I Believe in God … Maker of Heaven & Earth
Genesis 1:1-5, 2:4-7, Psalm 104:1-35, Colossians 1:15-20, John 1:1-5
The Creation by James Weldon Johnson
And God stepped out on space,
And He looked around and said:
“I’ll make me a world.”
And as far as the eye of God could see
Darkness covered everything,
Blacker than a hundred midnights
Down in a cypress swamp.
Then God smiled,
And the light broke,
And the darkness rolled up on one side,
And the light stood shining on the other,
And God said: “That’s Good!”
Then God reached out and took the light in His hands
And rolled the light around in His hands
Until He made the sun;
And He set that sun a-blazing in the heavens.
And the light that was left from making the sun
God gathered it up in a shining ball
And flung it against the darkness,
Spangling the night with the moon and the stars.
Then down between
the darkness and the light
He hurled the world;
And God said: “That’s good!”
Then God Himself stepped down –
And the sun was on His right hand,
And the moon was on His left;
The stars were clustered about His head,
And the earth was under His feet.
And God walked, and where He trod
His footsteps hollowed the valleys out
and bulged the mountains up.
Then He stopped and looked and saw
That the earth was hot and barren.
So God stepped over to the edge of the world
And He spat out the seven seas –
He batted His eyes, and the lightenings flashed –
He clapped His hands, and the thunders rolled –
And the waters above the earth came down,
The cooling waters came down.
Then the green grass sprouted
And the little red flowers blossomed,
And the pine-tree pointed his finger to the sky,
And the Oak spread out his arms,
The lakes cuddled down into the hollows of the ground,
And the rivers ran down to the seas;
And God smiled again,
And the rainbow appeared,
And curled itself around His shoulder.
Then God raised His arm and He waved His hand
Over the sea and over the land,
And He said “Bring forth! Bring forth!”
And quicker than God could drop His hand
Fishes and fowls
And beasts and birds
Swam the rivers and the seas,
Roamed the forests and the woods,
And split the air with their wings.
And God said “That’s good!”
Then God walked around,
And God looked around
On all that He had made.
He looked his sun,
And He looked at His moon,
And He looked at His little stars;
He looked on His world
With all its living things,
And God said, “I’m lonely still.”
Then God sat down
On the side of a hill where He could think;
By a deep, wide river, He sat down
With His head in His hands,
And God thought and thought,
Till He thought, “I’ll make me a man.”
Up from the bed of the river
God scooped the clay;
And by the bank of the river
He kneeled Him down;
And there the great God Almighty
Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,
Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,
This great God,
Like a mammy bending over her baby,
kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay
Till He shaped it in His own image
Then into it he blew the breath of life,
And man became a living soul.
That is James Weldon Johnson’s version of Creation. I heard that poem 40 years ago for the first time. I remember thoroughly enjoying it. Later on, however, I came to think that the poem was a bit irreverent and not quite true. My teachers of theology had insisted that God needs no one for his happiness. If God is God, he has no needs. God could not have been lonely. He never had been, never could be. They insisted that since God is a trinity he had fellowship with himself and that was sufficient. This view of God made sense to me at the time. After all it was what the theologians had said for centuries.
I have adjusted my thinking, however, since those days. I think James Weldon Johnson has caught the truth behind the creation.
There has been a question that has been asked incessantly over the centuries: “Why was this world created?” Thomas Hardy the British Novelist answered the question, “The president of the Immortals made us, to have sport with.” We were a toy that he created for His amusement, and discarded after use. We were an experiment of curiosity that did not work out, so he abandoned us to a meaningless future. We are an experiment gone awry like the work of Dr. Frankenstein. Wow!
Others of more scientific mind may be more prone to say that we are an accident of nature with no purpose and no sure destination? This week I listened to one of our current atheists Richard Dawkins, being interviewed, who said there is no God and this world was not created. No one made it. Following the laws of nature it developed from nothing to what we have today. But there was no intelligent design that formed the world.
1. Love will find a way
But the James Weldon Johnson has suggested a better answer to the question, “Why was this world created?” Love was the reason for the creation of the universe and all that is in it. J.R.R. Tolkien in one of his writings, The Silmarilion, suggests that as God sang for shear joy, out of the beauty of the music the world enfolded in all of its gloriousness.
There is something about Love that does not follow the laws of logic. The heart has reasons the mind can never grasp. Love demands expression. It must do, act, move towards something or someone. Love is not mere emotion, it is a way of responding. It is not something I have, it is a way I act towards another. It is always oriented towards an object. It says, “I love you.”
It is not being in love with love, (that is romanticism). It is not to be in love with self (that is narcissism) but it must be in love with another. Love always demands demonstration.
