pixabay

Previously published by Holy Trinity Lutheran Church 2022

copyright 2022 by Timothy V. Olson. All rights reserved

Fear 10.0

First published in GraceNotes of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

With more than a nod to C.S. Lewis and his Screwtape Letters, I offer this message I intercepted from the IT Department in Hell (you think you get weird stuff in your social media). If you know what the enemy is up to, it can help:

“To all demonic administrators and lowly minions of evil:

Please be advised that we are currently upgrading the anxiety/fear/terror software in your human subjects to version 10.0. (Frankly, we’ve been at this so long we don’t know what iteration this really is…). Added to the operating system are new applications related to the coming 2020 election. These improvements enhance the hate level for those with opposing views and the despair level regarding future outcomes. If we continue to make good progress dividing people into imaginary little binary groups (one of our greatest inventions) they will fall apart. We grudgingly must say “glorious evil work” to those who have so successfully turned their subjects in high places to replace any dangerous commitment to the common good and the rule of law with farcical attacks, conspiracy theories and childish conduct. Bravo.

Of course, this just builds on the underlying sub-routines that steer your subjects from thinking for the common good, replacing that creator-driven design flaw by aggrandizing the way the world revolves around their “individual” identity. The me-centric matrix has been a brilliant addition and we merely deepen its hold on the false reality algorithm built in the basic operating system where community is the basis of identity.

Remember, if we can effectively frame every decision around “the self,” civility, civil loyalty, and democracy itself will eventually collapse. (I think you will find that our master and lord of darkness is delighted at the progress on this front in recent events. We claim the credit, but must admit, sometimes the human species does our work for us). Our progress toward a system that completely negates all sense of concern about the subject’s neighbor is ongoing.

Some of you have pretended wisdom and dared to ask questions about what you see as growth of the human “community” surrounding the deliciously disastrous degradation of creation. You fail to see that the negation of any sense of neighbor extends to all creations and creatures of the Enemy. If your subject will not raise a finger to help the human next door, certainly, they will not care about a tree. Besides, because they are being reprogrammed to think only of themselves, they will be so overwhelmed by the scope of environmental damage they will retreat to watch TV about it, at most. They can only address the problems they face on a global scale communally. If you are doing your job as demons, that won’t happen! Just tell them its hopeless to recycle, or that the facts of the matter are a conspiracy. 

You need not worry (though by mentioning this, we revel in knowing you now are) about many of the foundational processes running in your patients. Replacing the divine enemy’s reality of abundance for all creation with the insidious lie about never having enough will continue to result in panic, poor choices, greed, heaps of fear and the delightful erosion of the soul to a bite size morsel. You will note we have expanded the anxiety and terror related to scarcity to time itself. You should be seeing increasing devotion of time in all manner of activities that fill the days of your subject beyond carrying capacity. The successful rejection of the sabbath nonsense provided by the creator, has led to the fear that your subjects are failures unless they are busy, productive, active, or whatever, every waking moment. In fact, success is now being seen at eroding sleep time with activity which overloads the subject’s ability to ward off our attacks. That subjects are able to pass this on to their spawn is gratifying. All for now. Keep up the evil work.

May you all burn in the fires that await the fearful,

Wormwood – Director of Human Sin Software

Fear is the opposite of faith. Not doubt. Not hate. Fear. It seems to me that with each passing day there is more and more that frightens us into lives full of despair and hate; that lack meaning and struggle to find peace. We have everything, but we’re empty.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in one of his marvelous sermons said this:

Fear is, somehow or other, the archen­emy itself. It crouches in people’s hearts. It hollows out their insides, until their resistance and strength are spent and they suddenly break down. Fear secretly gnaws and eats away at all the ties that bind a person to God and to others, and when in a time of need that person reaches for those ties and clings to them, they break and the individual sinks back into himself or herself, helpless and despairing, while hell rejoices… Fear takes away a person’s humanity. This is not what the creature made by God looks like—this per­son belongs to the devil, this enslaved, broken-down, sick creature.

The Bible tells us to not fear or not be afraid 655 times, by my count. The antidote to fear is the absolute declaration that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Fear is the soil in which sin and evil grow. The bully on the playground (or the halls of government) act out of fear. The narcissist acts out of fear that they don’t matter. The greedy are afraid the barns are not big enough. On it goes. When fear has stripped away our humanity, we lose empathy, compassion, and we lash out is hate. Our nation; our world; our city; our lives are filled with fear. And none of that has to be. Christ is the truth that sets us free from fear.

Think of the 5-10 things you fear most. Write them down. Now ask yourself what Christ, through the power of the Spirit living in you has to say about these things. I think it will begin with the assurance of the savior – Do not fear.

“Those who are still afraid of men have no fear of God, and those who have fear of God have ceased to be afraid of men. All preachers of the gospel will do well to recollect this saying daily.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Pax Christi – Pastor Tim Olson

Copyright 2019 Holy Trinity Lutheran Church