“Since the divine life is essentially creative, all three modes of time must be used in symbolizing it. God has created the world, he is creative in the present moment, and he will creatively fulfill his telos [goal or purpose].”
Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. 1
In preparation for these Wednesday nights, I have been using a book entitled Lenten Journey: Seven Wonders of the Word. It is based on a Bible Study from Book of Faith created by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in the hopes of getting people more familiar with scripture, how to read, and how to reflect on it. This one was specifically created for Lent.
The Lenten Journey: Seven Wonders of the Word gives Bible verses and a Theological Thought each day. This first week focuses on how the Word “Creates”.
I, personally, enjoy Paul Tillich. He was a 19th century Lutheran systematic theologian who lived in Germany at the beginning of World War II tensions. He stood in opposition to the NAZI party and when Hitler came into power, Tillich lost everything: his position as a systematic theology professor, his family, and his home. He immigrated to the United States and begun to teach systematic theology. You can witness where this experience left a lasting impression on his theology, including his quote above.
Despite these challenges, Tillich bore witness to how God was continually active in his life creating new opportunities for him within the world and the time he was living.
It seems that at times the church and science are at war with one another about God’s place (or lack thereof) in creation, but at times I look at creation and wonder how God could not be involved. However, the image of God as a watch-maker, who created creation and left it to its own devices, does not speak to me. Yet, I also do not expect BIG miracles to happen everyday either.
Martin Luther, who was originally an Old Testament scholar, wrote a commentary on Genesis writing:
God no longer wants to act in accordance with His extraordinary or, as the scholastics express it, absolute power but wants to act through His creatures, whom He does not want to be idle. Thus, He gives food, not as He did to the Jews in the desert, when He gave manna from heaven, but through labor, when we diligently perform the work of our calling.
Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 15-20 (1539) in Luther’s Works 3:274.
The reality is that God is still active and intervening in our world, but it is through us and our hearts, our spirits, and our hands.
We, as humans, often think about and share our “thoughts and prayers” especially in times of need, challenge, and sufferings. Father Nathan Monk comments:
When someone has told me they’ve prayed and so its in God’s hands now…
I remind them that they are the hands, and to get to work.
Similarly, Pope Francis said:
Pray for the hungry. Then feed them. That’s how prayer works.
As we ponder our Lenten journey of being created anew by the WORD, both as the written scripture and the flesh/bone of Christ, may we be created anew with hands willing to be God’s creative force in our world. Amen.