Sunday 8th February 2015 (2nd before Lent)
If you are a follower of Twitter or Facebook it is unlikely that you have made it through the last week without coming across Stephen Fry’s interview in which he was asked about God. His vehement reply was full of emotion and anger at a God that could create such evil things as bone cancer in children and other awful diseases of the world. Many people have responded in thoughtful and considerate ways from within the Christian world, and most of them entirely agree with Fry.
No one should worship a God who would wilfully create a world in which he would plan for suffering and pain. I can’t believe in a God that would actively send anyone pain and suffering. Our readings today speak of the creation of the world, not in scientific or literal ways but in poetic language that points us to the spirit in which our world was created rather than the detail of the hows and whens.
There is talk of beginnings, of creation, of Jesus and of wisdom; of things visible and invisible, of light and darkness and of joy and delight. We are told of things being held together in Jesus, of darkness not overcoming light, of assigning limits to the sea and foundations in the deep. Taken together we are given the impression of a creation process that is tender and moving, fragile and defined, the story of creation as we encounter it in these readings today is of a creation that is not perfect but that holds all things precious within it.
We are told that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. Right there in John’s description of the foundation of creation is the darkness, the light does not overcome the darkness, it does not make the darkness of this world go away but it is not overcome by it. It is clear that when the evil of the world breaks into our lives that it cannot overcome the light that we hold in our hearts.
Bone cancer in children is dark and difficult but in it we find light and joy, we find people who care, and are prepared to put themselves out for the other, we find strength of love, resilience and determination that we might otherwise never have discovered. The darkness does not go away but it can never overcome the light of Christ.
Our creation is a difficult and confusing place, there are times of rejoicing and great delight and there are times of suffering and great trial, yet through it all we can find the presence of God just beneath the surface waiting to be discovered.
Along with the familiar presence of Jesus at creation we are also presented with the first of the created, Wisdom. In Hebrew writing Wisdom is personified as a woman and is offered to us as an example to be copied and followed. Wisdom was created before all the things and the stuff of this world, but Wisdom went on to delight in all the things and the stuff “rejoicing in his inhabited works and delighting in the human race.”
There is a strong connection between wisdom and fun or delight. When we are bored or disinterested we don’t learn or grow or change. Anyone who watches toddlers knows that playing and learning are one and the same thing, this doesn’t’ change as we get older, even though we sometimes think it does! We learn when we are engaged, absorbed, interested, when we are bored or distracted we are not going to learn. There is a reason why for a long time at school our favourite subjects were those taught by our favourite teachers, we were engaged and ready to learn and so the subjects became more interesting and so we enjoyed them more. There does however come a point in our education whether as Christians or children where we have to begin to chose to be engaged and chose what we learn. The teacher becomes less important and the subject becomes more important. At school I wasn’t that keen on my physics teacher but I came to love Physics anyway, the subject won me over.
The wisdom of God is considered to be more precious than gold and for his desire to attain it Solomon was praised and showered with may other gifts and blessings to. Wisdom is important and it is an important counterpoint to where we began our sermon today.
The wisdom writings of the Bible start in the world, they start with the everyday issues of life, how to bring up your children well, what to do about money, they are centred on very human and ordinary concerns but they are grounded in an understanding of creation that is found in the character of the creator. Creation reflects the character of its creator, the character of God and the wisdom teachings point us to how we can live in harmony with that creation and its creator.
Wisdom does not allow us to go around difficult things in life but it does create a framework, some boundaries within which we can explore and learn and grow.
This week the church went green, we went back into ordinary time, and ordinary time is the very stuff of wisdom. The language and beauty of all our readings today make us want to consider deep and meaningful matters to dwell on the beauty of each turn of phrase but the actual content brings us right back down into the ordinary.
Ordinary days are where the knowledge and understanding that we have of the person and character of Jesus make all the difference. Ordinary days are where our love of learning about God starts to pay off; it is in the ordinary days that the wisdom of living a life that is in harmony with the creation and God who created it marks us out as being different from those around us.
The Ordinary days are sometimes easy days, sometimes hard days and sometimes the most difficult days: on these days we can call upon the wisdom of God that was created at the beginning of time that understands the way the world was made and knows the limits that the darkness has been given. That darkness does not overcome the light.
As the discussion about the God that Stephen Fry doesn’t believe in continues we need to be confident about the God that we do believe in. The world was created in the character of that God, it was made for love, for preferring others and for the survival of those who collaborate the best. This is the God we believe in, the one whose light will never be overcome by darkness and who in Jesus has known and lived through the most difficult of suffering of all, separation form God the Father. We place our suffering in the hands of one who also suffered and in this we can find delight and joy and peace.