And if God is Love at the very center of his essence, then He must act, and so the first words in our Bible reads, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” For God was not the Father only after he had children, he was The Father first, and His Fatherliness moved Him to have children. Moved him to create a world and to create humanity.
It is true, God was under no external necessity to create. No one made him create. No law demanded it. The only force was a self-compelling love that moved Him to share the universe with others. And share he did, as he caused to come into being a world that reflected the beauty of his heart, and people that would reflect His very own image.
Because He is Father He desired to create. Because He is almighty He had the power to create. And so the creed declares “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”
George MacDonald, a century ago, referring to the God of creation made a startling statement. “God is younger than we are!” He noticed that when God created the world he made it with an extravagance that populated the world with billions of blades of grass, millions of flowers and myriads of creatures, as though he never got tired of making many things over and over again. Just like a child can sing a song or hear a story over and over again and never get tired of it. MacDonald continues. “God is Younger than we are, for we sin and grow old.”
2. The Sad Debate
The message of the Father God who creates out of sheer joy, however, has been clouded by a very unpleasant debate.
The debate began in earnest about 130 years ago over whether God created the world or whether it evolved through millions of years. People took opposite sides in that debate and the message that was supposed to be good news, became ammunition for a war between science and the church.
Perhaps it is an important debate, but it cannot be resolved today. For the creed is concerned with a set of questions that were raised 1800 years before this debate was joined. The questions were: Is this world evil or is it good? Is it friend or is it foe? Is this world just an accident, or is there a purpose to it. Is life just a cosmic error or does human life have a destiny and a reason for living.
This line of the creed was written to oppose a cult of the Second Century called Gnosticism. The Gnostics said, “this world is evil. It is hostile. It is an accident. God had nothing to do with it. God may have made the heavens, but something else made the earth. A miss-shapen deity created a miss-shapen world. A malignant demi-god that sported with matter made this mess. This world is evil and has no value. “This world is not my home” was their favorite type of song. They were world denying and became world corrupting.
But why would anyone think this way? It is obvious that the world is a marvelous place. Ah yes. But listen to King Arthur as he speaks in the great poem of Alfred Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King. Arthur’s dream has collapsed and now he faces war & death. He is overheard muttering in his tent by Sir Bedevere, his loyal companion.
I found Him in the shining of the stars,
I marked Him in the flowering of His fields,
But in His ways with men I find Him not.
I waged His wars, and now I pass and die.
O me! for why is all around us here
As if some lesser God had made the world,
But had not force to shape it as he would.
The Gnostics too looked upon the creature man and sensed the chaos in too many lives, and so presumed no God had made them. (Like the creation of the Orcs by Sauron & Saruman – corrupt creatures in their very design.)
3. The Remaking of the world
The Church responded immediately. Not so! God is the maker of both Heaven and Earth. All that exists owes it beginning and continuance to Him. For God made the world to be a thing of beauty and a joy forever. But the critics are right. The world is broken. It is not working right!
It is humanity that has messed it up. For the Scriptures are clear, when creation left God’s hand it was good, and very good. But the same lines that tell us of creation, go on to talk about how mankind responded to the creation and to each other. Mankind fell into darkness and took the world down with him. But the scriptures are just as clear, that God who made the world refused to abandon his handiwork.
But the early church went further. They began to speak about creation not only as the work and gift of the Father, but they connected Jesus with the act of creation. Listen to the Gospel of John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by him, and without him nothing was made that was made.”
Listen to Paul in Colossians,
“In him all things in heaven and earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through Him and for him, He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.”
And without Him all things fall apart. The centre will not hold.
The church’s message was clear: The One who had created the world has come to redeem it. God not only made the world in incredible beauty, but when we abused this world and our neighbour, God the maker returned to re-make the world. The creator came to re-create the world in righteousness. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.
And that is the good news about creation. It was made by God in beauty and in joy. It has been broken. But God is not done with us and He is still at work in the remaking of our world.
How does He go about the remaking of the world? By redeeming people, who will turn around and help redeem society, which will then turn around and begin the healing of the broken-ness of the entire created world. The entire creation groans looking for its own redemption!
Here is a caution to us: Our task as God’s people is not only to save souls and get them into heaven. Our task is also to repair the damage to all of life and to this damaged planet. We need to refuse to pollute this world any more than bare necessity demands, and then we should participate in acts of compensation such as planting trees and flowers. We need to clean up the messes we make even if it costs us higher taxes. We need to reduce, repair, recycle, and reuse the things we too easily discard. Our very first job as humans was to take care of God’s garden. It is still part of the Great Commission.
And I want to be part of the remaking of the world. Don’t you? You might want to pray a prayer in this regard, which might read like this, “O God bring healing to the brokeness of the world, and begin with me.”