Being Fruitful, Multiplying, Filling the Earth and Time

DSC_0023 (2)YeckTrudging along the paths of Bill Yeck Park, I was thinking about God’s command to us in Genesis 1:28 to “be fruitful and multiply.”  So much thought has gone into the rest of the verse about subduing the earth and filling it and having dominion over every living thing that moves on the earth.  God the creative Creator whose making of the cosmos in Genesis 1 is done with poetic license (the word “made” in Gen 1:1 in Greek is the same word that our word poem or poetry comes from), endows humans with creativity as well.  In Genesis 2:19, God awaits to see what the human will call each animal which God has made – it is left to the human to creatively name the animals, God does not tell Adam their names nor how to name them, but watches as his human creates names and words just like God formed words which created all things.  Thus God imbues humans with a creative nature like His own, except we do not create out of nothing – we creatively name the creatures which in biblical thinking gives us some mastery over them.   “Hippopotamus,” says the man.  “Interesting,” says God.  Would God have thought of that name Himself?  (In the Quran God is overpoweringly omnipotent not leaving any room for human creativity or error, for Allah does not let the human create names, but rather tells the human their names and then tests the human to see if he remembers – the human cannot freely choose, he can only obey and his every act is under judgment.  Thank God for Genesis 2 and the freedom and creativity with which He entrusts us!)

“Be fruitful and multiply…”  {A joke comes to mind:  Why did all of the children in the Christian fundamentalist school refuse to do any division in math?  Because God only commanded them to be fruitful and to multiply.}

“Be fruitful and multiply… fill the earth…”   The creativity that God bestows upon us includes making use of the time He has given us.   We have to fill our time, not just the earth.  We are to be creative and to make beauty just as the Lord did – poetry, art, music, imagining, paintings, sculpting, prose, dance, photography, graphics and animation are among the ways humans are given by God to create beauty in time.   Boredom and wasting time are lost chances to create beauty and to fill time itself with things which give glory to God.   Creativity is a gift from God and a way to use time.

DSC_0036YeckI came upon a plant which I could not identify but the shape of the leaves caught my attention because it showed such imaginative form.  What variety in the leaves of plants – shapes, colors textures.  It seems to me one could spend days on end just photographing the different shapes and sizes of plant leaves, in that alone is there a multiplication of life as God commanded the earth to do (Gen 1:11).  There is a question which is hotly debated today between believers in God and believers in evolution.  Some believers in God claim all the species on earthy – plant and animal had to have been created by God in the six days of creation.  Believers in evolution say not so, plant life continues to evolve with some new species being formed and some others becoming extinct.  Those believers in God say new species cannot form from old ones since God commanded that plants and animals bring forth new life “according to their kind.”  Yet for me, as I read Genesis, I see God saying, let the earth bring forth the herb, the grass the plant bearing seed and the trees.  It doesn’t seem to me that God put any time limit on that.  The earth and the waters are continuously to bring forth life of all and varied kinds.  The text doesn’t say that God made every species, He commanded the earth and the waters to become creative and life giving.  God bestowed upon His creation the ability to creatively bring forth life. Nothing in His command forbids speciation and in fact God seems to value the goodness He sees in the earth and the waters creativity.  Besides if one understands speciation, even if the seed created by any plant species are in fact a new species they do bear the DNA of their parent plants, so they are of the same kind as their parents.  Speciation is not in opposition to what Genesis says – it is in fact the multiplication of which God commanded all living things – not only offspring but new species as well.    With the amazing variety of life we can already find in creation, why would God be opposed to new varieties or variations?  Why some feel the need to limit God’s ability to bring forth new things is beyond me.   Speciation is another form of miracle and a means for God to actually intervene in creation with something new.  He is the Lord and giver of life after all!

Miracles: Signs of the Kingdom

Sermon for May 22, 1994          Sunday of the Paralytic                             Acts 9:32-42, John 5:1-15

Do you believe in miracles?

ParalyticIn today’s scripture lessons we heard of three miracles, only one done by Jesus and 2 accomplished by his disciple Peter. Since we commonly associate miracles with Jesus and the bible, it is worth taking a minute to look at the notion of miracle and what it means for us today.

Our understanding of a “miracle” is based upon our modern understanding of “nature”. We believe nature to show a fair degree of constancy & predictability. A “miracle” is thus that which defies the laws of nature. We believe nature can be understood in a rationalistic sense, that it is fairly constant, can be observed and explained.

Ancient Israel had no word for miracle or for nature. They did not share our understanding of nature & natural laws of constancy. For the people throughout biblical history, natural phenomena are a result of the will of God or even of local deities. Humans effect natural events to the extent that natural phenomena are God’s response to human sin or prayer. Of most importance to us is that the ancients saw nature as merely revealing God or God’s will, and since they saw all true knowledge as coming from God and not from human effort (science), they would expect natural phenomena to tell them something about God, not about what we call nature.

The words in the Old Testament which are sometimes translated to mean miracle are Hebrew words which really mean “sign” an event which points to some future meaning, or an event that draws attention to something else, usually to God.

In New Testament times, the people expected that God would authenticate any disclosure of his intention with supernatural occurrences. In other words, people expected miracles to occur and those miracles would prove God is somehow involved in this event. Thus the Messiah would appear with signs and wonders to confirm that He indeed was sent by God. The main point, the critical understanding of any miraculous event is not, “does it defy nature?”, but is God to be found in the event? Does God control the event? Is God revealed through the event.

The Lord Jesus also reveals another very biblical view. For humans to demand a sign from God is certainly indicative of a lack of faith. Jesus refuses to give a sign when the demand for one comes from the people’s lack of faith. Jesus seemed to know that unless a person already had firm faith in God and was looking for God’s revelation, signs would be worthless and would never lead to conviction.

In other words, a sign is not an event which is so convincing that it makes faith unnecessary. That is unfortunately what many of us modern people are looking for in miracles – an event so convincing that we can know God and do not have to have faith or trust in him.

In John’s Gospel when Jesus feeds the 5000, Jesus seems discouraged by the people’s inability to understand the sign, and he chastises them for wanting nothing more from him then more bread to eat.

And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You come here?”  Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.  “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”  Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”  Therefore they said to Him, “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do?  “Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ”  Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  “For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”  And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.   (John 6:25-35)

Probably one question people in the 1990’s want to know is why we don’t see more miracles like the ones recorded in the bible? I know from reading through history that this same question has been asked in almost every generation since the age of the desert fathers. Usually the answer given is that there is now a lack of faith on the part of those who claim themselves to be disciples of Jesus. At the same time at which people are asking why miracles don’t happen any more, in every generation there are also the reports of miracles that did occur – healings, revelations, conversions, God’s answering a prayer, God intervening in history. What is probably true through history is also what was true in the time of Jesus, God gave miracles in response to faith, not in response to the lack of faith.

What is also true is that miracles are the exception not the rule in the bible. The word “miracle” occurs only about 35 times in the bible, and the bible covers some 2000 years of history. Perhaps it is then true that miracles happen to people at moments of absolute faith in God, and we see how rarely those moments occur in the life of God’s people.

Today, I can testify to you only that the I believe the miracles recorded in the New Testament to be true, events that really occurred. I also know these miracles were given as signs so all people might come to believe that Jesus truly is Lord, Messiah, Savior, King.   The miracles were not the main event nor the main purpose of God’s actions.  They are rather signs along the road to help keep us journeying toward the Kingdom of God.   The signs exist to keep us on the right track by reminding us of God’s Kingdom and to keep us alert and watchful for what direction we are to take.

In the feeding of the 5000, the people asked Jesus, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”