Early last month, I spoke at the Scottish Christian Outdoor Centres’ All-Team Gathering down at the wonderful Glencoe Outdoor Centre. Over three days we thought about creation in God’s purposes, creation and Jesus Christ, and our place in creation. Here are some brief meditations based on those talks.
Living Between Two Trees. Sitting in a forest, listening to its life, we gain a sense of place. The trees themselves speak of longevity, of permanence. Many generations of animals have come and gone. Yet, these trees have remained, their trunks and branches weathering storms, connecting the life-giving leaves to the life-giving earth year after year. To sit amongst the trees in a forest is to breathe in a sense of time as well as place. As Christians, we are living between two trees. The tree of life appears in Genesis 2, reminding us of God’s intention for a world without death. To us, it is a lost world. But, the tree of life appears again in Revelation 22. It reminds us of God’s purpose to redeem, to bring back the world of God’s intention, a world without sin, without death. Trees stand at the beginning and at the end of our Holy Scriptures. Trees, speaking of the permanence of God’s intention for life. And speaking of the permanence of this creation. We will walk and sit in these forests again after Christ’s return, and remember that the trees pointed us to this.
Our Place in God’s World. We startle the deer in the woods. They pause, their eyes meeting ours briefly. They run, leaping, to find solitude again. Our hearts leap with them. We feel joy... We watch gannets hunting, their keen eyes spying their prey from high up. Then diving below. Graceful, efficient, beautiful. Our hearts swell – these birds are amazing... God’s creatures bring such meaning into our lives. A sense of well-being. All is well… We belong in this world, here with these creatures. God made us from the same earth, on the same day. As the image of God, we humans are not only related to our Creator, but to the rest of his creatures. This is fundamental to our identity, and to our place in God’s world (Gen 1:26,28; Ps 8:3-8). Adam names the animals (Gen 2:19-20), an intimate act. We name our children because they belong with us and we help them, care for them, form their identities. We are to care for God’s creatures. This world is our home, God’s creatures our companions. All is now spoilt, struggling under the burden of the lostness of humanity in sin. But God will set us, and this world, free in Jesus Christ (Rom 8:18-25). Our home will be very good again.
A Speaking Cosmos. The stars speak, and the sun and moon, in every place, every day and every night (Ps 19:1-6). We look up, and we are amazed: at galaxies, nebulae, the milky way. Here below the living creatures alongside us, and the plants and trees, even the landscapes in which we find our roots, they all speak of the Creator. Of his eternal power, his divine nature (Rom 1:20). Why are we not listening? We daily open the Holy Scriptures to hear them speak to us of our God and our Saviour. Yet our ears are less-exercised in hearing the speaking cosmos. Let us each day hear the voice of the sky and the earth. The world was created through the Word, the Logos (John 1:1-3). Before he became one of us, and spoke in human language, he spoke in what he made. Timeless words, woven within a world of intricacy, a world replete with patterns of beauty. This speaking cosmos is made through the Word, and belongs to him, to Jesus, who is Messiah and Word. It is his inheritance (Col 1:15-18), and he will gift it to us finally and fully on the day of his return. Then we will hear the voice of the speaking cosmos more clearly, and the voice of our speaking Lord with our own ears.
Pushing Forward our Horizon of Hope. Do we hope for death? For an end to the burden of a lost world, of war, of lies, of disability? We do hope for an end to these things. Yet, death is unnatural for us. We are created for life. Do we hope to be without the bodies that carry our identity, our human consciousness? To be without the eyes that looked, the ears that heard, the hands that touched – the experiences that made us who we are? To be unclothed is deeply unnatural (2 Cor 5:1-9). Jesus is not unclothed: he died to redeem us and the whole cosmos – to bring salvation of soul, body, time and space – and then he returned from the dead in resurrection life. To be with him is to be safe, in life and in death. Safe, until that day, when we will be clothed with life again, eternal life. To live in our home set free from the burden of sin. Our Horizon of Hope is not the day of our death. Heaven is not our home, or our ultimate goal. Our Horizon of Hope is the day of our living again, our own resurrection (Rom 8:18-25). To be true to the teaching of Holy Scripture we must Push Forward Our Horizon of Hope. Let us set our hope fully on the grace to be revealed when he comes (1 Peter 1:13). Let us follow Christ in wholehearted faith, and meet him and each other once again here – and know the place for the first time.