Look: There’s God!

Posted: January 9, 2020 in god
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Two thousand years ago was the human incarnation of God in Jesus, but before that there was the first and original incarnation through light, water, land, sun, moon, stars, plants, trees, fruit, birds, serpents, cattle, fish, and “every kind of wild beast,” according to our own creation story (Genesis 1: 3–25). 

Richard Rohr

What a fascinating and under-applied understanding of scripture we have here —  nature as an incarnation of God!

We usually refer to what Rohr describes as general or natural revelation. The creation isn’t God, that is a theological misunderstanding — it isn’t incarnate God like Jesus was God — but it is from him and of him and retains his image in we who were created by him, so yes, in same ways God is incarnate in nature, most startlingly in us. 

Nature shows us God like Jesus did, his characteristics, his nature. Nature holds together because of Christ and he will redeem it in the end. Rohr’s use of “incarnation” implies that the creation’s relationship with God is deeper than we have fathomed.

This is Biblical. 

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made … His qualities, they are in nature.

Romans 1:20

He [Jesus] existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. He is a force in nature, divine gravity!

Colossians 1:17

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Both male and female, attributes, coming from God. 

Genesis 1:27

God’s power runs creation. His image is in us! His divine nature can be seen the earth and sky. He holds all it together in a web, in an ongoing way. 

Of course the godly have always admired sunsets, high mountains and flowers along with most everyone else, and we have our Saint Francis, but what has often paralleled these token acknowledgements of God’s connectedness to nature is an utter disregard for stewarding earth’s resources, a shocking lack of the development of a excited global theology, and a dishonoring of our fellow humans. 

Our waters are polluted, the element of our sacrament of baptism dishonored. Every year, 8 million metric tons of plastics enter our ocean on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons that currently circulate our marine environments. Plastic has been found in more than 60% of all seabirds and in 100% of sea turtles species. 

 Our forests, a show of God’s renewable beauty and power are decimated. Between 1990 and 2016, the world lost 502,000 square miles (1.3 million square kilometers) of forest,  — an area larger than South Africa. Since humans started cutting down forests, 46 percent of the trees have been felled according to a 2015 study in the journal Nature. 

Our skies, His wonders, are full of smoke. Air pollution cuts the average lifespan of people around the globe by almost two years, making it the single greatest threat to human health. In the United States, even people with the lowest energy usage account for, on average, more than double the global per-capita carbon emission. We are literally smoking out the image of God. 

Space, the glory of God,  is now full of junk. The U.S. Department of Defense tracks more than 500,000 pieces of space junk in orbit around Earth. 

And tragically, instead of propagating love toward the different kinds of people on earth, those claiming to represent God have often participated in religious sectarianism, culture cancellation, isolationism, divisive nationalism, religious wars and racism. How does this honor the image of God in created humans, in those who Jesus taught are our neighbors?

This is what we have done to the power and glory of God in the natural world, we have wasted, harmed and ruined it.  Most terribly this include our fellow humans. It’s horrific! We have plundered the earth, poisoned the well, rendered the sky deadly and slaughtered each other. 

Furthermore and surprisingly the godly haven’t often been the leaders in stopping this, in honoring and preserving the intricately webbed ecology that keeps every living thing alive. 

I just finished reading The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World, a nonfiction book released in 2015 by the historian Andrea Wulf. Humbolt’s 18th Century journey through Central and South America and later in his travels through Russia and the wonderful books he published based on his discoveries made Humbolt the pre-eminent scientist of his time.

Humbolt got it! He, and he was not a person of faith, understood what the godly didn’t. At 19,000 feet on Chimborazo — an Ecuadorian volcano — Humboldt, writes Wulf, “realized that nature was a web of life and a global force. He was, a colleague later said, the first to understand that everything was interwoven as with ‘a thousand threads’. This new idea of nature was to change the way people understood the world.” Humbolt changed the way we look at nature. He revealed it as an interconnected whole, an ecology, a world of interdependence. This is 5he way God made it and how he sees it!

Humbolt had massive energy and enthusiasm to study, understand and explain nature, and by doing so excite others about it’s wonders and the need to preserve them. In his day, everybody read Humbolt — Darwin, Marsh, Haekael, Goethe, Thoreau, Whitman, Muir and countless others. Humbolt’s book Views of Nature was  read around the globe. His poetic descriptions of the rapids of Orinoco, where he described rainbows dancing, ”optical magic,” reveal a man astonished and enchanted with nature inspired wonder, travel, research and preservation.

He understood the power he was witnessing. “What speaks to the soul,” Humboldt wrote, “escapes our measurements.”

What can we take from this?

All churches and mosques and temples and people of faith should encourage the study of nature and promote involvement in the sciences. As in the 17th Century women and men of faith should lead in rational and empirical exploration of our world. We have hidden too much in dogma and doctrine and neglected our father’s revelation in creation.  We would know him better if we honored the creation more. And we should lead the way in preservation of the earth and the honoring of all people.

And to know God better we  would advance if we looked closer at our world, at our neighbor and then ask what they existing as they are tell us about who God is. 

Today I tried to see Him in it. 

The clouds — big white and grey —  they reminded me of his care. They bring shade, rain, beauty and remind me that God is shade, rain and beauty for me.

The grab grass growing along my driveway — even this small unwanted life form possesses his power, especially his perseverance, his holy stubbornness. Like God it can’t be killed. 

The food chain? Often I’ve hated the violence of it — a lion running down an antelope. And yet all thing live on and in other things. One dies for another to live. The egg on my French toast this morning, given for me. The meat in my soup tonight, the glory of God given for me. The food chain is communion, the Eucharist. We eat what is holy, grain and oil and wine in remembrance of him who gave it, his life, to us. 

The delicate flowers of the purple and white lantana in my yard.  God is subtle, delicate, a beauty that keeps morphing, that dies back (Christ) and comes back. 

My friends from India, lovely, beautiful, their food, their clothes the different beliefs. They are God lovers for me to treasure and love. 

Today my wife was at the zoo.  She took a video of a red panda. I love him! I want him! I want to hug him. His reddish-brown fur, white nose and ears, long, fluffy, banded tail and waddling walk. If I approached him for a tete-a-tete he’d probably rip my face off. I do want the lamb to lie with the lion, the panda with me. But God has given the panda a solitary nature. He reminds me of Jesus’s need to be alone. God too must enjoy his own company at times. I also need time alone. 

To see, to take note, to honor, to enthuse, to celebrate, to understand, to nurture,  to share with others, to live at peace with our astonishing world as much as we are able — this is our holy mandate before the creation. 

Look! There’s God.


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